Glacier in WCW – Eric Bischoff’s Frigid (and Costly) Failure

Following the release of Mortal Kombat 3 and on the heels of its 1995 film adaptation, WCW aired bewildering blue-tinted teasers announcing the arrival of what was to become Glacier. With hundreds of thousands of dollars going into his arrival, wrestler Ray Lloyd and WCW were doomed from the start.

Glacier in WCW.

“That entrance was a blessing and a curse.”

– Arn Anderson


Ray Lloyd – Before Becoming Glacier

Born in Brunswick, on Georgia’s southeastern coastline, Ray Lloyd has fond memories of watching both Georgia Championship Wrestling and Championship Wrestling from Florida. He’d regularly attend live events in Jacksonville, Florida, which was an hour away. Including stunt performer Evel Knievel, one of his heroes growing up was Dusty Rhodes.

Even as an avid wrestling fan, he never imagined becoming a pro wrestler, let alone Eric Bischoff’s “special project” that would see him turn into the Mortal Kombat-inspired Glacier, the man with the $35K costume and a so-called Cryonic Kick.

Getting his start under Fred Avery in early 1987 in a makeshift ring in his backyard, Ray Lloyd got hooked. He began plying his trade alongside his tag partner R.D. Swain with Georgia independent promotions such as Peach State Wrestling run by Ben Masters and the North Georgia Wrestling Alliance promoted by Sam Kent.

Fast forward a couple of years, Ray Lloyd met “Wildfire” Tommy Rich, who named him “Sugar” Ray Lloyd and got him booked to do jobs (lose matches) for WCW. Here, Lloyd gained valuable experience.

A young Ray Lloyd.
A young Ray Lloyd. [Photo: ringthedamnbell.wordpress.com]
Only a short time before, he had been just a wrestling fan toiling on the indie circuit. Now he would soon brush shoulders with some of wrestling’s biggest stars. This didn’t stop his head from filling with severe doubts. He didn’t know precisely what he had just signed up for.

 

Even though "Sugar" Ray Leonard was a very popular accomplished boxer, the very animated and likable Tommy Rich insisted on Ray’s nickname. In his 2008 RF Video shoot interview, Lloyd stated Rich told him, “You’ll be the first white guy to have it!”

Lloyd remembers being scared to death and not knowing anybody when arriving at the Albany Civic Center for his WCW debut match against Butch Reed. The latter was easy-going and professional in the locker room and explained what they’d do in the ring. Still, Lloyd couldn’t help feeling in awe surrounded by many of the wrestlers he grew up watching.

"I remember looking up when he was coming off that top rope with the shoulder. Just watching a big guy like that coming at you, I’d never seen that! But [Butch Reed] took really good care of me. I never saw him a lot after that, but I always hoped to see him again after that to thank him because he could’ve taken advantage of me, but he didn’t, and that meant a lot to me."

One of the worst things you can tell a wrestler is that he hurts people when working in the ring, but Lloyd discovered that most veterans are willing to take care of you within the squared circle. In rare cases, when wrestlers like "The Nightmare" Ted Allen and Steve "The Brawler" Lawler tried to test him, Lloyd just had to prove he could hold his own. When he did, they backed off as quickly as they pounced.

Two days after his WCW debut, he worked at the Atlanta TV taping, and his opponent that night was The Great Muta with manager Gary Hart.

"So I went from fear to ultimate fear," joked Lloyd, remembering that Muta worked him by feigning not knowing how to speak English. So, Hart laid out how the match would go.

Lloyd would work eight years for several independent promotions like Jerry Blackwell’s Southern Championship Wrestling and the Japanese shoot wrestling company UWFI, where he met mat legends Lou Thesz, Billy Robinson, and Danny Hodge. Lloyd then tried securing a spot with the company that took a chance on him earlier in his career: WCW.

Diamond Dallas Page Helps Ray Lloyd

While working out at Main Event Fitness, formerly co-owned by Sting and Lex Luger, Ray Lloyd became acquainted with Diamond Dallas Page through Disco Inferno and struck up a friendship with him.

Before Christmas 1995, DDP and Lloyd were taking a breather from the holiday crowds and eating pizza at Atlanta’s Lennox Mall when Lloyd mentioned to Page that he planned to include martial arts to a character named “Coach Buzz Stern” that he had begun using in the independents.

