Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard – “Macho Man” Randy Savage: Episode 64
Release date: September 8, 2017
Length: 4 hours, 10 minutes
Recap By: Jeff Rush, PWPodcasts.com Assistant Editor
(Editor’s note: due to the insane length of this episode — over four hours — Jeff and I are tag-teaming this one. So just a heads up that there will be a tonal shift for part two, but we’ll do our best to tell the full story!)
What Happened When The Macho Man Randy Savage came to the World Wrestling Federation?
Top 10 Impressions
10. Vince says sprinkle a little Hulkster dust on it
9. Randy doesn’t care about a little staph infection
8. Randy loves his fluffy hair
7. Andre’s thoughts on Randy
6. Chief Jay Strongbow fills Randy in on a plan he won’t like
5. Randy wants to make sure Elizabeth is assaulted very carefully
4. Vince speaks carnie to Dick Ebersol
3. Randy prefers using toiletries brought from home
2. Randy is proud of his garish attire
1. Vince and Randy negotiate the “yellow polka dot bikini” spot at SummerSlam
– Bruce feels rumors that Randy meticulously planned out his WrestleMania III match against Ricky Steamboat are false.
– Randy exercised great control over how Elizabeth was physically involved on television.
– “Iron” Mike Sharpe was OCD.
– Randy and Andre did not like working with one another.
– Jay Lethal’s Black Machismo gimmick was done with Randy’s blessing.
– The trademark cowboy hats worn by the Macho King were implemented to replace a crown.
– Bruce met his wife at a company softball game while hanging out with Randy.
– Heads rolled following several mess up’s on live TV during the “Mega Powers Explode” edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event.
– Randy was dealing with a serious staph infection in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania V that put his match in jeopardy.
Randy joined the company in 1985, and Bruce didn’t come on until 1987. Bruce met him when he’d come to Houston in ’87 to do promos for a show they ran together. Bruce’s first impression was that Randy was a nice, soft-spoken man.
WrestleMania III was fresh in the rearview when Bruce came in, and we briefly get into the impact the Savage-Steamboat match had on wrestling at that time. Bruce talks about all the near falls and how both guys appeared to be trying to win the match, not trying to get their spots in.
Bruce then surprisingly disputes the theory that Savage meticulously planned out his WrestleMania III match. He says Savage loved to perform spontaneously, and that doing such a thing would’ve been out of character for him.
The perception in wrestling in 1987 was that the WWF was “the land of the giants.” Conrad presses Bruce to shoot on what Randy’s size was. Bruce says 6’1”, 230lbs. Conrad doesn’t believe him. Bruce says compared to Andre and Hogan, he was smaller, but he was a big man in his own right.
Conrad suggests that Randy opened the door for guys who weren’t quite the size of Hogan at that time, naming Bret Hart specifically. Bruce would like to think that’s the case and says, in terms of personality, Randy was eight feet tall.
Following WrestleMania, Randy would wrestle often on the WWF’s syndicated programs. This leads Bruce to explain the differences between Superstars and Challenge. He says there wasn’t much of a difference other than the commentators and occasional interview segments.
The third ever King of the Ring took place in 1987. Savage would win the tournament, defeating King Kong Bundy with an elbow drop in the finals. Bruce says these shows came up as a way for Vince to make house shows different at the time while running in close proximity to one another.
Three of the four matches Savage wrestled in this tournament were heel-heel matches. Bruce spitballs that this was part of a conscious effort to see how Savage would go over with audiences when facing a heel.
Savage’s eventual turn came organically. Bruce feels this was based on not only the live crowds taking a liking to him, but also having Elizabeth as his manager, as well as the colorful outfits he would wear to the ring.
