It was just after 9 p.m. on March 20, 1994, and the greatest ladder match in pro wrestling history had just concluded. The two combatants, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon (née Scott Hall), limped backstage after 25 minutes in the ring. There hadn’t been many ladder matches—in which an item (in this case a championship belt) is suspended above the ring and the winner is the wrestler who climbs a ladder and retrieves it—up to that point. “Extreme” wrestling was in its infancy and jumping off the top rope was still considered a big deal. Not only had Michaels and Ramon used the ladder in ways never before seen, but they had also done so at WrestleMania, the biggest event of the year. One by one, wrestlers in the locker room approached the duo to congratulate them on the match. All except one, that is.
Randy (Macho Man) Savage was furious. Yes, Savage agreed, it had been a great match. But Ramon and Michaels had also used more time than they were supposed to. This meant that the next match—a 10-man tag—had to be cut from the card. It also meant that the 10 wrestlers who had been scheduled to fight would not receive a check on the biggest payday of the year. This was too much for Savage to take.
“First of all,” Savage told Ramon as he walked backstage through the curtain, “I want to say that was a great match. Second of all, I want to say you’re both very selfish.”
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“ ‘Mach’ told his truth,” Ramon says. “He wouldn’t say it behind your back. He’d walk up and say it right to you. Shawn and I were both nodding the whole time he spoke. All I could say was, ‘You’re right.’ ”
Whether he was sticking up for his fellow wrestlers or stealing the show in front of 93,000 fans, Savage was one of the most important pro wrestling figures of the last 50 years. But personal feuds and a promise to his family had prevented him from receiving wrestling’s highest honor—induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. That will change on Saturday when Savage, who died at age 58 of cardiac arrhythmia in May 2011, finally gets his place among the top stars of all time. But now that the Macho Man is set to be enshrined, two pressing questions still linger: Who, exactly, was he? And why did it take so long for wrestling to honor him?