With a mouthful of pizza, Page answered, "Bro, that would be kinda good if you knew some of that stuff."

When Lloyd explained that he’d practiced martial arts for years, Page wanted to broker a meeting with Eric Bischoff to try and sell him the idea.

After the holidays, Bischoff, Lloyd, and Page met at a steakhouse. For three hours, Lloyd says Bischoff, a martial arts practitioner himself, “grilled him,” asking about martial arts and throwing out names and concepts, testing Lloyd. "I couldn’t even go to the bathroom!" Ray recalls. "He just kept hitting me with questions, mostly about martial arts stuff, seeing if I was legitimate."

Finally, after three hours had passed, Eric Bischoff offered him a contract with WCW.

The agreement was Lloyd would disappear from the independent wrestling scene while he developed his character.

Something clicked between Lloyd and Eric Bischoff straight away, and although Bischoff wasn’t familiar with his previous work, he hired him anyway.

“He never saw me wrestle,” Lloyd claims. “He never saw a tape of me wrestle, never saw me cut a promo. Nothing.”

Diamond Dallas Page, pictured here with Diamond Doll Kimberly, brokered a meeting between Ray Lloyd and Eric Bischoff that got Lloyd hired by WCW.
Diamond Dallas Page, pictured here with Diamond Doll Kimberly, brokered a meeting between Ray Lloyd and Eric Bischoff that got Lloyd hired by WCW. [Photo: suspiciousbehaviorproductions.tumblr.com]
Years later, however, Bischoff backtracked on his 83 Weeks Podcast, saying that perhaps they should have gone with somebody else, someone a bit smaller.

 

"He wasn’t the right guy. The problem with Ray was that even though he was a really good martial artist, he was a big guy. The bigger you are, the more steam you have to throw behind those kicks, and the more steam you throw behind them, the slower they look, especially when you’re 240 to 250 lbs. [His kicks] just don’t have the visual crispness most people associate with the martial arts they see on television or the movies. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t legit. He was."

Bischoff continued, "I think if we would have done Mortal Kombat with a character that was a Billy Kidman size, it may have done better. Ray tried so hard, but I think his martial arts didn’t come off, I think, as effectively as they needed to."

Bringing the Glacier Character to Life in WCW

Our world is about to change. Enter the realm. Blood runs cold. In each of us burns the fury of a warrior. – WCW Glacier promo June 1996

As time passed, the Glacier costume changed, but the expectations for the character continued to grow.
As time passed, the Glacier costume changed, but the expectations for the character continued to grow. [Photo: kickoutat2.wordpress.com]
Eric Bischoff may have had a particular vision for how he wanted the Glacier character to appear, but someone had to create the outfit and entrance to bring this vision to life.

 

AFX Studios Atlanta branch owner Andre Freitas was responsible for the outlandish Glacier outfit. Reportedly, it cost $35,000 to make, and his entrance was estimated at $100-400k. But Freitas readily admits that Ray Lloyd "could never live up to the hype of what we provided."

Could anyone have?

“I heard [the entrance] was several hundred thousand [dollars] at some point. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I heard it from some of the production guys,” Lloyd recalls. “But I do remember Eric saying that the three technicians we had to fly in for the laser set-up that looked like something out of Aliens that they had to keep frozen, that it cost about $9,000 every time they did the entrance on TV.”

They had what was called “midnight meetings” at Andre’s studio, where ideas would be thrown around for hours. Eric Bischoff wanted Glacier to be like a video game come to life and a heavyweight that wrestled like a cruiserweight.

“Most people don’t remember, but this was in ’96, and back then, most heavyweights wrestled like heavyweights,” Ray explained.

Ray also believes that Eric Bischoff was getting into the Mexican Lucha Libre style, which may have also influenced his vision for the characters.

Ray Lloyd and Chris Kanyon went to the arcades to observe the Mortal Kombat gameplay and listen to what the kids were saying while playing.

A curious trivia fact is that before deciding on the name Glacier, around 150 names got whittled down to ten finalists, and among the names eventually not chosen for the character was “Stone Cold.” Eric Bischoff also wanted to call the character “Cryonic” but finally settled with “Glacier.” His finish would become the Cryonic Kick.

