wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Why Couldn’t Lex Luger Ever Win the Big One?

September 14, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Lex Luger SummerSlam 1993

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

Hey, ya want a banner?

I’ve been told I should promote my Twitter account more. So, go follow me on Twitter.

Robert should go Greyhound and leave the driving to us:

This is about Lex Luger and the Lex Express. I was watching King of the Ring 1993 the other day and realized that it occurred in mid-June. I know that Lex Luger sort of started a soft babyface turn that night (during his time limit draw with Tatanka) but he didn’t turn (all-American) babyface until the 4th of July event on the USS Intrepid. I know that his “Lex Express” run is famous for being a bust, but if Summerslam was at the end of August, that means he basically was only a face for about 6-7 weeks! That seems like an extraordinarily short amount of time to turn a guy who had been heel AND make him the face of the company.

The question is: I always heard that the plan was to give him the belt at Summerslam and that Vince changed his mind, but how could he even determine that the push wasn’t working yet after a short amount of time? Didn’t it take much longer back then to be able to get a clear financial picture? Or was the plan always to have him win at the following Mania and THAT is when Vince changed his mind?

According to Jim Cornette on a couple of different episodes of his podcast over the years, the original plan was in fact to have Luger win the championship at Summerslam 1993, but Vince McMahon changed his mind. However, McMahon didn’t change his mind because he felt that Luger wasn’t working in the role of top babyface. He changed his mind because he thought Luger was working and that they could get a lot more out of him, so the decision was made to continue his chase of the title through Wrestlemania X. Thus, the real answer is actually a bit of a combination of the two scenarios that Robert has proposed.

Let’s keep on the theme of Lex Luger choking with Michael K:

What was Ric Flair’s beef with Lex Luger and why did he refuse to drop the World title to him at any time during any of their programs? Always hear about doing what’s “best for business” and pushing new guys and Ric refused to do this with Luger. I heard Luger had a feeling of self importance which rubbed people the wrong way, so was this the reason? Did Ric not like Lex for other reasons? Or did he just have that big of a hard-on for Sting that he just had to give him the title?

My recollection is that the only real time that there was consideration given to Luger unseating Ric Flair for a world championship was back in 1990, when Sting was supposed to have beaten Flair but was then taken out of commission by a knee injury.

Going back to Jim Cornette and his podcasts, the reason that Luger didn’t step up to beat Flair for the championship in lieu of the Stinger is not because the Nature Boy had any particular disdain for Lex but rather that Flair felt that Sting was the heir apparent and the one who should be “made” by taking the belt from him, with the thought being that moment would be cheapened if anybody else did it beforehand. So, we’re really dealing with a motivation borne out of loyalty to Sting as opposed to any issue with Luger.

Tyler from Winnipeg wants to ask about the former El Colibri:

Did Rey Mysterio use the 619 much before signing his first WWE contract?

It depends on what you want to call a “619.”

If you watch his pre-WWE matches, you’ll see Rey Misterio run up to the ropes and perform the exact same motion as the 619, but he won’t be using it as an offensive maneuver. Instead, he’ll be using it as a “fake out” for a dive to the floor, often portrayed as him stopping the dive in midstream because he’s realized that his opponent has moved out of the way. You can see one example here, just after the four minute mark:

It’s worth noting that this move wasn’t original to Rey Rey. It was actually popularized (and I believe even invented) many years earlier by Satoru Sayama, the first wrestler to portray the character of Tiger Mask. However, Misterio definitely refined the move and made it look better, as Sayama tended to do it in more of a seated position, whereas we all know Rey goes horizontal. You can see Tiger Mask’s version of the move shortly after 7:30 in this video:

However, it wasn’t until WWE that the King of Mystery figured out that he could transform this dive fake into a kick, and it wasn’t until that happened that it was referred to as the 619, named after the area code of Rey’s hometown of San Diego.

Connor also sends me questions under a mask using the name of Spriggan:

What are your thoughts on The Amazing Red as a performer? He was featured prominently in the early days of Ring of Honor, was awesome to watch in Scramble matches and I loved his finish the Infra-Red

Any thoughts on why Vince didn’t sign him up?

