Randy “Macho Man” Savage, the flamboyant Slim Jim-chomping, sunglasses-sporting wrestler who grappled with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Jesse Venture, Andre the Giant and Rowdy Roddy Piper while collecting scores of WWE championships during his ’80s heyday, died Friday in a car accident. He was 58.
Savage was driving in Tampa this morning at around 10 a.m. when he apparently suffered a heart attack behind the wheel and lost control of his vehicle, according to officials.
A spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol tells E! News that the pro grappler’s 2009 Jeep Wrangler ended up barreling over a concrete median into oncoming traffic lanes before it “collided head-on with a tree.”
According to the FHP, Savage’s wife, Lynn, was also in the vehicle and both were wearing their seatbelts. Randy was taken to nearby Largo Medical Center where he died; Lynn sustained “minor injuries” but was expected to make a full recovery.
Authorities added that alcohol was not involved in the crash, citing “a medical event” as a possible cause. An investigation has been launched.
Upon learning of the tragic news, the WWE posted a statement on its site: “The WWE is saddened to learn of the passing of one of the greatest Superstars of all time, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, who died in an automobile accident. Poffo was under contract with WWE from 1985 to 1993 and held both the WWE and Intercontinental Championships.Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends.”
Savage was born Randy Poffo on Nov. 15, 1953, in Columbus, Ohio. He first fell in love with the sport that made him famous watching his father, Angelo Poffo, who was also a wrestler, as was his brother, “Leaping” Lanny Poffo, aka “The Genius.”
After a short stint in minor league baseball, Randy took up wrestling in 1973 and shortly thereafter took the stage name “Savage.”
After testing his mettle in the various circuits (International Championship Wrestling, Continental Wrestling Association), in 1985 he signed with Vince McMahon‘s World Wrestling Federation (which later changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment) and became a legend.
At the WWE, Savage launched some of his fiercest rivalries, fighting (and beating) the likes of Hulk Hogan on his way to winning the Intercontinental Championship over Tito Santana in a heavily watched broadcast of Saturday Night’s Main Event.
He held onto the title for a year—the longest up until that point—all the while engaging in feuds with the likes of George “The Animal” Steele and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
Savage, accompanied by then-wife Elizabeth as valet, gave fans some of the most memorable, highly choreographed matches in Wrestlemania history. In Wrestlemania III, Randy “crushed” the larynx of Ricky Steamboat before Steamboat managed to pin him for the win in what was then hailed as one of the greatest matches of all time by wrestling magazines.
During late ’80s, Savage continued to be one of the WWE’s main attractions, known for his trademark “Oooh Yeahhh!” phrase and teaming up with Hulk Hogan to form the popular Mega Powers. The duo had rivalries with Honky Tonk Man and fellow stars Andrew the Giant and Ted Biase, aka The Mega Bucks.
By Wrestlemania V however, Savage (now known as the “Macho King”) and Hogan were done as a pair, especially when the latter beat Randy for the title. Around the same time, the superstar also separated from Elizabeth; they divorced in 1992. She would later be found dead in 2003 of a drug overdose in the home of Lex Luger.
Savage retired after losing a match at Wrestlemania VII in 1991. After a short stint on the sidelines as a color commentator, Randy got back in the ring and joined the World Championship Wrestling before retiring again in 2000.
During his time off from the ring, Savage turned to acting, appearing on TV shows like Walker Texas Ranger, Mad About You and Baywatch. His most memorable big screen appearance was playing the wrestler Bonesaw McGraw in the 2002 blockbuster Spider-Man and also played himself in the 2000 comedy Ready to Rumble.
Randy, also showed off his musical side with the 2003 release of a rap album, Be a Man. On one of the tracks, he couldn’t help but diss the Hulkster.
In 2010, Savage tied the knot again with Lynn Payne, his longtime girlfriend.
Our thoughts go out to his family.