Induction: Lex Luger, Million-Dollar Turncoat? – At least the *arenas* didn’t sell out.

45 Submitted by on Thu, 10 April 2014, 20:00

WWF, 1994

Once upon a time, “Made in the USA” Lex Luger and the Native American Tatanka were the best of friends. Together, the two All-Americans would demolish whatever unpatriotic force stood in their way.

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(or just wait until he broke his ankle and left the Federation)

 

All this changed in the summer of 1994, when, after weeks of speculation, Tatanka broke the unfortunate news: Lex Luger had sold out to the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase. lex02

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Was it true? Had Lex traded in the red, white, and blue for DiBiase’s green? No, said Luger. And with that confusion cleared up, both good friends moved on with their lives and pursued successful, championship-filled careers.

But not really. Instead, Tatanka insisted Luger was lying, while Lex embarked on a lousy PR campaign so desperate and monotonous, he’d long for those weeks-long bus trips from the summer before. Then again, who among us hasn’t cursed our own Lex Expresslessness?
The following weeks of television could be summed up as follows: Tatanka said Lex had sold out. Lex said no. Ted DiBiase said Lex had sold out. Lex said no. The whole “he said, she said” served no discernible purpose but to quickly win a round of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” lex04
lex05 Besides the bone-dry drama of empty allegations and denials, the problem with this angle was that neither possible outcome made any sense at all. Why would Lex deny selling out if, sooner or later, he’d start teaming up with IRS while Ted DiBiase accompanied him to the ring?
I mean, did he expect to keep it a secret forever and have the Million Dollar Man come to the ring in disguise for every match? Maybe as a bald eagle?
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Come to think of it, are we quite sure Ted’s never done that?

hair flip On the other hand, why would Ted DiBiase lie about having signed Lex Luger? Did he think that if only he wished hard enough, he could make his wacky dream a reality? Keep in mind that this was the same manager who thought paying Brian Lee to pretend to be The Undertaker would be a good investment.
(Speaking of which, can anyone explain the logic of that angle? If Ted had wanted a pathetic knock-off of a popular character but with none of the super-powers, Arachnaman would have worked for cheap.) lex07
lex08

Yeah, I don’t know either, dude.

With every Raw, the questions kept piling up. Namely,

  • “When is this angle going to end?”
  • “Why is this crap on my TV?” and
  • “Who the hell cares”?
It was almost as if someone behind the scenes was trying to prove some insane point. Every week, Tatanka repeated the same tune — not the one about buffalo; the one about Lex selling out.
lex09
lex10 And every week, there would be some new, insignificant scrap of evidence to back him up. Sometimes DiBiase would watch Lex’s matches (ordinarily something no one would want to do).
Once, Lex stormed the Corporation’s dressing room and yelled at a confused Nikolai Volkoff. Amidst all the angry screaming, Tatanka walked in and figured Luger was bosom chums with the Corporation, and that he had caught the American Original red-handed. Possibly in some sort of lovers’ quarrel, we don’t know.
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(The only time Tatanka had been caught red-handed was when he dyed his mullet without rubber gloves)

lex12 Hardly a week went by without Tatanka cutting an angry promo accusing Luger of selling out, and Luger denying it. The entire feud amounted to a months-long argument of “Uh-huh!” vs. “Nuh-uh!”. Macho Man summed up the whole angle perfectly, theorizing that Luger was either “telling the truth, or he’s lying!”
Finally, the most tedious feud of 1994 came to a head at Summerslam, but not before a 99-cent phone poll declared Lex guilty. lex13
lex14 These were the same fans who later declared OJ not guilty, though, so what did they know?
In case no one at home had grasped the complexity of the story line, Tatanka yelled to the camera that Lex had sold out. Then he accused Luger face-to-face of having betrayed his fans and self-respect for money. Except he didn’t use that exact phrase. Care to guess what he did say?

If you said, “sold out,” you’re about 2% of the way there, because he ended up saying it several dozen more times. The term had been used so often by then that the audience had grown completely numb to it, like hearing Vince McMahon say, “maneuver” 200 times in a row.

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lex16 In the worst match of a card headlined by Undertaker vs. Undertaker, Lex and Tatanka aimlessly exchanged strikes and slams until DiBiase showed up, distracted Lex with money, and allowed Tatanka to get the win via a roll-up.
Lex pleaded with the Native American until Tatanka attacked Luger from behind. So it was Tatanka who had sold out all along, not Lex! lex17
lex18 See, it was all a ruse to set up Luger, with whom DiBiase had zero prior history or motivation to screw over.
The Million Dollar Man then gloated about how he had fooled everybody…
lex19

Even his family — even his immediate family bought it!

