Lex Luger Interview
Lex Luger was one of the brightest wrestlers in the late eighties and throughout the nineties, breaking through with the legendary Four Horsemen.
Luger then caught the eye of Vince McMahon who was starting up the World Bodybuilder Federation and he continued working with the WWF before rejoining WCW on the first ever Monday Nitro.
The 58-year-old, from Buffalo, New York, is a three-time World Champion and a five time United States Champion.
We caught up with ‘The Total Package’ to talk about coming up with the name Lex Luger, the Miss Elizabeth tragedy, working for the WWE Wellness Policy Programme, the prospect of Sting v Undertaker and much more.
How did you first get into the sport of professional wrestling?
I was actually playing American Football and that’s all I had ever done, I never watched wrestling and didn’t know anything about it. I had read and heard about the success of WrestleMania’s but had never seen one, I had heard about Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant breaking the indoor attendance record, and that’s when I thought to myself there must be something to this wrestling thing.
In the off season for American Football I walked into a wresting office and they introduced me to a guy, Hiro Matsuda who was famous for training guys like Hulk Hogan, and ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff, it was very much meeting the right person at the right time for me.
How did you come up with the name Lex Luger?
I was playing around never thinking that I would be asked what my name was, I was pretty sure I would be assigned a name. Just in case whilst I was training I looked up a last name Luger because in the mid eighties in the States Magnum P.I. was the number one television show, so I thought if Tom select could be Magnum I would be Luger, which is a German automatic revolver and I had German dissent.
I thought of Lex because I grew up a huge action hero and Superman fan and to this day I’m a fan of Superman, and I took the name from his nemesis Lex Luthor. Right before my debut on television they didn’t have a name for me and I threw Lex Luger out there, they shrugged their shoulders and said it sounded good enough and it ended up sticking for the next 15 years.
Very early on in your career you became a part of the Four Horsemen, what was that like?
At the time I didn’t grasp the incredible good fortune of that, working with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and JJ Dillon. We all held belts, Ric had the world title, I had the US title, Arn and Tully had the tag titles and what a way that was for me to break into wrestling in the late eighties with that group. I learned so much from them and it was just a great experience and a tremendous break for my career.
What was it like being on the road with Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen?
Ric is exactly how he described it on TV, fancy hotels and restaurants, limos, private jets, it was definitely first class travel, women hanging around, it was the whole deal.
You won your first World title in 1991, what was that moment like?
It’s always an honour, and I was always confident with the path I made in my career, but I wasn’t expecting them to put the World title on me, it’s always an honour when you hold the World title because there are so many great wrestlers that never are world champions.
You joined Vince McMahons’ World Bodybuilding Federation, what were you thoughts on that project?
I thought it was a great segway, from the WCW to the WWE. I had a motorcycle wreck that stopped me from participating in the WBF PPV, I was going to be a guest poser but we were still able to utilise it and use it to continue my wrestling career with Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan as my manager when I was The Narcissist which kept the bodybuilding theme.
I loved The Narcissist character, I had a great time with that and I wish it could of gone on longer, it was a lot of fun.
What was it like when you body slammed then WWF Champion Yokozuna on the USS Interpid?
That was a blast, it was such a great moment, there were some kinks in the segment because it was live and I had got into the ring with cowboy boots on and I had no footing. Yokozuna did a great job, he basically slammed himself, it was a great moment.
You and Bret Hart were ‘co winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble and both went on to wrestle Yokozuna at WrestleMania, you lost and Bret won, was there ever a possibility that you were going to win the title?
I always tried to be a good foot soldier, Bret and I always had a good relationship in and out of the ring and we were thrilled with the way things happened at the Royal Rumble with our feet touching the mat at the same time because we didn’t really get to practice that. Bret did most of the work and hung on to me like a spider monkey, all I had to do was go backwards over the top rope, and it worked out wonderfully and everyone was thrilled.
I thought it was a great idea having a three way, it added a lot of interest going into WrestleMania X. As far as Bret going on and beating Yokozuna and my disqualification, I was looking forward to working with Curt Hennig who was the special referee for my match after WrestleMania but due to contract disagreements that didn’t happen.
What was the reason for your WWF departure?
It was really a last minute thing, I was planning on re-signing, my contract was actually up with the WWE and I actually worked when my contract was up as a free agent for them which nobody knew about and was kept confidential between Vince McMahon and I whilst we were both working out the new long term contract I was going to sign.
Then I just had a casual conversation with Sting, it came out I was a free agent and I didn’t know WCW were planning a Monday night show. It all kind of came together at the last minute and I ended up signing with WCW on the day of the [first Nitro] show.
Is there any truth in the rumours that Eric Bischoff didn’t want to sign you but Sting twisted his arm?
Yeah it pretty much was, Sting was excited at the opportunity of bringing me in and Eric wasn’t such a big Lex Luger fan but he ended up giving me the opportunity to come in and it was a great journey after that. He said he couldn’t give me a big contract but he would look after me, and he did, he would up my contacts and would renew them months in advance, he treated me very well.
What was that first ever episode of WCW Nitro like?
I had wrestled a house show for the WWE on the Sunday, flew to Minnesota on the Monday, signed the contract and was snuck into the building under a towel and ended up going nose-to-nose with Hulk Hogan, it all happened so fast.
What were some of your highlights from your time in WCW?
The Monday Night Wars were a great time to be a part of the company, the NWO black and white and then the NWO Wolfpack, they were incredible experiences. When I used to walk out with the Wolfpack some of the pops we used to get from the crowd were amazing.
The World Championship match I had with Hulk Hogan where I won my second World title on national television, that was a huge moment. It was a real show of respect from Hogan, we always had a good relationship and at the time he had creative control and it was his idea, so I was very honoured he wanted to do that.
You were with WCW right to the end, when the company was bought by Vince McMahon was there any talk of you joining the WWE?
At the time it wasn’t discussed, Goldberg and I both had contracts that lasted for over two more years after the takeover that were guaranteed millions of dollars from AOL Time Warner. So basically I had a couple of years off and I planned on re-emerging back in wrestling probably sometime in the summer of 2003 but I wasn’t sure if I would do Japan or some European tours or WWE.
How would you compare your two bosses, Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff?
Eric was very competitive, very creative, obviously he was very successful and when WCW was leading in the rating he was the main driving force behind that. Vince runs things a little bit differently, he’s more of an entrepreneur spirit and marketing psychology genius, and obviously WWE is a worldwide conglomerate.
Both have a lot of talents and abilities, a little bit different styles and Vince is a lot more of a hands on guy in different departments, whereas Eric is best dealing with the talent and storyline stuff.
Elizabeth died on May 1st 2003, what happened?
I’ve definitely made some poor choices throughout my career. Wrestling was always wonderful and I had the great career I’ve talked about but we have a real life behind the scenes. I had a wonderful wife, my son and daughter; I was living in a mansion on a golf course in Atlanta.
However I was leading a double life, womanising, parting, doing drugs and kept it all secret. We reap what we sow, it’s universal law and it all came uncovered with the Elizabeth tragedy overdosing in a secret townhouse I had in Atlanta when I had my family on the other side of town.
I was definitely leading a very selfish and reckless lifestyle outside of wrestling. I’m very thankful that I met some people and god put some people in my life that showed me there is another way to live.
You have worked with the WWE on their Wellness Policy Programme, what has that been like?
I have a good relationship with the WWE now, and I take part in one-on-one meetings and help in any way I can with the current Superstars there and even some of the retired wrestlers. Working with a lot of the young guys is a lot of fun and if I can encourage them in any way and steer them in the right direction if they are having any problems, I’m happy to help.
What was it like for you to induct Sting into the TNA Hall of Fame?
I was one of DixIe Carter and Hulk Hogan to make a speech and induct Sting into the TNA Hall of Fame, it was great to see both Dixie and Hulk again and to see some of the guys. It was a real honour for me and there couldn’t have been a better person for TNA to induct as the first person in their Hall of Fame. He is a very special friend.
Do you think we could see Sting v Undertaker at WWE WrestleMania 30?
Well as a fan of wrestling I would love to see it happen, I think that match would be absolutely off the chain. I know Sting loves his time in TNA but at the same time he’s never told me he has refused the idea of ever going to WWE. Man that would be awesome if they ever had a match like that, I would love it.