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Part I: Lex Luger looks back on a legendary, controversial wrestling career

When The Buffalo News and Sports Radio 1270 The Fan offered a chance to have a show, my main objective was to have some fun.

Perhaps we presented an unorthodox sports-talk topic Wednesday, but it was not boring.

WrestleMania 33 happens Sunday in Orlando, so talk about pro wrestling we did. We were joined by Williamsville's Lex Luger and Canisius College alum Beth Phoenix, who is getting inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the big weekend.

You might say: "Well, that's not sports, Tim," and you're mostly right, but I don't care. People love pro wrestling, and more and more I'm learning to appreciate it.

A confession: I am ignorant about many of the angles, the history, the back stories and whatnot. As an adolescent, when my family first got cable television and the USA Network, I dug Sergeant Slaughter, Andre the Giant, Ivan Putski and Jimmy Snuka.

Then I accepted pro wrestling was fake, while the "sport" still insisted it was real, and I couldn't forgive an industry for pushing a scam. So by the time I was 14, I was fully mocked pro wrestling and thought less of the people who watched it.

But in 1989, Vince McMahon declared in a legal filing pro wrestling was "an activity in which participants struggle hand-in-hand primarily for the purpose of providing entertainment to spectators rather than conducting a bona fide athletic contest."

I would occasionally cross paths with pro wrestling fanatics after that and generally lost respect for them. I believed they were rubes.

Over time, however, I learned an increasing number of people I respect are into pro wrestling. Two of my best friends in the world, the best man at my wedding and Buffalo News reporter John Vogl are devotees.

So I tried to keep an open mind and here I am today: I get it.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, dramatic television was geared toward women. Soap operas, "Dallas," "Dynasty," "The Thorn Birds" and what have you.

But dramatic television series have come around with "The Wire," "The Sopranos," "Breaking Bad" ... Is pro wrestling any more ridiculous than "The Walking Dead"? We watch those shows and devour the blogs and the message boards and talk about the characters like they're real people.

Pro wrestling is all that with some pretty sweet acrobatics mixed in. There's more time building up a beef than settling it, all sorts of theater and back stories and character development and trying to find creative ways to deliver justice, just like they try to come up with another crazy way to execute a consigliere and kill a zombie.

All of it's fake. And it still can be fascinating.

In this portion of "The Tim Graham Show," Luger (aka Larry Pfohl) recalls some of his famous -- and infamous -- matches, his 10 WCW titles, beating Hulk Hogan, his integral role in the WWE/WCW Monday night rivalry and how to deliver "receipts," the very, very real wrestling moves that let an opponent know he better stop screwing around.

 

Part II: Lex Luger unafraid to delve into darkest parts of a calamitous life

Beth Phoenix: Dream sparked at Canisius reaches WWE Hall of Fame this weekend at WrestleMania 33

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