Jim Ross has discussed Bret Hart’s main event run in the 90’s, and the reasoning behind the WWF favouring Hart over the man who was originally planned for the spot, Lex Luger.
Speaking on a recent episode of ‘Grilling JR’, Jim Ross recalled Lex Luger’s time in the World Wrestling Federation. During this time period, Lex Luger was said to be held in high regard by WWF Chairman Vince McMahon. A fan of Luger’s physique, McMahon tried to elevate Luger into the main event picture, pushing the former bodybuilder into angles with the likes of Bret Hart and Yokozuna.
WWF went to great length at this time in an effort to make Luger a star. From the Lex Express tour bus, to Lex slamming Yokozuna aboard the USS Intrepid war ship. However, it was around this time in early 1994 that the company began to favour another up and coming performer who had paid his dues and made his way up the card, ‘The Hitman’ Bret Hart.
Conversing with Conrad Thompson, Jim Ross attempted to pinpoint the exact moment the company decided to favour Hart over Luger. Though he believes there is not one single moment, Ross believes Luger falling out of favour with high ranking officials played a major role in Bret’s rise to the top:
“[Do I remember] One moment? No, I know it would have been after SummerSlam, probably was before SummerSlam, cause if the commitment had been made to go with Lex, it would have been. That decision would have been made prior to SummerSlam, whether you’re going to have the title match between Yoko[zuna] and Lex [Luger], so I’m saying sometime that summer, after the Intrepid [Stars and Stripes Challenge] but before August, Ventura came back with a guilty verdict – we’re not going to go there.”
Jim Ross pointed towards Pat Patterson in particular for championing Bret Hart, Patterson believed Bret, who by 1994 had been in the professional wrestling business for almost 20 years, had the ability and skills of a fundamental performer who could lead the company. Ross believes these abilities coupled with Hart’s in-ring work are the reason Bret is still regarded as one of the all time greats to this day:
“I applaud Pat Patterson, Pat was such a devotee of Bret’s, a lot of us were. A lot of guys who were older school believed in Bret’s working ability, the fact that he didn’t hurt people – as I said earlier – he was durable, fundamentally sound and he was not a spot oriented guy; he was a wrestler, and that’s why he got over and we still talk about him – not because he can do a Hurricanrana. […] So I think that somewhere along that summer it was discovered or realised, whatever, that Lex was not going to be the answer unfortunately”
This change in direction by WWF would result in both Luger and Hart winning the 1994 Royal Rumble. Both men went go on to face champion Yokozuna at WrestleMania X, with Bret Hart ultimately claiming the gold.
Lex Luger eventually jumped ship to WCW in 1995 in one of the earliest and most memorable moments in the ‘Monday Night Wars’. Bret Hart followed two years later following the legendary Montreal Screw Job. Both men went on to capture the WCW World Heavyweight Championship during their tenure with the company.
Despite his infamous run not quite living up to backstage officials expectations in WWF, Jim Ross believes that eventually, Luger will be inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame:
“I believe that Lex will be in the WWE Hall of Fame at some point in time. That’s just my take on it. I don’t have any insider knowledge and all that good sh*t, I haven’t talked to Dave or anybody else about it. I think cooler heads will prevail. At some point in time and he’ll be inducted. But, I think this burning of the bridges, how he conducted himself on his exit, things like that contributed to him.
But if they want to tell stories and they want a visual, Lex obviously thank God still alive, here’s a guy that can be rolled onto the stage to tell his story. He’s in a wheelchair. So, if you’re looking for a story, this could be a great story. A story of success because Lex found true happiness in his faith and many heathens don’t give a shit about faith to any degree.”
Though Luger officially retired from professional wrestling in 2006, he continues to work with WWE in a backstage role as part of their Wellness Policy programme.
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