By Jerome Wilen
Lex Luger was born Lawrence Wendell Pfohl on June 2, 1958. He is best known for his work in the National Wrestling Alliance, World Championship Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation. Luger is a three-time world champion. Luger held the WCW World Heavyweight Championship two-times, and the WWA World Heavyweight Championship once. Most recently, Luger has been traveling to various churches and giving his testimony about his life decision of becoming a “born again” Christian.
Lex Luger: Before Wrestling
Luger attended high school and played football in Orchard Park, New York. He then went on to attend Pennsylvania State University on a football scholarship, but then transferred to the Miami Hurricanes after his freshman year. After sitting out the 1978 season, Luger started the 1979 season as a defensive tackle until his scholarship was terminated. Upon leaving Miami, he played professional football in the CFL (Canadian Football League for the Montreal Alouettes. Luger was sought by the and signed a contract with the Green Bay Packers, but never played in a game and is not listed on their roster due injury which placed him on the team’s injured reserve list for the entire 1982 season as a result of a groin injury that happened during training camp. The Packers ended up releasing him in 1983 during training camp. In 1984, Luger finished up his football career playing for the United States Football league team the Memphis Showboats.
Pro Wrestling NWA Florida 1985-1986
After a failed football career, in 1985, Luger met Bob Roop at a celebrity golfing event in Florida and was given the opportunity to try out in professional wrestling. Roop arranged for Luger to be trained by Hiro Matsuda who was the former trainer for Hulk Hogan and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. The in ring name of “Lex Luger” came from Pfohl being a fan of the comic book villain Lex Luthor, and made his in-ring debut September 1985.
Luger began wrestling in the NWA Florida territory. his first victory was October 31, 1985 against Ed “The Bull” Gantner followed by a title win of the Southern Heavyweight Championship from Wahoo McDaniel the following month. On September 1, 1986, he wrestled NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair for the title at an event called Battle of the Belts, which resulted in a 60-minute draw, thus Flair retained the title. Towards the end of his run in Florida, Luger wrestled in a steel cage match with Bruiser Brody, where Brody did not due his part in the match, thus leading to Luger leaving the match.
National Wrestling Alliance / World Championship Wrestling (1987–1992) and the Four Horsemen (1987–1988)
In 1987, Luger went to work for Jim Crockett’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW), which was under the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) banner. Luger was given the nickname “The Total Package” and began using “The Human Torture Rack”, which is an Argentine backbreaker, as his finishing move. He was first booked as an associate to Ric Flair’s “Four Horsemen” until Ole Anderson was kicked out of the group, thus becoming an official member. Luger started wrestling as a heel His first big feud was with Nikita Koloff, whom he defeated for his first NWA United States Heavyweight Championship on July 11, 1987 from Manager J.J. Dillon who threw a chair over the top of the cage while the referee, Earl Hebner, was down. Luger knocked Koloff unconscious with the chair and then lifted up Koloff in the Torture Rack. A revived Hebner then dropped Koloff’s arm three times with no response and awarded Luger a submission victory.
Luger held the title until the NWA’s first pay-per-view event Starrcade in November, when he dropped it to Dusty Rhodes in a steel cage match. This loss set the stage for Luger leaving the Four Horsemen, as manager Dillon’s interference cost Luger the match. Dillon through in a steel chair that was dropped by Luger in which Rhodes DDT’d Luger on it prior to pinning him for the win. Luger left the Four Horsemen in 1988 after he and the rest of the Horsemen (Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, and Dillon) were the sole wrestlers left in a Bunkhouse Stampede battle royal in which Dillon asked the other wrestlers to eliminate themselves so he could win. Although Blanchard and Anderson complied, but Luger refused and eliminated Dillon, leaving the Horsemen in the process.
Feuding with the Horsemen and turning babyface (1988–1989)
In 1988, Luger turned babyface and befriended his former NWA Florida ally, Barry Windham. Both Windham and Luger formed the tag team”The Twin Towers”. “They first teamed on March 27, 1988 at Clash of the Champions to defeat Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson for the NWA World Tag Team Championship, in which only a few weeks later, a swerve with Windham happened with Windham turning on Luger during a title defense (against Blanchard and Anderson). Windham joined the Four Horsemen. Days later, the Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament was held with the first night in Greenville, South Carolina. A partner-less Luger teamed with Sting, and the impromptu team won the entire tournament, defeating Blanchard and Anderson in the finals.
