Longterm booking. It’s essentially a meme at this point. When Kofi Kingston referenced the famous “stupid” incident recently with Randy Orton from 2009, people jumped to make the “longterm booking” joke. That’s because the idea of WWE actually booking a storyline longer than a week or two in continuity and character growth is laughable. But what, actually, is real longterm booking?
The best example, in my humble opinion, is the Ultimate Warrior vs “Macho King” Randy Savage at Wrestlemania VII.
A story that literally spanned about 4 full years. That’s right. Years. In WWE, Miz terrorized Roman Reigns for a good part of 2018, and Roman was bailing him out and saving his ass about 2 months later without even a mention.
In 2015, weaselly heel Seth Rollins was shitting his pants over the prospect of facing Brock Lesnar. In the actual match, he got sent 10 times to Suplex City and would’ve been squashed, if not for a surprise Undertaker appearance. Was this even hinted at during their Wrestlemania feud for the first quarter of 2019? Did they make any mention that Seth Rollins has now evolved to the point that he actually wants to destroy Brock, let alone isn’t scared anymore? Not once. Not even subtly.
The best we get in WWE in the modern era are “callbacks”, not “longterm booking”. My favorite “callback”, for example, is the famous Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels match at Wrestlemania XXV. When Taker faced HBK at the first ever Hell in a Cell at Badd Blood back in 1997, that was cocky, shitbag Degeneration X HBK who was scared shitless of Undertaker.
When the gong hit, HBK nearly shit his pants and jumped out of his chaps. At Mania 25, the gong hits, and Shawn Michaels just simply stands straight and stares down the ramp.
The boy has now become a man. Wonderful moment. Not “longterm booking”, however.
In 1991, Ultimate Warrior and “Macho King” put on arguably the best match of both’s careers, but what makes the match a masterpiece is the beautiful long-term storytelling of the finish.
Yes, I said “beautiful storytelling” for the same medium that a year earlier had Ultimate Warrior literally threaten to hijack Hulk Hogan’s plane with suicide bombers and crash it into the mountains.
One of the most famous WWE storylines of all-time was the “explosion of the Mega-Powers” in 1988. The Immortal Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage were the top two stars in the company and joined forces to dominate the Federation.
Unfortunately, like most things in life, it was ruined by a woman.
The virtuous Miss Elizabeth was the reason for the split, as Hulk Hogan saved her one day, which pissed off “Macho”, and led Randy to his dark side path.
After a history of implied poor treatment of Elizabeth, the two were not seen on WWE TV together for a very, very long time. Instead, Randy ended up with Sensational Sherri (one of the greatest female characters in wrestling history). Seriously, Sherri went fucking all-in for every storyline. She was way, way, way ahead of her time.
So what brought Savage and Warrior together for this match, besides Hogan being busy literally trying to win the Gulf War singlehandedly?
Well, Warrior was WWE champion. Savage wanted a title shot. Warrior said no. So Savage hit Warrior with his king septor and cost him the title to Sgt. Slaughter, who defected from America for reasons.
Warrior, also for reasons, challenged Savage to a Retirement Match, and here we are. Loser’s career is over. Definitely. For sure. With absolutely zero percent chance of either competitor fighting again. Ever.
Ultimate Warrior, on the other hand, hit a lull after his historic win over Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VI. The problem was simply that WWE did not have any heels worthy enough to challenge Warrior, so we got things like a rehash of the Ravishing Rick Rude IC title feud from a year ago. As golden as Rude was, it was a retread.
You have to think we would’ve gotten Warrior vs Hogan II at this event if Vince didn’t see dollar signs in blatantly playing on sympathies for our troops.
However, that probably would’ve lead to Hogan getting his win back over Warrior and ruining the legacy of their Wrestlemania VI classic, and also leading to having us never see this match, so hooray for fate.
“Cowboy” Notes For The Actual Match
- Acting like Bobby Heenan is the one who “notices” Elizabeth sitting in the crowd is actually low-key brilliant. In today’s WWE she would have been focused on for 3 hours with Michael Cole screaming “ELIZABETH IS HERE, OHHHHH MYYYYYY. HOW WILL IT FACTOR INTO THE FINISH???!!!”
- The fucking pan to Elizabeth as Macho and Sherri get carried past her on that throne. Man this is solid directing for 1991.
- I am an unabashed Sensational Sherri mark. God rest her soul.
- Ultimate Warrior calmly and measuredly walking instead of his usual maniac running in another wonderful touch to set up the “magnitude” of the match.
- Things from 1991 that I miss: Babyfaces that crowds love to love and heels that crowds love to hate.
- These two guys are truly two of the best ever. The charisma just radiates off each.
- Sherri is hot. There I said it. Sue me.
- Another thing about Sherri – takes harder bumps in matches than some full-time wrestlers these days.
- Ultimate Warrior gets distracted by pretty rudimentary wrestling elements pretty easily (Sherri, obvious steel chairs), but then again I don’t think the character was supposed to be in MENSA.
- What’s amazing about Warrior is that, if you really needed him to, and it was planned well, the guy was actually more than capable of 4 Bob+ matches.
- Warrior shoves Sherri violently to the ground which will probably rile up a bunch of ultra-woke 2019 losers despite all 4 main players in the match being dead.
- Sherri hits Macho with a shoe as babyface muscleman Warrior grabs a 110 pound female by the hair and looks ready to punch her.
- The famous spot as Macho hits Ultimate Warrior with five fucking elbow drops and he kicks out. What’s weird is, absolutely burying himself like this seems to signify Macho really did want to retire here, but he ended up coming back in less than a year.
- I want Roman Reigns to pull the Ultimate Warrior no-sell routine against somebody like AJ Styles someday just to see the internet literally melt.
- “That’s where the Warrior gets his strength from – those ropes!” Gorilla Monsoon has had better moments.
- Warrior hits the Gorilla Slam/Big Splash as Savage kicks out in what has to be pretty shocking for the time. This leads to a stunned Warrior looking up to Vince and asking “Wasn’t I booked stronger than this?!”
- All kidding aside, a pretty awesome moment, as Warrior isn’t used to this kind of adversity. He teases just walking out on his own, which would be a pretty pussy move.
- Watching a referee seriously yelling at a competitor as he rants and raves and talks to his hands is hilarious.
- Then Savage, in a move that can only be accurately called “retarded”, hits Warrior as he talks to himself. A very rare misstep in this amazing match. A true heel would’ve pantomined “OH YEAH GO AHEAD, LEAVE! GREAT CALL, WARRIOR!”
- A little bit of an odd finish, as Warrior hits 3 shoulder blocks and pins Savage with his foot. But hey, it was surprising, and if you want to put over your 1A level star hard after sacrificing his belt for a cheap Iraqi war angle, this is how you do it.
- Excellent match that totally worked 7 year old “Cowboy” Bob at the time into thinking that Macho was done forever. Probably also instilled some trust issues in me that linger to this day.
The Storybook Ending
And now for why we’re here. Because every now and then, kids, something happens that is so beautiful in this fine sport that it doesn’t embarrass us that we just got emotionally invested in a dude in spandex and a pink cowboy hat facing a man in facepaint and little undies talking to his hands for guidance.
- Here comes the heel mastermind Sherri to bitch at Macho, who just got the living shit beat out of him by a monster who may or may not have access to speak to gods.
- Macho can barely move, as Sherri kicks his helpless body. The heel heat here is incredible.
- Ugh, Sherri’s threat to punch Hebner. Glorious. This chick is not fucking around. She is going for it.
- Here goes Sherri slamming Macho’s head into the mat, as that’s just too much for Elizabeth. She runs down to the ring, grabs Sherri by the hair and throws her right out of the ring to wild cheers.
- I can already feel the emotion here and I probably watched this 900 times on Coliseum Video over the course of my childhood.
- Macho struggles to his feet and nearly punches Elizabeth.
- They are playing up the anticipation, as Macho isn’t sure who actually hit him.
- Macho looking to the crowd for “help” on who did it. This is fantastic stuff.
- Savage milking this by looking at the crowd is incredible. Its like a silent movie. No microphone. No buzzwords. Not even commentary is going overboard in spelling it out.
