By Mike Mooneyham

Nov. 14, 2004

It was short and sweet, but the honeymoon between “Macho Man” Randy Savage and TNA is over.

And wouldn’t you just know that, in a cruel twist of fate, Hulk Hogan would play a role in the breakup.

Just two days after making a surprise cameo appearance at Total Nonstop Action’s inaugural Sunday night pay-per-view, the temperamental Savage informed management that he’s finished with the promotion.

According to reports, Savage complained to officials that the company had an “unsafe working environment,” due to a locker-room run-in with Hogan at TNA’s Victory Road event.

Savage initially had agreed to show up at the conclusion of Sunday’s program and make appearances at the company’s TV tapings two nights later to promote a main-event match at next month’s pay-per-view. Unbeknownst to Savage, however, former friend-turned-enemy Hogan turned up backstage at the show.

Savage and Hogan have been at odds for much of the past decade. Most of the bitterness dates back to the split between Savage and late ex-wife Miss Elizabeth (Liz Hulette), with Savage claiming Hogan and his wife. Linda, harbored Hulette during their breakup and urged her to leave him.

Randy Savage

Randy Savage

Savage and Hulette, who had since remarried, later worked with Hogan in WCW during the late ’90s, when both Savage and Hogan had the chance to make money with each other. But tension between the two resurfaced last year when Savage used a name-baiting campaign in calling out Hogan to fight him for charity.

Savage said at the time that he issued the challenge due to Hogan’s mud-slinging, and that he ended up giving $10,000 to a children’s hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., calling it the “Hulk Hogan coward fund,” allowing that Hogan could use it as a write-off.

Hogan recently responded that he’d gladly wrap one of his “24-inch pythons” around Savage’s neck. “Every time I wrestle Mach, I beat him up pretty bad,” said Hogan. “I heard he’s having a pretty tough time. If he can get a little oil in that wheelchair and get those legs pumped up -because those legs are about the size of my arms – I’ll beat Macho Man up one more time. But this time it won’t be so hard. God bless Miss Elizabeth, she’s not here, so I’ll just beat Macho up for free. No big deal.”

Savage, who has unsuccessfully held out for big-money wrestling offers since leaving the now-defunct WCW, most recently embarked on a failed foray into rap music, which included a scathing ditty targeted at Hogan titled “Be A Man.” The former Slim Jim shill enjoyed more positive exposure with a cameo role in the initial “Spiderman” movie.

TNA officials had hoped that Savage’s return to the wrestling world would not only give new life to the 52-year-old’s career, but also create a much-needed mainstream buzz for their promotion.

The backstage meeting between the two mat icons was less than cordial, although sources say Hogan reassured Savage that he had his back, to which Savage offered a sarcastic reply. The Hulkster then challenged Savage to step outside and settle their differences, but the Macho Man reportedly backed down and walked away.

Savage had been scheduled to appear at the company’s Tuesday night Impact taping in Orlando, and was to have teamed with AJ Styles and Monty Brown against Jeff Jarrett, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall at TNA’s next PPV event, Turning Point, on Dec. 5. With Savage’s sudden departure, he had to be written out of future storylines, with Jarrett telling the crowd at the Orlando tapings that he had left Savage in a pool of his own blood following Sunday night’s show.

Like Hogan, Savage is a skillful practitioner of wrestling’s version of political chess. No stranger to holding up promotions for more money, Savage has a marked reputation in the profession when it comes to dealing with wrestling companies. Even with the fallout from his actions last week, it’s not out of the question that Savage and TNA will do business again.

Savage’s sidekick and bodyguard, wrestler-turned-boxer Brian Adams (formerly of Kronic and Demolition) criticized TNA during an interview on a Tampa radio station last week. Adams claimed the company “snuck” Savage into the building to keep his appearance a secret, yet allowed Hogan to walk in where fans could see him, and made a big deal of it. “It was unprofessional, and the Jarretts know it was unprofessional,” said Adams.

While TNA was none too happy with Savage’s behavior, officials were said to be ecstatic that Hogan, who was not booked on the show, attended at the invitation of Panda Energy CEO Bob Carter, whose company owns a majority share in TNA. Accompanied by longtime friend Brian Knobbs of The Nasty Boys, Hogan spent most of the evening conversing with Dixie Carter, president of TNA Entertainment and daughter of the Panda chairman.

