September 2, 2011
Lethal still paying tribute to Savage with impression
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun
Jay Lethal didn't know how Randy Savage would react.
As Black Machismo, the young wrestling star had been doing bang-on impressions of the legendary Macho Man.
A phone call from Savage alleviated any fears.
"He told me he didn't watch wrestling on TV too much, but he had heard somebody was doing an impression so he checked it out on YouTube," said Lethal. "I just couldn't think of the words to say to him. I couldn't believe I was really talking to Randy Savage. He has that distinctive voice. You don't really have to see him. You just have to hear his voice and you know it's him."
It was the same Randy Savage that Lethal had grown up idolizing, along with another smooth talker, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.
"I've made no secret of the fact they were my two idols," said Lethal. "I've been so fortunate. I got to do a program with Ric and I got to talk to Randy Savage two or three times on the phone."
Lethal was floored when he heard the news that Savage had died earlier this year.
"I had never met him face to face, but he had touched me as much as is possible for somebody I'd never met."
The Savage impressions had been going on in TNA locker rooms for months when Kevin Nash heard it and began to lobby the company's writers to add it to a storyline.
"I didn't want to do it so it came across in any way that I was making fun of (Savage)," said Lethal. "Kevin helped me realize that it wasn't making fun of (Savage), it was getting the name out there again.
"The first time I did it, it was a 30- to 40-second segment and from there, after one skit, they wouldn't let me stop doing it. A story can get boring very fast, sometimes the shelf life is very short. This was supposed to have a short shelf life, but it lasted two years."
Since Savage died, Lethal has kept the impression to a minimum, but he has done tribute shows to the Macho Man and will do one in Hawkesbury, Sept. 3, at the Robert Hartley Arena. Macho Man's brother Lanny Poffo and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine will also be on the show. Check out greatnorthwrestling.com for more details.
"I only do the impression if I'm asked to do it," he said. "When he passed away, I wondered if I should do it any more. But he had given me his blessing."
When Lethal found out he'd be doing a program with Flair, he was over the moon with excitement.
"I couldn't stop thinking about my brothers," he said. "Growing up, I'd be in the living room with my three brothers. We'd watch wrestling every week, every pay-per-view. There were so many Woooos in that living room. And we used to get in trouble. It was incredible."
It was an in-ring confrontation with Flair that provided Lethal with "one of the scariest moments in my life."
"I had a Woooo-off with him. Most of the time you see a wrestler with a microphone, he has guidelines on what he's going to say. But you can't tell Ric Flair what to say. So I had nothing prepared. I had to feed off what he was saying. I was in there all by myself with the master of the microphone. I had no idea what would happen, but when I got to the back, we got a standing ovation. It was one of the greatest feelings in my life."
Lethal, who recently signed a contract with Ring of Honor after leaving TNA, is baffled by some of TNA's direction -- confused when they release a guy like Amazing Red, "who can do things in the ring I can only dream of. If he was given the chance, he would excel."
He doesn't understand why so many changes were made.
"A lot of times when a kid gets a brand new toy, the old toy is pushed ahead. But when you see a guy like Samoa Joe -- when I got to TNA, he was a monster, he was dominating ... he was a massive guy who could move like the X Division guys ... how are they using him now?"
He says TNA had plenty going on for it before deciding to change its approach.
"Before I got signed to TNA, my older sister asked if I wanted to come over and watch a (TNA) pay-per-view. I'll be damned if my sister didn't watch 10-15 of their pay-per-views. And she's not really into wrestling."
But he's still grateful to the organization which gave him an opportunity to develop his charisma.
WWE's a place he'd like to call home someday.
"Why would I put my body through this if I didn't want to be that big superstar in that main event in Wrestlemania? If you don't want to be that guy, I don't believe you should be doing this."
Tim Baines is the Sports Editor for the Ottawa Sun and can be emailed at Tim.firstname.lastname@example.org.