POLLOCK'S REVIEW: A&E Biography - Randy "Macho Man" Savage

Originally published at POLLOCK'S REVIEW: A&E Biography - Randy "Macho Man" Savage

“The things that were bad were very bad, but the things that were good were very good”

The latest A&E Biography covering the life of Randy “Savage” Poffo is best summarized by a line from his former girlfriend Stephanie Bellars a.k.a. ‘Gorgeous George’ in a film produced by Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman.

If you were tuning in for a hero-worship piece on one of wrestling’s enduring figures, those elements came with alarming stories of Savage’s legendary paranoia that extended into uncomfortable descriptions from Bellars and those that saw his relationship with Elizabeth Hulette disintegrate.

This documentary had a distinctly different feel and tone than the previous ones on Steve Austin and Roddy Piper, although each documentary has its own outside producers with cooperation from the WWE throughout all the features. This one certainly tackled and addressed the most uncomfortable subject matter of the three.

The drug use was tackled with a fleeting connection to his time in the WWF and focusing more on how large he got in WCW. Whether intentional or not, the line that spoke volumes was Vince McMahon’s initial impression of Savage when he arrived in 1985 that he was “small”, which was akin to the mark of death for a wrestler looking to succeed in Vince McMahon’s land of giants in the mid-’80s. Why a wrestler would be resistant to steroids during this era is a more probing question than why they would engage. If few spots are available to headline, a wrestler of that era is more apt to mortgage the unknown health consequences down the road in favor of the immediate rewards of main event money as a visual threat to a dominating and physically imposing babyface champion.

Savage adjusted his attire once the company introduced drug testing, wearing a shirt for his matches as the image Savage had of himself was a defining trait, according to Bellars during his years in WCW. Bellars went so far as to describe Savage’s late-career process of going to his parent’s home where his father Angelo would provide Savage with “his medicine”.

Bellars outlined Savage’s routine use of Ecstasy during their relationship including the admission that the two were high during a bizarre promo segment on the October 25, 1999, edition of Monday Nitro where Savage revealed, “I ain’t no punk bitch”. Noted.

The documentary can be separated into two parts as Savage receives the treatment of an all-time legend throughout the first hour or so with a heavy reliance on his in-ring career, obsession with excellence, and his colleagues struggling with the paranoia that came with the individual that didn’t possess an ‘off switch’.

Much was made of the construction of the WrestleMania 3 match with Ricky Steamboat and the famous stories of Savage’s insistence on the match being mapped out move-by-move. Veterans of the industry would shake their head at this type of preparation leaving nothing for chance or calling things in the ring, the very reasons Steamboat has stated his preference for the matches with Ric Flair. However, the match remains a legendary one in folklore and it explores the subject of whether the pre-match planning should affect the reaction of a match that was viewed as spectacular on its day and continues to be one romanticized from that fan base?

In today’s era of WWE, there is a great deal of micromanagement attached to the product that isn’t to the degree of Savage vs. Steamboat but there has never been so many rules and constraints attached to a locker room of wrestlers where their words, actions, risks, and presentation choices are limited.

The move to WCW in 1994 was handled poorly and required a minimal level of fact-checking to see that Jerry Lawler’s memory of Savage “jumping” was not as he remembered it. Lawler has shared the same story in the past that Savage was scheduled to call Raw and left WWF high-and-dry, showing up on the competitors’ television. The truth was that Vince McMahon gave his on-air farewell to Savage almost an entire month before Randy Savage appeared on WCW programming. Second, was the impossibility of Savage appearing “on the other channel” given that Nitro wasn’t on the air until the following September. I don’t expect Lawler to have a crystal-clear memory, but I do expect a documentary team to find that hole in the timeline.

The numerous talking heads cited Vince McMahon’s belief that Savage was done inside the ring and thus, moved him to commentary when Savage wasn’t ready to stop wrestling. It begged for a response from McMahon to give his insight into the decision. It’s striking that the move to commentary was right around Savage’s 40th birthday, almost like a number that scared McMahon, yet today, that age is not a disqualifier and quite possibly, he learned a lesson after losing Chris Jericho.

