Obituary: Scott Hall (1958-2022)

WWE has confirmed that, after suffering multiple heart attacks and being taken off life support, WWE Hall of Famer Scott Hall, also known as Razor Ramon, has died.  He was 63.

Hall was born in St. Mary’s, Maryland, but moved all over the world with his military family.  His wrestling began in the Central States territory as one half of American Starship with fellow trainee Dan Spivey.  After Spivey left, Hall received a small solo push before jumping to the AWA, where Verne Gagne felt he could be the replacement for Hulk Hogan.  A team with Curt Hennig followed, with the duo winning the AWA Tag Team Titles in New Mexico from Jimmy Garvin and Mr. Electricity Steve Regal.  Their most famous defense was on WrestleRock over the Irwin Brothers, but they soon lost the titles to Buddy Rose and Doug Somers.  Hall would receive AWA title shots against Rick Martel, but could see the writing on the wall and left the company.

After a short NWA stint as “Gator” and a failed WWF tryout, Hall honed his skills in Japan teaming with Larry Cameron as well as in Puerto Rico.

He would return to the national spotlight with WCW as the Diamond Studd, managed by DDP.  He had a semi-successful stint there, including a big win over Tommy Rich on Clash of the Champions, before peaking as part of a star-studded eight-man tag at Halloween Havoc.  He, Vader, Cactus Jack, and Abdullah the Butcher faced Sting, El Gigante, and the Steiner Brothers in a tornado cage match, but in a twist, there was a smaller cage inside the cage containing an electric chair, with the losing team being the first one to get someone electrocuted.  (Abdullah took the “shocks”.)  A brief injury derailed his career, and when he came back, he was hanging out with DDP, Scotty Flamingo (Raven), and Vinnie Vegas (Kevin Nash).  There were thoughts of putting him in the Dangerous Alliance, but Hall instead switched to the WWF.

It was there that he met with Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson and, half-jokingly, began doing a Tony Montana impression for his newest gimmick.  It was the best joke he ever did, as Vince loved the idea and ran with it.  The name Razor Ramon was given to him partly by McMahon and partly by Tito Santana, and the whole package came together in a series of vignettes done in the streets of Miami.  Ramon’s debut soon followed in August 1992, and he was instantly programmed into the Savage/Flair WWF title situation as Flair’s hired hand.  It led to a Survivor Series marquee match with Flair against Savage and Mr. Perfect (subbing for Ultimate Warrior), then a WWF title match at Royal Rumble 1993 against Bret Hart, though he lost both matches.

Ramon rebounded by beating Bob Backlund at WrestleMania IX, but soon after on Raw he would be a major player in the episode that turned Raw from just another show into a can’t-miss event.  At the time, superstars squashing unknown talent was still mostly the norm, so when Ramon came out to face GWF veteran Lightning Kid, no one thought twice about it.  However, Kid managed to dodge Hall and climb to the top, landing a moonsault press and scoring a massive upset three-count.  So career-defining was the pin that the “Lightning” was dropped and he was renamed the 1-2-3 Kid.  Ramon dared the Kid to try it again, offering $10,000 of his own money if he lost a second time.  After a chaotic match, Kid just yanked the money from ringside and raced out of the building, having outsmarted Ramon.  Losing money made Ramon a target of mockery for Money Inc., but Ramon would get his revenge, retiring Ted DiBiase and defeating IRS at the 1994 Rumble.

In between those two matches, Ramon won his first Intercontinental Title.  Shawn Michaels was suspended and stripped of the gold, leading to a battle royal that would end in a singles match.  Ramon beat Rick Martel in the singles match to become champion, but when Shawn Michaels returned (now with a new bodyguard he named Diesel), he still had his replica of the title.  Since the championship was disputed, there was a novel solution: the two would meet at WrestleMania X with both titles hung above the ring out of reach of the wrestlers.  The only way to win was to find a ladder at ringside, climb it, and pull down the gold.  And then the most ominous and important words: “The ladder is in play.”

That night in Madison Square Garden, the duo reached legend status.  In a match type never before seen by a wide audience, Michaels and Hall battered each other with the ladder and incorporated it into their offense, famously including Michaels diving off the ladder in the corner onto Hall.  With Diesel ejected from ringside early on, it was down to the duo to determine who would win the gold.  Hall was able to knock Michaels off the ladder in a way that tangled Michaels’ foot in the ropes.  Hall pulled down both titles and held them high.  The match itself was the show-stealing event of the card (a card including a technical masterpiece by the Hart brothers) and was an almost unanimous North American match of the year.

