Monday, July 4, 2016

Patriotic Lex Luger was a dud

Celebrating at SummerSlam 93

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I don't write this to be disrespectful to Lex Luger. I am really a big fan of his. I've met Lex and he's a great guy. But on July 4, 1993 the WWF tried turning Luger into a great American hero. The intentions were good, but the execution was horrible.

Luger & Heenan: The potential dream team
Up until that point, Luger had been wrestling as The Narcissist. He'd been introduced to WWF fans earlier that year at the Royal Rumble by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. A year earlier Luger left WCW after losing the world title to Sting. The original plan was for "The Total Package" to compete in Vince McMahon's World Bodybuilding Federation. However a motorcycle accident sidelined those plans.

Courtesy: WWE
I always had a hard time buying Luger as a good guy, even in his days in the NWA. Luger was a natural heel. He had the perfect body to play off that cocky, narcissistic jerk. He and Heenan would have been gold as a unit with Heenan doing the talking and Luger taking care of business in the ring. But the Brain had already retired from managing at that point. 

Turning Luger into a hero
Courtesy: WWE
WWF needed a new hero to fill the void that was going to be felt when Hulk Hogan left the company after losing the championship to Yokozuna. For whatever reason, WWF felt the need to have an all American hero face the giant Sumo star from Japan. Bret Hart, the former champion and the man who would eventually dethrone Yokozuna, was sidetracked with feuds against Jerry "The King" Lawler and Owen Hart. 

Crush as the hero?
Courtesy: WWE
Based on things I've read it appears backstage politics played a role in Luger not winning the title. If that's the case I don't understand why they'd completely change his persona. If they were looking for an American hero type to feed to Yokozuna who would be big enough to pose a threat to him without winning the belt, instead of decorating Crush in orange and purple, they could have gone with red, white and blue on him and pushed him a bit harder. 

I realize too that with Hogan gone, the WWF was just entering the steroid scandal. It's been stated before that McMahon was trying to avoid using larger than life muscular Superstars. So it could be Luger was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger
Courtesy: WWE
Luger rose quickly and fizzled out shortly after the Lex Express experience. He got screwed over at WrestleMania X. I really thought he'd end up becoming WWF world heavyweight champion. Then I thought he and Davey Boy Smith as the Allied Powers would win the tag team gold, but that never happened either. I would have rather seen him stay heel and beat Bret instead of the Bob Backlund-Diesel switch. 

Overall, WWF bungled the Luger experience, not unlike other big name WCW/NWA stars who jumped ship. Terry Funk, Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors and The Steiners all come to mind. 

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