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

(Image courtesy of accelerator3359.com)

(Image courtesy of accelerator3359.com)

Craig Wilson

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

Previously 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 Luger that Vince tried the hardest, yet was Lex Luger 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, Luger was soon on the WWF roster as a competitor.

However, it is worth noting here that Vince put a lot of faith in Luger in this role making him the face of the WBF and having an on-air interview between Luger and Heenan at Wrestlemania 8. Unfortunately, he 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’ 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 he was transformed from a heel into a mega-face as Vince tried to recreate the Hogan ‘all-American’ magic of old and placed him into a feud with the WWF Champion Yokozuna. One memorable part of this was when Lex 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 he 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 his only attempt at the title.

Soon after he 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 (Luger as captain with The Undertaker and the Steiner Brothers) and the Foreign Fanatics (Yokozuna, Crush, Borga and Quebecer Jacques) which Luger’s team won.

At the 1994 Royal Rumble, Luger 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 Luger and at Wrestlemania X he 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 Luger’s involvement in the title picture and he would soon continue his association with Tatanka that soon saw rumours swirl that he would turn heel and align himself with The Million Dollar Corporation but in the end it was Tatanka that joined the faction.

Luger’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 Luger’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, he just wasn’t able to make that connection. 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 Luger afterwards, I think it’s more a case that he realised that Luger was destined to never be the top man in the eyes of the WWF fans no matter how hard he tried.

For me, Luger 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 Luger 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 Luger. 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 Luger and the rest, as they say, is history.

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12 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

    Liked by 1 person

  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…..

      Liked by 1 person

      • 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: https://ringthedamnbell.wordpress.com/contact-us/

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    • The whole ‘Americana’ angle just fell flat. Especially since it wasnt too far removed from The Narcissist. Vince should have just billed him as The Total Package Lex Luger coming over from the rival company. Its how we all knew him! They did the same thing with Dusty Rhodes. We already know and love him as he is. We didn’t need the yellow polka dots .

      Liked by 1 person

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Well That Didn’t work: The Patriot | Ring the Damn Bell

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  7. Pingback: Remember When…The Lex Luger Took on Yokozuna on USS Intrepid | Ring the Damn Bell

  8. Luger got a huge push with the second biggest bodyslam heard around the world. Lex Express was actually successful, but here is the problem. Imagine you brought in Hulk Hogan on January 24, 1984 to face the heel foreigner Iron Sheik who has the World title, Hulkamania is running wild and he gets a countout victory. Would wrestling be the same today? Heck no, Lex had steam going into SummerSlam \93, but Vince saw $$$ for Wrestlemania and they did the finish at SS as the greatest countout in history (what a celebration lol).
    Vince has always had a problem with how to capitalize with two big babyfaces co-existing at the same time. Hulk and Macho (No Holds Barred is the reason for mega powers exploding, Hulk was making huge money with Boss Man while Macho was champ and drawing money), Lex and Bret Hart, I would say Bret and Shawn in 96 too, but Bret took time off after the world tour and leaned towards WCW. Also in later eras like Cena and Punk.

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  9. Lex Luger was a top draw in 80s /90s in JCP/WCW he along side Sting feuding with the likes of the Horsemen are pretty much one of the biggest highlights of that era in professional wrestling. They didn’t sell out Madison Square Garden but they sure as hell put in a lot of work and were a big deal to fans of professional wrestling (not just WWF wrestling) . for people who watched only WWF at the time its sad to say that they missed out on some good wrasslin. It goes without saying that Vince Mcmahon and or the other big wigs at WWF were aware of Lex’s popularity and that many wrestling fans who were into both All American Wrestling and WCW Worldwide knew who Lex Luger was just as they knew who Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes were , He wasn’t just the big boring muscled guy who all of a sudden appeared in WWF as the narcissist one day and captain America the next. He was Lex Luger the guy who put big guys like Nikita Kollof in a Torture Rack. I don’t think Lex Luger failed at anything I think in Pro wrestling you try things but at the end of the day it may not play out as you planned so you improvise. Many factors could have had a hand in Luger not becoming the next all American hero that Vine Mcmahon wanted him to be, It could have been that his personality didn’t suit the roll, it could have been internal politics, it could have been lack of response from the fans, it could have been all of the above or none but at the end of the day that does not mean he failed. the fact is that he along with the other wrestlers of that time kept people watching bith the TV shows and the pay per views, when he went to WCW he had people switching to Nitro I don’t see failure there.

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