The professional wrestler known as "Macho Man" Randy Savage, whose wrestling career began in Lexington, has died in a car crash in Florida.
The Florida Highway Patrol says in a crash report that the 58-year-old former wrestler — whose legal name is Randy Mario Poffo — was driving a Jeep Wrangler when he lost control in Pinellas County around 9:25 a.m.
The Jeep veered over the raised concrete median divider, crossed over the eastbound lanes and collided head-on with a tree.
Police say he may have suffered a "medical event" before the accident, but the report did not elaborate, and it said officials would need to perform an autopsy to know for sure.
The report confirms that the driver was the pro wrestler known as Randy Savage. A woman in the vehicle suffered minor injuries.
A statement from Stamford, Conn.-based World Wrestling Entertainment said the passenger was the wrestler's wife.
"Poffo will be greatly missed by WWE and his fans," the statement said.
Poffo's father, Angelo Poffo, ran International Championship Wrestling in Lexington, where Savage wrestled before hitting the more profitable pastures of World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the World Wrestling Federation) and the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling.
Poffo was married from 1984 to 1992 to Elizabeth Hulette — known as wrestling's frilly, demure "Miss Elizabeth" in her long-running role as a distressed damsel, in which she was associated with Savage. Hulette was from Frankfort and was a graduate of the University of Kentucky.
The couple married in Frankfort.
The two were "married" in the ring while in character at WWE's Summerslam event at Madison Square Garden in 1991. The bride wore white; the groom, a gold lame tuxedo and a matching hat with a towering feather.
Hulette died of an apparent drug and alcohol overdose in 2003 while living in Atlanta with wrestler Lex Luger, whose real name is Laurence Pfohl.
Poffo also was engaged in a long-running "feud" with Tennessee native Jerry "The King" Lawler. Lawler said in 2008 that his favorite memory of wrestling in Kentucky was a loser-leaves-town match in Lexington against Savage.
"Randy, I'm sure, never thought that losing that match would be the best thing that ever happened to him," Lawler said. "He was then forced to get out and basically go national. From there, he went on and caught on with the WWE and had a huge run as 'Macho Man' Randy Savage."
Poffo was a charismatic wrestler made famous for his "Macho Man" nickname and his "Oooh Yeah!" catchphrase. He was a champion in Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation, and later Ted Turner's now-defunct World Championship Wrestling.
Poffo was under contract with WWE from 1985 to 1993 and held both the WWE and Intercontinental Championships.
"Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends. We wish a speedy recovery to his wife Lynn," WWE said.
Savage defined the larger-than-life personalities of the 1980s World Wrestling Federation (now WWE). He wore sequined robes bejeweled with "Macho Man" on the back, rainbow colored cowboy hats and oversized sunglasses, part of a unique look that helped build the WWF into a mainstream phenomenon.
The WWF made Savage their champion after a win over Ted DiBiase in the main event at WrestleMania in 1988.
Savage had not appeared for a major wrestling organization since 2004 when he performed for Total Nonstop Action.
He was both at times the most popular and most hated wrestler in entertainment. His flying elbow off the top rope was mimicked by basement and backyard wrestlers everywhere. Savage made good use of his deep, raspy voice as a corporate pitchman as well, for years ordering Slim Jim fans to "Snap into it!"
He's most known his legendary rivalries with Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair. Wrestlers took to Twitter to let fans know Savage won't be forgotten.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson hailed Savage as one of his childhood inspirations and heroes, while Mick "Cactus Jack" Foley called Savage "one of my favorite performers."
Hogan said he and Savage had just started talking again after 10 years.
"He had so much life in his eyes & in his spirit, I just pray that he's happy and in a better place and we miss him," Hogan wrote.
Published in Lexington Herald-Leader on May 21, 2011