Lanny Mark Poffo is a Canadian-American professional wrestler, motivational speaker and poet. Better known by his ring names, ‘Leaping Lanny Poffo’ and ‘The Genius’, he has wrestling in his blood; his father, Angelo John Poffo, and elder brother, Randy Poffo, were both wrestlers. Trained since early childhood by his father, he entered the ring at the age of nineteen with the All-South Wrestling Alliance. Later, he teamed up with his father to create a tag team, eventually joining the National Wrestling Alliance, where he remained until the age of 24, meanwhile launching a successful solo career. Subsequently, he joined his father’s newly launched promotion, International Championship Wrestling, where he was considered a star. Thereafter, he joined World Wrestling Federation, spending seven eventful years with it. Concurrently, he started penning limericks, most of which are related to smoking, drug and alcohol addiction. Also, a motivational speaker, he now does commentary on ROH.
Childhood & Early Life
Lanny Poffo was born on December 28, 1954, in Calgary, a city located in the western Canadian province of Alberta. His father, Angelo John Poffo, was a professional wrestler and wrestling promoter, known by his ring names, Masked Miser and The Carpet Bagger.
His mother, Judy Poffo, taught physical education for the Chicago park district. Born younger of his parents’ two children, he had an elder brother named Randy Poffo, a reputed professional wrestler, actor, rapper and commentator, popular by his ring names, Randy Savage and Macho Man.
Because of their father’s profession, the boys spent their early childhood in various places, moving several times a year before settling down in Downers Grove, a village in DuPage County, Illinois. To stick to a standard curriculum, they had their early education in various parochial schools.
In Downers Grove, Lanny attended Downers Grove North High School, from where he graduated in 1973. Raised in a family of wrestlers, he had by then developed an interest in wrestling. However, he was equally adept in other sports including basketball and football.
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Early Wrestling Career & NWA
On April 16, 1974, Lanny Poffo made his wrestling debut with the opening match of All-South Wrestling Alliance, appearing against Wayne Cowan. Although he lost this match he remained with the promotion for few more months, defeating Cowan in a rematch on April 23 and Great Fuji on May14.
On July 9, 1974, he teamed up with his father for the first time to defeat The Royal Kangaroos. Thereafter, they continued to appear as a tag team.
In November 1974, the duo moved to Detroit based Big Time Wrestling, which was affiliated with National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), remaining with them till March 1978. Although they were defeated in the first match, it did not take them long to pick up.
In 1975, concurrently with appearing with his father, Lanny began to appear in solo matches, defeating wrestlers like Ron Martinelli, Denny Alberts and Dario Romero. In May, the Poffos won NWA World Tag Team Title and in July, the three Poffos appeared together to win ‘Four On Three Handicap Elimination’.
In 1976, Lanny launched his solo career, appearing more and more in single matches. On May 29th, he had his first shot at NWA World Heavyweight Title on the ‘Wrestling at the Chase’, but lost to Terry Funk. Simultaneously, he continued to appear with his father as a tag team
In July 1976, Lanny Poffo moved to Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling (MACW), which was also affiliated with NWA. Here, he teamed up with his brother, Randy Poffo and toured on the MACW house show circuit, they defeated many well-known tag teams.
In February 1977, as Randy left MACW, Lanny continued to appear as a single wrestler, remaining with MACW till April 1978, thereafter moving on to Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling. In May, he wrestled Randy for the very first time, defeating him by disqualification. Later however, Randy would defeat him. .
International Championship Wrestling
In the summer of 1979, Lanny Poffo joined International Championship Wrestling (ICW), which was founded in the previous year by his father, Angelo Poffo. It was not affiliated with NWA and the shows it promoted were in direct competition against NWA regional territories. Randy too joined the promotion.
Very quickly, Lanny became a star, winning ICW Heavyweight Championship in 1978, 1979, 1981 and 1984. He also won the ICW Southeastern Heavyweight Championship in 1983 and ICW United States Tag Team Championship in 1979 and 1981.
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World Wrestling Foundation
In the second half of 1985, after short stints at Mid-South Wrestling (1984) and Continental Wrestling Association (1984 -1985), Lanny signed in with World Wrestling Federation making his debut on July 13th episode of WWF Championship Wrestling. Soon he built a niche for himself, wrestling as a babyface.
At first, he performed as an enhancement talent on television shows, performing an agile, athletic, high-flying style. May be because of that he soon became known as ‘Leaping Lanny’ and was known by that name until early 1989.
During this early period, he bought Frisbees to the ring, one of which had a short self-penned poem written on it. He would then read the poem before throwing the Frisbees into the crowd. That apart, he also attended house shows, where he defeated many other undercard wrestlers.
In 1986-1987, he competed in a series of Bunkhouse Battle Royals, wearing full knight’s armor. Later in 1987, he competed in Battle Royal on Saturday Night’s Main Event, in which he was head-butted by André the Giant, which resulted in intense bleeding and he had to be carried out.
On March 18, 1989, he turned heel, insulting the local Boston team in his poetry. Until then known as Leaping Lanny, he was soon reintroduced as a highly intelligent, but arrogant heel called ‘Genius’, who wore an academic cap and gown to the ring.
Until early 1990, he was well-established as the main roster player, appearing both on important events as well as house shows. But from the summer of 1990, he began to lose matches, eventually going on a paid leave.
In April 1991, he returned to the ring with a flurry, remaining with WWF until November 1992, after which he took a six months break. Thereafter, he joined independent circuits like World Wrestling Superstars and International Championship Wrestling Alliance, before returning to WWF in May 1994.
In 1995, Poffo joined World Championship Wrestling, remaining with the promotion till 1999. But during this five-year contact, he wrestled only once. However, he continued to receive his paychecks regularly.
In January 2005, he once more returned to professional wrestling, taking part in Wrestle Reunion. Thereafter, he continued to wrestle off and on. Currently he appears as a commentator on ROH telecasts, announcing the actions on the ring.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1985, Lanny Poffo married somebody simply known as Sally. They had a daughter called Megan. The couple divorced in 1996.
Poffo is an anti-smoking activist and a motivational speaker. He has also self-published two poetry books entitled ‘Wrestling with Rhyme’ (1988) and 'Limericks from the Heart (and Lungs!)' (2013). In 2018, he released a biographical comic, titled ‘The Genius Lanny Poffo’.