Count ’em. The Twitter posts about Lanny Poffo, who has sadly passed at age 68 – there were many, many. And that may have been surprising as Lanny wouldn’t be on the tip of many wrestling fans’ tongues, certainly not as readily as his brother, Randy Savage.
And yet Lanny had a really great wrestling run.
Not surprising that he came up in this promotion, it was owned by his dad Angelo. Based in Kentucky and around from 1978-1984, was regarded as an ‘outlaw’ promotion, mainly because it wasn’t affiliated to the NWA, but also because, in its battle for attention with the Continental Wrestling Association, run by the two Jerry’s, Lawler and Jarrett.
They’d tussled with Southeastern Championship Wrestling earlier on too and the punchy, incursive, upstart feel of the ICW was part of its charm.
This feel fitted Randy’s intense, hard-to-guess, slightly worrying personal perfectly and due to his work in rivalry with the CWA, he was able to move there after ICW folded and start a feud with Lawler.
Some will say, in fact, lots will, that Lanny was in the shadow of his brother. But that wasn’t the deal – there wasn’t a competition here, Lanny was a more considered, quieter character with a florid wrestling offer but very different to his brother.
The Glory Years
This was the days of Beefed-Up Barbers and Moneyed Million Dollar Men; Leaping Lanny didn’t sound so fabulous, but his frisbee-throwing, poem-reading persona was really there to add to his opponent.
And his more agile wrestling style had success against the generally bigger wrestlers in the WWF at the time – that was also a bar to his progress, he was just too small for the top of the card.
Another smaller man was destined for that and Lanny was inextricably linked with him. AWA champ Kurt Hennig arrived and he was absolutely perfect. I remember being wowed by the promos of Mr Perfect, as he drained it from downtown on the basketball court and sank a perfect putt (although allegedly the promos took an age) and Lanny was there too.
Not as Lanny of course, there was finally a character for him, the genius in a mortarboard and gown, reading out derogatory poems, fully heeled up and full, by his own words ‘of glory and renown.’
He even had a bit of a run around with champ Hulk Hogan, only to get Mr Perfect into the title picture of course, even inflicting a defeat on Hogan, the first time he kayfabe lost a match for almost 2 years, even if it was by count-out.
The Genius, Lanny Poffo
He was insufferable, but entertainingly so, the poems were more doggeral than Dante’s ‘Inferno’; his overblown and florid delivery, his use of words as a weapon and fans must have been delighted to see his hair being chopped by Brutus Beefcake after his charge Perfect lost at Wrestlemania VI.
And I forgot this, from The Mail;
‘Later, he would serve as a manager for the Beverly Brothers as they beat the beloved tag-team pair, The Bushwackers.’
Wrestlers don’t often celebrate their erudition, even as a heel tactic and Lanny used it as a face-front, overbearing push in the face. So much better than so many remember.
He stayed with WWF, off and on, until 1994 when he signed with WCW, but you won’t have seen him there, there are questions about whether he ever wrestled there at all.
And after returning to some Indie matches and having a run with Ring Of Honor, on commentary, which fell right into his erudite language.
And outside the ring, he published books pf poetry, was a vocal opponent of tobacco smoking and was also a motivational speaker – you may also have heard his ‘Genius Cast With Lanny Poffo’ podcast which boasted a host of wrestling luminaries as guests.
So Much More
Much more than he was given credit for. Actually, a bit of a ‘tweener, a heel you love to hate because you know they love their work so much – Ted Dibiase was another one – and this was well before Austin and The Rock.
RIP Lanny, the Genius persona fitted you well.