The “Macho Man” invades Memphis: Randy Savage, Jerry Lawler and the battle for Tennessee

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March 01, 2013

A former minor league baseball player with the St. Louis Cardinals, Savage had joined his father and brother in sports-entertainment in the early ’70s after a career in the majors didn’t pan out. Although the family name had long ago been established by the veteran Angelo, Randy chose to adopt the surname Savage — an advertisement for the particular brand of mayhem he caused in the ring. At a muscular 6-foot-2 with boundless athleticism and scary intensity, the “Macho Man” was obviously poised for big things in wrestling, but first, in his frenzied mind, he needed to conquer Jerry Lawler. (MORE ABOUT THE KING)

“Randy Savage would go out and say, ‘I’m going to wrestle Jerry Lawler this Saturday night in Lexington!’ ” “The King” said. “Of course, I was never going to be there. I didn’t even know this was being done. Then Randy would go out to the ring and say, ‘Would you look at this? Jerry Lawler’s a coward!’ That was their philosophy on how to make a name for themselves.”

Savage and his crew — which included a dangerous shooter and former Olympic wrestler by the name of Bob Roop —didn’t just threaten Lawler on local television shows. The outlaw group sometimes came to arenas where “The King” was running events and harassed his wrestlers in the parking lot. There were even rumors that Savage had gotten into an ugly scrap with CWA competitor Bill Dundee in a diner. How horrific the fight really was depends on who is telling the story, but there was no denying that Dundee disappeared from CWA television for six weeks after running into Mr. Madness. (WATCH SAVAGE'S UNFORGETTABLE RIVALRIES)

“The animosity between Randy Savage and myself went beyond the ring,” Lawler admitted. “It became really personal.”

The boys in the CWA locker room were on edge. Guys started looking over their shoulders while walking around town, half expecting to see “Macho Man” running up behind them. Some started carrying weapons in their cars in case things got out of hand. Savage, with his wild eyes and alpha male aggression, had almost singlehandedly spooked an entire territory. Still, even after “Macho Man” broke his friend’s jaw and brazenly walked up to his front door and called him yellow, “The King” refused to recognize the ICW and its interlopers. But then his phone rang.

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