30 Years Ago, Repo Man Stole Macho Man’s Hat
11:51 AM EST on January 18, 2023
When Monday Night Raw made its debut on television three decades ago, it was instantly and noticeably different than any wrestling TV show on at the time. Other wrestling TV shows at the time were generally studio shows that threw to previously-recorded matches, but Raw was presented live—or, if taped, presented as if it were live. The show is still on; it passed 30 years last week and officially celebrates its 30th birthday next Monday. It is two hours longer now, and airs from larger venues, but otherwise still pretty similar. Sometimes small things can be revolutionary.
The second episode of Raw aired 30 years ago today, from the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Center. The announcers talked to the camera as the show opened. And that was when Repo Man struck. Specifically, he struck “Macho Man” Randy Savage from behind. More specifically, he stole Macho Man’s hat.
WWE may not have put all of my favorite wrestling moments on YouTube; the time when Gabriel Byrne cut an in-character promo as Satan from End of Days is conspicuously absent. But someone at the company knows this one was too big to leave out, so it's up there. Repo Man bops Macho on the back, steals his hat, then later in the show gives a maniacal interview to Sean Mooney outside the building.
Repo Man was Barry Darsow, a man who played many characters over the years: Krusher Kruschev, a Russian sympathizer; The Blacktop Bully, a “truck-driving meanie”; and Mr. Hole in One, a golfer who would beat opponents from behind after offering them a chance to putt for a default victory. (He was originally going to be called Stewart Pain, but in a rare bit of good taste for wrestling the name was changed after PGA golfer Payne Stewart died in a plane crash.) He was most famous as Smash, one half of Demolition, a top tag team in the 1980s.
After Demolition broke up, Darsow disappeared for a bit before coming back, basically unrecognizable, as the Repo Man. Even as a kid who listened to wrestling radio shows to try to learn the backstage gossip, I did not realize Repo and Smash were the same person. Repo Man’s gimmick was pretty simple: He was an evil repo man. He’d repossess people’s cars after being late on just one payment. He’d repossess toys from kids. He’d repossess things just for fun. “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too!”
I don’t know if Repo Man was just being rude here, or if Macho Man had bought his hat in installments and was not up to date on payments. The specifics of how Repo Man came to claim possession of Macho Man's hat were not explained. What I do know is that I love this interview. Repo and Macho treat the hat as the most important object in the world. “I’ve got your hat,” Repo says, “and that’s your prized possession!”
Wrestling storylines are rife with MacGuffins. Usually that object is a title belt, or maybe a briefcase or brass ring that entitles you to a title shot. But it can be anything: The services of a beautiful valet, Tatanka’s sacred eagle feathers, custody of Dominick Mysterio. Here, it’s a hat. Macho Man did always wear hats. I had no idea they were so important to him, but sure. He’d definitely be pissed if someone stole one—especially an evil repo man.
This is a little sad, of course. Macho Man—former world champion, second-biggest star of the big boom period of the 1980s, an incredible wrestler and talker—playing around in a feud over his hat. It would even get worse: Later in 1993, Macho Man needed the help of a little person in a creepy Macho Man mask in order to defeat Doink the Clown. Macho could still have been a top star, but his role was reduced to announcing, the one wrestling-related thing he wasn’t particularly good at.
But I think this two-episode feud worked. Wrestling is silly, and sometimes silly things are cool. The crowd was into Repo’s attack on Macho. Because when Macho and Repo met the next week to settle the score over the hat, the crowd went wild.
OK, maybe they were just excited to see the great Randy Savage do his famous flying elbow finisher in a tiny ballroom. Whatever. This feud worked, and I loved this little two-week storyline. Repo Man stole Macho Man’s hat, and Macho Man beat him in a match to get the hat back. Sometimes it’s best when wrestling keeps things simple.