Lanny Poffo performed at WrestleMania events and headlined professional wrestling cards against Hulk Hogan.
Yet, when writing his memoir — in comic form — coauthor John Crowther had to remind Poffo that the book was about his career.
“He preferred to talk about his father and his brother,” professional wrestlers Angelo Poffo and Randy Poffo, better known as Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Crowther said. “That was Lanny. He was humble. He always wanted to put other people over.”
Poffo, a longtime Tampa Bay resident before moving to Ecuador a few years ago, died on Thursday.
He was 68. A cause of death has not yet been announced.
“I would like to pay my respects to the passing of Lanny Poffo,” former professional wrestler Barry Horowitz posted on Twitter. “We had worked together many years. He came from a great wrestling family.”
Poffo’s father primarily performed for the National Wrestling Alliance, winning several championships before retiring to Indian Rocks in 1985. The Poffo brothers moved to the Tampa Bay area a year later.
In the scripted WWE, their sibling relationship was never acknowledged.
Poffo entered the WWE as “Leaping Lanny,” a good guy who recited charming poems and tossed flying discs to the crowd. His highflying offense, which included a backflip off the top turnbuckle that ended with him splashing onto a downed opponent, was considered radical for the time.
“While he achieved some success as a fan favorite,” the WWE website says, “he reached new heights as The Genius.”
As “The Genius,” he wore a collegiate cap and gown, claimed to be the world’s smartest man, and his once lighthearted poems instead incited the audience by insulting their intelligence. That storyline peaked with a win via cheating against Hogan in a match nationally televised on NBC’s “Saturday Night’s Main Event” in 1989.
“He was always proud of that moment,” Crowther said.
Randy Poffo refused entry into the WWE Hall of Fame unless Poffo and their father were inducted with him. After Randy Poffo died in 2011, Poffo told the WWE that they could ignore that request and induct “The Macho Man.”
“I’m the older brother now,” he told the Times in 2015, noting at that time that he was 60 and his brother was 58 when he died. “I get to make all the decisions. I just thought the fans had suffered enough.”
His mother, Judy Poffo, whom Poffo called “The Macho Mom,” died in 2017.
“After that, he lost his reason to stay here, so he moved to Ecuador a few years later,” Crowther said. “He was happy there.”
But he made regular trips to the United States to meet with fans at wrestling conventions. He was in New York for one when he died.
Poffo’s final Facebook post was a photo of him and a friend outside the Gershwin Theatre to see “Wicked.” The marque behind him read, “A cultural phenomenon.”
Jody Simon, a former professional wrestler and current Tampa resident, commented on the photo a day before Poffo died: “You sir, are a cultural phenomenon.”