Pro wrestling fans of a certain age no doubt remember the seismic impact made by "Macho Man" Randy Savage from the mid-1980s through the end of the century, his chiseled physique and intensity bolstered by an eye-popping wardrobe and growling proclamations that ended with a trademark "Oh yeah!"
But while he ranks among the sport's great champions, Macho Man's legacy is in many ways that of a duo, as memories of the snarling, preening wrestler are often accompanied by those of the woman by his side during those glory days, his ring manager and real-life wife, Miss Elizabeth.
Savage sought to bring his wife into WWE as a broadcaster
The Savage-Elizabeth saga originated in the same place as many other pro wrestling legends, from somewhere in the undercurrent of the sport's rough-and-tumble independent circuit.
Savage and his brother, Lanny, were attempting to keep their dad's International Championship Wrestling promotion afloat when the Macho Man met Elizabeth Hulette working at a gym in Lexington, Kentucky. They struck up a relationship, and the telegenic young lady began appearing on camera as an announcer for ICW events.
The ICW folded in 1984, but the professional and personal union of Savage and Elizabeth were still on the upswing. They married in December of that year and engaged Vince McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment (then the World Wrestling Federation) in discussions about joining the national enterprise.
Savage angled to get his wife a job as a commentator, but McMahon had other ideas. As such, when Macho Man made his WWE debut in June 1985, he was presented as a "free agent" who was mulling over which manager to work with... a problem soon decided when he introduced the stunning Miss Elizabeth as his selection.
Elizabeth was featured prominently in Savage's storylines
Miss Elizabeth quickly became a key component of Macho Man's bad-boy image. Fans jeered as he ordered her around during matches or jumped behind her after taunting another wrestler, her slender frame barely visible between the men towering on either side.
Elizabeth featured prominently in the "feuds" established between Savage and other wrestlers, most of which stemmed from his jealous behavior. He tangled with George "The Animal" Steele in a "Winner Gets Elizabeth" match in 1987, and later attacked his tag-team partner Hulk Hogan over the Hulk's alleged affection for his manager. Elizabeth also was willing to put herself in the line of fire, enduring physical punishment from Savage foes like The Honky Tonk Man and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
Much the way future reality show afficionados would tune in to watch the sparks fly between cast members, wrestling die-hards were intrigued by the Savage-Elizabeth romance that was teased through their close working relationship.
This, too, became a WWE storyline when Savage dropped Miss Elizabeth and took on Sensational Sherri as his manager in 1989, only for Elizabeth to come roaring back into the picture by tossing Sherri from the ring and embracing the defeated Macho Man at WrestleMania VII. A few months later, the husband and wife of six-and-a-half years were "married" in a SummerSlam 1991 "Match Made in Heaven" ceremony.
Their relationship was crumbling behind the scenes
While their relationship was thriving on screen, Savage and Elizabeth were privately enduring a far more difficult time together.
According to colleagues, Savage had melded his ring persona with his real-life personality, rendering him an intense, growling character for much of his waking hours. The tension was exacerbated by the long hours on the road and a partying lifestyle, as well as Elizabeth's personal struggles with an eating disorder.
Things came to a head in the summer of 1992 when Hogan and his wife extended an offer for Elizabeth to spend some time with them in Miami, only to learn she had bolted from home without telling Savage. Their divorce was finalized shortly afterward, one year after they proclaimed their undying love in the "Match Made in Heaven."
They resumed working together after divorcing
Although their marriage faltered, the former lovebirds proved capable of burying the hatchet and joining forces professionally again, with Elizabeth briefly returning as Macho Man's manager under the World Championship Wrestling banner in the mid-1990s. Savage also took her burgeoning relationship with fellow wrestler Lex Luger in stride, channeling his own romantic interests toward a new ring valet in Gorgeous George.
Sadly, Elizabeth's life came to an end in the spring of 2003, when the 42-year-old was found unresponsive after overdosing on alcohol and pills at Luger's home. Again showing a level-headed perspective, Savage publicly expressed condolences for her family and noted that he had long since patched up any rough spots with his ex-wife.
Savage later married an old high school girlfriend named Lynn Payne, their relationship reportedly turning the once-wild Macho Man into a peaceful old codger before his own death in 2011. Nevertheless, he remains permanently entwined with Miss Elizabeth in the American pop-culture firmament, their pairing marking that distinct point in time when the popularity of pro wrestling began reaching new heights.
"Biography: 'Macho Man' Randy Savage," which airs Sunday, May 2 at 8/7c on A&E, will tell the larger-than-life story of one of the most colorful and charismatic Superstars to ever step foot inside the ring. With two WWE Championships, four WCW® World Championships and a 14-month reign as Intercontinental Champion, Savage became known for his famous catchphrases, larger-than-life personality and the enormous, flashy robes he wore into the ring. Watch a preview: