Why did the Lex Express run out of gas in the WWF?

Craig Wilson

(Image courtesy of accelerator3359.com)

(Image courtesy of accelerator3359.com)

Despite much fanfare on his arrival and a series of pushes throughout his run with the WWF, Lex Lugar failed to reach the heights many including Vince McMahon had hoped for. Here, Craig Wilson looks at the various reasons behind this.

Recently I looked at the importance of Hulk Hogan on the face of wrestling and few can really argue against how he changed wrestling as we know it. Few know that quite as much as Vince McMahon who made Hogan his flagship star and rode on his coattails as Hogan became the biggest name in wrestling and took the then WWF with him.

Since then Vince has tried to recreate the magic a few times, initially with the Ultimate Warrior but it was perhaps with Lex Lugar that Vince tried the hardest, yet was Lex Lugar really the best choice to do this with? I think not.

Lugar debuted in the WWF in 1992 when Vince tried dabbled in creation a World Bodybuilding Federation. After realising that this wasn’t going to make him the millions he had hoped, Lugar was soon on the WWF roster as a competitor.

However, it is worth noting here that Vince put a lot of faith in Lugar in this role making him the face of the WBF and having an on-air interview between Lugar and Heenan at Wrestlemania 8. Unfortunately, Lugar was soon in a motorcycle accident and by the time he returned the WBF was done and dusted.

His next appearance was as ‘the Narcissist’ Lex Lugar where he would pose pre-match in full length mirrors. The WWF also incorprorated his motorcycle crash into this angle with him knocking out superstars with the steel plate in his arm with the powers that be later urging him to cover his arm up.

His second big break came when Hogan left the promotion in the summer of 1993 and Lugar was transformed from a heel into a mega-face as Vince tried to recreate the Hogan ‘all-American’ magic of old and placed Lugar into a feud with the WWF Champion Yokozuna. One memorable part of this feud was when Lugar was the only superstar to slam the near 600 pound superstar on the deck of USS Intrepid.

Following this bodyslam thus began ‘The Lex Express’ tour across America as Lugar campaigned for a title shot that he ultimately got at Summerslam 1993 when he was only able to defeat Yoko via countout and as per the stipulation, this was to be Lugar’s only attempt at the title.

Soon Lugar was thrust into a feud with the anti-American Ludvig Borga – although what problem Finland had with America is still unclear – which culminated in the match at the 1993 Survivor Series between the All-Americans (Lugar, The Undertaker and the Steiner Brothers) and the Foreign Fanatics (Yokozuna, Crush, Borga and Quebecer Jacques) which Lugar’s team won.

At the 1994 Royal Rumble, Lugar and Bret Hart were the last two superstars in the rumble with both going over the top rope together and their feet hitting the ground simultaneously. Being “co-winners” meant both would get a shot at Yokozuna at Wrestlemania X.

By this point, you can see that Vince was starting to lose faith with Lugar at at Wrestlemania X Lugar was disqualified in his match with Yoko and later on in the evening Bret Hart would defeat the WWF Champion to regain the title.

The ended Lugar’s involvement in the title picture and Lugar would soon continue his association with Tatanka that soon saw rumours swirl that Lugar would turn heel and align himself with The Million Dollar Corporation but in the end it was Tatanka that joined the faction.

Lugar’s last involvement with the WWF was when he was teamed with the British Bulldog as ‘the Allied Powers’. They made a good enough impact on the tag team division and made their pay-per-view debut as a tag team at WrestleMania XI, defeating the Blu Brothers. After this they earned a shot at the WWF Tag Team Championship against Owen Hart and Yokozuna at In Your House 2: The Lumberjacks but failed to win the titles and after Summerslam 1995 Lugar’s contract expired and he left the promotion without informing Vince and showed up on WCW Nitro television.

So where did it go wrong? Well, despite a number of pushes and attempts to get him over with the fans, Lugar wasn’t able to connect with the fans. The attempt to make him the new Hulk Hogan failed for a number of reasons. He may have had a similarly impressive physique, but he lacked the name appeal and charisma of the Hulkster and it was clear that the landscape was changing a bit. The fans aligned themselves more with Bret Hart after the 1994 Royal Rumble and it was little surprise that the Hitman ended the night as WWF Champion.

It would be a bit harsh to say that Vince lost interest in Lugar afterwards, I think it’s more a case that he realised that Lugar was destined to never be the top man in the eyes of the WWF fans no matter how hard he tried.

