I was very sad to hear the news that Hacksaw Jim Duggan posted on Twitter, announcing that Lanny Poffo, brother of the iconic “Macho Man Randy Savage, passed away at the age of 68. As of this writing, no cause of death has been made public, but Lanny’s passing marks the conclusion of a famous wrestling family that sometimes gets overworked because of its regional ties.
Broken into the business by his father, Angelo who was a grappler for himself, Lanny followed his older brother into the family business of professional wrestling. Angelo, a villain that had a run as far back as the 50s, ran opposition to the famous Memphis territory with the ICW promotion. The Poffos ran on a shoestring budget with the over-the-top Randy Savage as it’s centerpiece, an early preview of the worldwide glory and fame that the iconic “Macho Man” persona would receive in the mid 80s during the national expansion of the WWF.. Along with the sizzle that Savage brought to the table, Lanny was another mainstay of the promotion. “Leaping” Lanny became known for a combination of technical ability and aerial skill, including being one of the few competitors that could land a moonsault during that era. ICW ran a meager and bare bones promotion, but achieved enough of an impact that through its television in the region, the rivalry with the traditional Memphis group, ran by Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett became a topic of conversation among fans in the area. In fact, the ICW footprint was big enough that when Angelo closed up shop, Savage and Lawler had a memorable feud that drew big crowds at the Mid-South Coliseum. Make no mistake about it, Lanny might’ve been in the supporting role, but his contributions to ICW were one of the reasons that the promotion had enough steam to fuel the eventual Lawler/Savage rivalry.
Without a doubt, Lanny was a solid performer, and his technical skills allowed him to accumulate an impressive résumé during his career. Both before and after the ICW run, he often zigzagged around the territories, working as somewhat of a journeyman, but he always had a place to go because of his solid skill set. There wasn’t necessarily some huge Lanny Poffo run outside of ICW, but there didn’t need to be since he was considered a good utility worker on the card. He could can get the job done for his role in a promotion, and the ability of the supporting cast of performers to provide the foundation to the card can’t be understated.
As we know, Lanny eventually followed his brother to the World Wrestling Federation, where he would have his biggest exposure, originally as a lower mid-carder that was known for his poems and booming voice on the mic before he was given the heel gimmick of The Genius, who antagonized audiences as both an in-ring competitor, as well as a manager. His very unique attire of the graduation cap and gown, along with his scroll of limericks made for a very memorable presentation.
Lanny stayed in the WWF until 1992 and then eventually received a contract with WCW in 1994 when Macho Man made the jump to the Turner organization. Reportedly, as a part of Savage’s deal, he requested that WCW sign his brother to a contract. He stayed under the Turner contract for over five years until Randy left the company in 2000. Despite never been used on television, this wasn’t simply a favor job. Throughout the time that he was had a Turner deal, Poffo kept him self in shape, and at one point, he dyed his hair blonde in preparation for a Gorgeous George gimmick that never materialized.
In many ways, Lanny was in a particularly tough position because he would undoubtedly always be in the shadow of his larger-than-life older brother, which isn’t a knock, considering that Randy Savage was one of the most iconic characters in the history of the sport. That being said, Lanny did a very commendable job representing his family and specifically the memory of Randy savage, inducting, Macho Man into the WWE Hall of Fame a decade ago. Of course, as we know, Savage and the WWE weren’t on good terms for several years, with the some of the possible reasons that become part of the urban legends of the industry. Lanny said in a Kayfabe Commentaries Breaking Kayfabe interview that his decision to induct his brother into the WWE. Hall of Fame was done for the Macho Man fans. Originally, it was reported that Savage wanted the Poffo family to be inducted as a group, similar to how the Von Erichs were inducted together. Some fans claimed that this was Lanny’s attempt to be included in the Hall of Fame, but that assumption is completely misguided. Randy had a track record of keeping his family involved, including when he requested that Angelo be inducted in the short-lived, WCW, Hall of Fame, and of course, he got Lanny a job when he made the jump to WCW.
I can honestly say that I believe that Randy Savage wanted his family to be included in his Hall of Fame induction, which gives you some insight to Randy Poffo, the man behind the Savage gimmick. More recently, Lanny traveled and seemed to enjoy retirement. As mentioned, he was in a tough spot as the younger brother of The Macho Man, but he did a very good job representing his family.
Sincere condolences to Lanny’s friends and family at this difficult time.
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Until next week
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