Earlier in part 1, I looked at his life and career before the WWF.
As soon as Randy Savage showed up on WWF television, you knew he was a star, and not just because of his ringwork, charisma, and interviews. He was immediately positioned as a top guy with a brilliant angle: All of the heel managers were trying to sign this hot new prospect and take him to the top of the WWF. Finally, when it was time for Savage to announce his new manager, he didn't choose anyone in the WWF. He brought in a new manager: real life wife Elizabeth, now manager/valet Miss Elizabeth. When she came to the ring the first time, color commentator Bruno Sammartino remarked that she was so beautiful that "she must be some kind of movie star." It's forgotten that the more famous dynamic of Savage as the neglectful over-possessive heel boyfriend of his demure babyface girlfriend wasn't the original scenario. At first, Elizabeth was going to be the first heel female valet in the WWF, based on the success of Sunshine and later Precious as Jimmy Garvin's valets in Texas. She was supposed to be a shark of a business negotiator, based on characters from the popular nighttime soaps dominating network TV at the time. Her early interviews show traces of the early character, but they soon changed gear.
Savage wowed fans for several months before feuding with WWF Champion Hulk Hogan some house shows, but most memorably at Madison Square Garden. They had great matches where Savage wasn't afraid to bleed a ton, and it was clear that they were made to feud with each other. During all this, Savage ended up winning the Intercontinental Title from Tito Santana at the Boston Garden so he could headline the shows Hogan wasn't on. They proceeded to have a memorable series of matches with him over the title (including one of the best WWF matches of the decade in Toronto). Savage's next major feud was with George "The Animal" Steele, who had fallen in love with Elizabeth. The matches weren't great, but the dynamic of the simpleton who "really loved" Elizabeth going against the neglectful (implied to be abusive) Savage created one of the most memorable feuds of the boom period, which included a matches at Wrestlemania 2 and on Saturday Night's Main Event on NBC. Savage continued feuding with Santana was well in various permutations (including an excellent cage match at MSG with Savage and Adrian Adonis against Santana and Sammartino) before moving on to what's probably the second most memorable feud of career and probably produced his best matches in the WWF: His feud with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat.
For the new TV season in the Fall of 1986, all of the syndicated WWF television shows were overhauled. Tapings would be held every month at major arenas across the country instead of the same smaller venue all the time A-show Championship Wrestling became Superstars of Wrestling, B-show All-Star Wrestling became Wrestling Challenge, and C-level recap show Superstars of Wrestling became Wrestling Spotlight. Late in November, during the "sweeps" period used to measure ratings on local TV stations, Superstars opened with Savage defending his title against Steamboat. After a few minutes of great action, Steamboat was knocked to the floor. Savage went to the top and hit his trademark double axe handle/double sledge to the floor on Steamboat, who was leaning over the guardrail. Steamboat came up clutching his throat and lost via count-out. Savage pounced. He threw his prey into the ring grabbed the timekeeper's bell, and came off the top rope with the bell into Steamboat's throat. Steamboat was stretchered out of the ring and somehow two lawsuits ensued in the process: One because Steamboat accidentally kicking a fan while flailing, the other for defamation because the real paramedics used in the angle were criticized on commentary (Yes, really). Later, when Sammartino was giving an update on Steamboat, Savage showed up and the enraged wrestler turned announcer attacked him. This led to two hot feuds, as Savage took on Sammartino until Steamboat "recovered" (after multiple videos where he was shown undergoing speech therapy as part of the process), and they had a few more matches leading into the big one at Wrestlemania III.
Wrestlemania III was the biggest wrestling event up to that point in history, selling out the Pontiac Silverdome drawing somewhere between 78,000 and 93,000+ people live (depending on who you believe), around 450,000 people paying for the event on pay per view television, and another ~450,000 watching at arenas on closed circuit television. Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant was the main event, with Savage vs Steamboat being the second most anticipated and promoted match. The Hart Foundation and Danny Davis vs The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana would probably be #3, and sort of tied in to Savage because it was claimed that former referee Davis turning heel stretched back to the Santana-Savage title switch. Savage used a foreign object to win, and history was changed to Davis seeing the cheating.
Anyway, after a memorable Savage promo, they had an incredible match which, contrary to how most wrestlers did things back then, was laid out in advance move for move. It led to a thrilling, impeccably executed match, ending with Steamboat winning the title after Steele (in his corner) thwarted Savage's use of the bell. For many years, it was considered by many to be the greatest match in WWF (much less Wrestlemania) history. They had a series of steel cage rematches on house shows (none of which are available on video in any form, unfortunately) and both moved on. Savage's next move was to turn babyface.
