WM Top 25: #15 – The Macho Man’s “retirement”

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What was supposed to be “Macho King” Randy Savage’s retirement match actually ended up being the career resurgence that Savage needed.

The Ultimate Warrior and “The Macho King” Randy Savage had been in a heated rivalry since late 1990. Warrior was the WWF World Champion at the time and was repeated staving off the challenge of Savage. It finally came to head at Royal Rumble in January 1991 when Savage interfered in Warrior’s Title defense against Sgt. Slaughter, causing Warrior to lose the Championship.

The stage was now set for the two rivals to battle in a wild grudge match at WrestleMania VII in March 1991 in a retirement match. The idea was that the two rivals hated each other so much that the WWF wasn’t big enough for both men, and one of them must go. Going into the match both men were at the top of the food chain in the WWF and were both former World Champions, and so it was a crap shoot on who would win the match, which made it al the more intriguing of a match-up.

At the time Warrior was known for his high-energy, short matches while Savage was meticulous in planning out his big matches down to the last detail. Savage was regarded as a great worker in the business and could be trusted to lead Warrior through the epic match that the storyline and the event sorely needed. Savage didn’t disappoint as he and Warrior put on a 20-minute classic, easily one of Warrior’s two or three best matches of his career. After an exhaustive and intense match, Warrior stood tall and pinned Savage with one foot on his chest.

But what was supposed to a great victory for the Ultimate Warrior beating his villainous opponent turned into only a small part of the story. As Warrior left the ring in celebration, Savage’s manage Sensational Sherri starting verbally and physically berating Savage, realizing she had just lost her meal ticket.

Then from the crowd here comes Miss Elizabeth, the former in-ring valet for The Macho Man and his real-life wife. She jumped the ringside barricade and threw Sherri out of the ring. As Savage rose to his feet he looked as saw Elizabeth staring back at him, with tears in her eyes. They soon embraced as Savage apologized for all the drama and turmoil he put her through while she served as his manager. Savage then lifted her onto his shoulder like he done so many times in the past as the crowd came to their feet and came unglued with their appreciation. Then in a moment almost more poignant than anything else, Savage held the ropes open for Elizabeth, allowing her to leave first, which was a stark throwback to all the days of Elizabeth holding the ropes open for Macho Man.

Savage entered the ring that night as one of the most reviled men in the WWF, but left more popular than he had ever been in his lifetime.

Macho Man’s retirement lasted all of about seven or eight months on TV, while still working sporadically on live events in the duration. He spent his time as the color commentator for the syndicated “Superstars of Wrestling” television show.

The fairy tale storyline finally came to a wonderful head at SummerSlam in August 1991 when The Macho Man married Miss Elizabeth mid-ring, live on pay per view in front of millions. It was probably the only televised pro wrestling in history that went off without a hitch. I was eight years old at the time and my friend’s dad spoiled it for us that in reality Savage and Elizabeth had been married for years at this point and this marriage was just part of the story. In a sad twist they actually were divorced about a year after their on-screen union.

Miss Elizabeth was often called “The First Lady of Wrestling” and there was never a moniker more appropriate. Of all the females in the wrestling business she was the one most often treated with the most class, respect and dignity. It was only apropos that her wedding, unlike so many other female performers’, went off like a fairy tale wedding. It showed that the World Wrestling Federation could put on a soap opera like storyline that was tastefully done and could draw female fans into their programming.

What started all as a vehicle to make Ultimate Warrior more popular and put Savage on the backburner turned “The Macho Man” into a bigger star than Warrior. And as with the rapid, unpredictable nature of pro wrestling, a year later at WrestleMania VII, “The Macho Man” was challenging for the WWF World Championship while it was Warrior who returned to the ring that night after leaving the WWF abruptly in August 1991.

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