On Saturday Night’s main Event in October 1987, Savage challenged the Honky Tonk man for the IC title. He was attacked by the Hart Foundation just before winning. This is where Honky famously shoved Elizabeth out of the way en route to smashing Savage with his guitar. This led to Hogan coming out to make the save for Savage. Conrad asks Bruce if NBC had an issue with the man-on-woman violence here. Bruce says these were unchartered waters. More so, it was happening to Elizabeth, who had never been involved physically to this point. He then talks about how much of a control freak Savage was in regards to how Elizabeth would be handled. He feels it says a lot about his trust for Honky that he left it in his hands.
Honky felt that Dick Ebersol, the head of NBC Sports, spent more time and invested more in Savage than he did with him. Bruce says Dick saw Randy as a huge star. From the corporate side, there was concern about Elizabeth being assaulted, and Dick wanted to make sure Randy kept a cool head.
By having Hogan run in for the save, it said “Randy is a good guy now.” Bruce recalls that they weren’t sure of where they were going with long-term plans with any of it, as they were eying WrestleMania IV as Hulk-Andre III, but didn’t know if Andre would be up for it physically.
Though Hulk and Randy were contemporaries at the start of this program, they weren’t what you would consider good friends. They grew closer as the Mega Powers storyline progressed.
Bruce has heard rumors for years regarding Honky’s refusal to drop the IC title to Savage and that the concession was put into place to give Randy the World Title instead. He can’t confirm anything, but does stand by the fact that plans were in place for Savage to go over at WrestleMania IV as far back as November/December 1987. Hogan was leaving to shoot No Holds Barred and Vince chose Savage as the man to steer the ship in his absence.
Savage would move on from his official turn at SNME to captain a successful babyface team at the inaugural Survivor Series, teaming with Steamboat, Roberts, Duggan, and Beefcake against Honky Tonk Man, Harley Race, Hercules, Ron Bass, and Danny Davis. Bruce says his memories of this match are tied to Vince’s initial “Hogan must pose” moment. This match was booked so that the faces would go over so that the sting would be taken out of the heel team going over in the main event. Regardless, the show would end with Hogan posing mid-ring.
Randy would go on to face Bret Hart in a rare singles match at the following SNME. Bruce says this stemmed from Bret’s involvement in the attack at the previous SNME and he recalls this as a good match. They would face off a few weeks later, but nothing would come from the pairing. Bruce feels that the two weren’t at the right place at the right time in their careers to make much of a program out of it.
Conrad brings up the opponents Savage was facing on TV at this time, specifically mentioning “Iron” Mike Sharpe, which prompts a good story from Bruce:
Sharpe was a notorious germaphobe. He would bring a large bag with wheels, long before luggage on wheels was a thing, and he would stuff it with rolls of toilet paper he swiped from various venues. He would also work out like crazy, before and after all matches for 90+ minutes. He would then take 45-minute showers, scrubbing, rinsing and scrubbing again. One night, he did his workout/shower routine, and it took so long that the building shut down for the night and locked him in. He was very clean, though.
Savage would go on to win the Championship at WrestleMania IV, defeating Ted Dibiase in the finals of a tournament and closing out the show. Conrad inquires whether Hogan was unhappy with this decision. Bruce says they knew they’d be without Hogan for at least three months and they needed a champion to travel and work the house shows. He doesn’t recall any sort of push back on Hogan from the matter.
Bruce adds that Hogan did not want to shoot the movie and carry the title. He was looking for a break and to spend some time with his family. 1988 Hulk Hogan sounds like such a decent guy.
WWF put a lot of planning into the brackets for the WMIV tournament, but things changed a lot in the booking leading up to the show.
Randy wrestled Butch Reed, Greg Valentine, One Man Gang, and finally, DiBiase. Bruce points out that Randy changed up his wardrobe for each match, different colored trunks and boots, and Elizabeth changed hre outfits accordingly. This was Savage’s concept, and the guys liken this to a Beyoncé performance.
Savage’s famous elbow drop finish wasn’t always the safest move. Conrad mentions reports that the occasional rib was broken. Bruce says ribs were broken on both sides based on the way Savage threw the move. He likens it to Jimmy Snuka’s top rope splash. In both instances, there were people who dreaded taking the moves, but in Savage’s case, there was a correct way to take it. If you lifted yourself up towards Savage just slightly right before contact, you were usually safe.