He was already being cheered and just started to wrestle heels. He was put over the top as a babyface when he wrestled The Honky Tonk Man (who won the title from Steamboat after the cage match series) on Saturday Night's Main Event. HTM and The Hart Foundation laid out Savage and prepared to hit him with a guitar. Elizabeth stepped in and begged HTM not to do it, but he threw her to the ground. That just didn't happen in the WWF in 1987, so it was already a big deal. She fled the ring and Savage was kabonged. She returned dragging a hesitant Hulk Hogan by the arm, who then looked at the ring, ran in, cleaned house, and bumped into a recovered Savage before Liz explained what happened an they shook hands as Vince McMahon put over the importance of the moment on commentary. Savage continued to feud with Honky Tonk Man for the next few months, with an excellent match against Bret Hart on Saturday Night's Main Event thrown in as part of the feud stemming from the initial angle.
The blowoff was set for February 5th, 1988, on a live prime time special on NBC called The Main Event. Andre The Giant was to win the WWF Title from Hulk Hogan thanks to crooked officiating from "the fake Dave Hebner" (before surrendering the title to Ted DiBiase, who had paid him off, leading to the title being held up and awarded to the winner of a tournament at Wrestlemania IV) and Savage was to regain the Intercontinental title by defeating HTM. Plans changed when HTM threatened to jump to Jim Crockett Promotions (which had been running nationally after getting on TBS and expanding their syndicated network) if he lost the belt. Somehow he went unpunished. To appease Savage, he was promised the title at Wrestlemania. The belt had been promised to DiBiase. It's never really been clear what the plan was from there since it was strange for a heel to win there, but Savage won the tournament at the end of a long, boring show by beating DiBiase in the finals after Hogan hit him with a chair. During the celebration, Savage looked a little perturbed by Hogan's interactions with Elizabeth. From there, the stage was set for possibly the greatest long-term angle in WWF history.
Hogan took time off to film "No Holds Barred," leaving Savage on his own as champion, and he drew incredibly well. This must have been a relief to Vince McMahon, since Hogan had been the champion for the entirety of his national expansion up to this point and shows without Hogan often didn't draw nearly as well as those he was on. Savage mostly feuded with DiBiase (in a well-received feud) and Andre The Giant, with Hogan joining in upon his return. He and Savage officially formed "The Mega Powers" (in matching gear when they teamed, no less) to take on DiBiase and Andre with Jesse Ventura as referee at the first ever Summerslam at MSG that August. After teasing it on TV for weeks, Elizabeth took her skirt off when her team was down, distracting the heels in a moment that was parodied on a famous MAD Magazine cover, allowing The Mega Powers to recover and win the match. Savage feuded with Bad News Brown (who infamously accused Elizabeth of "doing favors" for WWF President Jack Tunney) for a few months, while The Mega Powers proceeded to team from time to time and eventually moved on to feuding with The Twin Towers (Akeem and The Big Bossman). This feud culimated in a match on the second prime time "The Main Event" special, which had come after some disagreements over Elizabeth managing Hogan and Hogan accidentally eliminating Savage during the Royal Rumble match.
During the match, Savage was thrown out of the ring and landed on Elizabeth, who Hogan carried to some kind of examination room in the back, leaving Savage to be double teamed unmercifully by his opponents. He overacted like she was dying, there were some severe production problems that somehow didn't derail the angle: They came back too early, and a calm Hogan asked for a countdown before going back to emotionally pleading for Elizabeth's health. Anyway, the strength of the angle and Savage's performance overcame the production problems and Hogan's acting. Liz regained consciousness and told Hulk to help Randy. Savage tagged Hogan in by slapping him in the face and went to the locker room. Hogan then proceeded to win on his own. Afterwards in the back, Savage ambushed Hogan with the belt, shoved Liz to the floor and threatened to "splatter" her with the belt, and beat up Brutus Beefcake, cementing him as the hottest heel in the company.
The build to Wrestlemania V, famously subtitled "The Mega Powers EXPLODE," was built around whose corner Elizabeth would be in. After a long deliberation, she declared she would be in a neutral corner. In a very good main event, Hogan won the title for the second time. In the following weeks, Savage announced that Sensational Sherri was his new manager and Elizabeth continued to manage Hogan before disappearing after their feud was over. In September, Savage defeated King (Jim) Duggan to become "Macho King" Randy Savage, The King of the WWF.