Skeptics, however, contend that Hogan’s main reason for attending the show was to send a message to Vince McMahon regarding next year’s Wrestlemania. Hogan, who has teased a possible matchup pitting him and daughter Brooke against Vince and Stephanie McMahon, would like nothing better than to land back in the spotlight while furthering his daughter’s singing career at the same time.

Hogan, however, has a questionable track record with the Nashville-based company. He teased a move to TNA last year, but bailed out after claiming knee injuries.

It wouldn’t be surprising that Savage, showing McMahon that he was TNA’s most marketable star without ever working a match, was sending the same message at the expense of the Jarretts and their promotion.

– With the building packed (several hundred fans were turned away), red-hot crowd reaction, strong production values and most of the workers going full throttle, TNA management was pleased with the Victory Road show. While arguably not as fresh and innovative as Ring of Honor, with whom the company is most often compared, TNA is working to build on its reputation of being a family-friendly promotion and to cater to fans longing for nostalgia.

What the company desperately needs, however, is a better time slot than the current 3 p.m. Friday spot on Fox Sports Net. A generally well-received showing on the Best Damn Sports Show Period this past week could be a major step in that direction. Rumors have circulated that a respectable PPV buy rate and strong ratings for the wrestling-themed episodes on BDSSP could land TNA a better time slot, possibly opposite Raw on Monday nights, which would be a monumental feat for the company.

WWE chairman Vince McMahon recently discounted the theory of TNA being possible competition for his wrestling juggernaut, arguing that TNA is a wrestling company while WWE is an entertainment company. The comment prompted TNA exec Dixie Carter to respond that with less talk, more action and programming that is not offensive to families, “We couldn’t agree with Vince more.”

In the meantime, however, TNA is literally going for broke, spending more money than the company ever has in what most likely is a last-ditch attempt to reach the next level. Sources have estimated that the company has lost money in the eight-figure range over the two-plus years the Jarrett-run promotion has been in existence.

– Kevin Nash reportedly has been so impressed with Gainesville, Ga., native AJ Styles that he has personally requested to work with him. Since Styles is probably the most talented young star on the TNA roster, the company would be wise to protect him. Many are leery that the aging and graying Nash and Scott Hall are in TNA explicitly to collect paychecks and put themselves over at the expense of younger talent TNA has tried to build as its own stars.

If that scenario sounds eerily familiar, check back no further than WCW, which is now out of business.

– Diamond Dallas Page, who has been rooming with Steve Austin in Los Angeles ever since his split with estranged wife and former Nitro Girl captain Kimberly, is being brought in to TNA to feud with Raven (Scott Levy). DDP’s last full-time mat stint ended a couple of years ago when he walked away from WWE with a Lloyd’s of London insurance policy due to what was described as a career-ending neck injury.

– Debra Marshall Williams, the former Mrs. Steve Austin (Williams) and ex-Mrs. Steve “Mongo” McMichael, was backstage at last week’s Raw taping in Austin, Texas.

Williams, who has been working in real estate since the acrimonious split with Stone Cold, reportedly dropped by the arena to say hello to friends since she lives in the area, as well as to put out feelers regarding a possible return to the big show.

– Ashley Fliehr, the youngest daughter of Ric Flair, was named North Carolina’s Southwestern 4A Player of the Year in volleyball. Fliehr led her Providence High School team in Charlotte to a 33-2 record and the N.C. High School Athletic Association volleyball championship Oct. 6 at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum. Providence topped Greenville Rose, 25-18, 25-10, 25-21, for the 4A title, won previously by Providence in 2002 and 1996.

The 5-10 senior, who has committed to Appalachian State, sparked the squad to a 96 percent winning percentage over the past three years, including a 35-2 mark in 2003 and a 34-1 record in 2002.

– George’s Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the Survivor Series pay-per-view tonight beginning at 8 p.m. Cover charge is $5.

– Matthews Sports Bar and Grill, 613 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., also will air Survivor Series tonight at 8 p.m. The $5 cover charge includes a Carolina Pro Wrestling Association show at 5 p.m. at Twin Rivers Lane Plaza featuring CPW champ Titan vs. Lowcountry champ Solitude.

– Tully Blanchard, one of the original Four Horsemen, will be guest speaker at services 11 a.m. Nov. 21 at Betaw Christian Church in St. Stephen and again at 6 p.m. at Miles Road Baptist Church. The public is invited.

For more information, call (843) 567-2567.

– Greg Valentine has been added as a Q&A speaker at the Mid-Atlantic Legends fanfest Nov. 26-28 in Charlotte. “The Hammer” will be joined by Jack and Jerry Brisco, Paul Jones and Harley Race.