March 29, 1987 was one of the most anticipated nights of my blessed childhood. That was the night of Wrestlemania III.
I was (and am) a die-hard Hulk Hogan fan. My best bud at the time, Robbie Hughes, and I would spend hours every weekend using my bed as a wrestling ring and would put my unfortunate stuffed animals in every submission hold you can possibly imagine. I would walk to the “ring” in my bedroom, rip my t-shirt apart (which I wasn’t very good at doing because I wasn’t strong enough) and proceed to wreak havoc inside the “squared circle.” Life was good.
My other favorite wrestler was Randy “Macho Man” Savage. He was usually a “bad guy” but I didn’t care. Technically speaking he could wrestle circles around Hulk Hogan and was the only other wrestler who really captured my imagination. I loved how he was so protective of his manager, Miss Elizabeth (who I and every other 11 year old boy in the country had a crush on), and yet so ruthless with his opponents. His signature move, the flying elbow drop, remains the most gorgeous and devastating move in wrestling history.
And so on March 29, 1987, Macho Man would wrestle Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, another talented wrestler who was playing the role as the good, innocent guy. But the huge story was Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. These best friends would now be going against one another. It is difficult to explain how pumped I was for this event.
Today, things are different. There are hundreds of online wrestling websites that keep wrestling fans up to date with every little detail of the wrestling industry, both inside and outside the ring. You can watch YouTube over and over and over again to catch up on your favorite matches and most beloved wrestlers. There is even a “WWE Network” where for $10 a month you can watch the events as many times as you want, listen to industry podcasts, and keep track of all the news. In other words, the anticipation today is different than what it was in the 80’s.
Essentially, in 1987 you had Saturday Night’s Main Event to catch up on the week’s activities and you could purchase wrestling magazines at your local drug store. That was basically it. If you missed something on television, you better hope your friend saw it so he could fill you in during PE the next day at school. Yeah, it was an awesome time in some respects and the main event of Wrestlemania III – Hogan vs. Andre – was the most anticipated wrestling match in the sport’s history. It will never be topped.
So, the irony of Wrestlemania III is that the Hogan/Andre match was not the best match of the night. Macho Man/Steamboat took that honor. Now, the Hogan match was the most important match and provided the most epic moment in sports entertainment history. But that night Macho Man stole the show.
This post is not a breakdown on how incredible the wrestling match itself was. No, this post is simply to point out that one phrase uttered by Macho Man in a simple, 30 second promo right before the match set the stage for the best wrestling match of all time.
Promos are a big part of what makes or breaks a wrestler. Yes, the wrestling is important and fans today especially demand high quality wrestling and high impact entertainment. But the wrestler’s ability to “get over” with the fans (that means become likable and popular) is heavily dependent on the way they handle the microphone. Two quick examples:
The Rock was a great wrestler and was doing just fine, but it wasn’t until he started doing individual promos and wooing audiences with memorable lines perfectly executed, such as “Do you smell what the Rock is cooking?” that he really took off in popularity. On the other side of the coin, a wrestler named Goldberg was one of the most powerful, dominant, popular wrestlers in the WCW during the late 90’s. Part of his mystery and appeal was that he didn’t say a word. He just came out and beat people up and left. But then, once that started to fade, Goldberg was forced to start talking. And he was terrible. I mean, terrible. Awful. (click here for an example, but don’t say I didn’t warn you). And soon after, his appeal diminished among fans.
Back to Wrestlemania III. The biggest Pay-Per-View event of the year and the largest stage of all time – some 93,173 people were in attendance at the Pontiac Silverdome to see Hogan and Andre duke it out. The place was electric, nothing like this had ever happened before in the history of wrestling. It couldn’t get any better.
It was time for Macho Man and Steamboat to do their thing. Today before a match begins at a Pay-Per-View, there will usually be a 3-5 minute video montage that catches up the fans on why these two guys are getting ready to fight. The promos are usually very well done and get your heart pumping for the match. But back then, the wrestlers would do a live promo literally just seconds before they walked to the stage!
Here I was, counting the matches until we could finally get to the Hogan match, and then it suddenly went to a promo for the Macho Man match. He was standing with his back to the television wearing his classic, flamboyant robe. The first words were fitting; his famous, “OH YEAHHHHHH!” And then, I was BLOWN AWAY…
In 30 seconds Randy Savage delivered the most perfect promo I have ever heard. I have heard some amazing promos, but this one is the one by which all the others are judged. Remember, an event of this magnitude had never happened before. 93,173 fans were in attendance in addition to the millions watching at home. Savage had to give his match one last “pump” before he made his ring entrance to the best entrance music ever – Pomp and Circumstance. His 30 second promo could capture the fans attention, especially at home, so that they wouldn’t go grab a snack waiting for Hogan, or he could bomb the whole thing, struggle to find the right words, and just screw it up.
He didn’t screw it up. After his promo I can remember just sitting on the edge of my bed with my mouth hanging wide open. For the next few months, I walked around just repeating this one line from his promo over and over again. I have never heard a wrestler say something that captured my attention like Savage did that night.
So what was it you ask? Well, the entire promo was amazing and I could exegete the masterpiece line by line, but let me get to the point…
At the end of the promo, when you think all he has left is a throw away line of some kind, Savage delivers this beauty: HISTORY BECKONS THE MACHO MAN!
I think a lengthy analysis of why this is so good and so perfect would not make the point as much as simply watching and listening to it. I have heard this a million times since 1987 and it gets me every time. Just listen and see if you don’t also connect with how truly important those words were at this moment in wrestling history.
I will say this – what makes them even more powerful is that somehow Savage knew the gravity of the situation. It was as if he knew that he and Steamboat were getting ready to wrestle one of the most perfect matches of all time. It was as if he knew that people would still be talking and writing about this match some 30 years after he wrestled it. It was as if he knew that he was getting ready to wrestle in such a way that the world would never forget the name Randy Savage. This wasn’t just poetic wording. This was prophecy. And he nailed it.
So watch and listen carefully, a few times if necessary. This is the best of all time. Randy “Macho Man” Savage.