Yes, you could argue about the historical veracity of the WWE’s Hall of Fame. No Lou Thesz. No Jim Londos. No Ed “Strangler” Lewis.
But Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Vince McMahon, Sr.’s driver, James Dudley, have gotten the nod.
Those arguments aside, within the WWE’s own history book, until recently no names were bigger omissions in the hall than Bruno Sammartino and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Sammartino finally got his due in 2013 after Triple H personally interceded to break the deadlock between Bruno and Vince McMahon, Jr.
And now, nearly four years after his death, the WWE will induct Savage.
Sammartino long resisted overtures into the Hall of Fame, and Savage also indicated he was against going in unless McMahon met certain conditions.
Bruno had years of bad blood with Vince stemming from his treatment in the mid-1980s and the subsequent steroid use and Attitude Era environment. He didn’t want to be associated with the product, even though many long-time fans considered Sammartino and Hulk Hogan to be the backbones of the WWE. Triple H eventually got Sammartino to reconsider after convincing him the WWE was more family friendly and monitoring drug use.
Savage defied the Hall of Fame for several reasons that his brother, Leaping Lanny Poffo, detailed since his death. If Savage agreed to go in, he also wanted Lanny and their father, Angelo, to be inducted with him as a family. Savage’s reasoning was that if Mike Von Erich could get with his more deserving brothers, than Angelo surely was allowable, Lanny has said.
Lanny carried that cross for Savage and the late Angelo for years, but now has relented from fighting the WWE on it.
It’s possible that Savage will become the first posthumous induction who stated he did not want to go in under the circumstances. Would he be in the 2015 class if he was alive today? I don’t know.
Easily among the most recognizable wrestlers from the WWF’s 1980s heyday, Savage was a hell of a worker, a fantastic personality, and perhaps the best opponent Hogan ever faced. Further, Savage had Miss Elizabeth, his then wife, by his side well before hot women became a WWE staple. Elizabeth, who herself died young, played a huge role in Savage getting over.
It’s fitting that Savage will be inducted by Hogan. The period between WrestleMania IV (when Savage won a tournament to become WWF Heavyweight Champion as a babyface) and WrestleMania V (when a heel Savage defended the title against Hogan) was one of the greatest slow build-ups in wrestling history.
Hogan and Savage had a hot-and-cold real-life relationship, but Hogan tweeted shortly after Macho Man died that he and Savage had at least been talking in the months before his death.
Aside from Hogan and Lanny Poffo, the only other worthy person who could have inducted Savage would be Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. He and Savage had one of the most well-remembered WWF matches of all time at WrestleMania III in 1987. That bout still stands up today as great encounter, made even more impressive by the 70,000 or so people in attendance to see Steamboat beat Savage for the Intercontinental Title.