Jimmy Hart pulled off a surreal ruse to recruit Macho Man Randy Savage to WWE in 1985.
The 78-year-old Hart — who has not visibly aged in the last several decades — is still an energetic ambassador for WWE. He spoke to The Post on behalf of the season finale of “WWE Legends” on A&E, which will highlight WrestleMania I on Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET.
Asked about his best Randy Savage story, Hart recalled with impressive alacrity the Macho Man’s paranoia when the manager first approached him about linking up with the then-WWF.
Hart himself was recruited to the outfit by Howard Finkel, the legendary late ring announcer, who told the “Mouth of the South” that they’d been impressed by the manager’s tapes in Memphis Championship Wrestling.
“Feet don’t fail me now,” thought Hart, who got to the promotion about two months before the big WrestleMania event.Jimmy Hart told The Post the incredible story of how he recruited Randy Savage to WWE.WireImageRandy “Macho Man” Savage was one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all-time.FilmMagic
“As it got closer, I realized how big this particular show was going to be, and some of the celebrities that they were bringing in for it [Billy Martin, Cyndi Lauper, Mr. T, Muhammad Ali plus Liberace and The Rockettes],” Hart said. “I didn’t know if it was going to be a hit or not.”
One person who didn’t think it would work? Jerry “The King” Lawler, who would later become a WWE Hall of Famer in his own right, but at this time was the promoter in the Memphis territory.
“You’re gonna regret leaving our company,” Hart remembers Lawler telling him. “What if you go up there and this thing doesn’t make it?”
“Well, it’s just a chance I’m gonna take,” Hart responded at the time.Jimmy Hart managing a match between the Honky Tonk Man and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at MSG in 1987.Getty Images
Hart still has great appreciation for his time spent with Lawler in the past 45 years in the business — he loves the man — but he has vivid memories of what transpired at the time.
Lawler was, of course, self interested. Hart was one of the biggest stars. Lawler couldn’t have been thrilled to lose him. And no one knew at the time that Vince McMahon would not only succeed in taking WWF national — he’d also bust up the regional territory monopolies (and later his national competition in WCW) in the process.
And it was Lawler whose wrath Hart feared if he caught wind the manager was recruiting Savage to the competition in New York.
Hart had managed Savage, real name Randy Poffo, his brother Lanny Poffo and father Angelo Poffo for a brief spell in Memphis.Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan in 1996.Ron Galella Collection via GettyJimmy Hart is still an ambassador for WWE at 78 years old.Getty Images
After he’d been in WWE for about 5-6 months, Hart received a phone call from George Scott, a lieutenant for McMahon who had a big hand in WrestleMania I and II. They’d watched Savage’s tapes — and Scott instructed Hart to call him immediately.
Hart was a little trepidatious that Savage would reveal what was happening to Lawler, and that there could be physical consequences for him back home in Memphis.
Therefore, Hart concocted a scheme.
“Randy was selling Amway products at the time. I got ahold of him and told him I had someone to buy $500 worth of it from him. He goes, ‘Oh yeah! Yeah!'” Hart recalled, mimicking Savage’s voice.
They met on Summer Ave. in Memphis, and then Hart told him the real deal.Randy Savage, Miss Elizabeth and Regis Philbin in 1988.Ron Galella Collection via Getty
“I said, ‘Randy, I was just kidding you. Let me tell you what: WWE would like to see if you want a chance to come there,'” Hart told The Post. “He got me out of the car. He patted me down, like he thought I had a wire on me and was going to tape this information and give this information to Lawler and them!”
Savage, who died at 58 in 2011 due to a heart attack, was one of the most colorful characters in pro wrestling history. He was a two-time world champion in WWE and four-time champ in WCW. One of the reasons he was so successful is because his real-life persona and character bled together in a way that was especially surreal. The paranoia that was seen in the story was very much a part of him — but if you were truly in with him, he could also be salt of the Earth.Randy Savage at the American Music Awards in 2003.WireImage
“I said, ‘No, Randy, this is the truth!'” Hart recalled. “So I gave him the number. He patted me down. He hugged me and says, “Okay, I believe you!’ And the next thing you know, Randy, Liz [his wife Miss Elizabeth] and Lanny were there in New York!”