Good day to you. Here is the second edition of a series looking at the TV show Dark Side of the Ring. This time I’ll be reviewing the first episode of the first season, which for some reason is labelled the second episode on Vice in the UK.
If you have yet to see “The Match Made In Heaven”, you can watch the 44-minute episode below. This series assumes you have already viewed it and would like further insight from another perspective. In case you missed it, I previously reviewed “The Killing Of Bruiser Brody”.
“The Match Made In Heaven”
For a TV show of this nature, I think it’s the best way to start. We are introduced by Bruce Prichard, who I’m not exactly sure should be hosting this, but I guess there could be worse choices? He’s known Randy Savage for much of his career and does an acceptable job of explaining how the “Macho Man” got in to the business.
I would have liked to find out more about his dad Angelo Poffo, but this isn’t his story so I get it. Much like Bruiser Brody, Randy had to live his ‘crazy’ gimmick while in public. Lanny Poffo chimes in here by saying his brother was a bed wetter, and I must say that he saves this episode several times. For something so personal, you need someone who grew up with Savage & Elizabeth, and Lanny’s the only one who really did. But this is where I got a little disappointed, because rather than getting Hulk Hogan in, they had Linda Hogan representing Miss Elizabeth’s side. And it makes sense to have someone do that, but I never got the impression they were super close.
It felt sad because they only seemed to get together because of their husbands association and Linda feeling sorry for her. I’d have preferred to hear from someone related to Elizabeth, but they probably couldn’t get anyone to do it. There’s no mention of any of her family (aside from the fact she was poor growing up with “Mother” and brother; Dad left when she was young). I’m also questionable about Scott Hall’s presence here… was he & Savage amigos? It’s never explained. At least Jimmy Hart had a close working relationship with him while teaming with Hogan as The Mega Powers, so it makes some sense.
“Love Elizabeth. Hate Randy.”
Watching back on some of these promos involving Savage and Elizabeth in 2020, it’s easy to understand how they both became so popular. Imagine if this happened today? The ogre of a man making the small woman subservient to his every whim? There would be uproar on social media. We’d have fans wanting the show to be axed because the big, mean, savage brute is treating his lady like garbage. But it was when equality was questionable, despite decades of progress in the right direction. Rather than boycott the show, fans tuned in and became the biggest fans of Elizabeth, while hating on Savage.
It’s an angle way ahead of its time, and because there’s some realism to it (with how protective he was of her), they didn’t need to put on much of an act. The tension was there because it was always there, a little voice in Elizabeth’s head saying “why do I put up with this crap?!”. You can see it in her eyes, but she seemed to love him enough to put on a brave face and endure. And in doing so, they became the most popular couple in wrestling history. By the way, I love Jake “The Snake” Roberts in this episode. He’s a master of understanding psychology and getting heat, so his comments carry a lot of weight.
“Life Imitating Art. Sometimes Art Imitates Life”
The intensity in that one Randy Savage promo (in the video above). You know the one… when his veins are literally popping out of his skull. I think it’s one of the darkest parts of the episode, because his overprotective nature fuels him to cut promos like that. We can’t say how much of his personality goes in to his character, but you can imagine him getting pissed at Elizabeth for not being where he expects her to be.
You can understand why she had to leave him, because there’s only so much anyone can take of his paranoia. Bruce Prichard says the best line of the episode, “Life Imitating Art, And Sometimes Art Imitates Life, Then You Get Really F***** Up.” Linda’s biggest contribution is giving it from a wife’s perspective as they toured the world with their husbands. And with Savage wanting to keep Elizabeth away from the boys, it’s understandable that she felt trapped and isolated.
In a cruel twist of fate, her divorce from him led down a darker road. There’s a lot of filler in the middle of the episode, talking about how Elizabeth’s parents bought in to kayfabe, the snake incident, and Savage’s OTT reaction to Elizabeth going AWOL. It got a little sad when Savage lost her and his demeanor changed, but he was able to move on and had plenty of success in the WWF and WCW. What his heartfelt though, despite them no longer being together, is Savage getting Elizabeth a job with WCW. He didn’t have to do that, but still cared for her enough to ensure she’d keep making decent money in the business. Savage announced his divorce on a TV show, taking the presenters by surprise.
