Lex Luger Page 2
As if all of Luger's blessings were not enough, he had the fortune of competing against some of the finest talent around. With every match against the likes of McDaniel, Barry Windham, and Mike Graham, Luger gained valuable experience. An intelligent man, he was always careful to take what he learned from each opponent to his advantage. Hence, Luger's ring skills grew at a terrifying rate. This was obvious to Kevin Sullivan, who pressed him to help his band of villains combat the Windham brothers. Luger's growth was also obvious to himself, and he soon left Sullivan's camp and sided with the Windhams.
Now wrestling as a popular hero, he found himself facing a whole new set of opponents ranging from the aerial skills of Keiji Mutoh (who would later compete as The Great Muta) to the roughhouse style of Ron Bass. The diversity of opposition gave Luger an even wider education. He was not quite invincible, though. He had some trouble maintaining a grip on the Southern Title, but he did win it on three occasions in all. One of those title wins came at the expense of the underrated Jesse Barr at Battle Of The Belts II. Also, during one of those reigns, he won the revived Florida TV Title in a tournament, proving that he could win multiple matches in one night.
His star was rising, but Florida had its limits. Luger learned that when he obtained a title match with World Champion Ric Flair at Battle Of the Belts III. It was a best-of-three falls match, and, to Luger's credit, he put up a good fight. He won one fall, lost another, and held the champ to the time limit in the third. On the other hand, the rules demanded that he defeat the champion twice in one night - an impossible task for the youngster who was getting his first match with "The Man" with less than a year of experience under his belt. How was he supposed to prepare for this sort of situation? The World Champion only made semi-regular trips to Florida, where the level of competition was no longer a challenge to Luger. The World Title and its owner spent most of their time in the NWA's center stage, the Mid-Atlantic region. Just in case the prospect of leaving Florida was not tempting enough already, a cage match with the wild Bruiser Brody helped him decide. The match saw one of pro-wrestling's rare moments of unplanned reality - a "shoot" fight. Let's just say Brody decided that "cooperation" was not on the evening's agenda.
Early in 1987, Lex Luger crashed onto national television. His looks and intensity was being experienced by millions of fans for the very first time. He certainly caught the fans' attention, as well as that of The Four Horsemen. The Horsemen were comprised of old-fashioned mat wrestlers, and they lacked a "big gun" to counter the threat of United States Champion Nikita Koloff. Koloff was consistently breathing down Flair's neck, and none of the others had the physical gifts needed to take Koloff's title, His US belt kept him firmly at the top of the World Title contenders' ratings. James J Dillon made Luger a very tempting offer. Just to make sure that none of the four original Horsemen were threatened by Luger, it was publicly announced that Luger was given the opportunity to become an "associate member" of the elite group.
Though a fan-favorite, Luger was a methodical man who always weighed all options in spite of popular opinion. He accepted Dillon's offer. Barry Windham, who had preceded Luger in the move from Florida, begged him to reconsider his decision. He pointed out (rather accurately) that Flair only wanted him as a shield to protect his title. Luger, the thinking man's wrestler, thought about Barry's words ... and promptly spat in his face! The young lion had joined the Horsemen.
Part II coming soon!
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