As far as my personal thoughts are concerned, Red always seemed like a perfectly serviceable independent-level guy, but I always felt that there were others who could do similar athletic spots to him but were better at the fundamentals of putting together a wrestling match. Those guys with better fundamentals – AJ Styles, Paul London, Spanky, and so on – went on to bigger and better things, whereas Red always stayed at that level of being an independent guy or at best a lower-card wrestler in a second-tier “big” promotion like TNA.

Why didn’t he ever wind up in WWE? I’m sure that part of it is size, because, even though the company has warmed up to the idea of using smaller wrestlers over the last ten or fifteen years, Red was at his hottest and therefore his most likely to be snapped up by the E in 2002 and 2003, and at that point they still weren’t hiring a lot of talent who looked like him, no matter how great they were in the ring. On top of that, TNA got to Red before WWE could and had him signed to a contract between 2002 and 2005 when, again, he was getting his most positive press. Then, in 2005, he suffered an injury that, aside from two matches in 2006, put him on the shelf for put him on the shelf for three years. He did eventually come back but without a lot of the buzz that surrounded him in the early days, making him less likely to get a big league deal.

Nelson is a superheavyweight:

Not sure if you were a fan of MTV’s The State, which aired back in the 90’s, but I was and have recently begun watching old episodes on YouTube. I was watching the episode at the below link today, and to my surprise, around the 2:34 mark there was a very familiar song playing in the background, none other than The Hardy Boyz/Jeff Hardy’s theme song! I’ve heard other wrestler theme songs in other forms of media before, but never one as iconic as this theme.

Given that this episode aired in 1994/95, and The Hardys’ first major run was in ‘98 (despite starting in ’94, where I don’t think they had an entrance theme), how did this occur? I assumed Jim Johnston wrote the song and it was WWF/E property. Any idea?

The Hardys theme that you’re referring to was neither produced nor owned by the WWF, and that actually wasn’t uncommon in the mid and late 1990s. Instead of coming up with an original song for every wrestler, back in those days the Fed would actually use quite a bit of stock music. If you’re not familiar with the concept of stock music, there are companies that produce songs for the sole purpose of being cheaply licensed out to different media companies for their projects. The licenses are also typically non-exclusive, which means that occasionally you could hear a WWF theme song on Raw and then hear it in a non-WWF commercial that was airing during Raw.

Other examples of this include the Holly cousins’ theme song, the Blue Meanie’s entrance music, and the ditty that Brian “Spanky” Kendrick used to bebop out to.

WCW actually did this more frequently than than the WWF did, with wrestlers like Chris Benoit, Rey Misterio Jr., and Blitzkrieg all coming out to stock music. This also included almost all of WCW’s “sound alike” themes which were evocative of popular music, including Diamond Dallas Page’s theme that sounded an awful lot like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Chis Jericho’s theme that bit off of Pearl Jam’s “Evenflow,” and Raven’s “Come as You Are” clone.

Some of the WCW stock themes were actually instrumental versions of stock songs that could also be licensed with lyrics, as you can hear here with Chris Benoit’s theme:

Jesse wants to talk about the first Intercontinental Champion:

WWE (and historically most other promotions) has often preyed on fears and bigotry during various time periods with foreign characters, characters based on stereotypes, etc. For the most part WWE isn’t run by anyone who fits any of those descriptions.

I’ve always wondered tho about the WWE’s homophobic content and whether it caused tension with Pat Patterson. Considering Pat Patterson’s importance to creative and laying out matches and his relationship with the McMahon family as a whole I’ve always found that it a little curious that they’d go to gay jokes or gay fear as often as they have. Do you know if it mattered to Pat? Or this all part the sort of old school wrestling idea that if it makes dollars it makes sense?

Patterson released a ghost-written “autobiography” entitled Accepted in 2016, roughly two years after he publicly came out on an episode of WWE’s Legend’s House. (His sexuality had been an open secret for as long as anybody could remember, but that was the official reveal.) In both the book itself and interviews promoting it – including this one with Newsweek – Patterson addressed the question of whether he had ever faced homophobia in professional wrestling, and his answer was usually an unqualified “no.”

