Born in 1958, Larry Pfohl grew up running up and down the streets of Buffalo. By the mid-1980′s, Larry took on a new persona, Lex Luger, and a star was born in the wrestling business. In Wrestling with the Devil, Lex Luger takes readers on a journey from his childhood in Buffalo to his unbelievable wrestling career.
Many feel that Lex’s toughest battles took place against the likes of Ric Flair, Sting, Yokozuna and Hulk Hogan, but these legendary battles were nothing compared to the personal battles Luger was living with on a daily basis. Pills, alcohol and adultery were just a few personal battles that “The Total Package,” Lex’s wrestling nickname, dealt with on a daily basis. In Wrestling with the Devil, Luger is brutally honest about his past and how it eventually landed him in prison. Luckily, Luger’s story does not end there. Readers get to experience Luger’s redemption, finding faith and hear about his miraculous recovery from a serious injury.
Recently, Luger took the time to sit down and conduct an interview with Queen City Sports about growing up in Buffalo, Jim Kelly, his wrestling career, and how his faith helped him overcome a paralyzing spinal cord injury.
On growing up in Buffalo:
I describe it with warmth and fond memories in the book. I had a great mom and dad in the piano, organ, clock business [Roger's Piano Organs & Clocks]. They’re still in business today, 58 years later in Willamsville! They still open the business every day.
I love Buffalo. I’ll go to Ted’s and get a hot dog. Get some beef on weck and some original wings, and man I’m in heaven. Buffalonians know how to eat!
We did. We’ve stayed in touch over the years. He used to come to the matches with his crazy brothers!
I’m so happy for him. He’s been through some of the struggles that I have and he’s come out very well. He’s had some health issues like I have, and he’s staying strong!
Absolutely, do you blame them? My first appearance was at the War Memorial Aud, before you guys knocked it down! I used to go out to all my Buffalo Braves basketball games and hockey games and y’all knocked it down! My brother and I used to go there all the time when I was a kid. I loved it. Actually, my first appearance in the area may have been at the Niagara Falls Convention Center.
I got overruled as I had no seniority whatsoever as it was the first time I was to go out to the ring. They named me from Chicago and it stuck so they had to keep it that way. I think all my fellow Buffalonians, other than my personal family, thought I had copped out and deserted them. Whether I was a bad guy or a good guy they still booed me out of the building. It was funny. I was like a wrestling traitor. It was always a little thorn in the flesh of Buffalonians.
Kind of unbeknownst to me, I did and I just didn’t know any better at the time. My lawyer said, “Lex, that’s a unilateral contract.” So I just went in there and threw a number out there and they said yes. Until then wrestling didn’t really have any guarantees. I just didn’t know any better coming from football. It did help in a lot of ways pave the way which I think is great. I took advantage of an opportunity where they thought I was going to go to the WWF and I guess that gave me a little bit of leverage.
Crazy how those rumors spread in wrestling.
It was [a makeshift belt]. They were still hoping Ric was going to show up to the building with the real belt. So they had a makeshift one ready to hand me, but they didn’t want me to hold it up since there was nothing on it. It takes a few days to have one of those made and they still thought Ric was going to be there. At the last second when they thought, ‘He’s really not going to be here,’ they handed me a belt with a false plate on the front of it. It wasn’t a real belt. They said, ‘Don’t hold it up for photographers because it won’t look right.’
He wasn’t very happy. The first thing he said was, ‘Well will you still be able to guest pose?’ I go “I’ve got bones sticking out of my arm and my flesh is ripped all off of my body. I don’t think so.” He didn’t sound very excited that I had a motorcycle wreck. It was a good idea. It’d get me in tip top shape for my WWF debut so it really made sense to me, to do the bodybuilding thing. It was actually in theory a really good idea. A good segway.
Luger never guest posed, but famous doctor James Andrews helped him salvage his right arm which was dangling after the accident. The doctor inserted a titanium plate into his right forearm and Luger healed in time to make his debut with the WWF in 1993. Luger was first known as “The Narcissist” in the WWF and was managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Luger mentioned what it was like working with Heenan.
Fabulous. I love Bobby. You go to these autograph signings and there will be all these big stars and current stars there and Bobby will get the biggest line. The fans love Bobby Heenan. He had a great career. What an off-the-cuff and witty, funny guy. A great guy to be around. He was a great way to get me established when I first came into the WWF from the WCW. Just a wonderful guy. He was what you saw on TV in real life. Really funny guy.
Oh I think definitely, genuinely Vince wanted me. I was going through a little cool-off period but Vince is the best at warming you back up. He’s the master marketing genius. I thought I would end my career there. I didn’t have any intention on going back to WCW. I wanted to stay there and make it in the WWF. I already had some good years there. I really wanted to stay there. It was like a family.