Regarding favorite opponents of Macho Man, Bruce lists Dibiase and Tito Santana. He also loved working with Dusty Rhodes, as he was a huge fan. Bruce mentions that Savage did not like working with Andre or Bad News Brown, saying that there was a styles clash with the latter.
All of Randy’s mannerisms and promo style were things he developed prior to joining the WWF. Bruce says Randy always strived to be different; today they would call it “creating a brand.”
Jay Lethal famously impersonated Savage on TNA television with his “Black Machismo” character. Bruce confirms having heard that Randy appreciated the impression and felt it was a tribute. Bruce has been told by Lethal and Jeff Jarrett that the character was performed with Savages blessing. Bruce adds that he loved Lethal’s impressions of both Savage and Ric Flair.
Asked to describe Savage’s “unique” hair, Bruce says it reminded him of a Treasure Troll. He says Randy wore a bandana because he was sensitive about his thinning hair and was covering up the bald spot in the back.
During his run as the Macho King, Randy began wearing his trademark cowboy hats. Bruce says they were introduced as a way to replace the crown, as he wasn’t happy wearing a crown.
Bruce adds that Randy was “frugal,” but that talent foots the bill for their own elaborate costumes, and he was no different, spending $2-3K per outfit. The garish robes cost even more, running upwards of $5K each.
“Pomp and Circumstance” was famously used throughout Randy’s run with the company. Bruce says that it was an instantly recognizable song, a classic piece of music to go with a classic talent. He likens it to Ric Flair using 2001: Space Odyssey. By the early ’90s, music was advancing and the WWF attempted to touch up Randy’s entrance theme, cutting in clips from his song off of the Slam Jam album, with samples of Macho Man saying his catchphrases. “They sh*t all over it,” Bruce says, referring to the live audiences. They wanted the Pomp and Circumstance.
On the subject of ribs played on the Macho Man, Bruce says Randy always packed his own towels from home and didn’t like people messing with his stuff. He would carefully lay out all his things prior to getting into the shower, and on occasion, Bruce would move his stuff, causing Randy to fly into a fit. He says that Randy knew it was him, though, and would get him back in various ways.
When Conrad inquires about Randy’s dating life following his divorce from Elizabeth, Bruce says he has a story he was going to avoid telling, but then gets into it:
During a women’s softball game involving the WWF, Randy and Bruce arrived together, both dressed loudly in the fashion of the time – Zubas and tank tops, tanned as can be. They walked right across the field in the middle of the game to get to the bleachers. That was how Bruce met his future wife.
Financially speaking, Bruce says Randy’s earnings were in the ballpark of what Hogan was making in 1988. He says the caveat is that Macho alone was not, but combined with Elizabeth, they were close. Vince recognized that Elizabeth was a vital part of the package, and Bruce says she was taken care of better than anyone short of Bobby Heenan in a managerial position.
As the brackets were lined up at WrestleMania IV, it seemed a given at the time that round 2 would feature a rematch of Savage and Steamboat from the previous WM. Instead, the Dragon lost to Greg Valentine. Bruce says this was done because they were trying to build Savage as the top babyface, and didn’t want to risk that by having him square off against a popular wrestler like Steamboat.
Conrad says this makes total sense, and it does sound good on the surface. I remember as a child being confused as the why that rematch didn’t take place when everything seemed lined up so perfectly. Adult me feels as though a hot 15-minute display between the two that ended in a Savage victory and perhaps a show-of-respect handshake would’ve given tremendous closure to a feud that saw Savage perform as a dastardly heel. It would’ve been a way of saying “That chapter is behind Randy now. He’s a new man, and even Ricky Steamboat supports him.” Given the groundswell surrounding Randy at the time and the lack of momentum behind Steamboat, who had reportedly fallen out of favor with the company the previous June after requesting time off to be with his newborn son, there was very little risk involved.
