Lanny Poffo is the younger brother of the Macho Man Randy Savage, but he forged his own wrestling career in WWE as Leaping Lanny Poffo and then later on he became known as The Genius.
It was during this time the 57-year-old, would enjoy main event status teaming with Curt Hennig and taking on Hulk Hogan.
We caught up with Lanny to talk about his brother the Macho Man, life in WWE, writing poems, Damien Sandow and the WWE Hall of Fame.
You grew up in a family of wrestlers with your dad Angelo and your brother “Macho Man” Randy Savage, was wrestling something you always thought you were going to end up doing?
Well actually my father preferred baseball above anything else and he tried really hard to make it as a baseball player but he fell short. Randy played four years in professional baseball in the Minor Leagues organization for the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox. Randy was the best of us at baseball and also in wrestling, he had the best career.
I was more interested in baseball but in the back of my mind, I always knew that I loved wrestling and I was going to be a wrestler as well.
Who were some of the wrestlers that inspired you to get into the sport when you were younger?
My favourite wrestler besides my father was Johnny Valentine, Greg Valentine’s father. If anybody says to you, is wrestling real, if you thought it was not real, you should watch Johnny Valentine wrestle and you might change your mind.
How did you first become involved in the world of wrestling?
It all started in 1978 in Atlanta Grand Prix Wrestling before I went to Portland, Oregon to wrestle for Don Owen. Randy then had an idea with my father that we should have a promotion in Kentucky, I was one-third owner along with Randy and my father of International Championship Wrestling, and we were there for eight years.
It was the best of times and it was the worst of times, I never wanted to do it but I just went along with the programme. Roddy Piper tried to help me, he got me a deal to wrestle in Los Angles and I really wanted to go there but my father called and I decided to join the family.
I always laugh at people who second guess Vince McMahon and say he should have done this or he should have done that, because if you’ve never promoted you don’t realise how difficult it is and I’m sure Vince is the best promoter I’ve ever seen or worked for.
Both you and Randy joined WWE in 1985, what was that experience like?
For me it was the greatest six years of my career, I then got fired but came back as the manager of the Beverly Brothers and got another run on the back of that. It was a tremendous opportunity, I really enjoyed the ‘Leaping’ Lanny role and then I got the opportunity to become The Genius but the best four months was the time I spent with Curt Hennig and being the adversary of Hulk Hogan.
Having mentioned The Genius gimmick, what have you made of Damien Sandow as The Intellectual Saviour of the Masses?
Actually, Joe Gomez who is a really good friend of mine and was a really good friend of Randy’s called me up and told me about this guy in Florida Championship Wrestling that wanted to meet me. I live about twenty, thirty minutes away from where they do their shows so I drove there and I’m really glad I did because Dusty Rhodes, Steve Keirn, and Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat were there to pass on their condolences about Randy and my father.
They are all trainers at FCW and they then introduced me to Damien Sandow, he was a very nice person and he asked me if I minded him stealing my gimmick. I told him, that I had stolen the gimmick as well, I wasn’t the first wrestler to wear a cap and gown, I can name you about five or six, my father was one of them, my brother did it, many years before Dean Malenko’s father was the Professor Boris Malenko etc
Anybody can get a cap and gown and go into the ring, I don’t consider that stealing a person’s gimmick and I just told Damien Sandow, “you just do the best you can”. I went on to tell him about Jay Lethal’s impressions of Randy, and how Randy felt complimented, not only did he steal Randy’s gimmick but he did such a great job of it.
What was the highlight of your time in WWE?
First of all, the time I was on Tuesday Night Titans, which was a talk show with Vince McMahon as the host and Lord Alfred Hayes was his sidekick. I was afraid that I would be boring and that they would never allow me to go on the show again, so I decided to write a poem for the occasion and then when they went to a commercial break Vince came up to me and said, “Lanny that was fantastic and from now on do a poem before every match.” That was the day I became not just a wrestler but a wrestler with a gimmick, and without a gimmick, you really aren’t a wrestler, I mean in this world of sports entertainment.
The second was right before WrestleMania III and I was involved in a dark match, in the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. As you can imagine when I was a boy dreaming of money and glory, I didn’t hope I was going to be in a dark match someday, that was not my goal. Before the match, Gorilla Monsoon pulls me off to the side and he told me there was going to be a battle royal and Andre The Giant needs to get heat because he was going to wrestle Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. Monsson said, “I want to bat for you, I hope you don’t make a monkey out of me,” to which I replied, “I would never make a monkey out of a gorilla.” In the match Andre head-butts me and I do something very special for Andre as the sacrificial lamb.