A happenstance conversation with Sting is how I ended up on Nitro. If I didn’t have that conversation I’m sure I would have just ending up re-signing with the WWF and probably finished my career there. It’s almost like someone is orchestrating it all.
Luger showed up on the first episode of WCW’s Monday Nitro which was competing head-to-head with the WWF’s Monday Night Raw in 1995. Luger would have a few turns in his character but by 1997, Luger was a good guy in the midst of a battle with the New World Order (NWO). The head of the NWO was “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan who carried the WCW World Title. In an impromptu match on Nitro, Luger was chosen to defeat Hogan for the belt. This was a huge event for WCW/WWF Monday Night Wars and extremely rare since Hogan never lost on television.
Yeah, there was a reason for that. He had creative control. He was the only guy ever in the sport of wrestling in his contract to say yes or no, I win or I lose. He never lost. That was a huge honor. He chose me to win the belt over him on national TV so that was a huge honor. Out of all the guys he could have chosen. Definitely one of the high points in my wrestling career.
Luger’s career with the WCW ran all the way until 2001. When asked if there ever an angle that he didn’t enjoy, Luger replied with the New Blood versus the Millionaires Club angle:
I’d say the end of my wrestling career when they brought in all the young guys. It was like an invasion. They took Hulk Hogan and all these great stars and were beating them all. I think a part of wrestling is that the fans love the longtime, established stars. If the Ric Flair’s of the world hadn’t allowed me to beat him and establish my credibility, you can’t make new stars. That being said, they came in all at once and started trashing us and showing us no respect. Yeah, it’s scripted but I felt like the fans weren’t really buying into it because of the lack of respect shown to the long established stars. Fans are very loyal. I know they had the right idea. They said ‘Well if we do that, the fans will get really mad because it’s you guys,’ and we’re going to create kind of like a nWo invasion but it’ll be a young generation invasion. All the guys in the locker room kinda felt like it wasn’t really clicking. The fans really do decide wrestling. If they don’t get with it, they need to change course and re-script it.
Right. Sometimes that needs to be taken into account, and fans bottom line are very loyal. You can’t figure on bringing in a Vampiro and saying he’s going to be beating up and beating Sting now. So that was one of those things that wasn’t the most fun but of course I do what I was told to do and we were all hopeful that it would work. You could tell it wasn’t really clicking with fans.
All the bad stuff was from my own making and choosing, and over time we reap what we sow, the universal principle, happened outside of wrestling. Wrestling was fantastic. I was in the main event. I worked with all the top guys in my era. I still to this day feel wonderful about my actual wrestling career. It was a blast. It was my stupidity outside of the ring that caused so many problems for me.
We talk all the time. He texted me this morning. He’s a wonderful, dear friend. I’m so thankful for him. He developed a relationship with me and never brought up religion until I brought it up.
Room 316, can you believe it? You gotta be kidding me.
It was supernatural.
Great. I’m able to walk and drive and live on my own. I don’t have 100% recovery yet, you never know, but I’m extremely healthy. My blood pressure, my heart everything has been tip top A plus, I’m just so thankful.
Lex is now involved with the World Wrestling Outreach as a way to bring together two of his passions, wrestling and faith.
I stumbled upon it. We go to these secondary markets, under-served I’d say, where the high schools are the only game in town. They pack those places out with a couple thousand people. They come there for the wrestling but then we give them the gospel. I’m really excited about putting together a really first-class, excellent kind of a mini WWE show. We do a good choices assembly at schools on Fridays with the guys, then have an incredible family event on Saturday where we share the gospel, and then go speak to the churches on Sunday mornings. It’s kind of like a weekend revival. We do some fundraising for charity. It’s kind of a win-win-win.
I’ve had a lifelong passion for seeing people healthy and happy. So I just work with people. I go to corporations and give wellness encouragement and I’ve been doing that my whole life really with people. Now I really look forward to that part of my life where I work with young guys and help them get big and strong without resorting to PEDs now. There are advancements in nutritional sciences that have improved so much. I just love doing that stuff. Total Package Fitness is all about getting Spiritually, physically, mentally strong.
Nikita and I are doing something with the Duck Dynasty guys soon!
As a friend I support whatever he does. As a fan I’d love to see him wrestle in the WWE someday. Even if it’s just for one Wrestlemania. Him versus the Undertaker. Retire him and have him go into the Hall of Fame that same weekend. Man I’d love to see him and the Undertaker or somebody like that. I think the fans would love to see that.
It is not true. I’m not sure where that rumor got started. It’s wild isn’t it? (Laughs) I’m too skinny to be on the big screen now!