In a hilarious spot, Bruce discusses the potential of VirgilMania, had the Million Dollar Man’s bodyguard been successful in defeating Macho Man at a Superstars taping following WrestleMania.
Bruce’s dry delivery here is the sort of thing that will have someone on Twitter writing in during the week telling them they’re stupid and that Virgil was terrible. This sardonic style of BS-ing was a bit of a theme during this episode, and I for one support it. I like this version of Bruce a lot.
The WWF, at the time, was airing house shows from Madison Square Garden, the Spectrum in Philadelphia, and others that would air on local pay channels. The preliminary matches filmed at these shows were often used for Prime Time and All American Wrestling. Bruce says they didn’t mind the channels airing the main event matches, as it didn’t affect the WWF’s business at all.
We get into another dry bit here regarding the Conquistadors and the differences between Uno and Dos. Dos was difficult.
SummerSlam ’88 is up next. The main event would see the Mega Powers face off against the Mega Bucks of Ted Dibiase and Andre, with Jesse Venture as guest referee.
For weeks during the build, Savage and Hogan would tease the surprise of Elizabeth’s “itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, yellow polkadot bikini.” If it sounds weird to you now, and it probably did to a lot of people then, the line was a reference to the 1960 hit single of the same name. It was performed by Brian Hyland, a bubblegum pop teen idol who pretty much only Vine remembered at that time. Well, Vince, and my grandmother, which is how I knew as a kid that the oft-repeated line leading up to SummerSlam was even a reference to anything.
The end of the match would see Elizabeth remove her skirt and flash the heels, creating a distraction and allowing the Mega Powers to secure the victory. The problem was, Elizabeth was not wearing a small bikini. She instead kept the top of her dress in tact and removed her skirt. Her top still covered a good portion of her underwear region and all that you could see was a red bottom.
As an adolescent at the time, I recall the scene fairly well today. I felt, considering how protected Elizabeth’s image had been for a couple years up to this point, what was shown was still fairly revealing and definitely counted as a payoff. What’s odd is, Bruce and Conrad both recall Elizabeth instead wearing bloomers, or “granny panties.” It makes for a fun story, but I just don’t think it was that drastic. I mean, look up an image. It’s out there.
Anyway, we get into a great segment here where Bruce recalls how opposed Randy was to Liz revealing herself at the close of the match. He feels that Randy got cold feet and, in the end, insisted on far less than what was originally planned. Bruce clarifies that he didn’t know there was an issue with the original plan until he saw the payoff first hand. He then does a terrific reenactment of how he thinks the conversation went between Randy and Vince.
One awesome storytelling moment instantly gives way to another here, as Bruce immediately jumps into a story illustrating Randy’s overprotective nature regarding Elizabeth. This one involves a time Vince had booked Sensational Sherri to slap Elizabeth at a house show. Chief Jay Strongbow gets involved, Randy gets pissed, Sherri gets upset, Vince gets yelled at, a bag of mayonnaise gets thrown at Sherri, turns out Elizabeth packs a pretty good punch herself. I mean, tons of stuff. In fact, you know what? I’m going to write a Quick Quotes feature of this segment that you can find right here at PWPodcasts. If you don’t have the time to listen to this mammoth episode, we got your back.
The WWF famously released a poster of Elizabeth that was largely a headshot that appeared to leave to the imagination that she was naked, even though she was not. Randy had no problem with this as the sales of the poster made them a lot of money.
The seeds for the eventual explosion of the Mega Powers were first planted at the close of SummerSlam ’88. Hogan hoisted Liz onto his and Randy’s shoulders, and proceeded to place his hand in what Bruce would refer to as “the assal area.” His hand was on her hip, but close enough to the butt to get into Randy’s head.
As most listeners of the show are made aware, when you purchase a tee shirt from their online shop, Bruce will thank you in the form of a personal phone call. Here, he tells the tale of one such call, where the recipient tells him a story of the time he ran into Terry Taylor.