This resulted in Luger beginning a feud with the Four Horsemen and Windham. He began hunting their leader Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. At the June 8th edition of Clash of the Champions, it was announced that Luger would challenge Flair for the NWA title at The Great American Bash on July 10 in Baltimore, MD. The contract was signed on a yacht with Flair delivering the line “You gotta make it to Baltimore…” to Luger. Upon arriving to The Clash in a limousine, Luger was attacked by The Four Horsemen, leaving him injured and bleeding in the parking lot on live television. During the match Luger had Flair in the “Torture Rack” in which Flair was about to submit. The match was suddenly stopped by the referee, who indicated “Maryland State Athletic Commission” rules about Luger’s forehead “bleeding excessively”. Luger faced Flair in many rematches across the country, never winning the title. The Luger/Flair feud came to an end after December’s Starrcade 1988: True Gritt where Flair pinned Luger in a rematch main event for the NWA title by illegally using the ring ropes.
United States Heavyweight Champion 1989–1990
Luger then wrestled Barry Windham at The Chi-Town Rumble winning his second NWA United States Heavyweight Championship. Luger defended the U.S. Championship on a regular basis.
Luger teamed up with Michael Hayes against Barry and Kendall Windham in a match which Hayes turned on Luger, setting himself to be the number one contender for the U.S. Title. Hayes defeated Luger for the U.S. title at WrestleWar 1989: Music City Showdown when a surprise appearance by Hayes’s ex-Fabulous Freebird teammate Terry Gordy assisted Hayes. Luger would go on to regain the U.S. Title from Hayes a couple of weeks later in a turn that was the beginning a heel run when he pulled Hayes’s tights to win the match. The turn became “official” shortly after, when on the June 14 edition of Clash of the Champions, Luger attacked Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Luger and Steamboat would go on to face each other at The Great American Bash in July with Luger winning by disqualification after he refused to wrestle Steamboat until the match’s no-disqualification clause had been waived.
The late Flyin’ Brian Pillman challenged Luger at Halloween Havoc 1989: Settling the Score for the U.S, Title, which Luger was victorious. He also defeated Pillman in a rematch on the November 15 edition of Clash of the Champions to retain the title and end the feud. During the Clash, Luger made a surprise run in, attacking both Flair and Sting, who had come out to save Flair from a post match attack by The Great Muta. December’s Starrcade featured an “Ironman” tournament between Flair, Sting, Luger, and Muta. Luger was booked to defend the U.S. Title against “Dr. Death” Steve Williams at the WrestleWar PPV, but a real injury to Sting, caused the entire booking of the show to get changed, in which Luger was re-booked to face Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Sting appeared in Luger’s corner during the match, as was attacked by Ole and Arn Anderson. When Luger left the ring to help Sting he was counted out. Luger then was promoted as a “changed man” Luger wrestled Flair in rematches. In the final match of the feud, a few months after WrestleWar, another screwjob finish occurred where Luger won by disqualification against Flair in a steel cage match when the cage rose up from the ground and outside interference marred the match.
In mid-1990, Luger’s focus went back to defending his U.S. Championship while the NWA focused on Sting and his reign as World Heavyweight Champion. Stan Hansen entered the company and the two of them feuded for a brief period of time. Luger eventually dropped the title to Hansen at Halloween Havoc, though winning it back at Starrcade 1990: Collision Course which would be his fourth NWA United States Heavyweight Championship reign. Luger’s third title reign lasted a total of 523 days, making him the longest reigning United States Champion in history. In 1991, WCW withdrew from NWA and the U.S. Title was renamed the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship. Luger started a feud with Dan Spivey, whom he defeated at Wrestle War to retain the Title. Following their match, out of nowhere, Nikita Koloff attacked Luger, reigniting their feud from 1987. It did not last long, as Koloff was being pushed into an angle with Sting instead of Luger. Later that year, Luger again challenged Ric Flair for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship after becoming #1 contender by defeating The Great Muta on the June 14, 1991 edition of Clash of the Champions. With the history of “screwjob finishes” between Flair and Luger, their title match was set to be contested at The Great American Bash in a steel cage match with the added stipulation that, should Flair get disqualified he would lose the title. The match never occurred, as Flair began to have disagreements over his salary and on air character with Jim Herd, who at that time was the president of WCW. Flair eventually quit the company (being “stripped” of the title in the process) and took the World Title belt with him.
Lex Luger: World Heavyweight Champion and departure 1991–1992
With the WCW Title now vacant, Barry Windham was declared the #2 contender and was set to face Luger in the cage match at The Great American Bash. During the match, a double turn took place when Harley Race and Mr. Hughes came to ringside and “ordered” Luger to piledrive (which at the time was considered an illegal maneuver) Windham. Luger did it, winning his first WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
After Luger won the WCW Title, he was the top heel, participating in a controversial racial angle with Ron Simmons where he asked Simmons to join his entourage, but as a chauffeur. Eventually, Luger began to have his own issues with WCW, and the contract he had seemed to have him wrestling less and less while still collecting money. After ending his feud with Simmons, Luger had a brief feud with Rick Steiner, defeating him on the November 19 edition of Clash of the Champions. At Starrcade the following month, Luger was booked with the BattleBowl format, with Sting winning #1 contendership at the end of the night.
