Before Roman Reigns, there was someone named Lex Luger, a guy with a monster push who just didn't get over with the fans.
The beginning of Luger's monster push came on July 4, 1993, when he was repackaged, seemingly overnight, from his self-centered, narcissistic, mirror-loving character (managed by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan) to the muscle-flexing American patriot, the WWE's latest attempt create a new Hulk Hogan.
What's remarkable about this "babyface" turn was that it was literally completed overnight, on America's birthday.
The WWE created an angle out of nowhere. On the deck of the USS Intrepid, wrestlers would try to bodyslam the 550-pound Yokozuna. Several wrestlers failed, including Crush and Randy "Macho Man" Savage. Yokuzuna had seemingly "embarrassed America," on its birthday, until, up in the sky, a chartered helicopter hovered then landed, and out walked Luger in a pair of stonewashed jeans and an American flag shirt.
What's also special about this moment was that WWE fans experienced the voiceover version of the event. There was no live broadcasting. McMahon was narrating the event, post-production and boy did he deliver. This was one of the defining moments of Vince McMahon's career. Here he was desperately trying to get a character over, and on that day, he pulled it off (maybe he should be calling Monday Night Raw these days)
As Luger walked out of the helicopter, McMahon screamed:
"Lex Luger, who had always been proud of himself, we found out, was proud of America as well."
"There was a look of determination in his eyes," McMahon said.
Luger shoved his former manager, Bobby The "Brain" Heenan, and then walked into the ring, as McMahon, in his greatest McMahon voice, stated that, "he was America's last hope."
Luger then grabbed the microphone, insulted Fuji and Yokozuna in ways that were entirely inappropriate and would never fly today in the PG era. Fuji in response spit on Luger, and McMahon declared, "Mr. Fuji spit on Lex Luger as if he were spitting on America!"
Yokozuna then rushed Luger, who moved to the side and sprung him into the corner turnbuckle. Luger then delivered an elbow and then a bodyslam (sort of) of Yokuzuna, sending the crowd that had gathered around the ring into a manic frenzy.
The slam was more of an exaggerated hip toss, but it was close enough for the moment. Luger had turned into a baby-face good guy in an instant, thanks to a clever McMahon, great surprise booking, and some down-home patriotism on the 4th of July.
On this day, "America would not be embarrassed!"