If you listen enough to know about the phone call that follows a tee shirt purchase, you likely also know of the contempt Bruce holds for Terry Taylor. Though Dave Meltzer’s name is brought up often on the show, it’s almost always in regards to a report Conrad reads from the Observer Newsletter in an effort to back up his narrative. There was also one time outside of the subject being discussed, that Bruce discussed his encounter with Meltzer at WaleMania. This story, as Bruce relays it, however, marks the first time in the history of the show that Bruce tells an anecdote relating to the episode’s subject that includes Dave Meltzer as a participating member. So there you have it. Anyway…
This caller attended “a Brian Pillman show.” It’s unclear whether this was a memorial show or what the situation was, but this person sat at a table that also included Terry Taylor and Dave Meltzer. The caller was 18-years-old at the time and the only thing he knew about Taylor was that he portrayed the Red Rooster. So he said hello and referred to Taylor as the Red Rooster. He told Bruce that Taylor and Meltzer looked at him incredulously. He then claims that Taylor, as a result of the presumed slight, took a saltshaker and dumped it all over the caller’s food and basically told him to leave.
Ok, so assuming the story is true, let’s reflect. A fan who otherwise expressed gratitude and respect to be sitting with Taylor made a social taboo and, as a result, had his dinner ruined and was forced to leave his table. If that’s how it all went down, I think Taylor went a bit too far. Anything shy of the exact recounting of this story by someone who loves a show hosted by a person who hates Terry Taylor and who finally got a chance to talk to them would leave much room for conjecture. How nice was this person in the moment? How well did they handle the situation of finding themselves at a table with Taylor and Meltzer? They were obviously a smart enough fan to know who Dave Meltzer was, so it seems like a bit of a stretch to think, even at 18, they wouldn’t know Taylor as something more than simply the Red Rooster.
All that aside, the Red Rooster was a sh*t gimmick given to a good, fairly accomplished, young wrestler with a promising future. I feel most people would agree that it, in many ways ruined, or at least greatly stunted Taylor’s career. Of course being greeted by that name by a complete stranger in possibly a memorial-type setting would naturally cause a person to react harshly.
In the end, I call somewhat BS on the exact recounting of the callers story. Further, I think, some glaring omission notwithstanding, the reaction by Terry and Dave was pretty much acceptable.
At Survivor Series ’88, Savage and Hogan were co-captains and the sole survivors on their team. Following the match, Hogan twirled Elizabeth around in celebration, further stoking the flames of jealousy from the Macho Man. Bruce says Vince probably knew the plans for Hogan-Savage at WrestleMania V immediately following WMIV, but that it wasn’t clear to him until the build to SummerSlam ’88 began.
Savage worked a SNME match against Andre shortly after Survivor Series. Bruce says the two men did not get along. He thinks that years later, Liz helped the relationship along, as Andre liked Liz. But at this point, Andre was temperamental and would often pull on Randy’s hair, which was a pet peeve of Savage’s.
Conrad wonders why Savage never got a clean win over Andre. Bruce says because he’s Andre, and no one but one guy beats him. Ever.
Ok, now see, I was down with “no one but one guy beats him,” as Vince would go on to protect the legend of Andre with this mentality for a long time after WrestleMania III. Hogan won clean, but he’s the only one. Got it, got it. But then Bruce makes a point of adding “Ever” to his statement, and I’m like hold up. I instantly think back to an extended series of house shows held in 1989 (and reported to this young fan in the “Arena Reports” section of Pro Wrestling Illustrated) where the Ultimate Warrior would routinely squash Andre in seconds. You can find one of these matches on YouTube that originally aired on the MSG Network. They’ve even touched on it on this show. Andre squashed. In seconds. So when did Vince decide to abandon the plan of protecting Hogan’s WMIII victory altogether then?
Vince was pleased with how Savage performed for a year as the top guy, but there was a drop off. Bruce believes that Randy (and Liz) drew better than the Warrior would a year later.
