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The Macho Mom: Judy Poffo, mother of wrestlers Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo, dead at 90

Angelo and Judy Poffo got married in 1949.
Angelo and Judy Poffo got married in 1949.
Published Jun. 6, 2017

Judy Poffo spent much of her life surrounded by muscle-bound tough guys with over-the-top personalities.

Her husband, Angelo Poffo, was a professional wrestler for decades as was younger son "Leaping" Lanny Poffo.

And her older son Randy Poffo, better known by his in-ring name "Macho Man" Randy Savage, is considered one of that profession's all-time greats.

Yet there was never any question that Judy ran the family.

"She took care of all of us, worried about us and made sure we stayed in line," said son Lanny Poffo, 62, of Largo. "She was in charge."

She was indeed the "Macho Mom," he said.

Judy Poffo died Saturday at the age of 90 at the Princeton Village of Largo assisted living facility.

Her husband died in 2010 at age 84, and her son Randy was 58 when he died in 2011.

Unlike the celebrity men in her family, Judy shunned the limelight. But in one way Judy had a major impact on wrestling — she came up with her son's "Macho Man" monicker.

It was the late 1970s, and Macho Man by the Village People was a big hit.

When Judy read an article in Reader's Digest predicting the song's title would become the next hot catch phrase, she suggested her son add it to his wrestling name.

As Lanny said, "The rest was history."

Family friend and local radio personality Tedd Webb said the intense Randy, who often played a bad-guy wrestler, also inherited his real-life kindness from Judy.

"Randy had a soft side he didn't want anyone to see," Webb said, noting the wrestler was often involved in local charities behind the scenes.

"He was one of the most giving men and got that from his mom," Webb said. "She was a softie who always wanted the best for everyone."

Growing up in Naperville, Ill. as Judith Sverdlin, she competed as a swimmer, diver and synchronized swimmer.

She studied physical education at DePaul University, where she met her future husband Angelo.

As the story goes, Lanny said, his father was showing off to friends by performing a headstand against a door in a university building.

"Mom opened the door, they collapsed into one another and it was love," Lanny Poffo said.

They married in 1949, the same year Angelo would launch his career as a professional wrestler, and the industry would dominate their life together.

The craziest thing about her years close to professional wrestling, Lanny said, was that the circus lifestyle was normal to her.

"She'd worry about us getting hurt," he said, "but she never tried to talk us out of it. It may seem odd to most, but to us that was just our life."

Judy and her husband relocated to the Tampa Bay area in the early 1980s from Illinois. Their sons moved to the area soon after, and Judy never stopped looking out for them.

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It had been Randy's wish that, were he to be inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, his father and brother would be inducted with him.

When Randy was inducted posthumously in 2015 — but by himself — Judy wanted to decline the offer. Lanny said he talked her into allowing it for the fans.

"She was perhaps guilty of parenting too much," Lanny said. "But it's because she loved us so much."

"Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.