Savage’s time in WCW is greatly underplayed with the major omissions from the documentary being his programs with Ric Flair and Diamond Dallas Page. While Savage and Flair had a feud in WWF, it was their run in WCW with the inclusion of Elizabeth (which was noted), that led to WCW’s turnaround at its live events in early 1996 that preceded the New World Order angle by several months. Flair does appear briefly in the documentary but it’s fleeting and doesn’t discuss their programs. It was surprising given that Flair is a major name for the audience of these A&E specials and of all eight subjects being covered, besides Piper, Savage would be the one I’d most want to utilize Flair for.

With Page, it was the program that made him in 1997, although it’s one I can see getting glossed over but would have provided a balance. The conclusion you were left with is that Savage was past his prime in WCW and well behind Hogan. Truthfully, he did provide a pivotal role, at least until the spring of 1998 when he left for knee surgery, although was hampered by the N.W.O. where he was cast in the shadow of Hogan after their Halloween Havoc match in 1996. In the N.W.O. years, his elevation of Page contributed to a massive babyface for the company during its hottest year in 1998.

The strength of the documentary from a wrestling perspective was the greater interest in his pre-WWF career. Savage was a tremendous baseball player and from accounts, was his true passion until injuries and a reality that he couldn’t play at the major league level forced a change in career paths. It outlined his father’s ICW promotion in Lexington, Kentucky, and eventual, cooperation with Memphis for a series of matches between Jerry Lawler and Savage in late 1983. Their final match in the territory was in June 1985 with Savage losing a ‘Loser Leaves Town’ match in front of 9,000 at the Mid-South Coliseum and moving to WWF.

For me, there was way too much of Todd Clem (“Bubba the Love Sponge”) in this documentary. By having Clem, it already gave the feeling of a tabloid piece as it’s impossible to take that individual seriously. It felt like one of the filmmakers believed that the “Tampa Radio Wars” between Hogan and Savage were so influential in the storytelling process that the documentary required the ringleader to participate. Then, he doubled as a voice of authority for the wrestling portions throughout Savage’s career and became one of the most prominent voices throughout the two-hour doc. Beyond that, it felt odd going from Clem and Hogan back-and-forth given their history and the elephant in the room it introduced.

The most disturbing elements centered around the fractured relationships that saw Hulette leave him and Bellars sharing some harrowing tales. For years, those in the WWF shared stories of how protective Savage was of Elizabeth and it bordered on inhumane treatment.

From the May 30, 2011 obit on Savage in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter:

Randy was insanely jealous and possessive. The joke was that he would keep her under lock and key, constantly paranoid that one of the other wrestlers would make the moves on her. And given her portrayal and how she looked, he probably wasn’t wrong to have those concerns. He would get mad if she would even engage in lengthy conversation with other men. When the cameras were off, and Savage would have to be away from her, he would have an older road agent or referee that he trusted be with her at all times to make sure none of the other wrestlers got near her. Savage, on occasion, chased down and hit fans who tried to touch her as she was walking to and from the ring. Lesser stars were let go for lesser actions involving fans.

Later, when she was no longer a character and he was still wrestling, he never wanted her to leave the house. He would come back from the road and check the miles on her car to see if she had gone anywhere and constantly check on her. She wanted out of the marriage badly by the time they were married in storyline. In the WCW days, whenever Elizabeth would come up to talk with him, Bobby Heenan would start singing the tune from an old TV commercial, “How do you handle a hungry man?,” from a company that marketed TV dinners. Elizabeth had confided in Heenan that when Randy was on the road, he’d buy a TV dinner for every night he was gone, because he wanted her to never leave the house.