For me, Lugar always came across as wooden and never appeared natural in the position he was put in during his spell in the WWF and upper-midcarder at best but never the main event. The Allied Powers perhaps could have worked out, it certainly strengthened the tag team division, but soon fizzled out. By this point the WWF were clearly done with Lugar as demonstrated by the fact they allowed his contract to expire and disappear without much fanfare.

Ultimately, it was his lack of charisma that let down Lugar. He was never going to be the new Hulk Hogan but with more charisma then he could have been much more of a success in the WWF than he was. Ultimately, the fans took to Bret Hart in 1994 and not Lugar and the rest, as they say, is history.

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6 thoughts on “Why did the Lex Express run out of gas in the WWF?

  1. Pingback: Moments that Changed Wrestling History: Monday Night Wars | Ring the Damn Bell

  2. First of all if you think if you have done something different by bashing Luger here, let me tell you you sound like an idiot pretending to have brains….how old are you? 10? If you followed wrestling in early 90s Luger was a major star in WCW..a top draw..a fan favorite….he earned a name for himself in the wrestling world…..ok his mic skills didn’t match those of HBK, Hogan or Bret but his was pretty decent..just check some old promos of him in wcw….obviously Vince wanted to cash on Luger’s worldwide appeal and gave him a push in wwf…it was for his interest but the idea of not giving the belt despite so mucg of buildup was sheer crap….i5 was Vince’s fault..he never used Luger properly..Luger had a huge fan following in WWF aswell….crowd loved him….he was more suited for heel rather being a babyface……Vince got pissed off when he left WWF for WCW and till date he gives negative reviews about Lex Luger and ask guys like u to write articles like this….even when you have no idea about the wrestling era you are talking about..it’s so funny people read something which they are made to read and then write reviews without having the actual knowledge of it

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  3. What a ranting response. First up, Vince McMahon never asked me to write the piece – what a childish thing to say. Pushing your argument style, based on insults, to one side it’s worth pointing out that this post was written by myself based entirely on my thoughts on the era. You say I have no knowledge of the era but that’s just farcical. Not only am I involved in a podcast project looking at wrestling in 1993 but this was the time I stopped watching the WWF product largely, but not exclusively, because of how little interest I had in the Luger character.

    Whilst I appreciate you taking the time to visit the blog – I remain unconvinced that you bothered to the read the post and instead just charged in and left an angry comment. However, one thing I can agree with you on is the utter pointlessness of the Luger express angle not culminating in a WWF title win at SummerSlam.

    If you have the time, or indeed the interest, I advise you check out the wrestling 20 years ago podcast where I share my thoughts on Luger: http://www.wrestling20years.com/

    Basically, he wasn’t the man to lead the company back in 1993 but, and this says more about the WWF, there was no one better placed than him.

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    • probably you started following wrestling after Luger’s WCW run, he had a better heel character in WCW, I liked your other posts but this one made me comment because I found it very common to what today’s wrestling fans think, they have no idea what wrestling was during early 90s or late 80s. What I think is it was more of Vince’s fault that Lex Express failed, ….actually it didn’t…Luger had a successful run in WWF, but he was not able to be the next Hogan which Vince wanted him to be…..thats Vince’s bad…..it was the era for new characters, HBK, Bret all had their charisma, style n technique…..Hogan thing was out, fans were bored of the patriotic american thing, they were into new age rule breakers like HBK…..

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      • I started following the WWF in 1990 but never watched much WCW as I couldn’t take to it in the same way. However, I did follow much of Luger’s run and thought very little of it.That’s what prompted me to write the piece. Personal opinion though and I wouldn’t expect everyone to agree. I am not too well versed by his NWA/WCW run but found him as one dimensional in the ring as Hogan but wildly lacking the charisma that got Hulk over.

        I take your point re the patriotic gimmick though. The WWF went to the well once to often with Luger as the all-American hero but that didn’t stop them trying again in 1997 with The Patriot.

        However, I appreciate your remarks about liking the other pieces you have read on the blog and if you ever feel like sharing your views, fire an article over to us: http://ringthedamnbell.wordpress.com/contact-us/

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  4. I always thought WWE dropped the bell with Luger. He was well over with the fans and can’t fathom as to why he never pinned Yokozuna at Summerslam. I think the better main event would have been Luger and Bret Hart at Wrestlemania X with Bret going over. My opinion though.

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