Glacier's Cryonic Kick used to nearly take opponents' heads off. Lizmark Jr. was the victim here.
Glacier’s Cryonic Kick used to nearly take opponents’ heads off. Lizmark Jr. was the victim here. [GIF source: @allan_cheapshot on Twitter]
The original plan was to have four characters. Diamond Dallas Page suggested the multi-talented Chris Kanyon for Mortis, who would have manager James Vandenberg (James Mitchell) accompany him. Bryan Clark, formerly known as Adam Bomb in the then-WWF, was re-christened as Wrath. Karate expert and blackbelt Ernest "The Cat" Miller would help Glacier fight off these foes.

 

“I got nothing but good memories of Mortis,” says Lloyd. “In all my years in the wrestling business, I had the absolute best chemistry with that guy. My hats off to him. He was a very talented and creative guy. We just clicked.”

The Mortis character shared a past with Glacier, similar to Sub-Zero and Scorpion in the Mortal Kombat games. But unlike the games that went deep into the lore, WCW never revealed details on the connection between the two.

Glacier spent the first half of his career in the mid-card, and it wasn’t until March 1997 when he would enter a long-term feud with Mortis. Later, Wrath and Ernest “The Cat” Miller got thrown into the mix.

Mortis, better known to most wrestling fans as Chris Kanyon, also had a Mortal Kombat-inspired gimmick and became the main rival of Glacier.
Mortis, better known to wrestling fans as Chris Kanyon, also had a Mortal Kombat-inspired gimmick and became the main rival of Glacier. [Photo: doubtfireblog.wordpress.com]
Both Ray Lloyd and Chris Kanyon were, as he says, “extremely hungry and passionate. Failure wasn’t going to be something we experienced. If it was going to get squashed, it wasn’t going to be because we didn’t work hard enough.”

 

Although entrenched in the mid-card, Glacier remained undefeated from September 1996 to August 1997 until tasting defeat for the first time at the hands of Buff Bagwell on September 1st.

On his 83 Weeks podcast, Eric Bischoff defends the concept of these characters, explaining that he was looking for alternative forms of revenue at the time.

“I was still somewhat committed to the idea of creating characters that would easily transition into video games because I believed that’s where a lot of ancillary money and new revenue could be created.”

Biscoff continued, “Even though it wasn’t my cup of tea necessarily, from a business perspective, having characters that at the time I believed would more easily translate into more video game opportunities was way more important than my personal preference.”

Starting in April 1996 and going on for months, stylish cryptic vignettes in an apparent frigid non-disclosed location teased Glacier’s arrival.

Blue-tinted mysterious vignettes splashed with images of Japanese symbols, mechanical samurai-like armor, and closeups of Glacier’s eyes were all meant to get people speculating. And in the last five seconds of the teaser’s closing, notes strongly reminiscent of Mortal Kombat’s original 1992 theme song can be heard. In later vignettes, the music is much more apparent.

Watch WCW Teasing the Arrival of Glacier:

The October 1996 issue of WCW Magazine fictionally profiled Glacier, claiming he had traveled to Japan to study a fighting style that combined martial arts and wrestling.

With a supposed 400-year old helmet passed down by his master instructor David Stater, Glacier became his new name. This mysterious character was ready for his long-awaited July 1996 debut.

Huge Hype, Big Problems

Glacier inexplicably debuted with all this hype not on WCW Monday Nitro, the promotion’s flagship program, but instead on September 6th, 1996 for WCW Pro. "The generic show," as Lloyd once referred to it.

The hapless Gambler became Glacier’s first victim in an underwhelming humdrum squash match unfit for a character who the company had been aggrandizing for months.

His over-the-top entrance, again with similar notes to the Mortal Kombat theme song, introduced Glacier to cheering fans in one of the grandest entrances in wrestling at the time.

Laser lights, blue lighting enveloping everything, and even artificial snow fell onto the cheering fans.

The announcers extolled Glacier’s virtues like the next coming of a mythical martial arts Jesus in video game character armor.

Dusty Rhodes claimed the whole universe was watching.

