Today came some of the most welcoming news from the WWE. Reports from TMZ came that World Wrestling Entertainment would finally induct Macho Man Randy Savage into the WWE Hall of Fame. Soon after the WWE confirmed, pouring out news pieces from their Twitter account talking to everyone from Ricky Steamboat to Gene Okerlund on the induction. Hulk Hogan is said to be doing the induction.
To write about why Randy Savage deserves to be in the Hall is to waste words on an article. Savage transcends pro wrestling the way only a few names ever had. Not only was he a major star but he was a credible star. Unlike Hulk Hogan’s safe storytelling based around light selling and momentum shifts, Savage was as blue collar as it got. Savage had great wrestling matches with pretty much everyone for 30 years. Savage had no issue working against up and comers and letting them shine against a star like him. In 1993, Vince McMahon wanted Savage to quit wrestling and just be his Babe Ruth, the ambassador of the World Wrestling Federation. Savage leaving the WWF for World Championship Wrestling and continuing his career in 1995 was a decision that hurt McMahon personally, and is believed to be the reason why this decision took so long.
There’s a thousand theories as to why Savage wasn’t in the Hall of Fame immediately, either when alive in 2004 or right after his death in 2011. The professional wrestling industry has always been full of rumours and theories. The one best known I won’t repeat but if true, it’s the kind of thing that would deserve Savage to sit outside of a Hall of Fame regardless of in-ring merit. What’s more likely is that Savage didn’t want to be inducted without a tribute to his family (Savage had his father inducted into the lesser known WCW Hall of Fame), something his brother Lanny Poffo has touched on in the past. Savage also left the public spotlight for years after his “Be A Man Hulk” rap album and limited appearance in TNA Wrestling, only to re-emerge prior to his unfortunate passing away. Vince McMahon ended up writing a statement on the death of Macho Man Randy Savage for TIME Magazine, which should have been enough proof that there wasn’t a brutally strained relationship.
But one must also now look at the complaints we used to always hear about the Hall and wonder to ourselves, would the induction of the Macho Man be the name to finally legitimize the HOF? Every year we would hear the inductees and someone would shout on message board or otherwise, “Where’s the Macho Man? That person doesn’t deserve it over him!” Year in and year out since the Hall was re-established in 2004, a name has come up to be inducted that has led to criticism and scrutiny. From Tito Santana to Bob Orton, from Koko B. Ware to Bullet Bob Armstrong, to all of the celebrity inductees, so many names feel like a waste of space when you haven’t inducted The Madness. With Macho in the Hall along with Bruno Sammartino, the HOF is finally feeling complete.
The problem is the viewpoint of legitimizing the WWE Hall of Fame. Most Hall of Fames are for sports and have legitimate numbers to cover an athlete’s greatness. Comparisons you can make to fellow athletes. Those halls are supposed to be about putting in the best of their sport. The problem is that even then they get it wrong. Keith Olbermann of ESPN2 just last week made a commentary on his show to tear down the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and start over. Every year there’s discussion about the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario about whether they are paying enough tribute to great athletes in other countries or if they should be inducting more women. There’s also criticism about the bar being lowered to allow more modern talent and if it’s okay for a year to go by where an NHL athlete isn’t inducted because nobody was great enough. These are real, physical halls that have been run for decades and the questions, the scrutiny and the controversy still exists. If anything, having controversial entries is exactly what legitimizes the WWE Hall of Fame.
But the reality of the situation is that it isn’t a “Hall of Fame” like Cooperstown or the Hockey Hall of Fame is. It exists more like the Honourary Oscar from the Academy Awards or the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Honourary Oscar has been given to everyone from the best in acting like Sir Laurence Olivier to actor and comedian Steve Martin, who was never nominated for an Academy Award. The Hollywood Walk of Fame includes everyone from Fred Astaire and Bette Davis to the Backstreet Boys and Donald Duck. It’s not so much about a quantifiable achievement but people they simply feel deserve to be credited for their excellence in the industry (or as pertains to the celebrity wing, “Thanks for the attention”). It should have always made more sense to compare the WWE Hall of Fame to a lifetime achievement award in acting but the name “Hall of Fame” makes us think sports. Which it’s supposed to.
To induct Macho Man Randy Savage is a fantastic thing. He’s one of the most beloved wrestlers of all time and his character and charisma is timeless. Nobody has to make excuses about the greatness of the Macho Man. Even if some old school purists questioned his desire to plot out his matches, nobody can deny that the matches worked. There are questions about the man himself, especially his treatment of Miss Elizabeth (who passed away separated from Savage, despite wrestling fans always wanting to put the two together), but the WWE Hall of Fame is certainly not a Hall of Morality. The greatest thing I can say about Macho Man is that he was the absolute embodiment of everything we love about North American professional wrestling. He was a character, he was colourful, original, exciting, dangerous, skilled, big, strong, smart, funny, friendly, larger than life but relatable to everyone. It’s all of these reasons why the wait to see him in the Hall was so painful. But Savage in the Hall doesn’t make the Hall real or more quantifiable. It’s still just a random mix of whatever name Vince McMahon approves to be inducted.
It still feels right though. Feel free to celebrate it.
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