Jim Ross has discussed whether or not the decision was made to keep the WWF Championship away from Lex Luger as a result of Vince McMahon’s steroid trial.
Dr. George Zahorian had been a ringside doctor for the World Wrestling Federation. In 1991 the Pennsylvania-based physician was convicted of illegally supplying anabolic steroids. At his trial, one of the places Zahorian was found to have supplied steroids to was the WWF, specifying that they were supplied to WWF Chairman Vince McMahon.
Zahorian’s collusion with prosecutors led to McMahon being put on trial himself by the United States Government in 1994. In the end, the only charge that was put to a jury to decide was if McMahon had committed conspiracy to distribute steroids. The jury took sixteen hours to deliver their verdict of not guilty, with McMahon walking free.
Prior to the start of the trial, McMahon had shut down his World Bodybuilding Federation where he had first hired Lex Luger before moving him to the WWF. The WWF Champion at the time the trial began in 1994 was Bret Hart, who had a very different look from former champions of the late eighties and early nineties such as Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior.
In the second half of 1993 however, the WWF could have gone in a completely different direction as they pushed Luger to the top of the company, having him face WWF Champion Yokozuna in the main event of that year’s SummerSlam. Ultimately that was as close as Luger got to the title, he won the match but only by count-out leaving the giant Yokozuna as champion.
Speaking on his Grilling JR podcast, Jim Ross has discussed Luger never quite reaching the zenith of the WWF and if Luger’s look and size worked against him as the steroid trial loomed large over the company.
“I’m not sure. It has some validity, no doubt about that. So I would say yes, it probably had a lot more to do with it than we’ve discussed. A lot of those guys too, steroid guys, [Ultimate] Warrior kind of guy, their mindset is so tied to their look. I used to see Lex at TV in both companies, he knew I was bullsh*tting him but for a second there he would have been relaxed a little bit and fell for my line of bullsh*t. But I’d see him all the time and I’d say ‘Hey man, are you feeling alright?’ [Luger would say] ‘What do you mean?’ ‘On nothing…’ ‘No really, what do you mean?’ I’d say ‘Just thought you might have the flu or something, it looks like you’ve lost a lot of weight.’ Then I’d walk off and that would bother him.”
“They were so dependent on their look because they knew that they weren’t that great bell to bell. They weren’t great enough bell to bell to just let that work be the foundation of their career. Now they’re looking at their physique as so much a part of their presentation and a lot of guys when they had to come off the sauce they lost a lot of confidence. They thought they lost their ace in the hole. ‘I might not be the greatest worker, I might not be a Funk or a Brisco, but at least I look good.'”
“[…] I think that’s what Vince thought with Lex, he wasn’t the same head-turner at that smaller size. Downsized Lex Luger was not as impressive walking through the airport as a bigger Lex Luger.”
Jim Ross also discussed the prospect of the two-time WCW World Champion being inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame with Ross saying he thinks it’s likely to happen.