“Macho King” Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior
Inducted by JCool
The first “Career-Ending Match” in Wrestlemania history.
Despite all of the criticisms that exist against the personal and professional reputation of the man we know as the Ultimate Warrior, much of that is set aside when his Wrestlemania VII match against Randy Savage is brought up. This match ranks in both wrestlers’ top 5 WWE matches of all-time; for Savage, it’s probably #2 after his match with Steamboat, and for Warrior, it’s #1 or #2, compared to his Mania VI match against Hogan.
If we’re talking top matches in Wrestlemania history, with story, drama, emotion and the actual match being amongst the criteria, this one has got to be top 10.
Is this a bias point of view, having been a kid when this match happened, or does it hold up with other critics and fans? Here are a select few ratings from across the World Wide Web:
WWE: #15 on its list of the 35 best Wrestlemania matches
“The Doc” Chad Matthews, author of “The Wrestlemania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment”: 5 stars
WON (Dave Meltzer) rating: 4 ¼ stars
Cagematch.net: 8.45 rating, as voted on by their site visitors
WWORDuke of cagesideseats.com argued it would be worth re-evaluating as a six-star match
Geekiverse calls it “absolutely the top highlight of Wrestlemania VII, bar none”.
Honestly, there are many, many reviews of this match, all of them quite positive, owing praise to Savage for carrying Warrior, or expressing how emotional the post-match reunion between Savage and Miss Elizabeth was. The match happened during a time in WWE history where long-term booking was the norm, instead of the exception. It benefitted from not having to compete with short attention spans, cultivated by 6-8 hours of weekly TV and monthly PPV’s and special Network events. In 1991, wrestling fans didn’t have the access to reality TV, behind the scenes interviews and programs, and weekly spoilers. If the same match were to happen today, fans would already have the opportunity to know if a career was actually ending, and whose career was more likely to end. Heck, fans would probably have known Miss Elizabeth was coming back.
Why This Match Stands The Test of Time
The “career-ending” stipulation gave this match a gravitas that should have made it the ‘Mania main event, if not for the preference of Vince McMahon to try and capitalize on a Gulf War (US vs. Iraq) that ended months earlier than anticipated. For all of the recent criticisms of fans who think the WWE Championship should always be defended in the main event of the evening, I offer this match as the first legitimate non-title match where there is a general consensus it should have been last.
Savage vs. Warrior checks off all of the boxes for what pro wrestling is all about. There’s a clear cut good guy to cheer and bad guy to boo. Savage is accompanied by one of the most effective villainous valets in the business in Queen Sheri. The two wrestlers have legitimate storyline animosity stemming from Savage’s desire to return to the title picture he thought he rightfully deserved. He cost Warrior the championship only a few months prior at the Royal Rumble. There is a fresh stipulation and it affects both wrestlers evenly, not just one wrestler who might have to quit or leave if they lose.
A Storytelling Masterpiece
It’s also just a great match. Savage and Warrior wrestle at a slower pace that was fairly rare for Warrior because of the type of energy for which he was known. He was used to quicker matches, limited offense and not a whole lot of ring psychology. Savage could do it all and was a master in-ring performer, and that night, his job was to make Warrior look amazing. He and Sheri succeeded with that goal, so much so that Warrior withstood 5 of Savage’s patented top-rope elbow drops and still kicked out.
Nowadays, kicking out of finishers is the norm. A main event match doesn’t end without multiple near-falls after finishers. In 1991, finishing moves were exactly what they should be: moves that finished the match. Both Savage and Warrior kicked out of each other’s finishers, which stunned the crowd and enhanced the rising action in a unique way. Add to that the cutscenes of Miss Elizabeth in the crowd, watching the drama unfold, and there are multiple levels on which to enjoy this match.
Speaking of Miss Elizabeth, her reunion with Savage after the match was THE feel-good moment of Wrestlemania VII and, maybe even the decade. There were tears shed by many fans in attendance, and watching on pay-per-view that night, at the sight of WWE’s most famous and beloved couple returning to one another. And with that moment of Elizabeth rushing into the ring to stave off Sheri’s abusive berating, Savage had the opportunity to become a fan favourite again. All was forgiven of the Macho King, now that he had reunited with his queen.
So, it is my pleasure to induct this fine example of 1990s pro wrestling greatness into the WH/LOP Hall of Fame.