Lanny Poffo: Wrestling's Poet Laureate
June 7, 2006 by Jake Hamar
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Some would say that professional wrestling is nothing more than mindless
entertainment. An easy escape from the everyday worries of work and home
that doesn't require much thinking. Put two guys that hate each other in a
ring and you have ten minutes of television nirvana. But there was one man
that entertained and educated wrestling fans all at the same time. A man who
made poetry cool by writing his verses on a frisbee and then throwing it out
to the crowd before a match. You know him as "The Genius" Lanny Poffo.
A member of the famed Poffo family that included his father Angelo and
brother "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Lanny combined style and substance into
one complete package. Not only could he infuriate fans with his intellectual
prowess, but he could put on a pretty good match every time. In fact, he was
one of the first North American wrestlers that I can remember performing a
moonsault. It was pretty innovative stuff at the time.
The first time I can remember seeing Lanny Poffo was as a heel in the
Memphis territory in 1984. He would compete in both singles and tag matches
with his brother Randy. They had just come from the rival ICW promotion, a
territory that the family owned and operated. Of course since they were the
"outsiders", they were heels, feuding with the likes of Jerry Lawler, The
Rock N' Roll Express and others. The quality of matches that the Poffo
brothers were having left the other competitors in the dust. No one could
do the moves they were doing. When Randy finally left Memphis and went to
the WWF in 1985, Lanny came along.
While Randy was pushed as a main-eventer, Lanny was involved in the mid-card
scene, but became a cult hero with his unusual persona. After he would be
announced by Howard Finkel, he would proceed to read a poem from a frisbee,
then throw it into the crowd. Since frisbees were immensely popular in the
80's, this made Poffo stand out even though he never got a shot at being a
contender for any major title.
After four years of being used as an enhancement talent, Poffo got a big
break in 1989 when he transformed his "Leaping Lanny" character into the
villainous "Genius", a wrestler designed to not only be ring savvy, but make
his opponents and fans know that he was the smartest man on Earth. He would
split his time between competing in the ring, and also managing the likes of
Mr. Perfect and The Beverly Brothers (Mike Enos and Wayne Bloom). "The
Genius" had memorable feuds with WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, and Brutus "The
Barber" Beefcake, thus culminating in a match where Beefcake cut Poffo's
hair. For weeks, "The Genius" would come to the ring in a wig, which was so
ridiculous it was funny. The feud ended when Beefcake beat Mr. Perfect at
WrestleMania 6 in Toronto.
When Wayne Bloom and Mike Enos completed stints in the AWA and WCW, they
came to New York with a new gimmick and a new attitude. They were given the
gimmick "The Beverly Brothers", a team that was supposed to be out of this
world with grace and excellent wrestling ability. It was a given that "The
Genius" would become their manager. Even though the team came in with some
good momentum, they eventually starting losing to the Bushwhackers on a
regular basis. It was kind of a shock, considering they were voted Tag Team
of the Year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 1989, and were AWA Tag Champs
for almost a year.
In 1992, Poffo left the WWF, and didn't resurface in the wrestling eye until
1996, when it was reported that he was going to debut in WCW as Gorgeous
George, a remake of the famous wrestling star from the 50's and 60's. But
the gimmick never came to fruition, and Poffo never showed up on WCW
These days, Lanny is keeping busy as the author of the children's book
"Limericks from the Heart and Lungs". Also, he is a credit counselor helping
people keep a healthy credit rating and financial structure. It would be
interesting to see if one day "The Genius" will ever make his way into the
WWE Hall of Fame. It would be well deserved since he was one of the most
colorful characters in wrestling during sports entertainment's boom period.
by Jake Hamar ..
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