Ramon would lose the title to Diesel in June, but regain it at SummerSlam in Chicago.  Walter Payton, one of the greatest NFL players ever, was in Ramon’s corner and helped neutralize Shawn Michaels.  Michaels still managed to get involved, but his superkick hit the wrong target and Ramon had his second championship.  He would hold the title until Royal Rumble 1995, where he lost it to Jeff Jarrett.  The match originally ended in a countout, but Jarrett demanded a restart because he couldn’t win the title on a countout.  (This was a common thing to do at house shows; usually, Ramon would pin Jarrett and give him his comeuppance.  This time, though, Jarrett achieved his destiny.)

Ramon and Jarrett would fight for the title at WrestleMania XI, but the match would end in a DQ when the Roadie and 1-2-3 Kid both got involved.  Ramon would win the title for a then-unprecedented third time at a house show (in a ladder match, what else), but would lose it back soon after and suffer a bad rib injury that necessitated him missing King of the Ring.  Ramon would team with Caribbean legend Savio Vega throughout the summer as he recovered enough to run back the ladder match against Shawn Michaels at Summerslam.

Two newcomers began feuds with Ramon in 1995, but neither ended the way they would have been expected.  The first was against former NWA and ECW champion Shane Douglas, who was playing arrogant teacher Dean Douglas at the time.  Douglas was to face Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Title, likely to transition it to Ramon, at an In Your House in Winnipeg.  However, Michaels was mugged in Syracuse beforehand and not cleared to compete, leading to Douglas becoming the champ by forfeit… until Gorilla Monsoon ordered him to defend against Ramon so there would be a title match on the show.  Ramon won in surprisingly quick fashion to become the first ever four-time Intercontinental Champion.

He would lose the title to Dustin Rhodes, who debuted on the same Winnipeg show as Goldust.  Goldust was portrayed as having a huge crush on Ramon, who wanted nothing to do with him despite Goldust’s overtures.  (Scott himself cited this as the first ambiguous storyline: rather than hating Goldust simply for being gay, we were supposed to hate him for being a stalker of someone uninterested.)  The story was meant to end in a street fight — what would have been the first all-cinematic match at WrestleMania — but Ramon’s demons made their first appearance and cost him a six-week suspension, as he missed the Show of Shows.

Hall was clearly on the way out when he returned, and was squashed by Vader at the next In Your House.  His last WWF match was at Madison Square Garden; after the show was over, he and Diesel — who was also leaving — were given their final plaudits by Shawn Michaels and Hunter Hearst-Helmsley.  Contrary to popular belief, Vince HAD approved of this happening, because it would not be televised.  However, fan camera footage quickly circulated of the infamous Curtain Call by the Kliq, and Hall could count his blessings he was out of the company and not around to face punishment.

Even just signing with WCW when he did allowed Hall to make history.  He and Kevin Nash (Diesel) had a special clause in their contracts known as the “favored nations clause”.  In short, no matter what happened or who WCW signed, as long as Hall and Nash were under contract they would remain the highest-paid wrestlers on payroll.  Even though this guarantee only applied to base salary — someone like Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage could make more through bonuses and endorsements — it made sure Hall would never worry about money while in WCW.  The extra time off also incentivized his jump.

On WCW Nitro in May 1996, a nothing match between Steve Doll and Mike Enos was interrupted when an unnamed Hall jumped the barricade, interrupted the match, and promised a war against WCW.  Nash would soon follow, and the two would cause havoc, including crippling WCW President Eric Bischoff with a powerbomb on the stage.  WCW had finally had enough, challenging the Outsiders as they were called to a match at Bash at the Beach.  They accepted, saying to make it a trios match as they had a third man.  Paranoia ran rampant in the build-up, but very few people expected the payoff to be that Hulk Hogan was the inside man who got the Outsiders into WCW.  The trio were then dubbed by Hogan the New World Order of wrestling.

Thus began one of the single most popular, profitable, and influential angles in wrestling history.  Hogan, Hall, and Nash were an untamed force, at one point causing a complete rewrite of Nitro by destroying half the locker room on their own.  Hall and Nash would spend most of 1996 and 1997 as WCW Tag Team Champions, often trading the titles with the Steiner Brothers.  They would lose them under suspicious circumstances before Bischoff — later revealed as on NWO payroll — would reverse the decision.  When they and Syxx — the former 1-2-3 Kid — lost the gold due to injuries piling up, Hall became a successful solo star as Hogan’s second-in-command.  Hall did so well he won World War III, a special triple-ring 60-man battle royal, with the promise he would get a title shot at the winner of Hogan vs. Sting.