Of course, this doesn’t directly address Jesse’s question, because the specific question that Patterson was answering was whether there was any homophobia directed towards him, not whether there was any homophobic content in wrestling and whether he was upset by it. However, if he had a problem with wrestling’s content, it certainly would have been a more complete answer to the question about homophobia for Pat to say something to the effect of, “There was never any bigotry directed towards me in the locker room, but I certainly felt that [insert gimmick/angle/etc.] was a big problem.”

However, without Patterson ever having gone on the record about saying he had an issue with gay panic or the like in professional wrestling, I think that we have to say there was never an issue, unless and until he says otherwise.

Jon is amazed this column hasn’t flopped:

What are some of the most memorable gimmicks and storylines that should have worked but just didn’t get over?

Also, the reverse: what gimmicks and storylines did get over that had no business doing so?

I have a hard time saying that something “should” have gotten over or “shouldn’t” have gotten over, because, at the end of the day, the goal of professional wrestling is to get over and make money. If it does those things, it’s a success, regardless of what conventional wisdom is out there about what works and doesn’t work with audiences.

However, I have to admit that there are things that surprised me, or at least are a bit surprising when I look back at them in retrospect.

When I think of something that in some respects ought to have worked but didn’t, the first thing that comes to my mind is “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s heel turn in 2001. To a certain extent, I understand why it didn’t work, because Austin was the biggest babyface in the history of the WWF and it hadn’t been too long since he made his way back from a significant injury. If you go back and watch the shows in which Austin played the role, though, he was excellent at it. If you wrote down everything he did on a piece of paper and compared it to the tactics of great heels of the past, you’d be hard pressed to explain why he wasn’t flourishing in the role. It’s just something that the audience wasn’t ready for, though.

As far as gimmicks that seem like a flop if you just look at them on paper, the prime example is the Undertaker. Normally, fans don’t go for supernatural elements in wrestling. Papa Shango, who debuted only a couple of years after Taker, is deemed too hokey and cartoonish. Dustin Rhodes did a worked shoot promo in WCW about how his short-lived “Seven” character made him look like Uncle Fester. People rolled their eyes when the Ultimate Warrior magically appeared in a mirror that Hulk Hogan was looking into. And yet, many of the same people who reacted negatively to those gimmicks love them some Undertaker, even though he’s been portrayed as having the ability to magically shoot lightning, rise from the dead, and teleport. Sometimes, though, the right performer comes along at the right time and is able to overcome material that would be career poison in the hands of a less-talented individual. That’s exactly what happened with the Undertaker character.

Uzoma is a high flyer of the highest magnitude:

1. Had Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr. signed with WWE, were they supposed to face off in the finals of the Cruiserweight Classic?

It certainly seems that way. The two men were the biggest stars in the wrestling industry as a whole who were involved in the tournament, and, according to the September 6, 2016 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, it “looked like” the tournament was building to an Ibushi versus Sabre match from the beginning, though the ultimate results were going to depend on who had signed and who had not. The September 19 edition of the same publication, which covered the tournament finals, described TJ Perkins as the Cruiserweight Classic’s “winner by default,” due to the fact that neither Sabre nor Ibushi wanted to sign full-time WWE deals. (I emphasize full-time, because Ibushi in interviews while the tournament was ongoing made it clear that he was willing to work for WWE on a part-time basis, but WWE did not want to employ part-time wrestlers. Insert your own Brock Lesnar joke here.)

2. Was Ibushi the MVP of the CWC?

Probably yes. If you look to the Wrestling Observer star ratings for the tournament, the two highest-rated matches were ****1/2 stars, and Ibushi was in both of those – namely his semifinal against Perkins and a second round match against Cedric Alexander. The only other matches in the tournament that ranked at over **** were the finals between Perkins and Gran Metalik and a quarter-final match between Metalik and Akira Tozawa, both of which clocked in ****1/4. Thus, you would probably call Ibushi the MVP, though Metalik (known elsewhere in the world as Mascara Dorada before the tournament) would qualify as a close second.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].

article topics :

Ask 411 Wrestling, Ryan Byers