Lex Luger: The Match of a Lifetime
By Will Dawson
The 700 Club
Wrestling fans know him as Lex Luger: “The Total Package”.
This wrestling superstar spent 15 years in the ring. In that time, he won the World Heavyweight Championship belt three times. His real name is Larry Pfohl. Before bodyslamming opponents, Larry dreamed of tackling quarterbacks in the NFL.
“I grew up in Buffalo, New York, and was a big Bills fan,” Larry tells The 700 Club. “So I wanted to maybe even play for the Buffalo Bills some day. My aspiration was to be a football player, no doubt. I thought I could be a pro.”
Larry accepted a scholarship to the University of Miami but quit after his sophomore season to play in the Canadian Football League. Over the next seven years, he played in three different leagues including a two-year stop in the NFL as a member of the Green Bay Packers. But success as a football player wasn’t enough.
He says, “I was kind of on a chase for fame, fortune and glamour, and I think in my own mind I justified it that I was solid. My intentions were pure. I had gotten married and already had my first child. I thought the world was dog-eat-dog, the end justifies the means, whatever you gotta do to make it, and if it wasn’t football, it was going to be something else.
“I had such an outstanding physique at that time that everybody said, ‘What are you doing playing football? You should be in the movies or on TV or a pro wrestler.’ I ended up walking into championship wrestling in Florida office, and about three or four months later I was in a wrestling ring. The rise was like fourth of July fireworks. I got into it in a time when wrestling was in a big transition, going global really with Vince McMahon, WWE. He was looking for a certain type of wrestler from the way they looked in the past to a new kind of prototype – almost like a live action comic book hero. I got my first name from the Superman comic books Lex Luthor.”
Lex Luger became one of the premier names in pro wrestling, and with that quick rise to the top came a lifestyle to match.
“The notoriety and the fame and how fast the money grew even compared to professional football. It happened all so fast. So there was almost a party every night if you wanted to. I would take my boots off at the end of the match, and everyone would go, ‘Where are we going tonight?’ I almost felt a duty and obligation to lead the pack.”
On the road sometimes 300 days a year, Lex led a double life. He managed to keep his party life hidden from his wife and children, but he had trouble separating the man from the image.
“In a way I wanted to go home and just be Larry with my family, and then I would go back out and put my costume on and get on the airplane and go out and be Lex Luger. All of the sudden there’s almost like two different people.”
It wasn’t just the party life – the drugs and the alcohol – that Lex was hiding. He was sharing an apartment across town with another woman, a secret he was almost certain he could keep from his wife but that changed on May 1, 2003, when his mistress overdosed on drugs and Lex called 911.
“Tragically she didn’t make it, and a person I was friends with and had spent so much time with had just died in my arms, basically. The police were in the house, and they searched the house. That whole lifestyle I had on the road I brought back to Atlanta now unbeknownst to my family. It was just lurking. The other side of town was all at once exposed. It was a huge story that all the secular world loves: betrayal and sex and drugs and arrests and death. It had every component they look for. So it was a frenzy.”
Lex was charged with 13 counts of drug possession and sentenced to five years probation. His wrestling career was over. His wife divorced him, and Lex sank even further.
He recalls, “I was getting high every day, all day long. The grief, the loss, the pain and the blame I was placing on others for why this was all happening… The God I never acknowledged my whole life or gave credit for anything now I acknowledged Him enough to be angry at Him. I was basically cursing God.”
In 2005 Lex violated his parole and was sent to jail for nine weeks. While in jail a pastor asked to speak with him.
“I was like, ‘Man, what would a pastor want to talk to me about?’ I’d always wave him off. But after a few months in there with the solitude and not anything to do in there, I was so bored. I said, ‘I’m going to see what this crazy pastor wants.’”
Pastor Steve shared the gospel with Lex, and the two developed a friendship. After Lex was released from jail, Lex came to the pastor with a question.
“I said, ‘What about the sinner’s prayer?’ That’s where we repent and turn it all over to Him. ‘Cause I could tell you that was always my problem. I had that pride left. I said, ‘What do we gotta do?’ He goes, ‘Let’s get down on our knees and say the prayer.’ When I started saying the sinner’s prayer, I get emotional. All that hate, grief, despair, depression and everything I was going through in my life lifted off me. When Jesus gave me that supernatural Holy Spirit inside of me, I thought I was going to explode.”
Lex even made a comeback to the ring in 2006. But just one year later an injury caused his spinal cord to swell and was paralyzed temporarily.
“People look at that as this tragic thing happens to Lex. My gosh! He becomes a Christian believer, and now he’s paralyzed from the neck down. Here I am now able to walk again, and God’s continued to restore things in my body. I am so thankful.”
Lex’s body once brought him fame and fortune, now he walks with a cane. Despite that, nothing is keeping Lex Luger from sharing what God has done in his life. He says, “Even though I’ve lost 50 pounds, 60 pounds of muscle with my spinal cord injury, God is rebuilding me from the inside out and showing me that our true strength comes through Him. God is always faithful [to] someone like me who ran from Him, cursed Him, cursed Christians and basically led a life of sin. He loved us all so much that because we were separated from God, He brought His very own Son in the flesh to die and make accountability for all our sins so we’re not separated from Him anymore. I just want people to know out there no matter what they’ve done, God doesn’t judge us on how many sins. God is there for us. He loves us. He wants us to turn it over to Him. No matter what we face, put your total faith in God, and in time, not our time, but His time, He’ll bring us through.”
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