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

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March 01, 2013

“We got a call from Randy’s father, Angelo,” Lawler revealed. “They were no longer financially able to produce their TV show. But he said rather than just go under, he would like to work with us if he could. We could take our TV tapes and put it on their shows and it would help us with more exposure. So it became a behind-the-scenes merger.”

In a testament to the undeniable appeal of good box office, the Poffo family’s ICW group stormed into “The King’s” CWA long before the infamous 2001 WCW invasion of WWE. With southern wrestling fans foaming at the mouth to see Lawler face Savage after months of public challenges, the stage was set for an epic encounter in the fabled Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.

“We had two referees, one from his company and a referee from my company. His TV announcer and our TV announcers were there. He had his father in his corner and I had Jimmy Hart in my corner,” “The King” remembered. “In hindsight, it couldn’t have been done any better. It just worked out for everybody involved.”

The gory skirmish ended in a No Contest, but the two rivals continued their personal rivalry in a series of heated brawls that sold out arenas across the territory. Somewhat surprisingly, Savage eventually became a favorite of the CWA fans — even after he gave beloved hero Ricky Morton a piledriver through a ringside table — and actually teamed up with “The King” to face the dangerous pairing of King Kong Bundy & Rick Rude. It wouldn’t last, though, as “Macho Man” and Lawler were at each other’s throats again before long.

The war between Savage and “The King” ended on June 3, 1985, in the Mid-South Coliseum in a Loser Leaves Town Match for the Southern Heavyweight Title. The grisly encounter broke arena records as more than 11,000 fans turned out to see their local idol battle the unpredictable madman in a bout with no disqualifications. Lawler nearly lost an eye in the physical brawl, but he ultimately defeated “Macho Man” with his signature piledriver. Like a true king, Lawler had vanquished a raider who had threatened not only his throne, but also his kingdom.

Two weeks after the showdown, Randy Savage arrived in WWE, where he would embark on a fascinating career as the most iconoclastic and off-the-wall Superstar ever to achieve major success in the company. In the two decades since he left the organization, “Macho Man’s” WrestleMania III bout against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat still stands as, perhaps, the finest match in the company’s history and his tearful reunion with his lady love Elizabeth at WrestleMania VII may never be replaced as WWE’s most genuinely emotional moment. Hard to imagine that the raving lunatic who once trespassed on Jerry Lawler’s property would one day achieve all this. (WATCH SAVAGE'S CAREER HIGHLIGHTS)

“I knew he had a lot of potential, but I’ll be honest with you — I never really thought that he would rise up and be the Superstar that he became. To me, there was something about Randy that wasn’t exactly right,” Lawler said, choosing his words carefully. “But he was as big a star as there’s ever been here in WWE.”

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