The Legacy of Lanny Poffo
August 11, 2005 by Corey Erdman
Born on December 28th, 1954, nobody knew, nor do they know, the impact that Lanny Poffo, son of legendary Angelo, would have on professional wrestling. Beginning his career as 'Leaping' Lanny Poffo in the NWA's Southern and Midwestern territories, he took flight alongside his brother Randy 'Macho Man' Savage. Lanny won several regional titles, and also competed for his father's International Championship Wrestling based out of Florida (Editor's Note: This is actually wrong, ICW was based in Lexington, Kentucky - see notes below). After seeing a tape of Randy Savage, Vince McMahon offered him a WWF contract. Randy however, did not want to go alone, and asked "is there room for my brother"" There was no room at the top of the card, where the Macho Man was headed, but Lanny was welcome in the middle of the card - or, as a jobber.
Despite losing 90% of his matches in the mid-80's, Lanny still became one of wrestling's most recognizable characters, as the 'Leaping'-one would toss frisbees into the crowd, and recite poetry before displaying his in-ring mastery, and ultimately, laying down for the sport's biggest stars. Lanny also managed to have his book of poetry, 'Wrestling With Rhyme' published, including poems about Hulk Hogan, Paul Orndorff and of course, his brother. Lanny's biggest break came when he turned heel, and donned his new character as 'The Genius'. The turn was a successful one, as the character was not far off from Lanny's real persona--but with an 'evil' twist. 'The Genius' still recited poetry, but was given more of an opportunity to use offense, use wit, and SURPRISE! Win!
Lanny was teamed with Mr. Perfect, and later with the Beverly Brothers. His stint alongside Mr. Perfect was his most memorable, feuding with Brutus Beefcake, Ultimate Warrior, and Hulk Hogan. In possibly his greatest moment, The Genius defeated Hulk Hogan on Saturday Night Main Event by Disqualification. This was Lanny's first of two main events on SNME, the second coming in the form of a loss to Hogan/Warrior, teaming with Mr. Perfect. Unfortunately, Lanny is overlooked in the history, and ultimately deemed insignificant by most. After all, how could a "glorified jobber" and a "second-tier heel" have any impact on the business"
The fact remains that Lanny Poffo was underrated throughout his entire career, and is without a doubt, one of the sports most innovative personalities in the mid 80's to early 90's. Let's recap the high points of one of Lanny's matches with his brother, against the Rock N' Roll Express:
- Senton Bomb from the top rope attempted
- Dive to the outside
- Springboard splash attempt
- Piledriver through a table
Sounds like an A grade match on your average, modern Pay-Per-View event. However, this match is from 1984, from an NWA South event. Lanny wrestled with a style that was foreign to wrestling of the 80's outside of Japan, and possibly Mexico. He bounced around, ran at full speed, and used maneuvers that are still impressive finishers in 2005. Poffo is one of the originators of the Moonsault, though he admits to have stolen it from Tiger Mask. His "Honour Roll" Senton is of course still used by Jeff Hardy as a very formidable and impressive finisher. All this in the time of Leg Drop, Big Splash, Heart-Punch and Big Slam finishers, and slow, brawling based matches. But what wrestling of the time recognized was exciting characters, and Lanny was never given the chance to portray one. He was already in his late 30's by the time The Genius had debuted, and there was no dethroning Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Sgt. Slaughter, etc. at the top. However, The Genius was somewhat of an innovative heel himself. Intelligent interviews were rarely seen in the day and age. Lanny's poetry and pre-match rants were eloquent, and thus innovative. Modern mic workers such as Triple H, The Rock and Chris Jericho are praised for similar attributes.
Above all, Lanny is still a class-A person, who is generous and available to all of his fans. In the new age of smarks, and more educated wrestling community, it is my hope that the impact, or at the very least, the underrated talent of Lanny Poffo can be recognized and celebrated.
He is more than the younger brother of the Macho Man.
by Corey Erdman ..
Brad Dykens wrote:
Someone sent me a recent interview with Lanny Poffo from the Icons of the Ring website.
SAMEER KAUSHAL wrote:
NICE ARTICLE ! Hats off to you.It was very refreshing and touching to know that there are some people atleast you ,who care about guys like Lanny .Although i have seen 6 or 7 of his matches ,i love them. he was a great talent but he was held back in The Hogan Wrestling Federation coz that was Hulks time .Given a chance Lanny would have given Hogan a run for his money.
I have been a wrestling fan since 1978, at which time Leaping Lanny had the International Heavyweight Championship of the World (imagine Randy Savage saying that) stolen from him by Savage. At the time I didnt know they were brothers. This led to a full summer of Lanny and Randy fueding. I was fortunate enough to see them wrestle (brawl) at the old Halifax forum several times, and the only thing I can say is that the WWE missed the boat on redoing that fued. It was simply the most exciting fued I have ever witnessed in professional wrestling. As well I met Leaping Lanny during this time, and he was good to an eleven year old boy. Lanny and Savage should be both remembered as two of the best players in the game.
Rich L. wrote:
I couldn't agree more. Lanny Poffo was ahead of his time. His mic skills and ring work were great. Had the height of his carrer not been during the World Bodybuilding Federation era he would have been a solid middle carder, like Christian or Matt Hardy, instead of little more than a jobber. At a time when the main event of the week on T.V. would be a match that today would barely make Velocity, it was nice to see Lanny put on a real show before finally lying down for Vince's new steroid monster of the month. Hooray for Lanny!
Jeff Nettleton wrote:
I used to love watching Leaping Lanny's matches for his father's ICW promotion, every Saturday (and later, Sunday) afternoon. Lanny was different from the rest, with a high flying style and muscular physique. Most of the ICW guys were mat-based wrestlers, where Lanny was also skilled, but he flew around the ring like no other on the show. I saw him walk the ropes, perform moonsaults, victory rolls, and rolling reverse cradles; before most American wrestlers were performing them. Lanny always celebrated his wins with a backflip, showcasing his amazing agility. His tag-team with George Weingeroff was amazing. His matches with his brother were off the charts.
One correction, the Poffo ICW was based out of Kentucky and Tennessee, not Florida. That was a different ICW.
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