Larry Pfohl, more commonly known to professional wrestling fans as "Lex Luger", has had some unparalleled high points throughout his life, performing for millions of fans every year and winning world championships. He made national headlines in 1993 by boarding the USS Intrepid, via helicopter, and picked up the near-700 pound WWF Champion, Yokozuna. Two years later, Lex rocked the wrestling world again, jumping a metaphorical ship this time, appearing on the first ever episode of WCW Nitro to confront Hulk Hogan, not 24 hours after working a live event for the WWF.
But along with the great moments and large paychecks, living the dream came with its fair share of pitfalls and demons not uncommon among pro wrestlers in the '90s. In his new tell-all book, Wrestling with the Devil, Lex reveals the dangers of his "secret life", filled with extramarital relationships, steroids and nagging injuries that led to his morning, afternoon and nighttime habbit of pills and alcohol. Billed as wrestling's "Total Package", the ultimate narcissist drove down a road that saw him land in prison on more than one occasion. It saw the end of his marriage, estranged relationships with his family, and the tragic death of Miss Elizabeth Hulette, the first lady of professional wrestling.
I talked with Lex Luger recently, about his rise to the top of the wrestling industry, and his fall into absolute darkness. After cleaning himself up, and planting the seeds for a spiritual relationship that would come to define him, a man always considered a top physical athlete in just about every sport imaginable, suffered a spinal stroke that left him briefly paralyzes.
"They told me I was never gonna have any movement from the neck down. I was going to need 24 hour care for the rest of my life."
The interesting thing about this former bodybuilder and WCW World Champion is that he could have given up; admitted defeat and spent the rest of what was left of his life sitting in a chair, bitter at the industry and his own decisions that put him there. However, Luger found great blessing in his injuries.
"I could give you a whole list of the things I've benefited from, from having an injury like that where I was physically challenged. I was always an athlete; I never had that before. It's just been a great learning experience for me … It didn't seem so at the moment, but overall it's been a very positive journey."
Lex has regained almost full mobility since the incident, but still has definite limitations. "I'm not gonna be doing any triathlons," he said jokingly. "I try not to look at it that way. I used to be the guy everyone asked to help them move – I was always the furniture guy, because I was so strong … There's some perks to paralysis as well!"
He is definitely in great spirits, and that is due largely to his faith in God, and a strong foundation of good friends that have helped him on his road to recovery. Lex currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia in the same area as fellow professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, who has been helped thousands of people get into shape and work through debilitating conditions with his exercise/rehabilitation program, DDP Yoga. "I love it, man. I do it first thing in the morning every day when I wake up," said Luger.
Dallas Page opens his home – dubbed the "accountability crib" – to friends and former wrestlers struggling from some of the same demons that Lex had; drugs, alcohol, chronic pain, etc. His biggest success stories are former wrestling superstars Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Scott Hall, who Luger has great relationships with.
"Dallas was an incredible inspiration and friend to me after my injury … They live right down the street from me now. Scott and Cody drop by the house all the time. They come by and hang out. Cody has given Scott a real purpose and direction in his life. Scott is doing fabulous, and I'm so excited for them."
It's easy to see how somebody who suffered so much loss, and went through so much physical and emotional pain because of the professional wrestling industry could be disillusioned to it after all these years. However, Luger says that he's still involved, and that he loves it. "I love to watch when I get the chance … I don't know all the storylines, but I do love watching it. I love going to the WrestleManias, and the Hall of Fame when I can … How could I not? The fans are always fantastic. I had a 15 year dream career – I love wrestling. I'm so grateful for wrestling, and the wrestling fans."
Lex Luger is doing well, and says he can function just fine on his own now, driving around and living life with a new purpose. He is heavily involved in church programs, works occasionally with the WWE on their wellness policy – he said there are possibilities of a Legends deal being worked up, but for personal reasons needed to keep that under wraps.
"Our true strength comes from within. I'm thankful for what I can do, and I know that God can use us, and whatever physical condition we are in, God has a plan and purpose for all of our lives."
Wresting with the Devil: The True Story of a World Champion Professional Wrestler is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and wherever books are sold.