- The pop for that hug as the Macho theme plays. Man, what a fucking sendoff (we thought, at the time, just go with it).
- Sorry, I have to mention this. There’s this one kid crying in the crowd who always breaks me out of my emotion here. It’s this kid:
- I remember one day watching this in my living room, and my dad walked by and said “If I took you to that Wrestlemania and you ended up on camera crying like that girly little kid I would’ve walked out in embarrassment and left you in fucking California.” Cracks me up every time I think of it.
- Back to the emotional rollercoaster.
- However, that woman in the blue suit is the one who fucking gets me for real.
- I don’t know why. I don’t know this lady. I don’t know her thoughts. But she just looks so overdressed for pro wrestling. Her hair all done up. And she just fucking loses it. She looks like some kids’ mom who would yell at them for doing elbow drops from the top of the bed frame, and she’s totally buying this. It’s wonderful.
- “Maybe her shoes are too tight!” a Hall of Fame Bobby Heenan line.
- And here it comes. Here it fucking comes, motherfuckers.
- All the time, as his valet, Miss Elizabeth would hold the ropes for Macho Man to exit the ring. She goes to the hold the rope one last time for him. But…not this time.
- Macho waving Elizabeth away and holding up the ropes for her gets me without fail every single time. Along with the “It’s not your fault” scene in Good Will Hunting, this is guaran-fucking-teed to get the water works flowing in the “Cowboy” Bob apartment.
- Holy shit. I’m not even kidding. It just got me again. The epic pop for that rope holding. The whole crowd got it.
- Macho then hits all of the turnbuckles for his “final” goodbye.
- “He lost the match, but he got something much more valuable – his woman!” Gorilla Monsoon’s best moment.
- And then, immediately, Bobby Heenan’s best moment, as he screeches “I’d rather have the match!” I just laughed my ass off at that one.
Why Was This So Effective, And Can It Ever Happen Again?
Ultimate Warrior is dead and apparently used to be a gigantic hateful homophobe.
Despite the pageantry, “Macho Man” Randy Savage went on to wrestle about another 7 full years as if this didn’t happen, until dying of a heart attack.
Miss Elizabeth and Sensational Sherri both overdosed on drugs.
Monsoon and Heenan are dead.
Earl Hebner might as well be.
In real life, “Macho Man” and Elizabeth had a strained marriage at the very best, as both parties made each other completely miserable. They eventually divorced and she died while doing coke with Lex Luger.
And yet, nearly 30 years later, this match absolutely holds up and is remembered as the masterpiece it is.
And it’s because all characters were well-defined. Macho Man and Elizabeth’s relationship, and its troubles, were well documented in WWE over the course of years.
Despite Macho being a heel, it made sense in continuity for Elizabeth to be present at what could be his final match. Elizabeth has no interaction with the match at all, until it just goes too far and she can’t take it anymore.
The Ultimate Warrior was still a babyface we all loved, and Sensational Sherri teased out her dastardly heel antics from the opening bell to the very end, until we were all just salivating at her getting her comeuppance.
Every single participant – Savage, Liz, Sherri, Warrior, Earl Hebner, Gorilla and Bobby Heenan are at their absolute apex here. It’s a full on team effort.
And best of all – they made us actually miss Savage and Liz together.
Obviously the Macho Man and Liz relationship wasn’t perfect – it was even rocky in kayfabe! But the story is so simple. So relatable. I’m sure Macho made Liz miserable. Im sure Liz made Macho miserable. But at the end of the day, if that bitch in the silver sparkly outfit goes too far, I’m going to jump the fucking railing and throw her out by her hair.
Because I love you.
Can it be done again? I actually doubt it.
The best chance we have is if one day Jon Moxley comes back for a triple fist-bump, but that had better be far, far down the line because WWE is being investigated by PETA for beating that horse the past 3 years.
Every now and then, magical moments happen in professional wrestling. When all elements converge – performers, the in-ring product and the over-arching story – you are able to look past the fact that you’re watching oiled up men pretending to fight each other. When everything is clicking, performers like Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth can make us forget the painful reality – all of the painful reality that occurred for years before, and years since – and make us lose ourselves in a timeless story being told.
What a woman, and what a man.