Then, of course, a few years later I got to wrestle Hulk Hogan on NBC, and then after that match, we worked all over the place, usually, it was Mr. Perfect and myself against Hulk Hogan and Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake or Big Boss Man. I had an opportunity to be in the main event at Madison Square Garden and in all the arenas for four months in a row. If you asked me was it worth it to be a jabroni for all those years, to bask in the sunshine of success, drink from the silver chalice, the answer is of course yes. Even if I had never wrestled Hulk Hogan and be a main eventer for four months it still would have been worth it because I enjoyed every moment of it and WWE was very good to me.
Buddy Rogers, Lanny, Randy and Angelo Poffo
You’ve mentioned the poems, have you always written poems?
When I was in the fifth grade I was a very shy person. A temporary teacher came in, and I fell in love with her within two seconds, she was young and beautiful but I had no idea how to make her like me. She came up to me after two days, having not spoken a word she says, “Mr. Poffo, I need for you to see me at 3.20pm, we need to talk.” I went to see her wondering what I could have done wrong, she said, “Lanny I’ve had you write two papers and they were just wonderful.” She then told me I could be a writer, if I wanted to impress her I was going to reach down and show her what I could really do and that got me interested in all kinds of writing and I never stopped.
During part of your tenure in the WWF you threw frisbees with your poems into the crowd, those frisbees must be quite collectible now?
I wouldn’t know, people ask me all the time if I have anymore, and my answer is always the same, I threw them all to the fans. They used to sell the frisbees for $3 and they always sold out, I would get a nickel a frisbee, which I wasn’t complaining about as I was trying to prove that I was marketable. I’m just glad nobody sued me because everyone is so lawsuit-happy and you could probably do some damage with one of those bad boys.
You wrote a poem for WWE ahead of the Vince McMahon v Donald Trump match at WWE WrestleMania 23, how did that come about?
They approached me and I said I would love to do it. I get offers all the time from all sorts of people, I’ve just appeared in a movie which is called Theresa Sareo: Alive Again, and they asked me to write a poem for her, which I did and it is featured in the movie. I love doing things like that, I’m going to be 58-years-old coming up and it makes me feel young to use the talent I have to entertain people.
You had a four-year spell in WCW, but were rarely seen on television, what was your time there like?
Well naturally I’m the brother of the Macho Man Randy Savage and that was a tremendous advantage. Chris Jericho had written in one of his books, that he was working very hard and making less money than me, I did not know that but I’ll tell you what if I was Chris Jericho I would be very upset about that and I do not blame him for being upset.
Here is my side of the story, my brother had an idea that I was going to be Gorgeous George. I got a contract, and I was going to get started, I was practicing, watching Gorgeous George videos and I was really interested in doing this but the phone never rang. At WCW there were too many chiefs and not enough Indians, they had about 20 bookers, 20 people making decisions and everybody hating each other.
Having worked for both Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff, how would you compare your two bosses in terms of their similarities and differences?
Vince McMahon is 24 hours a day the most affluent person I’ve ever met, I’ve never seen him wear a pair of pants that had a crease, I’ve never seen it where he has had to floss his teeth, I’ve never seen mustard on his chin or food on his tie. He is always impeccably dressed and everything in his life was impeccable, if you went into a WWE ring there was never a post that needed painting, he had people that set up the ring then he would have people inspecting the people setting up the ring, you never saw a lousy ring at one of his shows.
When do you think we will see your brother Macho Man Randy Savage entered into the WWE Hall of Fame?
Well, I would like to see that happen but do you know what I would really like, somebody from WWE to extend me some condolences, nobody has done that yet except one guy, Howard Finkel.
People from all over the world sent their condolences, wrestling fans, friends, I got phone calls from great people like Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart and The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. The first guy I called when I found out the news of Randy’s death was The Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart.
I know that there was some rivalry and heat, but since my daughter is 28-years-old and my mother is still alive at 85-years-old, I would like to have some condolences if not flowers how about a nice card. Here we are a year and a half since Randy died and we’re talking about the Hall of Fame, I’m talking about how I would like some condolences from WWE.
My Brother didn’t want to go into the Hall of Fame unless his little brother and his father also went in, that’s what he wanted and that’s what I’m sticking to.
Randy Savage Tribute:
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