US professional wrestling legend “Macho Man” Randy Savage, 58, died after a car crash on Friday near his home in Seminole, Florida.
The flamboyant former champion — known for his husky voice, gaudy costumes and “oooh, yeah!” catch phrase — appeared to have suffered a heart attack behind the wheel, leading to him losing control of his 2009 Jeep Wrangler at 9:25 a.m. local time.
The Jeep careened over a concrete median into oncoming traffic lanes before crashing head-on into a tree. Randy was rushed to the Largo Medical centre in Tampa, Florida but later succumbed to injuries sustained in the impact.
The wrestler, whose full name was Randy Mario Poffo, and his wife Lynn Payne, who was a passenger in the car, were both wearing seat belts. Lynn was hospitalized with minor injuries. The couple had just been celebrating their first anniversary.
Tributes quickly poured in from WWE and the WWE icon’s peers and fans after news broke on the American website TMZ.
“WWE is saddened to learn of the passing of one of the greatest Superstars of his time,” read a statement posted on the WWE site on Friday. “Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends. We wish a speedy recovery to his wife Lynn. Poffo will be greatly missed by WWE and his fans.”
TNA also paid tribute, putting a message on the website saying: “TNA hopes all of our fans remember Randy Savage’s amazing life and career and how he helped shape the sport as we know it today.”
Once a minor league baseball player, Savage became a big part of Vince McMahon’s WWE expansion alongside stars including Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant and Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. Under contract with the World Wrestling Federation from 1985 to 1993, he shot to fame as “Macho Man”, competing against fellow stars including Hulk Hogan, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. His entrance music was “Pomp and Circumstance” and his signature accessories were sunglasses, bandannas and colorful cowboy hats.
After a run as Intercontinental Champion, Savage took the next step one year later – winning a 14-man tournament at WrestleMania IV to lift the WWE World Championship. On that one show, he defeated Butch Reed, Greg Valentine, One Man Gang and DiBiase.
At the time he was managed by real-life wife Elizabeth and teaming with Hulk Hogan as The Mega Powers. Both relationships dissolved in the following year when The Mega Powers exploded. Savage lost the title to Hogan at WrestleMania V, but his 371-day reign stands as the sixth longest of all time.
Changing his name to The Macho King, and now managed by Sensational Queen Sherri Martel, Savage enjoyed another career high at WrestleMania VII – putting on an incredible match with The Ultimate Warrior that had a retirement stipulation. Savage lost, but what happened after the match has become the most endearing feel good moment in wrestling. While he was down in the wrestling ring, his manager Martel was kicking him…it was one of the lowest points in his career. Then Miss Elizabeth ran into the ring from the crowd and fought Martel off. Savage and Elizabeth embraced in a moment that brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance.
Randy was back wrestling by the end of that year – ‘marrying’ Miss Elizabeth at SummerSlam 1991 and then entering a strong programme with Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts.
He won the WWE Championship for a second time at WrestleMania VIII.
From 1994, Savage became part of WCW – feuding with the likes of Ric Flair, Hogan, Lex Luger and Diamond Dallas Page. He won the WCW Heavyweight Title on four occasions.
Randy made his last WCW appearance in 2000, had a brief stint in TNA in 2004 but never returned to the WWE and has never been inducted into their Hall of Fame. It is said that Savage is the only wrestler Vince McMahon has flat out refused to work with, although the exact reason for the mammoth fall-out remains speculation.
His match with Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III is still held up today, more than 24 years later, as arguably the best bout of all time.
Miss Elizabeth - who Savage married in 1984 and divorced in 1992 - was found dead in 2003 from a drug overdose at the home of Luger, who was her boyfriend at the time.
Randy's brother Lanny Poffo, better known to WWE fans as The Genius, and dad Angelo Poffo were both also wrestlers. Angelo passed away last year aged 84.
Hulk Hogan, in his tribute to the Macho Man, said: "I'm completely devastated, after over 10 years of not talking with Randy, we've finally started to talk and communicate.
"He had so much life in his eyes and in his spirit, I just pray that he's happy and in a better place and we miss him."
The Rock told fans on Twitter: "RIP Randy Savage - you were one of my childhood inspirations and heroes.
Savage will be remembered as one of the greatest wrestlers and a key reason behind the early success of the WWE.
RIP, Randy Savage!