Where Are They Now? Lex Luger
With the impressive physique he had upon leaving the gridiron for the squared circle, it's perfectly understandable why Lex Luger was something of a "Narcissist." Who could have guessed that the former football player who began training with Hiro Matsuda in 1985 would become the "Total Package"? (PHOTOS)
While playing football, becoming a decorated champion inside the ring was not on Luger's mind. But after hearing from many of his peers that his chiseled physique could earn him a career in film or television, the decorated athlete decided to heed their advice.
"In the off-season, I walked into NWA [WCW] in Florida, and they had Hiro Matsuda train me," Luger recalled. "I went back to football, but six months later, I was in the ring and became Southern Heavyweight Champion a few weeks after that."
Before long, the young ring warrior was thrust into the spotlight and found himself working with one of the most legendary groups in the history of the industry.
"I had a great opportunity there, which I didn't even realize at the time with Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen," Luger said. "That was a tremendous time and opportunity, and the fans loved to hate us."
After rising in the ranks to United States Champion, and then even higher to capture the World Championship, Luger moved on from WCW, and after a brief stint with the World Bodybuilding Federation, he was introduced to the WWE Universe as "The Narcissist."
"It was a blast," he recalled. "I got introduced by Bobby Heenan at my first pay-per-view [Royal Rumble 1993], and I was psyched about the opportunity.
The Narcissist's opportunity, however, proved to be short-lived, thanks to an even greater break just around the corner.
"We had the ‘Lex Express Tour' after ‘The Slam Heard Round the World' with Yokozuna. What a tour that was; the crowds and excitement it generated was a phenomenal experience."
Luger credits WWE and its Chairman, Vince McMahon, for making that July 4, 1993 moment in New York City possible.
"I thought, how am I going to go from being The Narcissist and a bad guy to slamming Yokozuna on the U.S.S. Intrepid and a good guy in one clean swoop?" said the former WCW Champion. "It was amazing. Yokozuna was standing there, with Mr. Fuji, eating rice and rubbing it in people's faces because nobody could slam him.
"Other wrestlers and football players, athletes, strong men all tried slamming him but couldn't. Then down I came in the helicopter and swooped in, and the excitement in that crowd when I slammed him was off the chain. It was amazing … definitely one of the biggest, if not the biggest, highlights of my career."
One of the biggest highlights, though it never translated into a championship during Luger's tenure with WWE, which came to a close just a couple years later. In September 1995, The Total Package had returned to WCW.
"I went back to WCW when the Monday Night Wars started, coincidentally," Luger said. "That was a special time with how the crowds reacted … another highlight of my career. It was tremendous.
"I went back with some regret at the time, as I felt I left a lot of things unfinished and had so many great opportunities with WWE that I didn't capitalize on. But with the Monday Night Wars going on, I felt that it brought out the best in both companies. It helped bring out the best of what we're seeing now."
WWE would emerge victorious in the Monday Night Wars, buying out WCW six years later in 2001. For Luger, it signaled the end of his own longstanding ring career, and ushered in a dark time in his personal life -- a period that ultimately resulted in legal problems and incarceration. Today, however, Luger considers it the opening of a door that allowed him to see the error of his ways and change his life completely.
"I made a lot of regrettable, bad decisions in my life," he admitted. "Many times, the decisions we make affect and hurt your closest friends and family the most. I have a lot of regrets, in that regard. But God has forgiven me, which I am very thankful for. It has enabled me to forgive myself and move forward one day at a time."
Luger credits the start of his personal redemption to "a jail chaplain who came into my life. When I got out [of jail], he chased me down." The chance meeting would change the decorated legend's outlook on life completely, starting him on a path to reform his life for the better.
"He shared the Sinner's Prayer and the Plan of Salvation in a hotel room on April 23, 2006," said the former champion. "My life from then on has been a supernatural transformation. At that point, I had pretty much given up hope. But now I know that, by God's grace and mercy, none of us have to."
Devoting himself to God, Luger began trying to help and pass his experiences onto others in need. Unfortunately, the path ahead would be just as challenging for him - just a short time later, he would face one of the toughest setbacks in his life.
"I injured my neck on an airplane from Atlanta to San Francisco," he explained. "The way I had turned my neck while sitting on the plane had basically cut off my blood flow. It was just a freak accident, but it caused massive swelling from my C6 [vertebra], at the base of your neck, to my D5 in my chest. It paralyzed me from the neck down."
The incident was tragic, and the prognosis bleak. But Lex did not lose faith. Through his determination and belief of his newfound convictions, he worked incredibly hard to overcome his debilitating condition, surpassing what many believed he'd ever be able to recuperate.
"I was in a hospital in Stanford, Calif., where they ran every test on my heart and brain," Luger said. "They told me that I was a healthy 49 year-old, though I‘d be paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of my life and need 24-hour medical care. But my recovery has been just phenomenal. Now I live on my own, I'm walking and I'm thankful for that. Nobody knows if I'll make a 100-percent recovery, but I've gotten so much back already … more than anybody would ever have thought."
These days, the former "Total Package" is showing he is precisely that, using his life experiences in an effort to help others.
"One of the things I do is try to get a positive message out there in the local schools and tell my story," he said. "I also do a lot of faith-based speaking, sharing my story and testimony, to help show what God has done in my life and what he can do in others' lives."
And that's just on his weekends. The rest of his week is dedicated toward rehabilitative therapy at the place where he'd been hospitalized from November 2007 until March 2008 - the Shepherd Center, a world-class rehab center for ABI and SCI, core brain injuries and spinal cord injuries.
"It's an amazing facility, and my recovery has just been astounding," he said. "I'm also involved in volunteer services there. Eighty percent of the injuries, especially spinal cord injuries such as my own, occur with young men between the ages of 15 and 24. This has given me the awesome opportunity to provide family and peer support, to give back and encourage the families that it does get better. I do that as much as I can, as it's a privilege and an honor that they allow me to do that."
Luger also tries to help various ministries with which he has become associated.
"I'm involved in quite a few ministries as a bridge builder, trying to match generous givers and donors to other ministries. Based on my past, I'm also involved in mainly the prison ministry. I go to jails and prisons and share my story, trying to give them some hope."
Luger wears many other different hats, with his hand in numerous projects, from online nutrition stores, writing for magazines and even lobbying for healthcare reform.
"I'm involved with a nutrition superstore online at SupplementDepot.net, where we offer advice and counseling," he revealed. "It is an awesome business and we're growing very rapidly. I'm really excited about that."
Luger also writes for Christian Living Magazine, where he has a featured nutrition column on the magazine's Web site, which caters to fitness and healthy living. Recently, he has thrown his hat into the political arena, focusing on healthcare at the state level.
"I'm talking with some great people in Georgia and Washington D.C., working toward cutting down healthcare costs and dealing with obesity, which ties in with nutrition. I'm also involved in a research project on muscle fiber recruitment with waves and vibrations. It's already in the clinical level in hospitals, but I'm working with a group of people that want to bring it to the mainstream."
Obviously, the past several years have presented difficult times for Lex Luger. But he has done more than progress by leaps and bounds throughout his recovery and road to redemption. And through it all, he has never forgotten his fans, with whom he continues to reconnect through his association with PromoLastEvents.com.
"I love going back to those events and seeing the fans," he stated. "I try to schedule those every few months as I have a blast.
"I want to thank the fans so much for their support through the years," Luger concluded. "Even as undeserving as I was, they were a big part of my being able to move forward and put my life back together. They're the greatest. They're the ones who make the stars. For their support throughout my career and today, I love them and thank them."