At Royal Rumble ’89, Hogan eliminated Savage while seemingly attempting to dump Bad News Brown. . This leads to what would be the first serious confrontation between the two. Bruce illustrates the slow-burn booking genius that went into this feud by breaking down what this situation meant to each person involved. He feels this was a way of telling the story of what was happening in Randy’s head. Liz comes to the ring and jumps between Savage and Hogan as a way to separate them. In Savage’s eyes, Liz has been between them the whole time. In Hogan’s eyes, there’s nothing wrong.
On February 3, 1989, the Mega Powers finally broke up following a victory over the Twin Towers. The story was that Elizabeth had been inadvertently injured and Hogan carried her to the back to receive medical attention. This left Randy to fend for himself. After sustaining a two-on-one beating for several minutes, Savage finally got an assist when Hogan returned. However, moments later, Savage would slap Hogan and abandon him. Hogan eventually got the win, because Hogan, and made his way to the back. There he was jumped by Savage and the road to WrestleMania had begun.
The call was made to shoot this backstage scene live and Bruce discusses a few issues that arose from that decision. One was Hogan seeking a time queue upon arriving in the back, audibly asking in carnie-speak “what’s the tizime, brother?” Another issue was Brutus Beefcake running in to save Hogan from the attack, but arriving too early and scrambling to get out of the way. Dick Ebersol, who was producing the segment, decided the best way to fix the early run-in was to have Beefcake remove his shirt the second time, presumably so he appeared to be a different person than the one who ran in early. Hilarious.
The Hogan time check misqueue was cause for a lot of finger pointing. Both Ebersol and Hogan were upset. Vince tried to downplay the situation by saying no one understood Hogan’s carnie-speak anyway. Bruce says, ultimately, it came down to s**tty producing.
Conrad raises the question of whether or not Dick Ebersol speaks carnie. This leads to an awesome Vince “G**damn, pi-zal” from Bruce.
It is then revealed that Bruce sees Dick Ebersol as being the original Conrad Thompson. He says back in the late ’80s, the only thing Ebersol knew about the business was what he learned from the Wrestling Observer. He would constantly call Bruce and ask him for confirmation of what he’d read. Bruce says it felt like an ’80s version of Something To Wrestle.
We then arrive at WrestleMania V from Atlantic City, New Jersey. Hogan defeats Savage to regain the title in 18 minutes. Many people felt this was the best match of Hogan’s career.
A little known side story is relayed here by Bruce. Apparently, Randy Savage had been dealing with a staph infection in his elbow in the weeks leading up to the show. Although he’d even been hospitalized, Bruce says he never wavered on whether or not he would make the match and earn the WrestleMania main event payday. He didn’t even want to discuss the option.
Everyone in the company was thrilled when the match was over. They were happy to have Hogan back on top as champion, thinking business would return to its 1987 levels. Conrad goes over the numbers and says that this was the most successful WWF PPV to date, and that they would not do better than this show until WrestleMania XV in 1999. Bruce astutely points out that his presence as Brother Love on this show is a big reason as to why.
In a rare moment of financial discussion, Bruce says WrestleMania V was the best single-day payday of his career. He says both Hogan and Savage were extremely happy with their payoffs, which wasn’t always the case with either of them.
Conrad asks if Bruce can name a WrestleMania payoff that Randy was unhappy with. Bruce says WrestleMania X, where he squared off against Crush.
Was Randy unhappy with the fact he never pinned Hogan? Bruce says the only thing Randy cared about was getting paid and that wins and losses didn’t matter to him.
Check back shortly for Part 2 of the episode and full review scores…
Jeff Rush is a life-long fan of professional wrestling. He’s attended the last match of both Andre the Giant and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s careers and two of the three matches of the Rock-Austin WrestleMania trilogy. As a child, he was once yelled at by John Tenta for sitting too close to him on a bench at Hershey Park. Jeff listens to way too many wrestling podcasts and watches way too much WWE Network. He also catches as much indie wrestling as he can when it comes through his home of New York City. Follow along @jefflikesstuff