Luger’s contract only required him to work a specific number of dates, and having fulfilled them he “sat out” the end of 1991 and beginning of 1992.
Lex Luger: World Body Building Federation and The World Wrestling Federation 92-95
In 1992 following his departure from WCW, Luger joined Vince McMahon’s World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF), appearing regularly as a co-host on the Saturday morning program, WBF BodyStars. He was scheduled to guest pose at a WBF pay-per-view event, but was injured in a motorcycle accident. After his recovery, the WBF was already out of business.
Lex Luger: World Wrestling Federation 1993–1995
After his accident and the closure of the WBF, Luger joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Bobby “The Brain” Heenan “unveiled” him with the slightly modified nickname of The Narcissist, at the 1993 Royal Rumble Pay-Per View. Luger posed before full-length mirrors before every match. ]The WWF also incorporated his motorcycle accident into his gimmick, capitalizing on ‘the fact’ that he had a “metal plate” inserted into his forearm which was said to cause more damage when it struck an opponent. This eventually led to WWF officials demanding that Luger wear an elbow pad, though he would often remove it.
In mid-1993, after the departure of Hulk Hogan from the company, Luger was transformed from a heel to a “mega-face” with the nicknames “Made in the USA” and “The All-American”. On July 4, he took part in a memorable event where he arrived by a red helicopter on the dock of the USS Intrepid and body slammed the over 500 pound WWF Champion the late Yokozuna which no other WWF Superstar could do, thus the “Lex Express” tour, was born traveling the country in a bus painted in red, white and blue to greet fans and to “campaign” for a shot at the WWF Title, which began a feud with Yokozuna. Luger’s title match was granted for Summer Slam 1993, with the stipulation that this would be Luger’s only shot at the title. Luger, with the use of the metal plate in his forearm, won the match, but by count-out which meant that Yokozuna retained the title.
Lex Luger: The Allied Powers and departure from the WWF 1995
In the beginning of 1995, Luger formed a team with the late Davey Boy Smith, dubbed The Allied Powers, as they continued to feud with the Million Dollar Corporation. They wrestled and defeated jobbers on Raw and 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. Bulldog turned against partner Diesel in a match against Men on a Mission which Luger, who was scheduled to team with Smith, was unable to participate in. While Diesel fought King Mabel at Summerslam, Sir Mo tried to interfere but was attacked by Luger, who chased him to the back. The August 27 pay-per-view was Luger’s last appearance in the WWF.
Lex Luger: Return to WCW 1995–2001
In late August of 1995Luger got a call from then World Championship Wrestling Vice-President Eric Bischoff about a contract and Luger possibly “jumping ship”. Eight days after his appearance at SummerSlam 1995, Luger made his return to WCW on the premiere of Nitro, coming out during a match between Sting and Ric Flair. After Luger’s debut, he acted as a sort of face/heel character, not making his allegiances known, except for his long-time friendship with Sting. He merely claimed that he wanted to stake his claim at Hulk Hogan’s World Heavyweight Title, facing him on the September 11, 1995 edition of Nitro, which Hogan won by disqualification. Halloween Havoc was Luger’s official heel turn, attacking Hogan after his match with The Giant and joining Kevin Sullivan’s reborn Dungeon of Doom.
Lex Luger: Feud with the New World Order 1996–1997
In the Spring of 1996, former WWF superstars Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, began appearing on WCW television and claimed they were “taking over” the company. Randy Savage was the leader of the WCW wrestlers against Hall and Nash, with Luger and Sting by his side. Luger, along with Savage and Sting, took on Nash and Hall (who called themselves The Outsiders) and a third, mystery, partner that they claimed was an “insider” at Bash at the Beach. In the first few minutes of the match Luger went down to a “kayfabe” injury, leaving Sting and Savage on their own when the mystery partner revealed himself to be Hulk Hogan. With Luger no longer around, Savage and Sting were “easy prey” for the three who announced themselves as the New World Order (nWo). Luger continued to be one of the leaders for the WCW’s siege against the nWo, wrestling and feuding with a number of their members. On the August 4, 1997 edition of Nitro, Luger defeated Hogan to win his second World Heavyweight Championship in an impromptu match, before dropping the title back to Hogan just five days later at the Road Wild Pay-Per View.
Lex Luger: Joins the nWo Wolfpac Red and Black 1998–1999
After a long war with the nWo, Luger joined nWo Wolfpac, the babyface faction of the nWo. Luger played a central role in the group’s war with Hogan’s Black and white now. On the August 10, 1998 edition of Nitro, Luger defeated Bret Hart to win his fifth and final WCW United States Heavyweight Championship in an impromptu title match, before dropping the title back to Hart just three days later on the live Thunder show on TBS. He remained a member of the new nWo until he was out of action with a legitimate bicep injury.
