Breaking Kayfabe Lanny Poffo
Presented by Sean Oliver and the Kayfabe Commentary Crew
The Man: Lanny Poffo is a wrestler that pretty much everyone who is reading this knows of. That in itself is a testament to the legacy of the Poffo family. Angelo, Lanny’s dad, was considered by most to be one of hundreds of journeyman wrestlers roaming the country in search of fame and fortune. Angelo’s biggest claim to fame was setting a Guinness World Record for consecutive sit ups at one time. He later made perhaps his biggest mark in wrestling by opening his own promotion: International Championship Wrestling. ICW’s owner failed to secure National Wrestling Alliance backing and thus lost any chance to book the NWA champion (then the nation’s top draw). ICW became an “outlaw” promotion, battling for the same fan base as the Nick Gulas/Jerry Jarrett/Verne Gagne/Dick Afflis/Ron Fuller promotions that had NWA backing. Angelo followed the time honored wrestling tradition by making both his sons ICW’s “World” champ much of the time and dug up whatever talent was willing to risk being blackballed by the NWA’s money players by working for Angelo. Savage and other talent openly mocked Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee and Jimmy Valiant among others on their television tapings. Challenging the Memphis crew to fight for real, and setting up matches where ICW would give money to charity if the Memphis crew would show up – trying to make Memphis look bad when their talent ignored the grandstand offers.
After ICW’s demise, Lanny was working for Bill Watts’ Mid South Wrestling and Watts was on the verge of bringing the clearly mega talented “Macho Man” Randy Savage in to Mid South to offer his particular brand of mayhem to the southern masses. In a rare moment of not bilking a talent for every dime you could drain out of his body, Watts told Savage and Poffo to get to Memphis and work with Jarrett as the easy money program was the ICW invaders against Lawler and friends. So Savage and Poffo got to work on top in a promotion without nepotism giving them the edge. Interestingly enough, the Savage/Lawler program bombed at the gates – perhaps a sign that the fans saw Savage as a whiny pretender to their beloved Memphis tough guys?
After the Memphis gig ran its course, Lanny and Randy headed to the big time: Vince McMahon’s WWF – and as Macho Man got an immediate push to the top of the cards, Lanny was stuck in the role that many territorial stars ended up in: lower card purgatory. But thanks to solid personal talent and a superstar sibling, Lanny survived in the WWF meat grinder for about four years without a push, until Vince gave Lanny the moniker of “The Genius” and Lanny’s stock shot straight to the top. Lanny got to work as a upper tier manager/wrestler role with the ultra talented Mr. Perfect, getting all the way to headlining several Saturday Night’s Main Events and key spots on PPV with top dogs like The Ultimate Warrior, Brutus Beefcake and Hulk Hogan. Lanny’s count out win over Hogan on national TV was one of the biggest shocks of my childhood, as Hogan just didn’t lose much in this era. After the Hogan program faded, Poffo eventually found his way into managing The Beverly Bros, which netted him a feature bout on PPV as his men battled the tag champs the Natural Disasters and a house show run with the legendary Road Warriors. Lanny went into obscurity in 1992 and despite being under WCW contract for several years, was never really seen on TV again.
The Shoot: Lanny starts off by talking about how life at home was for a kid with a baseball stud like Randy Mario Poffo for a big brother, an alpha male tough guy father and a Jewish mother. Randy moved onto a brief MLB career, while Lanny figured he better learn how to wrestle.
Lanny says Angelo didn’t smarten his boys up and that kayfabe was prevalent until Vince McMahon decided to start winking at the audience and lessening the in ring importance of the show.
Lanny says despite the “Genius” moniker – Randy was the straight “A” student while Lanny struggled with the humdrum mundane school curriculum. Lanny was smart but unmotivated. He deviated from his parent’s wishes for him to go to college and went right for wrestling. Lanny started wrestling in 1973 and Macho Man followed shortly after as his MLB prospects dried up. Angelo told him to “save your money” and Lanny took the lesson to heart.
