Saying Goodbye To The Bad Guy And Remembering Scott Hall

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Ahead of his time in many regards, few wrestlers would leave a bigger impression on pro wrestling during the 1990s than Scott Hall. His influence and attitude towards the business crafted him a legacy that outstripped many of his contemporaries who achieved more kayfabe success in the ring. Scott Hall was never a world champion, and rarely in his career was he even a main eventer; But a few wrestlers of the 90s were more memorable than Hall, whose moving-and-shaking within the industry defined an era.

Going back and watching wrestling from the mid-90s with a modern perspective; It’s safe to say that a lot of the most popular acts have not always aged in the most flattering lights. Wrestling is all about time and place and what is ultimately important is how popular something was during its time, not 25 years later, but out of the main acts of that era, Hall’s persona has aged perhaps the best.

With his slow, self-assured delivery and his winking at the camera, his charisma and coolness translates right through the screen into the modern era. Looking back at Razor Ramon and comparing him to his contemporaries in the mid-90s WWF, he easily stands out as the most marketable person in the company. Shawn Michaels was talented but also an awkward fit with his Chippendale dancing; Diesel has the size but didn’t have the charisma yet; Bret Hart was the most talented but more of an acquired taste for hardcore fans; Undertaker was limited by his gimmick.

Razor had the size, the look, the charisma and the ability to be a mega-star. It’s why it’s so hard to look at what was a pretty bleak era for the WWF in the talent department and understand why Ramon never won the world title. But it was a different time in wrestling and the world title was not passed around as freely as it is today, and Hall was never in the right spot at the right time to get that spot.

Hall had a very complex career in that promoters consistently saw him as a guy with tremendous ability and potential, but also rarely capitalized on those skills to the fullest extent. Unfortunately, nobody was a bigger enemy to his career than Hall himself, with his struggles with substance abuse being well-documented.

When he first started in the AWA, Verne Gagne had him tapped as the replacement to Hulk Hogan, who he had recently lost to the WWF. Hall was gigantic in those days; around 6’6” and 300lbs, it was no wonder he would be seen as the next Hogan. Hall though, was very, very green and more importantly, didn’t have the kind of charisma that he would display later in his career.

He went to WCW where after a while, began with a character known as the Diamond Studd; a character that would be the prototype of the Razor Ramon persona a few years later in WWF. The Studd was very similar to Rick Rude, complete with a pre-match undressing, but the basic tenements of the Razor character were on full display.

When he got to the WWF, he pitched the Razor Ramon character, a Tony Montana-inspired figure billed from Miami that clearly was connected in the cocaine trade, although that was obviously never explicitly stated. It was the Diamond Studd character with more color; as he slithered to the ring in his gold chains and colorful jacket and tights with the razor blade, toothpick in mouth.

His music was absolute perfection, one of Jim Johnston’s finest works. The opening sound effect of a car skidding and losing control, followed by the calm industrial, cubano-inspired beats as Ramon sauntered to the ring. The look, the mannerisms, the music, it let everyone know that this was SOMBODY.

He had leaned out a bit since his AWA days; he was still a huge guy but he was more agile and athletic and a great bump guy for someone his size. He had a really cool move-set for his time; doing signature moves like the fall-away slam and a top-rope back suplex, and of course the great working punches. His finisher, the Razor’s Edge, was one of the most memorable of his day. It looked devastating and for better or worse, was really easy to do to your friends when you were on a trampoline or mattress.

Originally a heel, he would eventually turn babyface in the WWF and become a long-running Intercontinental Championship, back when the title was incredibly important to the WWF. His mannerisms and personality didn’t really change when he became a babyface; he just started feuding with heels. In some ways he paved the way for Eddie Guerrero a decade later, who got the affection from fans thanks to a similar, roguish charm.

Hall walking out on an episode of Nitro on May 27, 1996 was a transformative moment in wrestling. The Outsiders and the formation of the NWO was a paradigm shift in wrestling. WCW had already been drawing close to the WWF in recent years after Nitro hit the airwaves in 1995, and Hall/Nash jumping to WCW and Hogan’s subsequent heel turn would place WCW firmly ahead of the WWF, which in turn led to the WWF having to completely revamp their approach to wrestling in the process.

In WCW, Hall was no longer Razor Ramon, but he was basically the same character, so much so that the WWF sued WCW over copyright infringement because Hall’s persona was so close to that of Razor Ramon. It was that initial run with Nash, before the NWO became bloated with various mid-card acts, that Hall’s career peaked. Even as the NWO storyline dragged on long past its expiration date, Hall also had credibility and a certain coolness associated with him because he was an original founder of the group, and an important figure in WCW history, even if he would become mostly a mid -card wrestler as the 90s came to a close.

When he was sober, Hall was highly-regarded for his intelligence inside the business and had terrific instincts and judgements about what would work in wrestling. He could be very generous in his matches, often working with undercard guys in WCW and willing to give them some offense. When he was going through one of his rough periods, he could be difficult to work with and come across as selfish.

One notable thing that I’ve noticed with Hall is that he really shined in unstructured moments. So many of the GIFs and short clips being shared this week contain him doing little things right before his matches, or in the background of promos. Whether it was getting hit with a soda and using that as an excuse to grease back his hair, or clowning his opponent right before they locked up, Scott always had a knack for capturing attention when other performers might have remained passive.

I think about Hall coming along today and what that would be like. I think his creativity would shine even brighter as he’d have more options to display those instincts. The business moving further away from the raucous party atmosphere of the 80s/90s may have helped him with his substance-abuse issues, and prolonged his career. Hall had an amazing career, but he also left a lot on the table.

One final story about Hall; Everyone knows about him putting over the 1-2-3 Kid on an episode of RAW, but there was a similar story that took place years later. After WCW closed down in 2001, Hall went to go work for New Japan Pro Wrestling. In New Japan he wanted to do a match similar to his match with 1-2-3 Kid, so he picked a wrestler that had just graduated from Young Lion status and had a quick match with him, allowing the youngster to roll him up for an upset victory.

After the match, Hall said that he thought the kid was great and that he would go far in wrestling. The young wrestler? Hiroshi Tanahashi. Hall certainly knew how to spot talent; and was willing to help them on their way.

In the latest episode of the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings (@Jesse Collings) and Jason Ounpraseuth (@JasonOun95) talk about the use of various celebrities in wrestling. They go over Ronda Rousey’s performance so far in her return to WWE, Logan Paul and Johnny Knoxville wrestling at WrestleMania, AEW’s use of celebrities and the career potential of Gable Steveson.

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