Two very, very different retrospectives on “Macho Man” Randy Savage have hit today. And both of them are fairly perfect.
1. Bill Simmons makes the case that Randy Savage basically represented everything there was about the 80s.
When word broke last week that a car accident had claimed Savage, I couldn’t believe how many people emailed me about it. He lasted 58 years, forever by wrestling standards, but it still felt too soon. I liked knowing Savage was out there, giving insane interviews and leaving people generally perplexed. The scope of his career can’t compare to those of Shawn Michaels or Ric Flair, but you won’t find a more meaningful apex: He peaked right as wrestling peaked, ushered in a more athletic era and introduced eye candy (Elizabeth) to a fan base that desperately needed it. We look back at the ’80s ironically now — everything is much funnier now than it was then, whether it’s outfits, haircuts, movie plots, political incorrectness or even a sweeping lack of self-awareness. Savage tapped into those faults better than anyone. He was the ’80s, for better and worse.
In an interview just after Savage died, Ric Flair paints Savage as a flawless performer but a man unable to ever get comfortable. And here is the marvel of Randy Savage: he was driven to greatness by the same paranoia that kept him from fully enjoying the fame that he accrued. Or to put it another way: The paranoia that made him so affecting in the ring was exactly what kept him from being relatable beyond the ropes. Hofstadter’s famous piece ends with the judgment, “We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.” Since he died on Friday, comments sections and message boards have become saturated with tributes and eulogies to a guy who played the heel for the bulk of his career. But he was more than a bad guy, or a good guy: Savage gave himself over to us more fully than any other performer of his generation, and we always appreciated him for it.