Luger’s WWF run and why it failed as heel and face.


In the King Lear rant you wrote (copying and pasting from the Scott Sez version):

"Well, now Hogan was gone and fans needed another reason to care. Want an example of what I mean? Take Bob Holly, for instance. When he started in the WWF, he was called "Sparky" Thurman Plugg, which is a semi-clever play on "STP" and "spark plug". Hah hah, right? But just looking at that gimmick, do you cheer him or boo him? And why?  (You boo him because he’s a dick, although we didn’t know how much of one at that point.)  
It was that "why" that really got to the fans. Because Vince would just keep sticking guys out there with silly names and silly costumes and pretty soon no one cared anymore. Vince produced the evil martial artist Kwang, who didn't get a reaction because he didn't do anything particularly evil. So he repackaged him as the good Caribbean legend Savio Vega, and again he didn't get much of a reaction because he didn't do anything particularly good. Vince, ironically, was the last to "get it". The fans were asking "Why should we boo a plumber? Why should we cheer a garbageman? Why should even bother to care one way or another about Jerry Lawler's evil dentist?" The WWF's answer was basically "Because we told you so" and that's where it all went bad. (Doesn’t THAT sound familiar?) "

You know which guy this point really reminded me of (and yes I know this was a few years before the period you're talking about in the rant)?

This reminded me of Lex Luger's entire WWF run- and largely for the same reasons for both his heel and face runs.

They bring him in as The Narcissist and don't give him any character development beyond "He's a guy who loves to look at himself in the mirror".

He didn't do anything particularly bad, and didn't really get any mic time to build himself up as any kind of character. He just posed a lot in front of his mirror and knocked guys out with his STEEL FOREARM OF DESTRUCTION AND EXTREME UNCOMFORT!

How is that supposed to make me want to boo the guy? If I had the abs of Lex Luger circa 1992 I'd probably be kind of narcissistic, too!

Okay, so obviously that gimmick wasn't getting him any heel heat, so with Hogan gone they hit the panic button and abruptly (very abruptly!) turned him face, had him slam Yokozuna, and stick him on a bus to kiss hands and shake babies in an attempt to make him Hulk Hogan 2.0.

And that ultimately failed too, because for all the effort they put into pushing him (at least this time he got over to some degree) they again didn't do anything to develop him as a character or give him any kind of reason for kids (or anyone) to particularly give a damn about him beyond the fact that he loves MURICA instead of himself now.

So they stuck him in a heatless mid card tag-team with another guy who wasn't able to get over.

The difference between Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger was that Hulk Hogan had character and charisma, and could make a 12 year old really believe in him and care about whatever feud he happened to be in at the time.

Yes, the fact that they booked Luger to win SummerSlam 1993 against Yokozuna by count out (?) didn't help him any, but even a world title run wouldn't have saved the gimmick.

I'm not sure I agree 100% with your detective work there, Lou. I think Luger's big push was working just fine once they focused on the Made in the USA aspect and gave him the bus and everything, but it was specifically building to him winning the World title and once he failed at that everything else became aimless.  You can say a lot of things against the gimmick in hindsight, but at the time this wasn't a Daniel Bryan situation where there was someone else fans were screaming to be champion more than Luger.  Yeah, that became Bret Hart later on, but people were more than ready for Luger to win that belt and accept him as champion.