We return with a ‘Remember When?‘ piece, going back to the summer of 1993 to take in the bodyslam challenge that took place on USS Intrepid. On the day, a series of WWF talent and athletes attempted to slam the 600-pound world champion Yokozuna. In the end it would lead to a mega push for Lex Luger.
By the summer of 1993 we were back to a post-Hulk Hogan era in the WWF. Hogan had returned that year at WrestleMania and beat Yokozuna for the WWF title moments after Yokozuna had beat Bret Hart in the main event.
On July 4, 1993, the reigning champion Yokozuna made an open challenge for someone to bodyslam him aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City.
As the day arrived, some 1,000 fans gathered to witness the event. With Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette at his side, the WWF champion was confident that no one would have the strength to slam him.
Athletes from the world of wrestling and mainstream sport, including Rick and Scott Steiner, Tatanka, Crush and Randy Savage as well as NBA player Scott Burrell, Bill Fralic of the Detroit Lions and Joe Morris and Peter Taglianetti of the Pittsburgh Penguins, tried but all failed.
As time was running out, a helicopter approached the USS Intrepid. To everyone’s surprise, a stars and stripes clad Lex Luger exited the helicopter. In the ring, Yokozuna charged the challenger but was sent into the corner before Lex landed a forearm. On the comeback, Luger picked up the WWF and slammed him.
America wins again.
Could this summer push have gone to anyone but Luger?
As Bruce Mitchell noted in issue 234 of the PW Torch newsletter: “On a surface level, Luger is an understandable choice, and in fact may be the only one. Hulk Hogan is gone, and his drawing power is no more. Bret Hart, for all of his “excellence of execution,” is a proven box office failure. The Ultimate Warrior’s track record with management takes him off the list. Randy Savage is burned out. The Undertaker is dead, or at least one-dimensional. Titan cannot afford Sting. Mr. Perfect is no perfect babyface, although he may have actually been the best option.”
In the weeks leading up to it, with the belief that Jim Ross was firmly behind the whole angle, that Steve Williams was set to trade in his lucrative contract in Japan to move to America and the WWF. Instead, we would have to five years until ‘Dr Death’ made his way to the promotion.
Since breaking onto the scene in the mid 80s, Lex Luger was seen as the heir apparent to Hulk Hogan. Entirely due to his physique, it was long expected that his time at the top would come, despite several poor drawing runs at the top in the NWA and WCW.
Luger joined the company as part of the World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF), in no small part down to a non compete clause after leaving WCW, but once expired he became part of the WWF roster. As the woeful Narcissist…
An attempt to replace Hogan win Luger was doomed from the outset, in no small part down to his lack of charisma. Luger wasn’t far off from being able to go body vs body with Hogan, but when it came to a battle of charisma, he was miles off.
Still, that afternoon in July 1993 the WWF fans were treated to an outdated America vs foreign heel skit to attempt to launch Lex Luger to the top of the WWF card. As Bruce Mitchell wrote in PW Torch Newsletter at the time “Even when it does an outmoded, cynically xenophobic skit, it (WWF) does it on a grand scale – Fireworks! Battleships! Helicopters! The Fourth of July!”
For a look at why the Lex Luger push didn’t amount to much, you can read my piece on the Lex Express here.
This post has been inspired by reading Daprice82’s writing up of old Wrestling Observer Newsletters on Reddit. You can find the poster, and all his posts, here.
You can read all previous ‘Remembering When’ pieces here.