Watch the Long-Awaited Debut of Glacier on WCW Pro:

“From a production value, that tease is as good as anything you’ll see on television today for a video game or new sci-fi show,” boasts Eric Bischoff. “There was a younger audience we were trying to appeal to that liked that kind of presentation.”

Ten days later, according to Ray Lloyd, Eric Bischoff handpicked Glacier to debut on WCW Monday Nitro against Big Bubba Rogers (Ray Traylor, a.k.a. The Big Boss Man).

Glacier made short work of him in a match once again, preceded by an incredible entrance that the fans seemed to love.

Ray Lloyd’s nerves almost got the best of him before the match, as he remembers that he couldn’t even throw up and was only dry heaving. He remembers thinking, “I’m not even going to be able to finish the match because I’m going to be so sick!"

But he somehow got through it and credited Ray Traylor and referee Brian Hildebrand for much of the match’s success.

“What a great guy and a hell of a worker as big as he was. I hate that he’s gone, but I feel lucky that I got to see him right near the end, and he was happy,” says Lloyd of Ray Traylor. “It’s amazing how seasoned he made me look. The more time goes by, the more I realize the favor he did me.”

Watch Glacier vs. Big Bubba Rogers (formerly “The Big Boss Man”) in his WCW Monday Nitro Debut:

Eric Bischoff’s “Personal Project”

Ray Lloyd, who had only obtained a modicum of success in the business, was now being touted as “Eric Bischoff’s personal project,” which meant that he became almost untouchable in the locker room. This quickly created resentment.

“I didn’t ask for all that. I just wanted to wrestle and be part of the team,” admits Lloyd. “I was getting a ‘Goldberg push,’ so I knew I’d get a lot of heat from the locker room, so I made sure I acted professional and acted humble and didn’t speak unless spoken to. But I found out later that there were a lot of powers that be that didn’t like the gimmick and did a lot to sabotage it.”

Details on the upcoming character were privy to only a few, so planning a long-term storyline proved challenging. And when Hulk Hogan turned heel, spurring the creation of the nWo, many angles and planned storylines outside of the nWo became second and third tier in importance.

Glacier’s July ’96 debut was pushed back until September because Lloyd remembers Eric Bischoff not entirely happy with the vignettes and, of course, the coinciding formation of the nWo.

“Nobody understood that the nWo was going to change the f***ing business,” Page later acknowledged. “We knew it would be great. We knew we’d be able to stick it to the WWE at the time, but we didn’t know it would do what it did. It eclipsed everything.”

“Kanyon and I were supposed to be at Bash at the Beach the night Hulk turned heel,” recalls Lloyd. “We were in my hometown of Brunswick about three hours away from Daytona, Florida. We got a call from the office saying not to come down, just to stay there. When I asked, ‘Why?’ they told me not to ask questions. Everything, including us, became a distant second.”

Legal Threats: Similarities between Glacier and Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat Causes Problems

Midway, the video game company behind the creation of the Mortal Kombat franchise didn’t like the Glacier character and was ready to take legal action against WCW.

“I’ll never forget it,” Lloyd said, “‘Come to my office.’ It’s like the principal calling you. I thought I was in trouble!”

Lloyd continued, “I walked into Bischoff’s office and was told ‘Midway is threatening a lawsuit.’ I thought my career was over and that it was nice while it lasted.

“I asked him if we were going to fight it. I remember [Bischoff] answering, ‘You know, there’s nothing I like better than a good fight, but if we fight this, we’re going to lose and lose big.’

“So I suggested we change the costume. He shot back, ‘I can’t afford another thirty-five grand!’

“I told him to trust me that it wouldn’t be like that. I went back to Andre [from AFX Studios] and told him that we needed to change the tights because Sub-Zero didn’t wear the armor or helmet like I did, but the first thing to go was the paint around my eye. I hated that.”

After only his fourth match, WCW altered the Glacier costume, and further legal issues were avoided. Ray Lloyd still owns the original costume, though. Just not the helmet, which he always hated.

