Of all the feuds Hulk Hogan had in the WWF and WWE, the best grudge was Hogan’s battles with Randy “Macho Man” Savage.
Savage is very much associated with the WWF’s 1980s period. His high-flying moves, while not as innovative compared to others like Dynamite Kid or Tiger Mask, were nonetheless very new for WWF fans. Remember, Vince McMahon, Sr. built the WWWF and WWF with big men as heels, and Vince, Jr. has often embraced that mindset. And that usually means slower-paced, ground-based matches.
So Savage’s matches slapped you in the face and woke you up. This guy comes into the WWF in 1985 with his crazy robes, Pomp and Circumstance entrance, unusual promos, different wrestling style, and the first valet ever seen in modern WWF rings, the late Miss Elizabeth (who was his real-life wife).
Newer WWE fans may never understand Elizabeth’s appeal. Today, she would mean nothing because she would be a beauty among many. But back in the 1980s, you did not see knockouts in the WWF. The closest maybe would have been Wendi Richter during her time as WWF Woman’s Champion, and honestly, Elizabeth was far more attractive.
Hogan and Savage had two significant feuds in the 1980s: One occurred in early 1986, and the second occurred in 1989 when Savage turned on his then-tag-team-partner Hogan to set up WrestleMania V.
Personally, I think Savage’s time as Hogan’s nemesis was more important than Macho Man’s reign as Intercontinental Champion—and this was back at a time when that title was hugely important and led to one of the greatest WWF matches ever with Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III. Savage’s ability to carry Hogan to good-to-great matches helped Hogan’s aura in a way that Big John Studd or Kamala couldn’t. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff had a similar ability to make Hogan look particularly good in the ring.
Savage today has distanced himself from wrestling after a very successful run in WCW and some matches in TNA. He got some publicity earlier this year for his recent wedding, although the photos prove how long ago Savage was a star. He’s not in the WWE Hall of Fame, which isn’t quite at the level of Bruno Sammartino’s absence, but still insulting to fans.
If you ask me who I remember most from the 1980s WWF pro wrestlers, Savage is easily in my top 10.