Luger & Elizabeth
Eric Bischoff’s only considerable contribution to the episode is the way he describes his disdain for the way Lex Luger handled the relationship with Elizabeth. What the episode didn’t tell you however, is that in the months leading up to the end, according to wiki:
“Cobb County police found Elizabeth with two bruised eyes, a bump on her head, and a cut lip. Luger was charged with a misdemeanor count of battery and released on $2,500 bond”
Not only that, but Luger was arrested for driving under the influence. The signs were there in 2003, of both he & Elizabeth being in serious trouble. Did anyone try to intervene? We never get told. The only thing we are informed of, is that popping pills and drinking excessively led to Miss Elizabeth’s death. Lex Luger takes responsibility for it in the episode, and Bischoff admits he has since put his hatred behind him. But they don’t go too much in to this, and it feels almost like an afterthought. That was the single worst thing to happen, yet there wasn’t much information about its aftermath. Here are some more details:
“Luger was arrested after a search of the residence revealed a number of illicit controlled substances, including anabolic steroids, OxyContin, synthetic growth hormone, testosterone, and Alprazolam. He was charged with 13 felony counts of drug possession. He was released the following day on $27,500 bail. Miss Elizabeth’s death was eventually ruled accidental. Luger pleaded guilty to the charges and was fined $1,000, sentenced to five years probation, and ordered to undergo periodic drug tests.”
He debuted with TNA Wrestling in late-2003, making sporadic appearances for them and on the independent scene til his retirement in 2006. In 2012, he inducted his friend Sting in to the TNA Hall of Fame. Since 2011, he has worked with WWE on their Wellness Policy.
“I actually work behind the scenes with them now again and with their wellness club. I counsel a lot of their athletes on nutrition, wellness, exercise, and taking care of their bodies. That’s another thing that WWE is being very proactive now with the Wellness Department and really train these guys with health and nutrition and drug prevention. We’re trying to prevent the young guys, this young generation of guys from going down the same path as we did back in the ’80s and ’90s”
While a life was lost, Lex Luger was not imprisoned and seems to have spent the rest of his life trying to making amends, but it’s tough when Elizabeth passed away because of the environment he provided. The episode doesn’t get comments from anyone else on Luger, only Eric Bischoff. The 911 call however, is the hardest moment to take. Lex details the incident in the video.
I feel like Randy Savage distanced himself from the business because he failed to protect Elizabeth. Although he was overly protective, he was doing it because he knew the nature of the business. Randy wanted to protect her from going down the wrong path, and after her passing, we didn’t see him too much after that. He dedicated the rest of his life to the special Olympics and finding a new love. Scott Hall saying “Liz should be in the Hall of Fame, she was called the First Lady for a reason” is his best line.
Lanny Poffo gave me the biggest laugh in the closing moments, telling a story of “Little Timmy” getting told by Randy Savage that he will sign his autograph… but he better do his best at school every single day! Or it’s going to be really, really bad for him! That’s classic Macho Man right there. In the end, while I don’t think this episode was bad, I think there could have been a better choice of guests and more insight in to the darker parts of the story. However, seeing as this was the first episode of the first season, it’s easy to be overly critical and I can give them a pass.
They wanted something to ease people in to the show, and Dark Side of the Ring’s “The Match Made In Heaven” accomplishes this goal. So if you are a fan of Randy Savage & Miss Elizabeth, it’s definitely worth a watch! Just don’t expect anything surprising, because there’s nothing here that most people didn’t already know. Rest In Peace Randy Savage & Miss Elizabeth; the single greatest couple in wrestling history. Thanks for reading! And see you again next time for more Dark Side of the Ring.