Lanny jumps back to the modern day and tells of how he got a call from John Laurinaitis to ask if Randy Savage could be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Lanny says Laurinaitis was polite on the phone but Poffo was compelled to tell him no to inducting Macho Man. Firstly Lanny wanted himself, Angelo and Randy to all go in together (per Randy’s wishes) and secondly Lanny was appalled that John offered no condolences for Lanny’s recent loss. Howard Finkel was the only person from WWE to call Lanny and Poffo thanks him and offers great praise for the show of class.
Lanny takes us back to 1987 and talks of the WWF old timers battle royal the WWF put together in November that year & how it affected Randy & Angelo over the next two decades.
Lanny says as of the day of this interview (a year and a half after Randy’s passing) Vince still hasn’t offered condolences for the Poffo’s loss. Lanny says the WWE staff asked him why Randy went to WCW even though Vince loved Randy like a son. Lanny dives into further heat the WWE and Randy developed over creative differences, leading to a bored Macho Man jumping ship to WCW.
Lanny confirms Savage was controlling over Liz and anybody who thinks less of him can “Go fuck themselves”. Lanny says Randy used the closets Liz was locked in during shows to give Liz privacy and when other ladies were on the card, Liz changed with them. Fred “Tugboat/Shockmaster” Ottman gets the “I love you man, but go fuck yourself” treatment.
Lanny rips Linda Bollea for her book and debunks Linda’s claims that Brutus and Hogan were lovers. Lanny then mocks Brutus’ many divorces.
He then says Lex Luger was under protective of Liz, but blames Liz for doing the drugs that killed her as we all have to take care of ourselves. Lanny never saw Mr. Perfect do cocaine either, despite the way Curt ultimately died.
Lanny cites Bill Eadie, Rick Martel and Tito Santana as the only 3 guys who can claim to have gotten married and stayed with their wives for a long time. Lanny lost a bundle in his divorce and will never marry again.
On a political note, Lanny says the current federal government is printing meaningless money and Obama and the like are no better than what BlackJack Mulligan spent time in jail for.
Lanny rips Bam Bam Bigelow calling him terrible in the ring and in real life.
Lanny says wrestlers live a Judy Garland lifestyle of booze and pills. Poffo says the average person uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day – he uses zero. (His Dad had a gimmick called the “Miser” – looks like Lanny took notes.)
Lanny says he wasn’t approached very often for gay sex despite his flamboyant character. He says Patterson and Terry Garvin liked young boys, not burly men. Then Lanny talks about his limberness and his big penis.
Lanny pleads ignorance on the Randy and Stephanie McMahon rumors. He was afraid to ask Randy.
Poffo shares a story regarding King Curtis and Chief Jay Strongbow.
Lanny says Strongbow was a douchebag in his agent days. Poffo offers up a story about being on Tuesday Night Titans and reading a poem, leading to his gimmick. Strongbow hated the gimmick, and Lanny shares a story of a run-in he had with the Chief.
Lanny found out about Savage’s death via cell phone in between gigs while at an airport. Poffo said within 3 days of Randy dying, the “press” were in his mother’s house (the day of the funeral no less) so Lanny went off on them and kicked them out. Poffo vows to not quit until the whole Poffo family is in the Hall of Fame. He equates it to Randy’s dying wish.
Lanny says John Cena is overexposed but doesn’t suck. He makes fun of 30 years olds who live in their parents’ basement several times throughout the interview. He feels a lot of “smarks” don’t buy his story of Randy wanting the whole family inducted.
Lanny says Hogan wanted him to “queer it up” for their match and Lanny did his best Jim Barnett impressions to sell this aspect of the gimmick.
Lanny claims to have never done drugs, broke any laws, got detention etc. He used steroids briefly during his 1989 run on top. His testicles shrunk and he quit almost right away.
Final Thoughts: Certainly a fun watch as Lanny has smarts, charisma, no ego, self-deprecating humor and the shoot itself is done in an uncommon format that removes some of the staleness that shoots sometimes suffer from. The questioning is somewhat random, so you won’t get the chronological career breakdown that most shoots offer. However this was designed to be in a unique style and accomplished what they were seeking.
Photo Credi: WWE