From the driver’s
seat of his 2009 Jeep Wrangler, just before the turn off Florida State
Road 694 into the Seminole Mall, Randy “Macho Man” Savage stared through
the windshield at the sun-washed commercial strip and sensed that
something bad was about to occur.
“I think I’m going to
pass out,” he muttered to his wife, Lynn, in the characteristic rasp
wrestling fans knew from his promos, building up matches with Hulk Hogan, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
that morning, the two-time World Wrestling Federation (currently World
Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) champion had mentioned that he wasn’t
feeling well. To his wife, this was nothing new. Randy seemed older than
his 58 years; his body ached constantly, from decades of crashing into
the mat while delivering his finisher, the flying elbow, from the top
rope, among other physical stresses. Perhaps, Lynn suggested, he just
needed to eat. So the two went to a Perkins Family Restaurant, where
Randy ordered his usual, an egg white vegetable omelet. Still, Lynn
wasn’t convinced that he was better.
“Why don’t I drive?” she offered.
shook his head. After decades of piloting a colorful but controversial
career, and a lifestyle that shielded him from suspicious sycophants and
unwanted intrusions, he didn’t give up the wheel. And so, they returned
to their previous positions in the jeep. At around 9:25 a.m., they were
just west of 113th Street North in the city of Seminole, on a four-lane
road, passing the traffic light by Regions Bank, when Randy suddenly
lost consciousness. With his foot clamped down on the accelerator, the
jeep crossed the raised concrete median into eastbound traffic. Lynn
frantically looked at Randy, then out the front window at the motorcycle
and bus moving in their direction. Reaching over her husband’s limbs
with her long arms, the woman, who first met the Macho Man when he was a
catcher with the Gulf Coast League’s Sarasota Cardinals, swerved to
avoid the other vehicles, deliberately slamming the jeep into a tree
across from a Publix Super Market and animal hospital.
was so slight that the airbags didn’t activate. Lynn, 56, sustained
minor injuries. Randy was pronounced dead at Largo Medical Center.
that day, two years ago on May 20, 2011, the real-life Randy Mario
Poffo has been depicted as a recluse at the end of his life, a former
celebrity who let his beard grow white, kept a registered gun in his
glove compartment, and sequestered himself in a home surrounded by
security fences and patrolled by guard dogs. But his family says that he
was always accessible to them and spent his final months contemplating
his legacy—personally, professionally and financially—and making up for
time lost to fame.
“When Ang left the business,” says Randy’s
86-year-old mother, Judy, of her husband, Angelo Poffo, a wrestler who
once worked under a yellow mask with a dollar sign as The Miser, “he’d
never developed any hobbies, except going to the gym twice a day and
watching the stock market. There was all this energy and no place to put
it. Randy was different. He worked on his house, he was busy with his
animals, he married again, and he took us to our doctor’s
appointments—things he missed all those years when he was wrestling.”
Randy and brother, “Leaping” Lanny Poffo enjoy their last Thanksgiving
together. Photo Courtesy of Poffo Family.
Randy lived near his
mother’s development in Largo, Fla., down a bumpy, palm-shaded dirt
road. Within the perimeter of the non-climbable fence, two dogs
patrolled the acre-and-a-half surrounding his dark wooden home, built in
a style more representative of the Old West than the modern Gulf Coast.
On the brick pillars on each side of the front gate, cameras surveilled
possible visitors. “You needed an engraved invitation to get in there,”
notes Judy. “Tired of people, I guess.”
“Randy used to
own a condo on the beach,” points out his brother, Lanny, another
wrestler who worked, alternatively, as “Leaping” Lanny Poffo and The
Genius. “But he couldn’t go out on the balcony without 1,000 people
screaming, ‘Macho Man.’ He needed quiet.”
days before his death, the family gathered on Randy’s property for
Mother’s Day. Before their arrival, Randy called his mother with an
unusual request: the ashes of his dog, Hercules, a German shepherd from a
litter owned by the late wrestler, Hercules Hernandez. Judy brought the
ashes to Randy’s home in an urn. The Macho Man marched the family to a
designated spot and asked his brother to pour the animal’s remains.
“Why should I do it?” Lanny protested. “It’s not my dog.”
want you to do it. If anything happens, I want you to do the same thing
with my ashes, the same way, the same place. If it’s good enough for
Hercules, it’s good enough for me.”
In another family, a
58-year-old retired athlete might be beseeched not to speak in such
morose terms. But Randy talked like this often. “I didn’t think too much
of it because he always spoke fatalistically,” says Lanny. “He spoke
fatalistically since our dad died.”