Looking back on it now, it’s a wonder the thing even worked.
The character was a blatant ripoff of Scarface, with the acting brilliance of Al Pacino replaced by a guy from Maryland donning an unconvincing – if not outright awful – Cuban accent, spoken in this strange, broken cadence that felt as if every word had been chewed up and swallowed beforehand, only to be spit back out a handful at a time. On its face, Razor Ramon could have been just another cartoon in a cartoonish era of wrestling that was the post-Hulkamania period of the early ’90s WWF. During this time, we had a voodoo witch doctor, an evil clown, an evil accountant, a giant man in a hideous bodysuit, a couple of large guys aptly named after natural disasters, a dude with a parrot for a sidekick, two bushwhackers (whatever that is), and more than few guys with blue-collar jobs who somehow found both the time and energy to moonlight as professional wrestlers.
It was a barren time in wrestling. And if these characters are remembered at all, it is briefly, with nothing more than a slight tinge of nostalgia. None of these characters made a lasting impact on the art of wrestling, and perhaps, if everything hadn’t aligned just right, Razor Ramon would have ended up that way, too.
But everything did align just right. Because Razor had something going for it the voodoo witch doctors and evil clowns didn’t have.
Razor Ramon had Scott Hall. And Scott Hall was so damn cool.
In an art form filled with larger-than-life figures, Scott Hall towered above the pack, literally and figuratively. Standing 6’7″, Hall was a massive individual, yet, he was never cast as an indomitable monster the way others similar to his size have historically been presented. Often, big guys are presented that way because they have very little else going for them that commands your attention. But not Hall. Even more significant than his physical gifts was his effortless charisma, with the slick-backed hair, the gold chains, the way he strutted to the ring, one arm out in front of the other like he was gliding, and, of course, the toothpick flick.
Then there was his finisher: the Razor’s Edge, a crucifix-style powerbomb that not only decimated opponents inside the ring but, if I had to guess, probably led to thousands of broken bedframes and cussings from angry mommas in the early ’90s, as every older brother in America lifted his younger siblings overhead and slammed them down in an attempt to feel like Razor Ramon, even at the expense at getting grounded for doing so. Because Razor was that cool.
I realize that word keeps popping up: cool. And while it might not be the best writing practice to constantly reuse the same adjective to describe someone, the fact is, there isn’t a better way to describe Scott Hall/Razor Ramon. It’s the perfect description. In fact, Merriam Webster should change the definition of cool to a simple picture of Razor walking underneath the ladder at Wrestlemania 10 ahead of his groundbreaking match with Shawn Michaels. You wanna know what cool looks like? It’s that right there.
The thing is, though, I never knew Razor Ramon growing up. I was far too young during his run atop the WWF, so it was only later in life that I familiarized myself with this period of wrestling history. But while I didn’t know Razor Ramon, I knew Scott Hall.
And, boy, oh boy, did I hate Scott Hall as a kid.
Alabama was WCW country, and WCW was the only wrestling I knew when I was younger. So when Scott Hall came through the crowd, walked into the ring, and declared war, much of what made that angle special was lost on me. To me, he was just some guy. But it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Hall would later be joined by Kevin Nash, another former WWF star I didn’t know existed until he showed up in WCW, and together, the two of them would form “The Outsiders,” a bad guy tag team that promised a hostile takeover of the company. Week after week, my hatred for them grew (wrestling was still real to me then) as they teased the appearance of a mysterious third member, who we all know now was none other than legendary good guy Hulk Hogan. In a villainous turn, Hogan dropped a leg on his former friend Randy Savage, and the greatest and most influential faction in wrestling history was formed: the nWo. Pro wrestling now found itself in its second boom period and possibly its best. And Scott Hall was right smack dab in the middle of it.
Hall, Nash, and the now “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan would commence to running roughshod, beating up fan favorites in a full-scale assault of WCW. And it’s here where my hatred for Hall and the nWo hit new heights as they set their sights on my favorite wrestler at the time – Sting. To dive into all the twists and turns of the Sting vs. nWo saga would require its own article entirely. And I won’t try to provide some sort of half-ass summation, as that wouldn’t even begin to do the story justice. But Sting’s fight against the nWo is, in my humble opinion, the most incredible story ever told in professional wrestling and a big reason why WCW beat out the WWF for 83 straight weeks in the television ratings. The story began with Sting ditching his colorful surfer aesthetic for the now iconic “Crow” look, based on the 1994 cult classic of the same name, and it ended with him defeating Hulk Hogan to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
The build was fifteen months from start to finish, a slow-burn of a tale that should have catapulted WCW into utter dominance. Instead, because of backstage politics and egos that caused the climactic clash of Sting vs. Hogan to be nothing more than a confusing, monumental letdown, it ushered in the beginning of the end for the company.
Even still, those 15 months was a special time in wrestling. And as we would learn later, we have Scott Hall to thank for that. It was his idea to transform Sting into a darker persona. Not only that, according to Eric Bishoff, most of the Sting vs. nWo story was laid out ahead of time by Hall in a creative meeting. Which just goes to show that in an era filled with massive egomaniacs, Hall was the rare self-less star, using his position atop the card and his gifted wrestling mind to give back to the business he loved and entertain the fans.
There is no modern professional wrestling without Scott Hall. I don’t think that’s an overstatement, even though we have a tendency to overstate when someone passes away. In Hall’s case, I don’t know if that’s possible. Because despite never winning a world title, he’s more beloved and influential than most men who carried that strap. Case in point, the other two founding members of the nWo, Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan, were both world champions multiple times over, and in the case of Hogan, he’s perhaps the biggest star the industry has ever seen. But my gut tells me we won’t see the same outpouring of emotion upon news of those two men’s passing the way we have with Hall. Hogan might have been why so many people became wrestling fans in the first place, but guys like Hall are a big reason why folks stayed. And Hall’s fingerprints are all over the business today. You can see them in every ladder match, in every cool heel that struts to the ring and gives a smirk to the camera. Wrestling owes a debt of gratitude to the work of Hall. Even a legend as big as Hogan was never thought of as cool until he stood next to Scott Hall, who taught the Hulkster how to be Hollywood.
But while the in-ring career was full of bright spots, the same can’t be said for Hall’s personal life. It’s well documented the demons he battled. And even though at times it seemed he was winning, the hooks of addiction and trauma may have been buried too deep inside him, making them impossible to shake. Which, sadly, isn’t a story unique to Hall. Many of his fellow wrestlers have suffered similar fates.
Professional wrestling is an art that demands a heavy price from its artists, not just in the physical toll the body takes from falling down over and over – something it isn’t meant to do – but in the mental and emotional damage that comes from making town after town, rarely seeing home, and using booze and pills as a means to cope because there’s nothing else. Perhaps if the wrestling business was kinder, gentler, Scott Hall and many others would still be alive. Bret Hart seems to think so. I think so, too.
One thing is certain, though, Scott Hall will never be forgotten. The bad times that plagued much of Hall’s life have thankfully ended.
But The Bad Guy, he’ll last forever. He said so himself.