Was Randy Savage the Scottie Pippen of Wrestling?

Keith Elliot Greenberg on the late wrestling legend Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage:

Randy’s finest moment with the company occurred at WrestleMania III, where he had a match with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat that was considered the best encounter ever seen on a World Wrestling Federation pay-per-view. Randy obsessed over the match, charting it move for move with Steamboat beforehand. Even for fans who knew that the action was predetermined, it was easy to suspend disbelief.

No top ten list of wrestling’s greatest matches fails to include the aforementioned match with Savage and Steamboat. Savage gets lost a bit in wrestling lore. He was basically exiled from the WWF/WWE and never showed back up the way guys like Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart did. And that’s really a shame.

If Hulk Hogan is the Michael Jordan of pro wrestling, there’s no doubt Savage was the Scottie Pippen. Savage was never the #1 guy really. His time in the WWF/WWE overlapped with Hogan for it’s entirety, and he was alway, at best, the #2 guy. He and Hogan were even tag team partners at one point. Savage had a run as a “bad guy” at one point, which could equate to some of the issues Pippen had being underpaid later in his Bulls run. Ultimately though, like Pippen, Savage doesn’t get enough credit for being as good as he was.

Wrestling is fake. I get that. There was a period in my youth where I didn’t, but I don’t deny it now. I always thought the classification of “sports entertainment” was a great way to describe it. If you really stop and take a look at sports these days, things are closer to professional wrestling than anyone wants to admit. Sure the story lines associated with football and basketball aren’t made up, but have you ever stopped to consider how much time is spent talking about sports vs. actually playing sports? Think of how many hours of television time and written words are devoted to the NFL Draft each spring. Weeklong pre-game coverage outnumbers the game itself by at least a factor of three. Wrestling is still more TV drama than true sporting event, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some skill required. The skills just happened to be a combination of athleticism, overacting and public speaking skills.

Hogan was always a larger than life figure in the wrestling world. He was great at working the crowd, and pretty good on the mic, but he was a terrible wrestler. Savage was never as big of a star as Hogan, and maybe he never wanted to be. Or maybe he just came around at the wrong time, but he was a vastly superior wrestler. He executed lots of top rope moves, and hard a much bigger variety of maneuvers, as opposed to Hogan who mostly got by as being a superhuman like brawler.

Like Pippen, it’s always interesting to play the “what if” game. For Pippen you have to wonder how good he would have actually been if he hadn’t played his entire prime with Jordan. Would he have gotten more respect and recognition for being great? Or would he have floundered as a guy who wasn’t good enough to be the #1 guy? With Savage, you have to wonder what would have happened if he came around without Hogan. Perhaps he would be the face of professional wrestling.

Hypothecticals aside though, Savage was a great wrestler, with a huge personality who will be remembered by fans of the sport as a legend who was more than just a Slim Jim spokesman.