Glacier will go down as a gimmick that ultimately failed, but many, including Ray Lloyd, don’t see it this way. Fans seem to be more accepting of the character now than when it was first introduced.
Glacier will go down as a gimmick that ultimately failed, but many, including Ray Lloyd, don’t see it this way. Fans seem to be more accepting of the character now than when it was first introduced. [Photo: retroprowrestling.com]

Aftermath – Glacier Goes Cold

WCW ended the angle between the four characters rather abruptly after a year and a handful of pay-per-views. Glacier would spend the next three months on a losing streak, losing matches to Steve McMichael, Prince Iaukea, and Lex Luger on Nitro and Thunder.

On a June 29th, 1998, Monday Nitro match against then-United States Champion Goldberg, Glacier injured his knee but battled onward and finished in what would become his only title challenge in WCW.

By early 1999, WCW creative was determined to bury the Glacier character, so on February 6th, he got pinned by Al Green on WCW Saturday Night.

Five days later, in a series of skits on WCW Thunder, Glacier sold his armor, mask, and armor to Kaz Hayashi while Sonny Onoo aided in the transaction.

On August 19, 1999, Lloyd made his first televised appearance in six months, this time on Thunder as Coach Buzz Stern.

Though the Stern character was inspired by Lloyd’s days as a high school football coach before his WCW career, he received an indifferent reception from fans. By November, the character was shelved, and Stern was removed from television.

On November 21st, 1999, Lloyd was one of many wrestlers released by WCW as part of a cost-cutting measure.

In 2000, he began working with Dusty Rhodes’ Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling promotion outside Atlanta, Georgia.

In 2001, Lloyd briefly returned as Glacier but as a superhero parody promising to watch Norman Smiley’s back during his matches. But he instead took his time coming to the ring to interact with the fans as Smiley got beaten convincingly.

In 2003, he held a backstage spot with TNA Wrestling and in 2006 participated in the CHIKARA King of Trios tournament.

Fourteen years would pass before his next wrestling appearance.

On March 30th, 2017, not one person in attendance at Joey Janela’s Spring Break during WrestleMania weekend expected Glacier to come in, and then the music hit and everyone lost their mind.

Watch Glacier Make His In-Ring Return at Joey Janela’s Spring Break in 2017:

Glacier made his return to a major wrestling promotion on August 26, 2017, when he entered at #20 in Ring of Honor’s 2017 Honor Rumble. Bully Ray would eliminate him.

Over the years, Ray Lloyd has developed a thick skin and understands that the Glacier gimmick wasn’t going to be to everyone’s liking. Still, he puts his matches up against anybody’s from that era and doesn’t allow the negativity to enter his mind.

His friend Diamond Dallas Page offers, “Ray might have been just a forgotten guy, but he wasn’t. The character and what they did with it is memorable. He never got to the heights he was destined for and deserved, but Ray Lloyd put the time in. He paid the dues and is literally the nicest human being in our business. He still got a good run.”

Could the character have worked better a couple of years prior when Mortal Kombat was fresher or even in ’95 when the movie launched into theaters? Would Glacier have fit better on a roster like the New Generation Era from the then-WWF or the Dungeon of Doom in WCW? He, Mortis, and Wrath seemed oddly out of place in a WCW going with more “reality-based” storylines.

Still, Ray Lloyd is very appreciative of the opportunity given to him and everybody who helped him along the way.

“Thanks to everyone who watched me perform, whether you were a fan or a critic. I’ve learned in this long, great career that the secret to success is going out there and doing your best, and you obviously can’t make everybody happy all the time.

“For people who were critics about my gimmick, well, God bless you for at least watching it and having an honest opinion. And the ones who were fans of the gimmick, thank you because it made my job worth it every night to go out there and be cheered.

“If there’s one thing people never get tired of, it’s hearing people cheer you. Thank you for allowing me to entertain you, thank you for allowing me to have a career, and thank you for being a fan of wrestling in general because, without the fans, there are no wrestlers, period.”

A recent photo of Ray "Glacier" Lloyd.
A recent photo of Ray “Glacier” Lloyd. [Photo: postandcourier.com]
Glacier is currently semi-retired from the ring and currently does stunt and acting work in television and film.

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Javier Ojst is an old-school wrestling enthusiast currently residing in El Salvador. He has been a frequent guest on several podcasts, and also has a few bylines on PopCultureRetrorama.com, where he shares stories of pop culture and retro-related goodness. Javier can be reached by e-mail at jojst1@gmail.com.