All Aboard The Lex Express: A Patriotic Retrospective

On July 4th, 1993, the most over-the-top patriotic moment in wrestling history took place. Lex Luger bodyslammed Yokozuna in the middle of a WWF ring on the deck of the USS Intrepid in New York City.

Yokozuna had just defeated Hulk Hogan at King of The Ring 1993 for the WWF Championship, effectively ending Hogan's run with the company. Yokozuna's reputation was built on his disdain for patriotic Americans starting with a stellar feud with Hacksaw Jim Duggan ending with Yokozuna delivering four Banzai Drops to Duggan that kept Duggan off TV for four months. Mr. Fuji, Yokozuna's manager, claimed that no American athlete was strong enough to even bodyslam Yokozuna and he would prove it by issuing an open challenge on July 4th. Any American athlete would be given the opportunity to bodyslam Yokozuna and prove them wrong on July 4th on the deck of the USS Intrepid in New York City.


Peter Taglianetti of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Scott Burell of the Charlotte Hornets, Keith Sims of the Miami Dolphins, Gary Baldinger of the Buffalo Bills, Bill Frallic of the Detroit Lions, Bob Backlund, Scott Steiner, Rick Steiner, Crush, Tatanka, the Macho Man Randy Savage, and more tried and failed at slamming Yokozuna. Yokozuna even took a break to eat rice in the middle of the ring to gain more weight in front of the crowd. Things looked bleak for the patriotic crowd, but there was one last hope for America on this day.

Business was plateauing for the WWF in 1993 and Hulk Hogan was leaving the company. Vince McMahon needed a new American hero to replace Hogan as the face of the WWF. McMahon loves guys who "stand out in the airport" and Lex Luger's physique was so impressive that Vince felt he had his man. Due to a non-compete clause in his WCW contract, Lex Luger started in the WBF, McMahon's ill-fated competitive bodybuilding company. Luger then debuted in the WWF as the evil Narcissist. After proving himself to Vince, the call was made to repackage Luger as "All-American" "Made in the USA" Lex Luger and it would happen at this bodyslam challenge on the USS Intrepid.


As you can see in the raw footage in the above video, Luger made his grand entrance via helicopter to loud chants of "HOGAN! HOGAN! HOGAN!" The fans' enthusiasm faded when they realized that it was Lex Luger exiting the chopper and not the Hulkster. Todd Pettingill got a "Luger!" chant going that faded quickly, likely due to a mixture of confusion and exhaustion from the 107 degree heat that day. Luger marched to the ring in a pair of acid-washed blue jeans, cowboy boots, and an American flag shirt. Luger shouted a semi-intelligible promo at Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji before tossing Fuji out of the ring to raucous cheers from the crowd. Luger removed his shirt to more cheers and delivered a running forearm to stun Yokozuna. Luger, drawing on the patriotism swelling in the hearts of everyone on the deck of the USS Intrepid, emphatically bodyslammed Yokozuna in the middle of the scorching hot ring. The previous competitors flooded the ring as patriotic music played. The Steiner Brothers hoisted Luger onto their shoulders while The Macho Man handed him two American flags to wave.

This character launch was unique because it involved Luger doing his own national bus tour campaigning like a Presidential candidate for a WWF Championship match with Yokozuna at Summerslam 1993. A music video (posted above) to hype Luger aired weekly on WWF Superstars to build anticipation for the Lex Express's arrival in your town. Luger's campaign involved public speaking events, autograph signings, and media appearances in hopes of making a new star through a grassroots campaign. You can watch a lot of the footage of this campaign and the entire Bodyslam Challenge on the WWE Network in the WWE Hidden Gems section labeled as "All Aboard The Lex Express". While you watch it, you can see Lex's awkwardness at these appearances and interviews. Luger didn't have the charisma of Hogan or even The Macho Man and McMahon unfortunately started to see that on this campaign.


McMahon pumped the brakes on the push for Luger at Summerslam by having him defeat Yokozuna at Summerslam via count-out allowing for Yoko to keep the belt a little longer in hopes that Luger would rise up to the challenge of being the top guy for WWF. Luger didn't make the progress that McMahon had hoped and so at Royal Rumble 1994, McMahon decided there would be two winners for the Rumble match: Lex Luger and Bret Hart. This would allow McMahon enough time to decide which hero would finally defeat Yokozuna at WrestleMania X.

Hart ended up being the guy while Luger faded back to the midcard of WWF until he left for WCW in 1995. Luger would never wrestle again for WWE, but whenever we're feeling in need of a boost we can revisit that patriotic day when Lex Luger bodyslammed Yokozuna for America.