I recently interviewed Lanny Poffo, who wrestled on and off for the WWF for almost ten years. In part one of the interview below, Poffo discussed getting into the business, the WWF signing him and brother Randy “Macho Man” Savage at the same time, getting busted open by Andre the Giant, the Genius gimmick, being paired with Curt Hennig and more.

Make sure to check back early next week for the second and final part of the interview, where Poffo discussed his strange four-year run with WCW, the only time he saw Eric Bischoff, why Randy Savage had heat with WWE, the new Randy Savage DVD, why we shouldn’t “hold our breath” for a Savage WWE Hall of Fame induction and more.

You can follow Poffo on Twitter @LannyPoffo. You can also check out his website at GeniusLannyPoffo.com and purchase his two Amazon best-selling books, Wrestling With Rhyme and Limericks From The Heart (And Lungs!).

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Wrestling INC: Wrestling is obviously in your blood. How early on did you realize you wanted to be involved in the business?

Poffo: I was the youngest in the family and had to ride in the backseats. I thought everyone’s father was a wrestler. I remember one night I woke up and there was a championship belt in bed with me, so I thought that was pretty cool. I really wanted to be a baseball player, but it’s very vicious. They take a number 2 pencil and strike your name from the list, nobody loves you. I got into wrestling at the age of 18, I’m gonna be 60 years old December 28.

Wrestling INC: Were you trained by your father [Angelo Poffo]?

Poffo: I was trained by my father, but he said “I’ll give you the basics but it’s your job to learn from everybody. Learn from bad workers – learn what not to do. Learn from good workers – pick something up. You should never be done learning and never learning from only one guy.” If you steal from one guy, it’s plagiarism. If you steal from everyone, it’s research.

Wrestling INC: Your father, your brother [Randy “Macho Man” Savage] and yourself started International Championship Wrestling, which had a lot of notoriety and was an outlaw promotion for its time. I remember one time Randy Savage went to Jerry Lawler’s house [who was in the Memphis territory] and was challenging him to a fight on his lawn [Lawler ended up not being home] Do you have any crazy stories from that time?

Poffo: I didn’t want to go out position anybody. I don’t like to people’s houses and throw rocks through their windows. I think if people pay money, they should see a good show. I was the youngest, and I went along with it even though I would have been a lot happier not doing that. Especially since we were there for so many years, it tested my patience. Rule number one is don’t lose any money, rule number two is not to forget rule number 1.

Wrestling INC: Were you concerned about your safety at that time? It was getting heated with the NWA during that time.

Poffo: I wasn’t concerned about my safety aside from driving along the roads in West Virginia in the winter. Icy roads and the hairpin turns, and I wasn’t the best driver on the straightaway. I don’t like violence, I don’t even like arguments. Violence is a tool of the ignorant.

Wrestling INC: Did you and Randy both sign with the WWF at the same time?

Poffo: Well, we didn’t sign anything. Everything was per diem. They wanted him really bad and I was thrown in. They asked me if I wanted to be a heel or a baby face, and I figured since they didn’t have anything for me I’d be a babyface because I think it’s real depressing to be a heel without a gimmick. I got really lucky a few months later I was a guest on Tuesday Night Titans and I figured if I was boring they’d never invite me back. So I wore a suit of armor and I did a poem. Vince didn’t like the suit of armor very much, but he liked the poem and said from then on I do a poem before every match.

Wrestling INC: You actually wrestled in the suit of armor a few times, right?

Poffo: Mostly battle royals. They ruined my suit of armor! Maybe it was a rib on me, but I ribbed them when I kept the money.

Wrestling INC: You were also involved in that spot on Saturday Night’s Main Event and the battle royal with Andre the Giant [Andre headbutted Poffo and eliminated him, causing Poffo to get busted open]. You got busted open hardway, right?

Poffo: I got busted open the “anyway.” I took a razor blade and drew a line on my forehead. There was never any blood on NBC, so they all wanted it to be good. I was Mr. Popularity. After I committed this act of self mutilation, I felt like the girl after the first date who didn’t get called back. The only people to come and check on me were my brother, Rene Goulet and Rick Martel. It was like, “how can I serve you?” and then when they got what they wanted, that was it.

A lot of people laughed at me because I did that for them and wasn’t even invited to WrestleMania 3. I was making the best of a bad situation. I did the best thing I could, I have a footnote in history, since Andre and Hogan drew 93,000 and they needed a babyface to make a vicious heel so they used me for that. Later I’m wrestling Hogan on NBC, so that’s not bad.

Wrestling INC: For a while you were one of the only guys to have a televised win over Hulk Hogan, I think It was by countout. What was that experience like and how did the Genius gimmick end up happening?

Poffo: Let’s be honest, every good thing that happened to me, my brother was somewhere near it. We were driving down the road, and we were thinking of different gimmicks I could have. It was my idea to have “boy genius,” the obnoxious guy who always raises his hand in class. Vince said chop off boy, and I’d just be known as “The Genius” Lanny Poffo. I thought “Vince, what the hell do you know?” but I didnt’ say that (laughs). If you’re going to be a prostitute, at least be an effective one. Go on Youtube and look at my matches with Ricky Starr. I worked on a lot of the feminine stuff in matches with Ricky Starr. In a million years I’ll never be as good as Ricky Starr.

Wrestling INC: How did the pairing with Curt Hennig happen?

Poffo: I just got lucky. I had no idea how it happened, and they just threw us together. The most interesting thing about it, Hennig came to the WWE before that and the first person he wrestled was (me). I realized he was fantastic, like grease lightning, just fantastic. Never tried to use me, always tried to make me look good and thanked me afterward. Randy got a hold of me and asked me what he was like to work with and I told him he was fantastic. He was a great person and I was really lucky to be involved with him. I was very disappointed to find out that, like many other wrestlers, that he died of acute cocaine overdose. I never knew he had a problem when he was with me.

Wrestling INC: We always hear these stories about him being a big ribber. Were you ever on the wrong end of any of those?

Poffo: I was never on the wrong end of it, but you know when they fired me and brought me back about six months later with the Beverly Brothers? My brother took me aside and said “things are different now, you better watch yourself. Everybody’s using the suitcase as a toilet,” and people were actually taking a dump in your suitcase now! I had these caps and gowns – quite an investment – because I was so lucky to have a gimmick I didn’t want to ruin it. Plus when your brother is the Macho Man he would point it out if your gimmick looked cheap on you because he believed in the importance of a first impression. I was so worried someone would take a dump on my caps and gowns, they told me 8 people were doing it like it was a trend. It caused me to hide my suitcase so well, I couldn’t find it myself. I wish I’d had a GPS on it. The reason no one ever took a dump in my suitcase is because they were afraid of my brother. Now I’m not as comfortable on the road because I don’t have my brother to hide behind anymore (laughs).

Make sure to check back early next week for the second and final part of the interview, where Poffo discussed his strange four-year run with WCW, the only time he saw Eric Bischoff, why Randy Savage had heat with WWE, the new Randy Savage DVD, why we shouldn’t “hold our breath” for a Savage WWE Hall of Fame induction and more.

You can follow Poffo on Twitter @LannyPoffo. You can also check out his website at GeniusLannyPoffo.com and purchase his two Amazon best-selling books, “Wrestling With Rhyme” and “Limericks From The Heart (And Lungs!)”.

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