Before this, though, he and Nash regained the tag titles (in large part due to the NWO spotlight wooing Scott Steiner away from Rick), while Hall and Larry Zbyszko went to a disqualification when Dusty Rhodes joined the NWO.  Hall’s title shot would come at Uncensored against Sting, and again he’d come up short.  Soon after, his demons became too much and he showed up to a Nitro in no condition to perform whatsoever.  WCW sent him to rehab; by the time he returned, the NWO was falling apart.

Kevin Nash had led a breakaway faction of the company called the Wolfpack, gaining Konnan and Lex Luger as his friends.  Hall teased being a part of it, but eventually showed his colors were with Hogan as he remained with the Hollywood faction.  With the Giant by his side, he regained the WCW Tag Titles over Nash and fellow Wolfpack recruit Sting.  NWO rules said any two members of the faction could defend the titles, which led to Giant and Scott Steiner losing them at Halloween Havoc to Rick Steiner and Buff Bagwell.

Meanwhile, Hall was handpicked by Hogan to take the US Title from Goldberg in the Georgia Dome.  He lost the match, which allowed Goldberg to challenge and defeat Hogan later in the night.  Hall was blamed for the title change, and on camera he took it pretty hard; soon, his alcoholism that had made him unreliable backstage was turned into his gimmick onstage.  (And yes, it was viewed as being just as disgusting then as you imagine it would be now.)  Nash, showing a soft side for Hall, attempted to rescue him from Hogan and from alcoholism, but during a match at Halloween Havoc, he believed Hall beyond help and symbolically walked out on him and their match.  Hall was now a man without a home.

Or was he?  At Starrcade 1998, while playing up the Lone Wolf persona, he took a security guard’s uniform and entered the ring to clear the chaos of Bam Bam Bigelow and Disco Inferno running in to mess up the Nash/Goldberg title match.  During the chaos, Hall pulled a taser out and shocked Goldberg down, allowing a seemingly oblivious Nash to powerbomb Goldberg and become the first person to beat the phenom in WCW, winning the gold in the process.  Nash was unhappy with how he won, though, and promised Goldberg a rematch a week later in the Georgia Dome.  Instead, the belt wound up with Hollywood Hogan as the civil war in the NWO ended.  Hall was welcomed back with open arms, his attack on Goldberg seemingly a part of the plan all along.

Hall later beat Roddy Piper to become US Champion, but injuries caught up with him and he forfeited the title while healing.  He and Nash would not be seen again until the Powers That Be took over WCW, and even then the duo — Nash having lost a career-ending match along the way — were merely at ringside.  Nevertheless, they made promises of getting the band back together, a dubious claim since Syxx was now X-Pac in the WWF.

The duo were reinstated by the Powers That Be, though, and soon picked up where they left off.  Scott Hall became both US and TV champion in a de facto unification match, famously junking the TV title to focus on the US title.  Nash, meanwhile, battled Sid to see who the Master of the Powerbomb was.  By Starrcade, though, Hall got injured again and was on the sidelines as Nash did in fact get the band back together — himself, Bret Hart, Jeff Jarrett, and Scott Steiner revived the NWO one more time.  Hall was later added to the group, and he and Jarrett received simultaneous WCW Title shots against Sid at SuperBrawl.  Hall lost and was done in WCW.

After a brief stint in both ECW and New Japan — helping make young gun Hiroshi Tanahashi a big deal in the process — Hall was brought into the WWF alongside Nash and Hogan as the original NWO, invited guests of Vince McMahon (who, in storyline, wanted to destroy the WWF rather than share it with Ric Flair).  Hall and Nash picked up where they left off, destroying a cinder block over Austin’s knee and murdering Spike Dudley.  It all led to a match between Hall and Steve Austin at WrestleMania, which Austin won despite copious interference from Nash.  (Side note: Hall should have won this match.  The original plan was for Vince McMahon to interfere against his old enemy, revealing the Board of Directors that neither he nor Flair could be sole owner of the WWF and necessitating the first-ever brand split.  However, Austin refused to lose and in fact walked out for a while after Mania, leaving Hall to get the short end.)  To make matters worse for the Outsiders, Hogan took his match with the Rock as a serious contest of man against man and not an attempt to destroy the WWF’s big star, leading to the Outsiders telling Hogan to hit the bricks.

Hall and Nash would reform the NWO on the Raw brand, recruiting X-Pac and Big Show to join them.  Things were looking up for this group, even with Nash injured, but chaos struck on a return from a European Tour.  During what became known to the industry as the Plane Ride from Hell, Hall fell victim to his alcoholism one more time and drunkenly groped a flight attendant.  He was so wasted people thought he might die on the plane, and he had to leave the airport in a wheelchair.  Hall, along with Curt Hennig, was fired to send a message to the locker room.

