Tuesday, January 13, 2015

On the Macho Man and Posthumous Induction

I love that Macho is being celebrated, but has Vince McMahon earned that right?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
"Macho Man" Randy Savage was announced as the first inductee into the 2015 class of the WWE Hall of Fame. Many fans have found his exclusion over the years to be an injustice, as if the personal corporate rewards program of Vince McMahon, Legends division, is something to be coveted as a career goal rather than just a nice Saturday night out with your old employer and coworkers before the biggest date on the current company's work calendar. Savage joins Bruno Sammartino, Bret Hart, and Ultimate Warrior as wrestlers who had a rift with McMahon but were welcomed back into the fold, culminating in a Hall of Fame induction. However, those three wrestlers all share something in common with each other that they don't with Savage; they were allowed to accept their inductions and get their final catharses while alive.

One could argue Savage was well on his way to an organic reconciliation with McMahon and induction in the same way many other wrestlers have in the past decade or so since the Hall has been reestablished. WWE produced a flattering career retrospective of his, included him with great pomp and circumstance into that WWE All-Stars game, and he even shot a few commercials for action figures before his untimely death. But that passing muddled the issue, and history was not allowed to unfold in the same way it did for the others. It might not have been the fault of McMahon or WWE (even if the company might have at the very least accelerated the path to his death in several ways if I am to be honest), but after his passing, the ship for his image and likeness to be exploited by WWE should have sailed away.

The rift between Savage and McMahon was deep as the stories go. McMahon viewed Savage as a son-figure, and he wanted him to be around in an administrative sense. Savage wanted to keep wrestling, however, so he went to WCW, which unlike other jumps, apparently hurt McMahon to his soul. Far be it from me not to empathize with a man who'd been betrayed, however, but sometimes, if you view a guy as that close to you, maybe you should let him do what he wants and make compromises so that the relationship isn't torn asunder, especially when you are the most powerful guy in your company and one of the most influential dudes in your industry (even if he was at his nadir at that point).

But now, McMahon gets to pretend that the last two decades of pro wrestling history didn't happen. He struck a deal with Savage's brother, Lanny Poffo, and he's going to get to have yet another landmark Hall of Fame class, just like the one he had with Sammartino (also noting that according to every report, Triple H went out and made that one happen). But it feels cheap. I don't know, maybe I'm just a trashdick, self-entitled fan with a blanket anti-corporate agenda, but I feel like one should earn the chance to celebrate someone's life while they're still alive. It's more than fair to ask if McMahon did that with Savage, or whether he's going to parade around with Savage's memory like nothing ever went wrong between the two.

The thing that bothers me the most is this feeling that Savage is finally going to get celebrated with this Hall of Fame induction. The biggest work that WWE ever got the people to believe is that its Hall is worth anything more than the price they charge people to look at the list of superstars inducted on its website. Hell, if I were McMahon, Triple H, and everyone else in that front office, I would have been laughing my ass off when TNA actually ran an angle where those Hall of Fame rings were a Macguffin. Savage doesn't need to be in that Hall to be recognized. He doesn't need Vince McMahon's seal of approval to be known as one of the greatest performers ever to don the spandex and boots. Neither does Owen Hart. Nor does anyone who isn't in that Hall of Fame with whose legacy McMahon would be playing fast and loose if he were to put them in after they'd died.

I'm not saying I won't get emotional when the video packages roll or when the tributes start coming in. However, those bits rousing my memories and making me fond of one of my favorite wrestling characters of all-time won't lessen the dubious nature of why they're coming across my screen. I'm not sure McMahon has earned his right to celebrate the life of a man he shut out for petty, business reasons for nearly two decades, but hey, nothing like that has ever stopped the man before, has it?