Elizabeth became as much a focus of the documentary as Savage with her fall into drug addiction and an affair with Lawrence Pfohl (“Lex Luger”, not “Lugar” as captioned) before her death in May 2003. You could argue this was getting too far away from the documentary’s subject as Savage had long since been divorced from Hulette and the saga involving Luger could be its own separate piece.

The stories got more uncomfortable when Bellars revealed that while cleaning his house, she discovered surveillance footage of her home and that Savage had been filming her home without her knowledge.

Bellars did seem conflicted with the knowledge of the legacy Savage holds for wrestling fans and the good times she spent with him mixed with this other side that was deeply disturbing.

The documentary ends on a positive note with Savage’s complete removal from the industry, signified by the image-conscious performer allowing his hair and beard to go white. In his final years, he lost touch with just about everyone in wrestling save for his brother and what appeared to be a very closed circle. He reconnected with and married his high school sweetheart Lynn, who was in the passenger seat when Savage had his May 2011 heart attack. Lynn took hold of the wheel to avoid traffic before they crashed into a tree and Savage was pronounced dead at 58.

The fact Lynn was not interviewed in the documentary was notable and it’s hard to imagine she would look at this documentary as a glowing tribute given its ‘warts-and-all’ approach.

Without her involvement, the final years are left to the few public appearances he made and the promo he cut for the WWE All-Stars game, which was done through developer 2K. The significance of that deal was not heavily discussed, and while it was a 2K project, it was the first participation by Savage in any WWE-related project since leaving in 1994, which included a DVD the company put out in 2009 on Savage without his involvement.

In 2015, the WWE posthumously inducted Savage into its Hall of Fame despite Savage’s request while he was still alive to not be inducted unless his father and brother were included, which they were not, although Lanny Poffo did agree to accept the award on behalf of Randy.

For a base of wrestling fans that watched the WWF in their formative years, the industry has proven to be one with a ‘Peter Pan syndrome’ it elicits not just of performers, but also with fans. There is a certain security and nostalgia by believing that the heroes on your television set mirror those images off camera leaving one to, most often, be left disappointed. Wrestling thrives off creating a fantasy world and allowing its fanbase to remain rent-free despite the voices of reality growing louder and louder that you cannot ignore.

The term ‘complex character’ gets thrown around a lot. In the case of Savage, it’s an example of the person’s flaws and a ruthless obsession in his relationships that contributes to a polarizing view while weighing the side of him that cared for his family and seemed to find peace in the final years of his turbulent life.


Beautifully written, John. Looking forward to watching this.

A&E could have found 500,000 more worthwhile people to talk about Randy’s legacy than someone who refers to himself as a “love sponge”. Pathetic.

Wasn’t the love sponge the guy who filmed Hogan "with"his wife and then said the sex tape would make them rich?

Yep, that exact same POS. Like how can A&E decide to interview this idiot?

Did not enjoy this doc at all. Seemed to have more Wwe PR spin than the previous two. It was like all his problems occurred once he left WWF and landed in Wcw. That said, the Gorgeous George portion is very fucked up. A microcosm of late 90s culture perhaps and the 90s Monday night wars taboot.

Yeah this was a weird one. All the Gorgeous George stuff was news to me, very bizarre.

It honestly did not put Savage in a good light at all. The ecstasy usage was very surprising to me and now I understand why that promo where they were both wearing sparkly red made zero sense.

Just way too much positive WWE spin on this one. Savage was a big part of WCW’s success and had a number of great years there. The way they slanted it, he was over the hill and floated by.

Very telling they didn’t have Savages widow, and I think she was someone you have to get if you plan on telling his full story.

Well, if there is ever a performer that Vince will likely have a bias against, it’s probably Savage if the underage Stephanie rumours are true. I haven’t seen it yet, but as soon as I heard about it I figured it would be very pro WWE and put Savage in a very negative light.

This may have been one of the worst documentaries I’ve ever seen. I finally had some time off on call and decided to watch this as Savage was one of my favourite performers and I have to say as an actual documentary this is terrible.

