The steel cage match that took place at the War Memorial Auditorium in Florida in January of 1987 is one of the more unusual incidents in the crazy world of professional wrestling.
Bruiser Brody was a veteran at this point in his career and very well-respected amongst his peers. Lex Luger, on the other hand, was almost the polar opposite. He was green (new to the business) and didn’t have the respect of the locker room.
‘The Berzerker’ John Nord once said of his friend and mentor, “Brody didn’t like guys that were cocky but liked people who treated him with respect.” ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan mirrored this view. “He was an imposing person, a huge guy. He was rough with people – if guys didn’t like what he did in the ring, he’d just beat them up. Whattaya gonna do if you get beat up in the ring? You can’t call a cop…”
Pro Wrestling Stories writer and wrestling historian Bobby Mathews adds, “Brody had that kind of reputation with many wrestlers. If he wanted to take liberties, he would. If he didn’t want to cooperate, he wouldn’t. He was, in many ways, the last of an outlaw breed–a wrestler who looked out for himself. He wrestled on his terms, and no one else’s. If he thought a promoter or another wrestler was looking to get over on him, watch out. Brody often refused to do jobs. He sometimes changed the finish of a match while the match was going on. Brody was not above shooting on his opponent during a match to send a message to another worker or to a promoter. And he was nomadic. He wouldn’t hesitate to leave a territory without ‘doing the honors’ for a local star on his way out. Brody also had the reputation for never losing a locker-room fight. For one thing, he was legitimately tough. And he always landed the first punch.”
Lex Luger’s Mistake before the Steel Cage Match
Being the vet that he was, Brody wanted to call it in the ring, however, Lex, who barely had a year of wrestling experience under his belt, was talking to Brody before the steel cage match, telling him how the match would go and what he had envisioned for it. This was a huge no-no. Bruiser was the last guy you would want to get on the wrong side of by *telling* him what to do, especially before a match.
What followed was a steel cage match that started out as any should, two professionals working together, cooperating and putting on a show for the fans in attendance. It was all going to plan — until it wasn’t. Brody just stopped cooperating. He stopped selling, he stopped caring, he stopped doing anything. He just stopped. Luger would throw offense at Brody, but he wouldn’t budge. Luger, undoubtedly confused, maybe terrified even, wanted out. They couldn’t get the cage door open so Luger scaled the cage walls and climbed out as quick as he could.
Lex Luger sat down with RF Video and talked about this infamous match:
“He just stopped working. It was just bizarre, I just wanted to get out of there. The ref looked at me, I looked at the referee [Bill Alfonso], we’re both like, ‘What’s he doing? He’s not doing anything, what do we do?’ He just stopped working.”
The majority of the witnesses who have spoken out in the aftermath of this match said that Luger left the arena and jumped into his car immediately to quickly get out of dodge, but Luger insists otherwise. “I walked over to him, I thought he was mad at me or something or there was something wrong. I was very green, if I offended him or I did something wrong, I wanted to apologize, you know? I was young, he was a big scary guy and I was like, ‘I just wanna get out of the ring’ cause I didn’t know what was going through his head. He had razor blades on his fingers and I was like, ‘What’s this guy gonna do next?'”
“I didn’t know what was going through his head. He had razor blades on his fingers and I was like, ‘What’s this guy gonna do next?'”
In regards to why Brody would have sabotaged the match, Lex continued, “[Brody] just said, ‘I’m working as a babyface in Texas right now. I’m getting over good there and you’re a babyface here, it’s just not working, no big deal.’ He was totally cool after the match. [The office] was probably upset. I’m sure they weren’t happy, I’m sure they questioned his professionalism because I’d never do that to somebody, you know? But especially with how inexperienced I was, I didn’t know what he was doing. I was like, ‘Is this guy on something or is this guy freaking out on me or what’s he doing?’ I mean I’ll fight anybody but I mean when you’re in a ring, you’re sacrificing, you’re giving yourself. It’s kind of bizarre, you know? Real bizarre. I just told the referee, ‘Just DQ me.’ But then they couldn’t get the door open, I was like, ‘I’m getting the hell outta here!'”
Present backstage was Barry Windham. He had this small piece of insight on the aftermath with Hannibal TV:
“[After the match, Brody] wondered where Luger went and he wondered what happened, but ya had to know Brody — that was just his personality. He probably didn’t like Luger anyway, you know, he was a pretty boy.”
The next best seat in the house, besides Luger’s, would have to be the referee that night, ECW alum, Bill Alfonso. In an interview with Wrestling 911, Bill described the bizarre steel cage match:
“It was Bruiser Brody against Lex Luger in the steel cage match and that was a big event back then… Now they’re all over the place, ladders and tables and chairs, you know what I mean? But it was a big thing then. So Luger, for the first year, they kind of hand-picked his opponents and babysat Lex ’cause, you know, he had a beautiful body. He never was a great worker, he wasn’t no Ray Stevens or no Barry Windham, he had a great body though. He was Lex Luger. And they put him with Bruiser Brody. So Lex wanted to talk to Bruiser before the match but Brody didn’t want to be bothered, and [Brody said], ‘Call it in the ring, whatever happens in the ring, that’s what happens.’
They had their match, they did a couple little lock ups, push offs, and then Brody started beating him down, boom, right away getting heat on him and Luger’s asking me, ‘What do I do?’ I said, ‘Just listen to Brody, he’s gonna be alright, you’ll be alright, he ain’t killing ya!’ And now Lex is taking offense because he’s never been treated this way. So he tried to make a comeback on his own, sort of hit him, but Brody no sold. [Lex] hit him in the head, boom boom boom… nothing. And finally, Brody started beating him up all again, not really bad, just sports entertainment kind of beat up and Lex panicked so bad. This is the main event in Fort Lauderdale at the War Memorial in a cage. He panicked so much that he just climbed over the cage, ran to the dressing room, jumped in his car and drove back to Tampa. End of story.”
Not present in a backstage capacity that night, but present in attendance, was former WCW ring announcer David Penzer. Penzer has spoken to guys that were involved backstage that night and on his podcast “Sitting Ringside with David Penzer,” he revealed a few further details:
“I never talked to Lex about that match, though I have talked to different people involved in the match. What happened was Lex was on his way to NWA at the time. He was on his last week and he was acting real cocky. I guess Brody didn’t like it. There were some rumblings that certain people in the back were egging Brody on. Brody stopped selling, Luger got kind of nervous because he knew he couldn’t take Brody in a legit fight, he didn’t wanna get the hell beat out of him when he was on his way up to his plush job in WCW for way more money and exposure, so he just took a powder and never came back!”