This will take a little bit of explaining. Harley Race won a house show King of the Ring tournament shortly after coming in a few years later and was King Harley Race until severely injuring his intestines in a match with Hogan. Fellow Heenan Family stablemate Haku was crowned King Haku while sometimes on TV they acted like Race was dead and would randomly show a picture of his head superimposed over clouds. Haku beat Race when he came back. Then, suddenly, King of the WWF became a title (that's never listed in title histories for whatever reason) and Haku lost it to Jim Duggan, who was coronated King Duggan. He was finally beaten by Savage, who was coronated Macho King Randy Savage with Queen Sherri at his side. During the ceremony, Ted DiBiase gave him a gift: A sceptre that became his trademark foreign object. King of the WWF stopped being a title not long after that. There were still annual King of the Ring tournaments in New England throughout this whole period.
Savage's feud with Hogan ended on the latest prime time Main Event schedule. Mike Tyson was originally scheduled to be the referee, but he lost to James "Buster" Douglas by knockout in a major upset in Tokyo not long before the show, so Douglas was brought in, and that was the end of the feud. Savage moved on to feuding with Dusty Rhodes in a largely uneventful feud that didn't draw well for whatever reason. The most notable thing that happened during it was a one-shot Elizabeth appearance in Dusty's corner when he teamed with valet Sapphire against Savage and Sherri at Wrestlemania VI.
A few months after the feud ended at Summerslam, Savage started a feud with The Ultimate Warrior, who had won the WWF Title from Hogan at Wrestlemania VI. It heated up at the 1991 Royal Rumble PPV. Sherri basically offered herself to Warrior to get a title shot in the first move by the company to move towards more adult and violent angles, but he turned her down. Later in the show, Savage brutalized Warrior during his title defense against Sgt. Slaughter, leading to a title change. The feud was treated as a huge deal, and would culminate in a retirment match at Wrestlemania VII. After dramatic match that many consider the best of Warrior's career (it's either this one, the Hogan match, the Rick Rude match at Summerslam '89, or the second PPV Savage match, which we'll talk about later), Warrior won. Sherri turned on him, and Elizabeth (who had been shown in the crowd) ran in to make the save. Savage instantly became the hottest babyface in the company as soon as he was "retired" (actually taking time off to get off steroids and try to have a child).
Savage became an announcer on Superstars along with Vince McMahon and Roddy Piper. At his colleagues' urging, he proposed to Elizabeth ("ELIZABET!...ELIZABET!...ELIZABET!...ELIZABET!...WILLLL YOU MAAARRRRY MEEE?" "Oh yeeeah!") after a few months with a "wedding" set for Summerslam at MSG. There was even a bachelor party on Prime Time Wrestling (featuring a stripper in another move away from pushing everything towards kids). The wedding itself went off fine and ended the show, but at the reception, one of the gifts turned out to be a cobra in a box from Jake Roberts, who had recently turned heel. This led to the reinstatement of Savage (joining forces sometimes with Sid Justice, AKA "Psycho" Sid Vicious/Eudy) and feud with Roberts (along with The Undertaker sometimes) in one of the most memorable feuds in company history.
If nothing else did, this feud signified move towards a less kiddy-oriented product. It was a traditional heat-based feud with wild, violent, and heavy angles. Most famously, Roberts had a real live cobra gnaw on a tied up Savage's arm as Vince McMahon screamed "THAT SNAKE BETTER BE DEVENOMIZED! IT BETTER BE!" The cobra's fangs and venom sacs had indeed been removed, though not in the storyline, where Savage could barely stand after the save was made. Their most famous match was at "emergency" PPV This Tuesday In Texas, where Roberts slapped Elizabeth after the match. The feud ended in a blowoff on Saturday Night's Main Event and was transitioned to The Undertaker (who turned face to stop Jake from hitting Elizabeth with a chair when she and Savage came back through the entrance curtain) against Roberts.
