Free Wrestling: Repo Man vs. Randy Savage (1/25/1993)

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Background: The Repo Man—one of Barry Darsow‘s many faces once the Demolition well ran dry—is, in my humble opinion, one of the great bad gimmicks of all time. (For the record, Darsow’s stint as angry golfer “Hole in One” Barry Darsow on WCW Saturday Night is another.) During this time, with Vince McMahon fresh from federal trial and casting aside the notion that wrestling was a legitimate sport to throw off the yoke of state athletic commissions, it wouldn’t be farfetched to accuse the chairman of having a persecution complex, and the things McMahon hates, loves, or finds funny often manifest themselves in his product. So in the early 1990s, he had two men running around stealing things from his good-hearted fans: I.R.S., who’d take your money, and The Repo Man, who’d take your ride. This wonderful clip should explain Repo Man’s motivations quite nicely:

Where most bad WWF gimmicks of this period (Bastion Booger, Mantaur, Phantasmo, and so on) came and went before developing a catchphrase or receiving a theme song, Repo Man came to the WWF fully formed with a truly great Jim Johnston theme song and the kiss-off line of “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine!” Also unlike the majority of goofball jobbers the WWF would come to feature, Repo Man actually had a televised feud with “Macho Man” Randy Savage, notable for its sheer weirdness. Savage had been around the WWF block a few times by 1993, and everything he could possibly feud with another wrestler over, he’d already done. Miss Elizabeth, Queen Sherri, crowns, and championship belts were meaningless to Repo Man, who had his heart set on hooking his towing claw into the one thing he really couldn’t be without: his hat.

The best thing about this mini-feud, beyond how passionate Macho Man is about his hat, is Repo Man’s insinuation that the sequined monstrosity required multiple payments that Savage was somehow delinquent on. Boiled down, the two-week program is a familiar one, where the unappreciated mid-card guy gets a shot at somebody way above his pay-grade because he destroyed their property. Think Kofi Kingston wrecking Randy Orton’s NASCAR, or Paul Heyman stealing The Undertaker’s urn and forcing the Deadman to wrestle The Dudley Boys and bury Paul Bearer in a concrete tomb. The difference, of course, is that Repo Man is a cackling, C-level Batman villain riding shotgun in a tow truck, and Randy Savage is God. Nothing about this can end well.

The Match: Savage is so angry that Repo Man enters the ring wearing his hat that he bombards the poor bastard without so much as being introduced, which is too bad considering how infrequently “Pomp and Circumstance” played on Raw. He is all over Repo Man from the opening bell, beating him up so badly that Repo Man tries high-tailing it out of the Manhattan Center, which, of course, Randy Savage does not allow.

In Rob Bartlett news, pay attention to the commentary when Repo Man takes over. The guy was a hack comedian and a worse broadcaster, which becomes increasingly obvious as he makes fun of Savage’s bald spot, something a face commentator would never do. McMahon covers for him as best as he can until, finally, Bobby Heenan asks Vince where he found the schmuck. Sure, it goes along with Heenan’s character to be exasperated with Bartlett, but his exasperation seems genuine and is something a heel commentator generally gets away with. Vince McMahon is somewhat infamous for the way he dresses down his commentary team during broadcasts—an entire chapter of Mick Foley’s Countdown to Lockdown is dedicated to the subject—and Heenan and Jim Ross have told stories about how Gorilla Monsoon, who produced segments backstage, could pick out bad announcers and tell the regular crew “not to remember his name” almost immediately. Bartlett only lasted 13 weeks—long enough for him to roll out various match- or show-length impersonations of Mike Tyson, Elvis, and Vince McMahon—but his last few weeks with the company were spent mostly being the butt of jokes. Years later, the WWE would make the mistake of hiring another guy ill-suited to professional wrestling to fill the shoes of Joey Styles and Jim Ross before cutting him loose, but at least Mike Adamle was funny.

Repo Man maintains his advantage for awhile, but it isn’t long before Savage gets the better of him, nails the flying elbow drop, and puts Repo Man away, reclaiming his hat and his manhood. Like the match between Shawn Michaels and Max Moon, this is another example of what Raw did very well in its early days: the showcase bout. Repo Man manages to look like a legitimate threat for awhile, much like Max Moon made a brief bid to take Michaels’s Intercontinental Championship, but he’s eventually put in his place and forgotten about so Savage can go on to train his buddy Crush for a WrestleMania clash against Doink the Clown.

Guys like Barry Darsow aren’t fixtures on television anymore, and that’s too bad. Not that Darsow was the most brilliant wrestler, but as he shows here and in his 1994 feud against Dustin Rhodes in WCW, he makes for an able foil, and manages to look good even in a losing effort. The advent of the Monday Night War did away with Darsow’s role on flagship programming, as the need for marquee matches led to matches like Arn Anderson vs. Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair being given away for free instead of being used to sell pay per views. WWE didn’t start giving away marquee matches until the end of the brief Invasion era that followed their buyout of WCW, but when 225,000 people purchase a pay per view and four million watch Raw, it’s perhaps understandable why Alberto Del Rio wrestles The Big Show on a weekly basis.