“The Total Package” Lex Luger is one of the most recognizable names in pro wrestling history. His rise, fall and redemption will be covered in the latest installment of Biography: WWE Legends, which debuts Sunday on A&E, revisiting a career certainly worth a closer inspection.
Luger had an early run in WCW, including a stint with the title, before a career-altering break in the World Wrestling Federation. After an initial stretch as the villainous “Narcissist,” Luger had the chance to fill Hulk Hogan’s shoes and replace Hulkamania. Yet his red-white-and-blue Lex Express ran out of gas before ever reaching top gear, and Luger ultimately faded to the middle of the card—until shocking the wrestling world with a surprise appearance to close out WCW’s first episode of Nitro. A week later, Luger wrestled Hogan to a DQ finish on Nitro, and he became an integral part of WCW during the famed “Monday Night Wars.”
Now 64, Luger—who is Larry Pfohl—looks far different than the muscled specimen he was during his career. (He suffered a spinal stroke 15 years ago, which has limited his mobility.) His story will be covered on A&E, 13 months after his Icons special was set to stream on Peacock (no official explanation from WWE has been provided for its indefinite delay), but hopefully Biography will offer the same precision and attention to detail that was present in Icons.
Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Luger shared his optimism for the special on A&E, discussed his health and touched on what a potential induction into the WWE Hall of Fame would mean to him.
Sports Illustrated: I had the chance to watch Icons last summer in advance of our interview, and it was an incredible, in-depth look at your career. It is a shame it never streamed on Peacock, especially considering the way it would have resonated with wrestling fans from the 1990s.
Lex Luger: Take heart. This is going to be almost identical as what was on Icons.
SI: You started in the backend of the territory era, but you broke in a very old-school manner.
LL: I was in the very backend of the territories. Then boom, we went national and international. What a time to go along for the ride.
SI: So many peers from the early part of your career were part of Starrcast this past weekend, which featured Ric Flair’s farewell match.
LL: There’s only one Naitch. Isn’t he incredible?
SI: The whole weekend must have been quite a reunion for you, connecting back to people you knew from the Jim Crockett era.
LL: It was a fabulous weekend. Talk about nostalgia and memories. It’s the only time ever the Crockett-era Horsemen were together for a photo shoot and Q&A. You never know, it could be the last. It was a lot of great memories and a lot of laughs.
SI: Your era lost a major star earlier this spring when the great Scott Hall died. You two had a long history, but you’re best known for working against each other in WCW while Scott was part of the NWO—you were even part of the famed Bash at the Beach main event in 1996 when Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Hall formed the New World Order. What are your memories of Scott?
LL: Scott was a great talent in the ring. We hung out quite a bit outside the ring and traveled together. We had a lot of great times together.
We also shared a lot of similar struggles. It was inspiring to see Scott when he emerged from that. I have nothing but love for Scott. It’s a tremendous loss. I have nothing but love for Scott and his family.
SI: You found a true friend in Steve Borden, better known as Sting, and Scott had that in Kevin Nash. I’m not sure I can think of two people that capture the brilliance of your era any better than Hall and Nash, and their story is only enhanced by their close friendship.
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LL: Those two were extremely close. I think Kevin is still in the process of grieving. Those of us from that era, we spent so much time together on the road. We were with each other more than our families for close to 300 days a year. There’s a bond. Even when we don’t see each other, the friendships remain strong.
SI: You’re less than a year older than Sting, and your careers will forever intertwine. What have you thought of Sting’s renaissance in AEW?
LL: I love it. I can’t believe he’s doing what he’s doing, but I love watching. We just saw each other. I always want the best for him.
SI: How is your health?
LL: It’s mind-boggling. I’m in phenomenal health. Other than my mobility issues from my spinal cord issue, I’m very healthy, and that’s a miracle of God after what I put my body through. I usually use a wheelchair or a walker, but I can walk some.
I have great mobility; I drive. But you know how your power will go out for a moment during a storm? That can happen to me, and I’m on the floor before I know it. So I take a lot of precautions. I live totally independently, which wasn’t supposed to happen. I don’t look the same because I don’t hit the weights like I used to, but I’m healthy.
SI: It’s not a question of if, but a matter of when you get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame—possibly next spring—and during your induction, perhaps wrestling fans will see you walk on stage to receive the honor.
LL: I might pop out of the chair for that. I would take that chance, if that moment comes. That honor would be the cherry on top of my career.
SI: There’s no doubt you had a Hall of Fame career, but so much of your lasting stardom was in WCW—and you left WWE on shocking terms to show up on the very first Nitro. That was such a cutting-edge moment, but I’m sure it also left a lot of people upset in WWE.
LL: No doubt about it. But that was a great night. It’s hard to shock the boys, but man, even the boys were shocked. I’d done a house show the night before in New Brunswick, Canada [for WWE], so to show up on the first night of Nitro, it was incredible.
SI: As we discussed in our interview last year, you paid a price for fame. Will this special on A&E also cover the low points that took place during your career?
LL: You’ll see the good, the bad and the ugly. I like that my whole story is in there. There are lessons to be learned in life. I was what I was, and I am who I am now. And this will be my first time watching in its entirety.
SI: I hope the world gets to meet Pastor Steve.
LL: I did a half-mile walk with him the other day. We’re still best buddies.
SI: You haven’t wrestled a match since 2006. What does it mean that wrestling fans still remember you so fondly?
LL: I’m so grateful that wrestling fans still love me and show me so much support. There is nothing but love from me, and we’ll get to reexperience it all on Sunday night.
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.