Savage ended up in yet another one of his most famous feuds right away. After being awarded a WWF Title shot against Ric Flair at Wrestlemania VII as half of a double main event with Hogan against the now heel Justice being the other half. To play mind games, Flair declared that he had been with Elizabeth before Savage and had the photos to prove it, constantly claiming that "She was mine before she was yours!" It was probably the highlight of Flair's first WWF run, as he was at the top of his game on his interviews. As for the photos, they were eventually revealed to be doctored, but in reality, two sets of photos been been shot (very convincingly, you'd think they were Photoshopped), with both Flair and Savage in each scenario. Flair promised to reveal a giant naked "centerfold" of Liz at Wrestlemania in one of the more interesting major false advertising in company history. Instead, Savage just won the title and Flair forcibly kissed Liz, who slapped him. Liz ended up off TV pretty quickly, as she and Savage separated and later divorced. Savage announced the divorce in an open letter to the fans (almost treating the fans like their children, he noted that "The divorce is nobody's fault") in WWF Magazine. More on that later.
They feuded on and off for several more months, with the next big angle being more psychological warfare from Flair. Savage was set to defend the WWF Title against The Ultimate Warrior (who returned at Wrestlemania) at Summerslam. Flair and "Executive Consultant" (manager) Mr. Perfect repeatedly teased that they would be helping one of the wrestlers, who was secretly preparing to turn heel. In the end, neither did, because it was all made up. Flair injured Savage's knee and regained the title a few weeks later, only to lose it to Bret Hart in what was a huge surprise at the time a month later. Savage and Warrior formed The Ultimate Maniacs (remind you of anything?) after discovering Flair's ruse and were set to take on Flair and new ally Razor Ramon at Survivor Series. Warrior was fired when it was discovered that he was abusing Human Growth Hormone (the company was incredibly serious at drug testing at this point), so they begged Mr. Perfect to come out of retirement for an angle where Savage would convince him to turn babyface over the course of an episode of Prime Time Wrestling. After Survivor Series, the feud shifted to Flair vs Perfect and Savage stopped wrestling regularly.
Over the next couple years, his role was enthusiastic announcer who sometimes wrestled. Vince McMahon wanted him to be the legend on the sidelines (the '80s Bruno Sammartino role, which has usually been called the "Babe Ruth of the WWF" when discussed), but Savage was anxious to wrestle. He had a big program in '93-'94 with Crush, who had been presented as Savage's protege and new best friend. Crush got a WWF Title shot against Yokozuna, lost, and was attacked after the match until Savage finally pulled him to safety. When Crush returned, he had been convinced Savage didn't intervene soon enough and was angry. "The Savage-Crush Summit" was scheduled for a live (it was pretaped most weeks back then) Raw where Crush, with a new goatee (uh oh!) teased forgiving Savage before turning on him and press slamming him mouth first on the guardrail. Savage bled from a mouth due to a "lacerated tongue" in what was possibly the most odd injury choice in the history of pro wrestling angles.
Around the same time. Savage was interviewed live on an episode of Jim Ross's "Radio WWF." Hulk Hogan was originally scheduled to join them, but he didn't. Who knows exactly how or why they planned it, but Savage went off on Hogan and blamed him for his divorce, essentially accusing him of brainwashing Elizabeth. It actually did resemble the truth in some form, as it's believed Hogan and/or then-wife Linda did convince Liz to divorce her often controlling husband. Earlier in the year, Hogan showed up at Wrestlemania with a black eye. On the show, it was said his opponents had hired some goons to attack him. Officially, he had a jet ski accident, but the story that Savage was responsible has been around for years. It probably isn't true, though.
Savage won a Falls Count Anywhere Match over Crush at Wrestlemania X at MSG. In classic WWF fashion, they put their own odd twist on the match: Like in a Texas Death Match (the non-WWF version; in the WWF it just meant no holds barred. See what I mean?), falls didn't count. The loser of the fall had to get back to the ring within 60 seconds to keep the match going. Thus, falls didn't actually count anywhere because they couldn't take place in the ring. After the match, Savage was back in the "Babe Ruth" role and frustrated. He felt that he was still a top wrestler deserving of the spots and money that entailed. If Vince McMahon wouldn't give him that, maybe WCW's Eric Bischoff would. He did. Late in Summer 1994, Savage abruptly left the company and a shellshocked McMahon wished him well on the following edition of Raw. According to Bret Hart's book, he drunkenly called McMahon to let him know. McMahon was like Hart had never seen him before, in tears as Hart comforted him and road agent Jack Lanza by reassuring them about his own status in the company.
And so he was off to WCW, where Hulk Hogan had suddenly become the top guy, so he and Savage were suddenly best friends again.
Part 3 of the series on Randy Savage's legendary career will cover his WCW run through the end.