In June 1993, the WWE was forced into a complete rethink of their main event babyface scene. Having seen Bret Hart drop the company’s main title to Yokozuna at WrestleMania 9 (for a massive 22 seconds before that was passed onto Hulk Hogan), it was clear that the company didn’t think that the “Hitman” was their man. Unfortunately, by the time summer came calling, Hogan had left for WCW, dropping the title back to Yokozuna on the way. For the first time in almost a decade, WWE didn’t have a patriotic babyface around their main events.
Fortunately, in WWE’s eyes, that absence didn’t last too long, as they made the call to replace subtle-patriotic babyface Hulk Hogan, with Lex Luger in a gimmick that was about as subtle as a red-white-and-blue sledgehammer. It was quite the jarring change for Luger, who had barely been in the WWE for six months, and until now had only been familiar with the hardcore WWE audience as a musclebound poser. So how did this change come around?
Well, to properly paint the picture, we’ve got to go back to the start of 1992, where Luger had started the year as WCW champion, despite being on the sidelines. Luger had been on a deal with the company where he only had to wrestle a minimum number of dates (much like the deal that Brock Lesnar currently has with WWE). Following Ric Flair’s departure for the WWE in 1991, Luger won the vacant WCW title, defeating Barry Windham in a steel cage match for the belt at 1991’s Great American Bash show (replacing the planned cage match between Luger and Flair). Despite being champion, Luger didn’t have his contract renegotiated, which led to him being a champion in absentia as WCW entered 1992. An aggrieved Luger dropped the title to Sting, and negotiated an exit away from the company: but with one clause – he couldn’t wrestle for the competition.
In spite of this, Luger would sign for Titan Sports, but would not compete in a wrestling match. Although Luger would appear at WrestleMania 8, mere months after his WCW exit, he would instead be promoting his involvement in the World Bodybuilding Federation – Vince McMahon’s attempt at a bodybuilding promotion, which was roundly criticised for trying to force wrestling-style characters onto an otherwise staid sport. Luger was slated to perform in the WBF’s June 1992 pay-per-view, but instead saw his participation reduced to an interview, following a motorcycle accident. That June event would be the WBF’s last, with McMahon shutting down the promotion barely a month later.
As 1992 came to a close, Bobby Heenan began appearing on Monday Night Raw, hyping up a new character, “Narcissus”, who was seemingly being brought into the company to feud with Mr. Perfect. At the 1993 Royal Rumble, Heenan unveiled his “Narcissus” as Lex Luger (who quickly became referred to as “the Narcissist” Lex Luger). Debuting with a posing routing that looked like it’d been practised to death for his aborted WBF run, Luger’s character was pretty one dimensional: he had a good body, and was in love with himself. The perfect one-note heel, then!
Luger would make his debut the next night at the WWF Superstars TV taping, defeating Jim Powers in a squash match that barely went 90 seconds. Future televised squashes against such luminaries as Larry Ludden, Reno Riggins and Mike Bell would follow as the house show tours saw Luger working against Mr. Perfect in his first feud, sometimes with Bret Hart and Razor Ramon being added to the mix to shake things up. Luger would defeat Perfect at WrestleMania 9, as a future feud with Bret Hart seemed to be on the cards (at least, based on his house show opponent). On the same night that Hulk Hogan dropped the WWE title and exited the company, Luger would be knocked out of the King of the Ring tournament, thanks to a time-limit draw against Tatanka. Luger would continue to trade wins with Bret Hart on the house show circuit, but it would be on the Fourth of July when Luger would get his big break.
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