Sunday, February 25, 2024

'Macho Man' By Jon Finkel

I have a rule. It goes like this: whenever you pick up a biography of any sort about a professional wrestler, it's usually best to make sure your BS Detector is fully charged.

Always keep an open mind. The subject matter of those books - and some of the sources used by the authors - are carnies programmed into making things appear greater than what they are or, even more likely, are - to put it in pro wrestling parlance: out to get themselves over.

I used the self-imposed approach when I was given an advance copy of Jon Finkel's biography of 'Macho Man' Randy Savage by the people of ECW Press.

I can only think of two moments - when reading 'Macho Man: The Untamed, Unbelievable Life of Randy Savage' by Jon Finkel - where I wondered whether what I had read was legend, the truth or something in-between.

Other than those two questionable sources (Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and Sgt. Slaughter - two names whose words I would take with a punch, not a pinch, of salt!), Jon Finkel has done a fine job navigating the choppy waters of Randy Savage's life to create a close to definitive bio on one of the major pieces of the initial boom period in pro wrestling history.

Macho Man by Jon Finkel

I felt the most strongest part of the biography is all of the background research Finkel collected about Randy Savage's life before he became a professional wrestler. You can tell just by reading the first third of this book its author tirelessly looked through old articles, records and spoke with people to piece together before Randy became Savage.

Finkel was able to trace back to the time when Randy Poffo was attempting to make it as a baseball star.

I found the work done on the first part of the book the most intriguing because I have been a follower of American professional wrestling since the 80s, so I lived through Randy Savage's peak years in the business. It's the backstory I was not fully clued in on.

With that said, Finkel did an excellent job detailing Savage's rise from working in his father's outlaw wrestling promotion right through to his departure from the World Wrestling Federation in 1994.

All of the key scenes from Savage's time in the then-named WWF are covered and with some background information from Finkel's thorough research.

Just like with the last two major wrestling biographies to have been released within the last year (Ringmaster by Abraham Riesman and The Last Real World Champion by Tim Hornbaker), it felt like the biography's ending was rushed.

Savage's World Championship Wrestling run was not given as much focus by Finkel but some of the key Savage moments from the time are covered sparingly. For example, the feud with Diamond Dallas Page, which allowed DDP to tell the story of leaving Savage a Thanksgiving answer message which resulted in Savage telling Page no one had ever done something like that for him before. 

Yes, another wrestler getting themself over, but I like that story - and, importantly, totally believe it!

Also in the WCW coverage was a mention of how Savage kind of changed up his act which more or less coincided with the renaissance pro wrestling was experiencing with the WWF and WCW war leading huge TV figures on a weekly basis.

The last portion of the book addresses Savage post-WCW life, but with a couple of conspicuous absences. Savage's controversy with World Wrestling All-Stars (Savage no-showed one of its PPVs after allegedly holding the owner - Andrew McManus - up for more money than agreed) and his brief appearances for TNA Wrestling in 2004.

Both those situations could very well be attributed to paranoia which was one characteristic predominant in Savage's psyche and is evident throughout the book.

What is spotlighted is Savage's attempt at launching a rap music career and his fabulous appearance as Bone Saw in 2002's Spider-Man. 

Ultimately, Savage's story concludes with the fatal heart attack while driving with his wife (a childhood sweetheart Poffo had reconnected with in his later years).

I had read Savage's wife swerved their car into a tree to avoid causing a major accident, but what I hadn't known - through reading this biography - is the tree has become a tribute to Savage with people leaving action figures, flags, flowers and other items to honour the wrestler even to this very day.

It seemed quite fitting that Finkel chose to finish this work by detailing how he and his daughter took a road trip to the tree. 

Finkel's pilgrimage evidently taught a member of a new generation about Savage, which is exactly what the biography could do to others looking to learn about one of pro wrestling's most iconic figures.

Macho Man: The Untamed, Unbelievable Life of Randy Savage by Jon Finkel is scheduled to be published on April 2 2024

Order Macho Man on Amazon UK

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