lex20 …while Lawler for some reason praised Ted as the smartest man in wrestling simply for tricking the audience (A young editor of WWF Magazine would take these comments to heart).
All DiBiase really accomplished with his summer-long swerve was to incur the wrath of Lex Luger, who otherwise wouldn’t have had any reason to feud with Ted and his Corporation. Luckily for Ted, this was the “Made in the USA” version of Lex Luger, a babyface so ineffectual as to make Ted’s Corporation look like the Four Horsemen. lex21
lex22 The purpose of this dud of an angle? Vince had to ham-fistedly prove a point about his steroid trial that summer. See, just because someone was accused of wrongdoing didn’t mean he wasn’t totally 100% innocent. If Lex Luger could be framed, so could Vince McMahon!
And I guess that meant Dr. Zahorian was like Ted DiBiase? And that it was the federal prosecutor who was actually distributing the steroids, not Vince? Okay, I guess the parallels ended there.
In other words, this angle was the second-most insulting analogy for the McMahon steroid trial in history. But you’ve got to admire McMahon’s chutzpah for using Lex Luger as a symbol of his innocence on steroid charges. lex23


Tatanka would wrestle the rest of his WWF contract as an underachieving heel who sometimes wore a suit and, like the rest of the Corporation, never won any titles. Speaking of not winning titles, Lex Luger would remain a babyface for the rest of his Federation tenure before selling out his WWF fans and signing with a certain super-rich “Ted.”

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Hmmm… maybe Tatanka was right all along! I wonder what that means for Vince…

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He currently runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws and Hasbro WWF figures. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
45 Responses to "Induction: Lex Luger, Million-Dollar Turncoat? – At least the *arenas* didn’t sell out."
  1. "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

    I hated this angle so much because it was a swerve for the sake of having a swerve.

    • Autrach Sejanoz says:

      Obviously, Russo WAS taking notes.

      • Anonymous says:

        The comparisons to Russo’s style of booking are apt. It was a swerve that was used to justify itself, showing that the individuals responsible lacked even the slightest understanding of context or the importance thereof to make sense of the actions of characters within a work of fiction.

  2. John Matrix says:

    I like this induction’s use of color.

  3. The Scanian Maniac says:

    I don’t know if I got this wrong, but I always thought the reason why so many top stars in the WWE like Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice who main evented Wrestlemania 1992 and the British Bulldog who main evented Summerslam at Wembley the same year, suddenly disappeared, was because of the steroid charges?

    But why then, didn’t they get rid of Lex Luger?

    • Tempest_Fennac says:

      I know when Luger first joined the WWF in ’92, he was only being paid to do stuff for the WBF (he only started wrestling in early ’93). I guess there is a chance that Luger wasn’t on steroids by that point (or he got lucky with the random drugs testing which, I think, went on until ’96).

      • Art0Donnell says:

        Lex has since explained how he skirted the steroid ban. There were two effective ways: dipping his Vaseline-coated fingers into his urine sample, or just intimidating the tester.

  4. Nick Nutter says:

    I remember a call in special that aired the night before Summerslam on USA, and somebody called in and said “I think Tatanka is the one who sold out.” The announcers played it off like he was crazy, of course. But I have to wonder if that was a plant, and if so, to what end?

    • Hashington says:

      Was the caller “Bruce from Connecticut” who then went on to complain about Vince stealing his talent?

    • Ryan says:

      Yeah that was on Livewire, the couple weeks that it was a different interaction show rather than just a typical Saturday morning recap show.

    • James says:

      I also recall the same show, someone asking if the fake Undertaker (great animation BTW, even when I was young the fact that Fake UT wouldn’t show his face and covered up quickly after doing the pinning pose alerted me to something…) was real UT’s partner in the “Twin Towers.”

      I must admit the angle never made me think of Vince on trial, though…

  5. Phil Melcher says:

    Yes, Lex did sell out by joining WCW so Tatanka was right the whole time. Also SummerSlam 1994 was the very first event held at the United Center in Chicago. Ozzie Guillen (who’d lead the White Sox to the World Series in 2005 GO SOX) was in attendance and the late, great Walter Payton led Razor Ramon to the ring for his match for the Intercontinental Championship. When Walter died in 1999 Scott Hall wore a #34 jersey on Nitro in respect…despite the fact he was one of the biggest heels in the company.

  6. The Doctor of Style says:

    The tagline may be your funniest, coldest one yet, Art!

  7. Peter says:

    This angle was one of the first things I saw when I started watching wrestling. I really thought Lex Luger was a bad guy, because his name sounded like Lex Luthor and he didn’t really come off as a likable guy. After I figured it out I still liked my version better, because quite frankly it was hard to root against a Native American, and I just never really cared for Lex.

    • "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

      Yeah, I see where you’re coming from. It made more sense for Lex to actually be the heel.

    • Brad says:

      I always thought Lex was better in WCW, where even when he was a good guy he still was kind of a jerk. It seemed a lot more natural than his USA gimmick

  8. John C says:

    If only Tatanka (BUFFALO!!!!!!!!), Lex and DiBiase were doing this feud in WCW so they could have had a match at Uncensored ’95 on the Lex Express. Then they could have the bus crash into the semi with Dustin & Bully in their King of the Road Match.

  9. Scrooge Mcsuck says:

    That’s not hyperbole about being the worst match… Taker vs. Taker was more watchable. Tatanka and Luger weren’t awful workers, but they put on a fucking dog of a match with a shit finish (OOOOH ROLL UP!), a heatless match at that, culminated by a long, dull, heatless beatdown. It made no sense, and it kept Tatanka as “Native American Tatanka”, despite “selling out.”

