By 1990, the World Wrestling Federation had four pay-per-view specials (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series) and dominated both national television and cable networks. Hulk Hogan was the face of the WWF in those days, but his brand didn’t quite fit the frenetic energy of a meat stick trying to forge a new relationship with consumers in the ’90s. The first commercial in Slim Jim’s new campaign featured then-legend Ultimate Warrior breaking into the garage of a couple of bored-looking teenagers, screaming about snacks.


“Wrestlers, as a group, communicate energy really well,” says Skinner. “If you’re dozing off on the couch, hearing [WWF wrestlers] on your TV would wake you up.” The reasons the brand switched from Ultimate Warrior to Randy Savage are long forgotten by those involved, but those who remember Savage spitting the iconic line think of him as the soul of Slim Jim.

Remembered as one of the greatest wrestlers to ever grace the ring, Macho Man Randy Savage stepped into the role of jerky spokesman in 1993 and held the position until 2000. The commercials are perfect: the encapsulation of an entire generation’s disdain for authority. For Gen X, Macho Man Randy Savage and Macho Man Randy Savage–adjacent products summed up teenage disregard for the finer things. After all, there was nothing gourmet about Slim Jim or its image.


More often than not, a commercial would begin with a gaggle of teenage boys being scolded by an uptight parent, grandparent, or shopkeeper. Savage would break through walls and ceilings to side with the kids, leaving a path of destruction behind him. “Need a little excitement? Snap into a Slim Jim!” [Tasty shreds of guitar, bolts of lightning, etc.] In one commercial, the kids and their jerky savior annihilate a mom-and-pop lighting store, snapping into Slim Jims along the way, sticking it to the grown-ups.

Though specific sales data from that era isn’t available, these ads accomplished exactly what the brand hoped they would. The campaign not only boosted overall sales but also raised Slim Jim’s profile among teenage male consumers, a demographic that remains at the heart of its following to this day.


Compared to the more innocent, cartoonishly mischievous ’90s mascots (lookin’ at you, Lucky the Leprechaun), Macho Man captured the attitude of the era and distilled it into a pitch for meat sticks. In 2005, five years after Savage ended his run with Slim Jim, ConAgra debuted the Fairy Snapmother, a character “resembling a tattooed rocker with wings - and a familiar MTV-type of humor young males enjoy,” as noted by a press release at the time. The WWF DNA was clearly present in the character. (Savage died in 2011 at the age of 58.)

In early 2019, ConAgra released the Savage Slim Jim, a meat stick three times the length of the Giant Slim Jim and “a carnivore’s dream come true.” Macho Man is the literal face of the product, in what feels like a fitting homage. Whether it’s a pair of out-of-touch Boomer parents or the governing body behind a nutrition label that suggests it might not be the best idea to eat an extra-extra-large Slim Jim, there will always be someone for young people to rebel against. Perhaps this is why the brand’s messaging has persisted for three decades: because conformity is something consumers are always looking for ways to snap out of.