Hall became one of the original stars of NWA Total Nonstop Action, an attempt to see if weekly pay-per-views could be a sustainable business model.  He competed in early title matches, both the Gauntlet for the Gold for the singles title and for the tag titles alongside Syxx-Pac.  Hall would appear sporadically for the company in 2002, 2004, and 2007-08, but each time proved too unreliable for even TNA’s standards.  It culminated in Hall being too out of sorts to appear at the Turning Point pay-per-view in 2008 to team with Nash and Samoa Joe, causing Joe to lose his cool and bury Hall on live TV.

Hall, though, had one last run in the spotlight in 2010, as he and Waltman were brought in by Hogan and Russo to help TNA reach the next level.  Hall spent this time feuding with and against Kevin Nash, eventually winning one last title run as he and Nash beat Matt Morgan (yes, one person — don’t ask) for the gold.  However, Hall’s demons were too much, and TNA let him go in June 2010.  Hall would retire from active competition soon after.

Hall’s health would soon take center stage.  He had a defibrilator and pacemaker placed in his body in late 2010.  He was hospitalized twice for double pneumonia.  He would start getting epileptic seizures.  He overdosed on opioids.  By all rights it looked like the writing was on the wall ten years ago.  Around this time, Nash claimed Hall had PTSD from an incident prior to his wrestling days where he beat a man to death by accident.  E:60 looked at Hall’s battles in a video segment that made Hall seem like he was on his last legs.

Enter Diamond Dallas Page.  Page, who had already cured Jake the Snake Roberts, offered to take in Hall in 2013.  DDP even raised funds for dental work and hip replacement for Hall.  This, combined with Page’s strict living conditions and teachings in yoga, turned Hall’s life around.  He became clean and sober, and in fact was in good enough condition that the WWE gave him the Hall of Fame spotlight in 2014.  He and Roberts both took their place in WWE’s hallowed halls that day.

Hall would make one last appearance as part of a WWE show at WrestleMania 31.  As Triple H fought Sting, the original D-Generation X surrounded the ring to aid HHH.  When it looked like Sting was lost, the famous NWO theme blared and Hall, alongside Nash and Hogan, raced to the rescue.  Two of the Monday Night Wars’ famous factions brawled around ringside one last time.

Hall would receive a second nod from the Hall of Fame in 2021, as the New World Order got the headline induction.  Hall is one of a handful of men who are in the WWE Hall of Fame for two reasons.

Hall’s list of championships in the business was insanely long.  He won the AWA tag titles with Curt Hennig, the TNA tag titles with Nash, and the WCW Tag Titles on 7 occasions.  PWI named him the Most Improved wrestler for his jump to being Razor Ramon in 1992 and one-half of the Tag Team of the year with Nash in 1997.  As a singles wrestler, he won the USWA title, the WCW TV title, the WCW US title twice, the WWF Intercontinental Title a then-record four times, and the WWC title twice.  His ladder match with Shawn Michaels in 1994 was named the Match of the Year by the Observer, PWI, and WWF, and the WWF gave him the honor again in 1995 for the ladder rematch.  Hall’s Outsider gimmick was named Gimmick of the Year in 1996.  All in all, Hall had nineteen title reigns (though famously never a world heavyweight title) and is in the WWE Hall of Fame twice (though curiously absent from the Observer Hall of Fame).

All of this is statistics, though.  What set Hall apart was the vibe of coolness he exuded effortlessly.  When he called himself the Bad Guy, people cheered for him.  “Hey yo” became a greeting thanks to him.  The WWF said he “oozed machismo”, and as Razor Ramon he was eminently imitable, from the toothpick flick to his warning to the ring crew guy who would take his chains to the back (“Something happen to this gold… something happen to you”).  The New World Order took the reins from the Horsemen and Freebirds as the villains who were favored by the audience, with Hall’s effortless cool vibe leading the way in every way.  Even his recovery from his demons showed that, no matter how low rock bottom was, you could bring yourself back up with hard work.

Without a doubt, Scott Hall is on the shortlist of greatest US wrestlers never to be named World Champion.  Whether due to hotter hands or being his own worst enemy, Hall was never in the right place at the right time.  Even so, his fingerprints are all over the New Generation and the Attitude Era.  An innovator of the ladder match, a prototype of the invader storyline, a cool heel, an inspiration — whatever you take away from Scott Hall, you also take away that 1990s wrestling was shaped in large part by his efforts and influence.

Tonight, we say goodbye to the Bad Guy.