Photo by Steve Burns via Flickr.
One of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time almost never was.
Randy Savage, born Randy Poffo, was the son of a wrestler but he aspired to be more Mickey Mantle than Angelo Poffo.
After high school, he played minor league ball for several teams, putting up good numbers and impressing other with his athleticism. During this time, he began moonlighting as a wrestler under a Spider-Man inspired gimmick as to not spoil any chances he may have with baseball scouts who might have been in the audience.
But in 1974, Savage gave up the bat and mitt for what would actually be his true calling. It was at this point he ditched The Spider gimmick and began wrestling under his real name, often with his father and younger brother, Lanny, by his side.
It was the beginning of the man who become the greatest wrestler of all-time.
The family began wrestling in Tennessee for Nick Gulas and Savage was quick to stand out. He would go an hour, sometimes an hour and a half, with opponents and was building a fast reputation for being one of the best workers between the ropes. It was also around this time he began going by the "Savage" surname.
But the elder Poffo felt they weren't getting enough credit and broke away from Gulas to form their own promotion.
International Championship Wrestling (ICW) was based out of Lexington, KY which was a huge market for the Continental Wrestling Assocation (CWA), which was run by Jerry Jarrett and promoted Jerry Lawler as its biggest star.
The CWA was also a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) while ICW was not.
ICW was an outlaw promotion.
Outlaw promotions were safe havens for wrestlers who either broke away from NWA-sanctioned promotions for one reason or another -- usually pay --- or wrestlers who were blackballed. Regardless, if the reason was the former, eventually the latter would also become true.
Despite not having the NWA's muscle behind them, the Poffos fought tooth and nail against Jarrett, running shows in his markets as often as they could while also making enemies with other surrounding promoters since ICW ran wherever they felt there was money to be made.
Even with Jarrett and the NWA breathing down his neck, Savage continued dazzling crowds night after night. Almost like a cowboy, "Macho Man" was carving his niche in this wrestling "wild west."
Did I say almost?
Well, CWA's Bill Dundee -- who you might remember having managed William Regal in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as Sir William -- once pulled a gun on Savage after several ICW wrestlers made their presence known outside a Jarrett-promoted show.
What did "Madness" do?
He took the gun and pistol-whipped him with it, of course.
ICW had a rowdy and fun atmosphere -- they were doing Reality Era TV before Vince McMahon had even gotten his beak wet as the new owner of WWE -- but making money didn't seem to be in the cards. So they called Jarrett and nearly a decade and half before Scott Hall jumped the railing at Nitro, an invasion angle was booked.
Eventually, the angle died down and both Savage and his younger brother began wrestling under normal circumstances until Vince McMahon got hold of a tape featuring the elder brother and hired him on the spot. Savage would then lose an amazing Loser Leaves Town match to Lawler.
Jerry Lawler vs. Randy Savage (Loser Leaves Town) (6-3-85) (via TheClassicwrestling)
Savage would debut for the national promotion in 1985 and the business would never be the same again.