Reliving A Title Run Volume #18: Randy Savage As WWF World Champion In WWF ’88 – ’89
After the controversial finish between WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant at first ever Main Event program in February ’88, the WWF World Championship was held up and a tournament to crown a new champion was determined to take place at WrestleMania IV. The tournament favorites to be the new champion included Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Ted DiBiase.
However, at the end of the night, thanks to a chair shot by Hulk Hogan across the back of DiBiase, Randy Savage walked out as the WWF World Champion after a top rope elbow drop. This marked the first reign for the Macho Man.
Following the victory, Savage entered into a feud with Ted DiBiase, a man who had been champion for a brief moment after paying off Andre the Giant back in February. Macho Man defended against DiBiase on April 25th at a Madison Square Garden house show. In order to keep the feud going longer, DiBiase won by count-out. Five days later, Savage successfully defeated One Man Gang at the sixteenth Saturday Night Main Event.
Savage competed on the May 21st edition of WWF Superstars easily taking care of DiBiase’s bodyguard Virgil in singles action. Randy would meet DiBiase at Madison Square Garden in a rematch this time with Savage winning by disqualification, but would be attacked by DiBiase and Virgil after celebrating with Miss Elizabeth.
On June 25th, 1988, DiBiase would get a shot at WWF World Champion Randy Savage inside a steel cage, but came up short as Savage managed to escape the cage after ramming DiBiase into the cage.
On the July 8th edition of WWF Superstars, Andre the Giant and Bobby Heenan distracted Savage long enough to allow DiBiase to appear and attack Savage from behind. Miss Elizabeth was held by Virgil to make sure she watched her man get viciously attacked by three men. The following day at the Boston Gardens, Savage wore a neck brace while defending against DiBiase, which Savage won by disqualification and was attacked again by DiBiase, Andre and Virgil.
DiBiase got another shot at Savage on July 23rd in Philadelphia, PA which saw DiBiase win by count-out as Savage went after Virgil on the floor. After the match, Elizabeth was shoved to the mat and Savage was attacked some more by the heels.
After having issued a tag challenge to Andre and DiBiase for SummerSlam, Savage revealed on July 30th edition of Superstars that Hulk Hogan would be his partner for the showdown. The following day, Savage successfully defended the WWF World Championship against Ted DiBiase at WrestleFest ’88 in Wisconsin.
DiBiase failed to win the championship on August 6th when he lost by count-out after hitting the ring post, but he did trip Elizabeth causing her to injure her ankle and continue to piss off Savage in the process. August 13th Andre the Giant got a shot at Randy Savage but the match ended in a double count-out. Andre twisted the ankle of Elizabeth during the match and Savage made it evident that he would kick Andre’s ass when they meet again in the ring.
Finally, at SummerSlam Savage teamed with Hogan to successfully defeat Andre and DiBiase in the main event when Hogan pinned DiBiase after Elizabeth got on the apron to distract the heels. Following the pay per view, Savage routinely fought Andre winning the matches by disqualification and continued to have steel cage matches with DiBiase, which he was victorious in.
On September 29th at Madison Square Garden, Savage fought Andre to a double count-out after Andre put his hands on Elizabeth, again. Afterward, Savage brought Elizabeth to the backstage area and Andre claimed to have been the champion and roughed up the referee after he wasn’t announced as such.
A new challenger steps up as Bad News Brown got a shot at Savage on October 10th at the Boston Gardens. Brown won the match by count-out after putting Elizabeth in the way of Savage on the floor and shoved her into Savage and returned to the ring to get the cheap victory. Savage competed in the ’88 King of the Ring, which was non-televised in Providence, RI, but lost to Ted DiBiase in the finals by count-out.
Andre the Giant got another shot at Savage on October 24th at Madison Square Garden where if Savage lost by count-out then he would lose the championship. However, Savage prevailed by disqualification when Bobby Heenan left his corner and put his hands on Savage costing Andre the match and shot at the WWF World Championship.
Bad News Brown got a shot at Savage on November 5th at the Boston Gardens, but Savage prevailed again winning with an inside cradle. Savage defended against Andre on the eighteenth edition of Saturday Night Main Event with the match ending in a double disqualification due to both Jake Roberts and Bobby Heenan getting involved in the contest.
A team led by Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage won at Survivor Series, but there appeared to be an issue when Savage appeared upset that Hogan was celebrating with Elizabeth.
Speaking of Brown, on the November 26th edition of Superstars, Brown confronted WWF President Jack Tunney suggesting that Tunney was taking favors from Elizabeth and thus protecting WWF World Champion, Randy Savage. This led to Tunney shoving Brown out of frustration and Tunny fining Brown $20,000.
The end of ’88 saw Savage successfully defending against Rick Rude and getting revenge on Bad News Brown in title defenses.
A turning point of the Savage title reign came on January 7th, 1989 during Saturday Night’s Main Event when he refused to help Hulk Hogan when he was getting attacked by the Twin Towers, and only helped when Elizabeth got involved. Savage continued to be upset with Elizabeth giving Hogan attention. Savage continued to successfully defend against Bad News Brown in street fight matches during the early months of ’89.
On February 3rd, 1989, the Mega Powers defeated the Twin Towers, but then exploded backstage when Savage attacked Hogan officially turning heel and setting the stage for their WrestleMania V showdown.
However, prior to WrestleMania V, Savage would battle WWF Intercontinental Champion Ultimate Warrior winning the matches by count-out. On April 2nd, 1989 at WrestleMania V, Savage lost the WWF World Championship to Hulk Hogan after nearly 18-minutes of action. Elizabeth was in a neutral corner for the contest.
Savage held the championship for 371-days. After looking up the feud, it’s amazing just how long they were able to stretch out the feud with DiBiase. It seemed like each month they were able to find a new way to continue the feud and were able to keep DiBiase strong despite never winning the WWF World Championship. Following the feud with DiBiase, the feud with Andre was kind of lackluster and underwhelming. Though, it felt like it was more of a way to transition into a feud between Andre and Jake Roberts.
The feud between Savage and Bad News Brown had to have been a little controversial at the time considering Bad News Brown claimed Elizabeth provided sexual favors for Jack Tunney. What’s even more interesting is that when Savage turned heel in early ’89, Brown would play the face role and Savage switched a heel role. I’d be kind of interested to see how the fans reacted to that one.
Of course, the feud with Hogan is one of the most memorable angles in professional wrestling history and it made for great television. Savage playing the paranoid heel was phenomenal because it was partially true in real-life since was reportedly very protective of Elizabeth and always had trust issues with Hogan anyway.
At a time when the WWF needed a fresh face on top since Hogan had a near five year run on top, I thought Savage provided some great angles, matches and freshness to the WWF World Championship scene. I think an argument could be made for Savage to retain at WrestleMania V and ride the wave of his mega heel turn for the summer involving Hogan. Nonetheless, the year reign of Macho Man was an enjoyable one.
What are your thoughts on the WWF World Championship reign for Randy Savage during this time?
Thanks for reading.