    • James says:

      Yeah, his refusal to change his look is right down there with “Richard” Morton, another corporate sellout who still dressed in neon colors and rock ‘n’ roll bandanas, and didn’t cut off his mullet.

  10. Downtown OPC says:

    I think Tatanka was just trying to get a “YOU SOLD OUT! YOU SOLD OUT!” chant going.

    • Doc 902714 says:

      I think Tatanka chanting “You Sold Out, You Sold Out” to Lex Luger was actually kind of humorous when Lex Luger couldn’t even draw a dime at a flea market

  11. Huw Roma says:

    I think WrestleCrap needs to be retired. While this induction is crap, it just isn’t ‘crap’ enough if you get my drift.

    • "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

      Feel free to find some other website to read.

    • Scrooge McSuck says:

      Some people are overly critical over something meant to have a few laughs and go “wow, that was considered a good idea?”. I was 9 at the time and thought the angle was lame, and Tatanka’s heel turn was telegraphed to the point we were shouting “when’s Tatanka gonna turn on Lex?”. I had a good laugh at the predictability and lack of anything interesting, and yet it was pushed for months.

    • Dummy Bears says:

      You’re not obliged to read it. Besides which, I don’t particularly catch your drift, mostly because you provided nothing in way of analysis. It’s as vague and lazy as it gets.

      • Huw Roma says:

        Ok then, I will. Basically you might as well have every wrestling angle of all time inducted here and present it as ‘wrestlecrap.’ While this angle may be suspect it’s hardly the upper echelons of embarrassment. I love this website and have been reading it since the day it came into existence. However some of these recent inductions seem to be pushing the limit of what really is true wrestlecrap. While this answer may not satisfy you and you may balk at it, that’s as thorough as I can be.

        • "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

          There’s plenty of WrestleCrap available in the Archives that you might like better. You should check that out.

        • Downtown OPC says:

          While I don’t know if this is in the “upper echelons” of crap, it was fun to read. I was not watching wrestling during this time period, so this was all new to me.

    • Preparation Triple H says:

      Huw Roma is now off to start a #CancelWrestleCrap hashtag on Twitter. That’ll show ‘em!

  12. John C says:

    How does one define what’s crap enough anyway. Do you smell each individual turd and then determine if it’s smelly enough to be considered actual crap. Therefore ladies and gentlemen of the jury I hereby decree that crap is crap because it is crap. Thank you.

  13. Lloyd Dobler says:

    (Buffalo!)

  14. Anonymous says:

    I think this is my favorite basic type of induction on WrestleCrap.com. The kind that sucks when it happens, but that we can laugh about only long after it’s over.

    Overall an excellent write up of a well deserved induction.

  15. James says:

    Could Ted pay Lex enough to sell out? I DON’T KNOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!

  16. TMM says:

    The point that Roma is trying to make, is that the site kinda changed his ways of working, an induction used to be something that stood out badly among the numerous gimmicks and storylines done by bookers. In the forums you had discussions about whether such angle or gimmick was really crap worthy , a bit like a bizarro hall of fame. with a few rules, as an example I remember at first Rd did not want to induct matches by themselves

    Now it seems that the processus has been loosened up to the point that anything can be inducted as long as you can present it in a entertaining or funny way. Basically it’s more about the treatment of the subject than the subject by itself

    Not saying it’s a good or a bad thing , it just kinda changed and I guess some don’t like it ….

  17. TerrierChad says:

    Technically shouldn’t Lex Luger have been the heel for turning down the money? I mean, he’s Made in the USA and the USA is the land of capitalism so by turning down the money he’s been very un-American.

  18. TheLegendMaker says:

    Correct me if i’m wrong but back then WWF didnt have many PPV’s and I’m guessing this caused months of ongoing Raw shows dragging this terrible (going by article, not seen it) angle up until the summerslam ppv. I didn’t watch WWF back then as I was quite young and did not like it but if something like that was to show when i did watch wrestling on a weekly basis I would have went crazy, especially from seeing the tripe that Luger would show in matches and promos (from what I have seen).

    Nice article tho, sums things up nicely.

    • "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

      You are correct! :) It dragged on for a few months.

      • TheLegendMaker says:

        HA!!!
        So definitely between 10-15 weeks of
        Tatanka: YO SOLD OUT
        Luger: NO I DIDNT
        end.

        WWF/E makes me laugh so much sometimes, how they are able to make such bad booking decisions in simply outstanding, not saying I’d do better myself (I am really) but after rewatching a lot of old WWF stuff I can see that is is quite common.

  19. Gregory Honay says:

    Man, Luger’s stuff was the pits. I actually came across this article about Lex Luger’s failed WWF run the other day that pretty well encapsulates what a trainwreck it was from day one. Still can’t believe anyone thought he would be a megastar…goes to show what being carried to respectability by Flair, Steamboat, Pillman, and Windham can do for a guy!

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