1 A lot of wrestling documentaries have false hoods. However some of them can’t be fact checked. Classic would be Hogan claiming Andre didn’t want to do the job, since you can’t ask Andre although we all know this is a lie. How in gods name they aired a segment with Jerry Lawler saying that savage one day magically showed up on nitro, when there was no nitro and there was a month lag between Vinces promo and savage arriving is unforgivable. It’s downright lazy and stupid that they couldn’t bother to even ask Vince if this is true or check the records and definitively prove Lawlers full of shit. It’s completely unforgivable and these people should be barred from ever making another documentary again.

  1. Having Bubba the love sponge on this was incredibly mind-boggling. He is best known for being the guy that let Hogan screw his wife. Why the focus so much on these Tampa wars is beyond me. Bubba offered insight such as saying Elizabeth was savages true love when he’s probably never spoken to him. He has zero knowledge of this and other than hosting a radio show where Hogan trashed savage he had nothing of relevance that warranted being on the documentary more than almost anyone else.

  2. They literally glossed over the entire feud into wrestlemania 5 which is easily the biggest money feud of his career. You could watch that and completely not realize that the angle with him Elizabeth and Hogan was so huge and perhaps the biggest angle the WWE did in terms of long-term storytelling. Instead they focussed more on his beef with Hogan afterwards which while relevant wasn’t nearly as big a story

  3. They completely ignored that he won his first title at wrestlemania 4, which while it wasn’t a great pay-per-view would’ve been nice to have Ted Dibiase on talking about this. He was the first world champion since Hogan to hold the title and in that sense should’ve been made into a much bigger deal on the documentary.

  4. Peter Rosenberg got on there and downright lied saying savage had a seven-year run in wrestling. Again I have no idea why he’s on here, but the claim that he only wrestled for seven years is such a lie. He had an entire WCW run as a top level star, even if you ignore anything before WWE it’s like 15 years. This is like saying Sting had a 1 year run.

  5. Why are Natalya and R truth on this documentary? Why is Rosenberg? None of these people offer anything useful. They already have the actor that was a fan and he did a great job. They didn’t need these useless people explaining who savages was. It would’ve been much better to have people such as DiBiase on or give more time to Lanny to speak or had Bret or people who worked with him on.

  6. Where is DDP? His entire WCW run is glossed over it and you think it’s basically playing second fiddle to Hogan . This is entirely untrue - while it wasn’t as memorable as WWE, his run with DDP is what made DDP. We needed to have DDP on here and they needed to acknowledge that this is a huge part of his career.

  7. Yes they went into some dark stuff with him and George because that’s part of his legacy. But you get entirely too much about Luger and Liz here. Yes she was his ex wife. Yes that was sad and maybe deserves a whole piece on a Luger doc. However it really had nothing to do with Savage at that point. Unless you wanted a documentary on savage and Elizabeth, this part really everyone admitted savage was over and didn’t really care about their relationship. You really didn’t need to spend so much time on this as it really didn’t have anything to do with him. Savage in no way shape or form contributed to her death.

  8. The cutaways to black were mega amateurish at times and I thought the documentary was over many times. Just seen unpolished.

  9. I realize she may not have wanted to be on this, but not having his wife at the time on and completely glossing over he was married to another woman while discussing the love of his life etc. is not only lies it’s downright disgusting? She had been his first real love and they reunited. She was in the car when he died. It’s a beautiful story and it’s literally mentioned as Elizabeth is still his true love and he went to the grave thinking about her when he had his first love right next to him. I would understand she may not of wanted to be on this and I don’t blame her given how much it sucks, but come on.

Overall this was easily the worst documentary I’ve ever seen in terms of actually thinking it might be good. I realize some other documentaries you know we’re going to suck like the ultimate destruction of the warrior are worse, but this isn’t a WWE production. This was an actual documentary on AE and it is terrible. I don’t think I will watch another one of these apart from maybe Bret bc it has some cool rumoured guests.

If you haven’t seen this, don’t