The truth about Randy Savage's death

Every generation of wrestling fans has its own pantheon of greats. In the 1980s, viewers looked up to Andre the Giant, went wild for Hulk Hogan, weathered hard times with Dusty Rhodes, and were wooed by Ric Flair. During that time of physically and figuratively huge stars, "Macho Man" Randy Savage shined as brightly as anyone. A man who enthralled audiences with his rabid intensity and mostly unmatched in-ring ability, Savage made fans believe he was liable to snap like a Slim Jim at the drop of a hat and had the muscles to break you to bits. 

Savage's fantastic promos and dramatic clashes with Ricky Steamboat, Hulk Hogan, and Jake "The Snake" Roberts – to name a few — are indelibly etched in the memories of grateful fans. Through those timeless moments, the Macho Man character will live forever. Sadly, the man himself, born Randy Poffo, passed away on May 20, 2011. At just 58 years old, one of the brightest lights in the wrestling world was extinguished.

How Randy Savage spent his final years

Fans familiar with tales from Savage's younger days might not recognize the man he became in his 50s. In his prime, he put the madness in "Macho Madness." This was a guy who got into a real-life brawl with a newlywed at a Waffle House and by his own admission got so carried away that he got "billy-clubbed and bitten by a police dog for being uncooperative," per CBS Sports. The Macho Man was so macho that instead of breaking character, he allegedly broke a rival wrestler's jaw during an unscripted conflict in which Savage reportedly disarmed the wrestler and pistol-whipped him with his own gun, according to Bleacher Report

With the passage of time came a taming of the Savage. As recounted by Bleacher Report, toward the end of his life, he apparently became "a recluse." His home was his fortified castle protected by fences and guard dogs, and he kept a gun in his glove compartment. Savage also confronted heartbreak in his final years. His father, Angelo, whom Savage idolized, gradually wilted away from dementia before dying in 2009. The following year, life started to look up, and the Macho Man tied the knot with his second wife, Lynn. Sadly, death would soon part them.

The details of Randy Savage's last moments

Per Bleacher Report, Savage was driving with his wife Lynn, whom he married the previous year, when he lost consciousness. He already felt unwell that day but insisted on getting behind the wheel of his jeep. Before turning down a Florida road, he suddenly uttered, "I think I'm going to pass out." Sitting in the passenger seat, Lynn steered the vehicle out of the path of traffic as best she could, and the couple careened into a tree. While "the impact was so slight that the airbags didn't activate," Savage died.

The medical examiner listed Savage's cause of death as "an enlarged heart with severe atherosclerosis of his coronary arteries," not the car accident itself. Cageside Seats reports that, according to Savage's brother, Lanny Poffo, Macho Man suffered a "heart attack" induced by ventricular fibrillation (Vfib). Given the wrestling industry's well-known history of substance abuse issues and premature deaths, it was impossible not to wonder if those issues contributed to Savage's death. Cageside Seats implicated the wrestler's history of steroid use as a contributing factor. It's impossible to know whether steroids played a role, but what is certain is that far too many wrestlers have died entirely too early.

Randy Savage's special request

If you grew up watching the Macho Man, there's a good chance you thought of him every time you attended a school graduation. His theme music was "Pomp and Circumstance," after all. Though there's nothing inherently macho about education, it somehow fit Savage's character to a tee. After all, his brother, Lanny Poffo, wrestled as a villainous scholar called "The Genius," and their dad, Angelo, "stressed academics above all else," according to Sports Illustrated. But for Randy Savage, that theme had a deeper meaning.

Savage's brother, Lanny, explained that "Pomp and Circumstance" was also the theme music of wrestler Gorgeous George, who mentored Lanny and Randy's dad. Much to the Macho Man's dismay, Gorgeous George never became as famous as Savage. To honor his father's mentor, the Macho Man requested that "Pomp and Circumstance" not be played at his funeral. So as people paid their respects to the legendary Randy Savage, he was quietly showing respect to to a wrestler who came before him.