An experiment occurred on this day in wrestling history 19 years ago. WWE taped several weeks of programming in Bethlehem, PA heading into WrestleMania 10, which occurred on 3/20/94.
Lex Luger and Bret Hart were co-winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble when they eliminated each other simultaneously as the final two competitors. As a result, both would vie for the WWE Title against Yokozuna.
Lex Luger was the favorite to leave WrestleMania 10 as champion. WWE had been pushing him as the new top babyface to fill the void left by Hulk Hogan’s departure. However, fan support for Luger waned to the point where the company considered a course correction, but they needed to be sure.
A segment was filmed during the 2/22/94 Bethlehem tapings where Yokozuna’s manager, Jim Cornette, was interviewed by Vince McMahon while holding the WWE Title. Cornette waved the winged eagle belt as he proclaimed that Lex Luger would not only never win the title, but he would tell him to his face before slapping him upside his head.
Luger came out and snatched the belt away from a seething Cornette. Like a light bulb over Wile E. Coyote’s head, Vince McMahon had an idea. McMahon called over to the ring announcer and said let’s see what the future could look like after WrestleMania and announce Luger as champion. “Why not,” Luger postured and went behind the curtain, waiting for his cue.
Ring announcer Bill Dunn, introduced to a sold-out Stabler Arena “And now, ladies and gentlemen, THE NEW World Wrestling Federation Champion, LEX LUGER!”
Luger made his celebratory entrance with the WWE Title firmly around his waist, much to the dismay of Jim Cornette, who was helpless to do anything about it.
Legend has it the segment was a clever way for WWE to obtain footage of Lex Luger with the belt to edit and air on television immediately following WrestleMania. Fans in the newsletter community believed it was a spoiler that Luger was winning the title.
The segment was also a test to gauge the crowd’s reaction to Lex Luger as champion. Unfortunately, the what-if scenario received a tepid response at best, which prompted Vince McMahon to change course as WrestleMania 10 ended with Bret Hart holding the gold.
It was the final blow to WWE’s star-spangled push of Lex Luger as the company’s lead protagonist. Sadly, it was Vince McMahon’s poor booking of Luger as he postponed his coronation at SummerSlam 1993 in hopes of a bigger box office return seven months later at WrestleMania.
WWE failed to strike while the iron was hot. It cooled down past the point of no return. The segment, which never aired on television and was leaked online years later, is the closest Lex Luger came to becoming WWE Champion.
Watch the segment below to see what Lex Luger would have looked like as champion.