Date: January 21, 1987
Location: Lakeland, FL
Source: Dave Meltzer, Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Armpit reader HB2KBuzzsaw, Grantland.com
Bruiser Brody and Lex Luger couldn’t have possibly been more different individuals, and the reputations of each made it almost a sure thing that there would be problems when the two eventually met up.
It’s important to know the back story that led to the events of that night in 1987. The promotion was Championship Wrestling from Florida, a member of the NWA and at the time was owned by Hiro Matsuda (who ironically trained Lex Luger). CWF had a long history in the territory that made superstars out of legends like Dusty Rhodes, Eddie Graham, Kevin Sullivan, and others. But by 1987, CWF was dying, just as all the other territories were, as the WWF was expanding nationwide, stealing their talent, and destroying them with bigger name stars and superior production values.
Jim Crockett Promotions, the only territory that was having success in the WWF expansion era, had just signed Luger and planned to make him a big star. Luger had only been in the business a couple of years, but because of his look and physique, was pushed to the top from day one. This naturally led to resentment of him by the veteran talent, made worse by the fact that Luger wasn’t naturally good in the ring, and because his personality and attitude towards the business rubbed some people the wrong way. Luger was very smart, and was among the first wrestlers to question the contracts he signed. It gave him the rep as someone who looked out for himself above the wrestling business as a whole.
Brody was a different animal. Unlike Luger, he was experienced and very good in the ring. He was perhaps the best working big man of the century, and among its top brawlers ever. He reached legendary status in Japan, making great money there which allowed him to pick and choose where he worked in the US. He did not like doing jobs, and despite his talent and charisma, was extremely difficult for promoters to work with. “Brody does what he wants,” is what his friend and wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer wrote about him. He was also very tough, and could thus do what he wanted in the ring without fear of retribution. Promoters didn’t want to upset him because they knew Brody had options and could leave any time he wanted, so they appeased him because he usually drew well wherever he worked.
On the night in question, Brody was to face Luger in a cage match. Being that Luger was on his way to JCP, he refused to do the job. However, it’s not known if that was really Luger’s doing or if Crockett didn’t want him jobbing. Brody allegedly told Larry Matysik that he wasn’t “putting up with any of his (Luger’s) bullsh*t.” He also showed up hung over, and with razor blades taped to his knuckles. Clearly this was a planned move on his part, whether he intended to mess with Luger, or whether he was paranoid and thought the promoter was going to play games with him.
It should be noted that Luger did jobs for Brody, Kevin Sullivan, and Badnews Allen on his final few weeks out of the Florida territory. He complained about it, but he did them.
Luger apparently approached Brody before the match to go over the layout, and he brushed him off. That hasn’t been confirmed, but certainly veterans like Brody were known for calling the match in the ring instead of planning it out. Referee Bill Alfonso said there was a miscommunication regarding who would lead/call the match, and that there was no ill will between the two. But Brody’s statement to Matysik shows Brody did have some issues with Luger.
When the match starts, there is some cooperation but it also appears something is amiss. Tension can be seen between the two, with Luger seeming somewhat confused and Brody becoming gradually uncooperative. Brody later claimed Luger wasn’t selling for him, but that doesn’t appear to be the case (the match wasn’t filmed for television, but a handheld fan cam is readily available online).
A few minutes in, Brody won’t sell any of Luger’s punches. Luger is confused and frustrated, and asks referee Alfonso what’s going on. Alfonso at first told him it was a rib, but Alfonso soon realized he was wrong and told Luger to go for the ref bump. After a few minutes of what must have felt like eternity (he later said he just wanted to get out of there), Luger goes in for a bunch of punches. Alfonso goes to pull him off, and Luger throws him down the ref bump and disqualification. Luger never stiffed him, as he was both professional when it came to protecting opponents and likely afraid for his life.
Luger tried to escape through the cage door, but couldn’t get it open. So he instead climbed over the top and left the ring. Fans thought it was a bad finish, but Luger had no other real choice. Ringside fans could hear Luger shouting, “Get the door open, he’s nuts!”
After it went down, promoter Hiro Matsuda was running around the locker room laughing about how football players (which Luger was during and after college) think they are tough but are chickensh*t next to a tough wrestler. Ron Simmons and Dewey Forte were in the locker room hearing this, and both are very tough wrestlers who were also very tough football players.
Luger stated later that after the match, he walked over to Brody and asked if he did anything wrong. Notice he did not go up to him and shout about how unprofessional he was, which is what most in that situation may have done. Brody told him nothing was wrong and said “The match just wasn’t working.” Luger also claimed that Brody said he was working as a babyface in Texas now (implying he wouldn’t want to lose in nearby Florida). Luger said Brody was a big, scary guy, and that he himself was inexperienced and didn’t know what he was doing. But he said Brody was totally cool after the match, and the office never gave him any heat over the match or for going against the planned finish. We’re unaware of what the planned finish actually was, but most likely Luger was not going to be losing.
Meltzer wrote that Brody told him his plan was to let Luger punch himself out, because “that guy is so filled with steroids he’s gassing out in two minutes.” If that is true, that’s certainly how Brody behaved in the ring.
In the weeks that followed, the Florida wrestling TV show buried Luger. Scott Hall was brought in to fill the role of Luger. Kevin Sullivan and Oliver Humperdink did promos saying things like, “The last time we saw Lex Luger, he was running away in a cage match and has never been heard from since.”
The entire incident wasn’t really a fight per se, but it was a very real moment that could’ve gotten out of hand had Luger reacted in a different manner. He did the right thing by going to the finish and avoiding a conflict, and within a few weeks he was in greener pastures in the NWA and soon became a member of the 4 Horsemen. Brody died the following year as a result of an argument with Puerto Rico booker Jose Gonzales, who stabbed him in what he claimed was self defense (which almost nobody believes). While critics of Luger might take delight in the story, and while at times Luger has been unprofessional himself, this is one instance in which Luger was in the right and Brody was in the wrong. You can question Luger’s refusal to do the job, but again that might have been an order from Crockett. Even if it wasn’t, Brody’s way of handling the situation was entirely unprofessional.