Recently on Talk Is Jericho, the inaugural and current AEW World Champion Chris Jericho was joined by Don Callis and Paul Lazenby to pay tribute to their old friend and fellow Calgary, Canada professional wrestler, Rick Bognar. Bognar, known as the 'fake' Razor Ramon in WWE, unexpectedly passed away last month at the young age of 49.
According to Jericho, Bognar was the first of his group of friends to make it in professional wrestling, first seeing success in Japan and then making it to WWE.
"I grew up with Rick in the [professional wrestling] business," Jericho explained. "He was a Calgary guy, a good friend of mine and Don Callis, Paul Lazenby, Dr. Luther (Lenny Olson), Lance Storm. He was one of those guys who was with us right at the beginning, Brett Como, and we all came up together. And Rick was the first of our gang to make it in the business in Japan and the first to go to WWE."
Callis suggested that Bognar's professional wrestling career probably suffered because he would be pushed too soon wherever he worked and was still learning as he went in WWE.
"It's like guys that are put in [a favorable spot on the card], and it's not on them, they are put in the position based on how they're booked or how they work. It's like you're learning how to run before you can walk." Callis continued, "so for Rick to go to WWF at the time and, A) everyone there at that time is going to think you're a mark for trying to do that [high flying] stuff, but B) when you don't have a background in that other [basic] stuff, and you've got to learn on the job in front of 100,000,000 people on their TV, that's really a hard, hard thing to do and he suffered a bit with that."
During the podcast, Jericho noted that a tour of Germany with JBL "took a lot out of Rick" as "Bradshaw really ran [Bognar] through the ringer when he was over there."
"It's hard to envision this now because JBL, John 'Bradshaw' Layfield, Johnny Hawk at the time, now he's a philanthropist, he's actually a really nice guy, but in the early 90s, he was a terror. He was a son of a b---h, he'd be the first to tell you, and most importantly, he was a bully." Jericho added, "basically, when Rick came back [from working CWA in Germany with JBL] he said that Bradshaw was the worst, and made his life a living hell, and really messed with his confidence because I think Bradshaw probably saw a guy like Rick, once again, who was probably very immature to the real workings of the [professional wrestling] business because he got such a push right out of the gate and also let's not forget in Calgary he always got a big push because he was the biggest guy."
On the subject of Bognar's run as the 'fake' Razor Ramon in WWE, Jericho claimed that Bognar got the job from friendship with WWE Hall Of Famer Bret Hart. 'Le Champion' advised his friend in 1996 that the 'fake' Razor idea was great and compared it to Hollywood where a number of actors have played Batman or James Bond.
"[Bognar] was really close with Bret," Jericho said. "He was spending a lot of time with Bret. And Bret, of course, had a lot of power in WWE at the time as the champion or as a top guy, whichever one it was. And once again, you see Rick Titan and it's a no-brainer. For whatever reason, they had this idea of when [Scott] Hall and [Kevin] Nash left to replace them as their characters with new guys. And I remember when Rick told me about it because he wasn't super thrilled about it, I don't know what I was thinking, but I was like, 'if you look at Batman, okay, Adam West has played Batman; Michael Keaton has played Batman; George Clooney has played Batman, Val Kilmer.' Sean Connery has been James Bond, Roger Moore, Daniel Craig. It's not something that doesn't happen every day in Hollywood, so I thought it could probably work in [professional] wrestling as well."
Jericho stated that Bognar did great impressions and made mention of a funny, albeit risqué, impression of WWE Hall Of Famer Shawn Michaels.
"[Bognar] spent a lot of time on [the fake Razor Ramon character] and like [Lazenby] said, he did great impressions of a lot of guys. I always remember he did a great impression of Shawn Michaels talking about being 'balls deep in Sunny'." Jericho laughed, "I don't know why he was talking about that, but I just remember - I can't even do a Shawn Michaels [impression], 'balls deep in Sunny' or whatever."
While Jericho believes Bognar did a great job with the 'fake' Razor character, it bombed so quickly that he lost his confidence.
"[Bognar] spent a lot of time honing down this Razor Ramon [impression] and if you watch it - I've been watching some of the tapes of the last few days since he passed away - take out the concept that it's a terrible gimmick; take out the concept of whatever you want to say." Jericho argued, "he did a great job with the mannerisms, the movement, the way that Scott Hall walked in the ring, so he really did put a lot into it and I think once he got to WWE and saw how it went so bad so fast, that's probably where he lost the confidence."
Also during the podcast, Jericho pointed out that Bognar did not get the same treatment as the 'fake' Diesel in WWE. Glenn Jacobs would go on to portray The Undertaker's brother - that's got to be Kane.
"I know too when the gimmick started going bad, he was spending a lot of time at Bret's place and he was really, truly trying to come up with different characters and different ideas. And I think jury was already out on Rick in WWE. I think he had some heat. We spoke a little while earlier about being a little immature, being a little clued out as to how the [professional] wrestling world actually works, and also too, his work probably wasn't up to snuff because if you look at it too, his counterpart of course was Glenn Jacobs. They took him out of the 'fake' Diesel character and became one of the greatest gimmicks and one of the greatest performers in WWE history as Kane." Jericho pondered, "I don't know why they never gave Rick another shot."
Jericho went on to say that a lot of WWE performers were not fans of Bognar because of his poor attitude.
"A lot of his contemporaries," Jericho began, "were not big fans of Rick because of that kind of woe-is-me type of attitude in a lot of situations."
Apparently, Bognar and Hart were working on different gimmicks for Bognar as his days as the 'fake' Razor were numbered. Jericho divulged that Bognar wanted to have a Johnny Bravo gimmick while Hart wanted Bognar under a mask as some sort of manta ray character.
"I know Bret and he were trying to think of other angles and other gimmicks and one of the gimmicks that Rick had that he wanted to do, do you remember the cartoon Johnny Bravo that was pretty popular at the time?" Jericho asked. "He wanted to do a Johnny Bravo gimmick and there there were a lot of catchphrases like, 'I'm a one-man army' and 'yeah, whatever', and that sort of stuff. He was really pitching the Johnny Bravo character. ANd Bret had an idea and I'm paraphrasing here, but there was a masked character based around a manta ray, maybe even call him Manta Ray or something like that because I think Bret figured he would be better under a mask, so Bret was pulling for him from that standpoint and Rick was pulling for a Johnny Bravo standpoint."
Jericho indicated that Bognar called WWE Chairman Vince McMahon at home out of frustration and was then promptly hung up on.
"And I just remember this," Jericho recalled. "Rick was getting frustrated and flustered that he couldn't actually talk to Vince, so he got Vince's number and called Vince at home. And he said, 'hey Vince, this is Rick Bognar.' And Vince said, 'hello, Rick Bognar. Please don't ever call this number again.' And then, hung up on him. I guess all the signs that you need to hear that maybe future isn't bright in WWE."
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