Monday, July 4, 2011

The Slam Heard 'Round the World

Lex slams Yoko, USA! USA!
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

Photos in this post come from WWE.

It's hard to believe, but it was 18 years ago today that Lex Luger body slammed 550 pound WWF heavyweight champion Yokozuna.  It was known as the 'the slam heard 'round the world.'  Up until that point, the Sumo superstar (actually Samonan, but he was Japanese for the gimmick) hadn't been off his feet.  I think Hulk Hogan had attempted to slam Yokozuna at the 1993 King of the Ring, but failed to do it.

Yoko and Mr. Fuji were on an anti-America tirade and decided to humiliate America's top athletes and WWF superstars on the USS Intrepid.  Here's the YouTube video I found from that day.  I forgot that Macho Man Randy Savage was in ring host that day.  He even attempted to slam the champ but failed.  In fact, everyone did.  NFL players attempted.  NHL players tried.  Even WWF strongmen like Rick Steiner and Crush.  Crush did get Yokozuna off his feet, but couldn't complete the task.

Just as it looked to all be over and America disgraced on her birthday, a helicopter landed carrying a patriotic looking Lex Luger.  Until that point, his WWF career consisted of him playing the ultra egoistical "Narcissist."  Luger was able to get the big man up and off his feet and won the challenge.  And a new pick up truck.  I guess he traded in that truck for the Lex Express bus.

The slam was of course designed to turn Luger face and become the next challenger for the WWF title.  Hulk Hogan had just left the company, this time for good.  Bret Hart for some reason was put out to pasture.  I think Vince McMahon was trying to recapture Hulkamania, and who better for that than Lex Luger.  He had the look, but lacked the charisma that Hogan had.  He embarked on a tour of the United States in his big patriotic bus that culminated with a main event against Yokozuna at SummerSlam 93.  Luger countount.  As we know, titles don't change hands on a countout.

Luger tried to stay the top contender for the months that followed, including co winning the Royal Rumble with Hart.  Both men got a shot at the champ, with Luger winning his match by disqualification.  Again, the title doesn't change hands on a DQ.  So Luger was seemingly out of the hunt.  In fact, I'd say his character jumped shark that night and he slid to more of a mid card status, feuding with Tatanka and members of Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation before teaming up with Davey Boy Smith as the Allied Powers.  Then Luger would leave the WWF for WCW, dropping his patriotic gimmick at the door.

Mirror, mirror...
Back to the original face turn.  Personally, I always liked the heel Lex Luger much better.  The Narcissist gimmick was perfect for him.  He played it off well.  I think the WWF made a mistake though by not pairing him with a manager.  These were the days of transition in the wrestling world, and the manager was starting to do the way of the dodo bird.  Since Bobby Heenan originally introduced WWF fans to Luger, it would have been great for him to be his manager.  But Heenan was solely working as an announcer at that time.

Another idea I had for Lex was this was about the same time that the Steiner brothers were coming in from WCW.  Ric Flair was leaving the WWF and heading back to WCW.  It would have been great if Vince could have resigned Flair, and created some sort of invasion angle back then.  You had two former WCW world champions and the tag team champs, it would have been groundbreaking way back then.  Unfortunately no one had the idea.  Besides, Vince has almost always undermined talent he's brought in and not developed himself.

I wonder if Luger might have won the WWF title had they created some other type of gimmick for him.  Maybe kept him heel and challenge Bret Hart as the Narcissist.   I think Luger's WWF run was mostly a fail when you look at the big picture, but I don't totally blame him.  Vince and company wanted a new version of Hulk Hogan instead of letting Lex be Lex.

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  1. Up until that point, the Sumo superstar hadn't been off his feet.

    That's actually untrue. Randy Savage knocked him down during the 1993 Royal Rumble. Jim Duggan did it shortly after that on either Wrestling Challenge or Superstars. Also Bret Hart at Wrestlemania IX. But he hadn't been bodyslammed until that point. Maybe that's what you meant?

  2. You are correct. I worded that poorly. I do remember he and Duggan before the challenge. I didn't remember specifically with Savage at the RR. Thanks for reading.