Lex Luger: New look at the Total Package and Totally Buff 1999–2001
In mid-1999, Luger came back during a Sting/Hogan angle to eventually help Sting win the World Title at Fall Brawl. Luger began another heel run, claiming that Lex Luger was now “dead” and was now going by the new in ring name of “The Total Package” which was created by Vince Russo. He started this “persona” with a Terminator-style entrance symbolizing his “rebirth” and by bringing back Miss Elizabeth as his manager. Under his new gimmick, he began a storyline in which he would “break the arms” of his opponents by placing the arm inside a closed steel chair and stomping on it. In the summer of 1999, he dropped this gimmick and returned as Lex Luger and entered into a team with Buff Bagwell until WCW was purchased by the WWF.
Lex Luger: Wrestling after WCW’s purchase.
In November 2002, Luger joined the WWA, debuting in Dublin, Ireland, teaming with Sting to defeat Buff Bagwell and Malice. Luger made his final appearance with WWA on December 13, 2002 in Zürich, Switzerland, when he lost the WWA World Heavyweight Championship to Sting in a three way match that also featured Malice.
In late 2003 Luger began working for Jeff Jarrett’s Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) in which he teamed with Jeff Jarrett on November 12th in a loss to Sting and A.J. Styles. Throughout 2004 and 2005, Luger made sporadic appearances on the independent scene. He returned to TNA in 2006, first appearing during the April 27 TNA Impact! as the second of Sting’s potential tag team partners for Sacrifice. Throughout September and October, he appeared on Impact! as one of the people helping Sting to prepare for his upcoming match against Jarrett at the Bound for Glory Pay-Per View.
Lex Luger: Tragedy and Triumph in his Personal life
Luger is divorced from his wife has two children. On September 28, 2006, Luger appeared on Trinity Broadcasting’s Praise the Lord talk program indicating he is a born again Christian. In the interview conducted by guest host Steve Borden (Sting) Luger emotionally discussed the downward turn of his career and personal life, including the events surrounding the death of Elizabeth Hulette (Miss Elizabeth) and how it led to his religious conversion. Luger credits Steve Baskin, the pastor of Western Hills Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Georgia with pulling him from what he calls a terminal tailspin. The jail chaplain met Luger in early 2006 and sensed he was in need of spiritual guidance. As of July 2007, Luger has lived in a spare bedroom in Baskin’s apartment.
April 19, 2003, Luger was involved in a domestic dispute with Elizabeth Hulette known as Miss Elizabeth, then his live-in girlfriend, in the garage of their townhouse in Marietta, Georgia, during which Luger allegedly struck her. Cobb County police found Elizabeth with two bruised eyes, a bump on her head, and a cut lip. Luger was charged with a misdemeanor count of battery and then later released on a $2,500 bond. Two days later on April 21, Luger was arrested for driving under the influence after rear-ending another car. According to the police report, Luger had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes, and could not locate his driver’s license. Luger also was found to have had a 9 mm handgun in his vehicle.
On May 1, 2003, Hulette died in the townhouse they shared in Marietta, after mixing Xanax and anabolic steroids with vodka. Luger was arrested later that day after a search of the residence revealed a number of illicit controlled substances, including anabolic steroids, synthetic growth hormones and testosterone. He was charged with 14 drug possession counts, 13 of them felonies. He was released the following day on $27,500 bail. Hulette’s death was eventually ruled accidental. Luger pled guilty to the charges on February 3, 2005. He was given a $1,000 fine, sentenced to five years probation, and required to submit to periodic drug testing.
In December 2005, Luger and fellow wrestlers Marcus Bagwell and Scott Steiner were removed from a flight from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Winnipeg, Manitoba. They were detained for several hours before Bagwell and Steiner were released, while Luger was held without bail as a result of his outstanding felony charges (he had neglected to obtain permission to leave the country from his parole officer). Luger was detained in the Hennepin County jail for two weeks before being extradited to Georgia to stand trial on December 22, 2005. Luger was sentenced to nine weeks imprisonment, and was released in February 2006.
On October 19, 2007, Luger suffered a nerve impingement in his neck that led to temporary paralysis. He underwent intravenous antibiotic treatment and the doctors said he was expected to make a full recovery. Nearly a month after his spinal stroke, Luger was still in a quadriplegic state, having no movement in either his arms or legs. As of June 2008, Luger was said to be able to stand on his own for short periods of time and walk using a walker.
Sources: WWE and Wikipedia
Visit Luger’s website, www.flexwithlex.com