Very few people can say they were the face of a seismic shift in an industry. No matter the medium, more often than not the status quo reigns supreme. Often, when someone helps author massive change, it isn’t appreciated until after the fact. Luckily, Scott Hall’s career apexed at a point when he did bring change to the wrestling industry, it was felt in the moment. Scott Hall is one of the most important people in the history of wrestling, and has a great responsibility to what wrestling evolved into.
Hall passed away on Monday due to complications relating to hip replacement surgery. His body was eroded by three decades in the wrestling industry coupled with a hard lived life that caused many to believe he wouldn’t make it this far. Nobody gets out of wrestling in one piece when you are a part of it for as long as Hall was and the history of wrestling is littered with stories of people Hall, but very few reached such heights and helped redefine the business.
Long before he reached the biggest heights of the industry, he was Starship Coyote (80’s wrestling was wacky), teaming with Dan Spivey, who was going by the ring name Starship Eagle. They got those monikers from Dusty Rhodes, because only Dusty could have names like that rattling around in his head.
After bouncing around the southeastern NWA territories for a couple years, Hall found his first sustained success in Verne Gagne’s AWA. During his time wrestling for the promotion, he held the tag team title with Curt Hennig and was consistently pushed as a championship level babyface, though he never won the world title. More importantly, he was able to establish himself under his own name. Because, again Starship Coyote is the name of a potent indica strain, not a legitimate wrestling name.
After leaving AWA during it’s dying days, Hall bounced around between WCW, NJPW, and had stints in Europe and Puerto Rico. He found middling success, and it was during his early 90’s run with WCW that he was managed by, and developed a friendship with Diamond Dallas Page, who would function as an incredibly important person in Hall’s life.
For wrestlers, especially during the territory days and into the 90’s and even today, the life is very transient. You are never really home that often and if you are really chasing your dream to get to the top and be one of the best, the road becomes your life. It wasn’t uncommon during the territory days to be on the road 300 days per year. Even if you made it to WCW or WWF, odds are that you were wrestling house shows during the week, tv tapings on the weekend, and repeating the process, over and over.
The other wrestlers become your family. They are the people you spend holidays with, share hotel rooms and cars with, and spend most of your waking hours with. And by all accounts, Scott Hall was one of the great guys in the business. The outpouring of support from former wrestlers and people in the business in very heartfelt ways shows the kind of man Hall was. Later in life, Hall’s demons would get the best of him and cause him to alienate people around him, and this is sometimes the thing he is most remembered for, but by all accounts, those demons were being used to mask the beating his body had taken, and his need to stay in the ring.
After a failed run in WCW as the Diamond Studd, Hall found his way to WWF. He would launch his way into super stardom with help from Al Pacino. When he sat down to develop a character with Pat Patterson and Vince McMahon, he did his best Scarface impersonation. Neither Patterson nor McMahon had ever heard of the movie so they believed he came up with this character out of thin air.
As Razor Ramon, Hall became one of the most popular wrestlers of the post-Hogan era in WWF. In an era of wrestling when too many characters were trying too hard to be hip and cool and trying to attract a new audience, Ramon made looking cool very easy. The tooth pick, the chains, the way he cut promos were so different and against the grain from so much of what the company was trying to do.
Razor Ramon held the Intercontinental Title on four separate occasions back when the title still meant something in the company. His time is probably best remembered for the legendary ladder match he had with Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania X. In an era were looks were usually more important than actual wrestling ability, the two men put on one of the greatest matches not only in Wrestlemania history, but also in the history of the company.
It was the first major ladder match in the history of the company, and would become the match that everyone else would have to set out top over the years. The match was brutal and painful to watch, but it also perfectly showed two men in their prime telling an amazing story in the ring. In the end, Hall came out on top, but in truth, the entire wrestling universe won. It was an epic match on the biggest stage possible in wrestling. Fans saw what wrestling could be, and where it was going. Wrestlers who didn’t have the biggest muscles could see that match and know they could make it in wrestling.
Hell, it was the first match in WWF history that venerable wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer gave a five star rating to.
While Hall would continue to be a mainstay on the IC title scene and a workhorse, his body was starting to feel the wear and tear of the WWF touring lifestyle. Nagging injuries, along with a suspension for drug use derailed any chances of Hall becoming a main eventer for the company. When his contract expired, he had the option to stay, but there was another offer out there from a company he used to work for. A company that was coming for WWF. A company that was offering more money and fewer days worked. A company that was about to change wrestling forever.
When Scott Hall showed up on the May 27th episode of WCW Monday Nitro, it was the opening salvo in what would become the Monday Night Wars. WCW’s owner Ted Turner and top executive Eric Bischoff were looking for a way to get more eyes on their product, as they were a distant second behind Monday Night Raw since their debut. Hall showed up announced and in street clothes and was treated as if he was still Razor Ramon invading enemy territory. He would be joined two weeks later by his friend Kevin Nash, another former WWF wrestler. A month later at Bash at the Beach, Hulk Hogan would join the two and the NWO was formed.
The NWO was a complete change from what the wrestling landscape was. The WWF had Make a Difference Fatu, who was basically the human version of D.A.R.E. class, but somehow lamer. It was Aldo Montoya. It was The Godwins.
In many ways, Hall was his best version of himself on screen. He got to work with his friend Kevin Nash at a company that allowed them to be themselves on screen. He wasn’t working as much and was able to still be the workhorse for the group in it’s early days.
Millions of people who were not fans before became fans of wrestling due in large part to Hall. He is apart of that halcyon era where some of the greatest stars in the history of wrestling found themselves. Hall and Nash were getting over in WCW. Steve Austin and the Rock becoming transcendent mega stars in WWF. The late 90’s are remembered for a few things: boy bands, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, South Park, and pro wrestling. Hall was a massive catalyst for how big wrestling was going to become.
We all know how the next few years would go. WCW would start winning the ratings war. WWF would respond by creating DX. Eventually, WCW would become bloated and ego filled and fall apart at the seams. Thanks to a blundering, terrible run with Vince Russo in charge that hastened the death of the company, Hall’s demons would be put on screen and made fun of for the show. Hall would come on screen acting drunk and carrying beer, making light of very real personal problems that Scott was having.
After WCW died, Hall would eventually return to WWF, now WWE, but his demons would continue to chase him. It would all come to a head, like many things in WWE in this era, on the Plane Ride From Hell. Hall was out of his mind intoxicated, and according to a lawsuit filed by two flight attendants, made sexually reprehensible statements, then passed out. His career was effectively over for the major companies. Over the ensuing decade, Hall’s problems would worsen. He was barely functional as a human being, forced to work shows at VFW halls in various states of intoxication for money.
By his own admission, he was washing down painkillers with a bottle of vodka every day. He had a bad addiction and a broken down body. He also had a good friend willing to help him. Diamond Dallas Page grew to prominence in his post wrestling career with his yoga and motivational speaking. He was also Hall’s on screen manager during his first WCW run in the early 90’s and the two forged a strong friendship.
Eventually, Page brought in Scott Hall and helped get his life back under control. That’s what makes the news of his passing so shocking. Scott Hall was good. He became an influence on younger generations of wrestlers. He had his life under control. And then, just like that, it was over.
That’s the fallacy of life. You can do everything right and still get it wrong. You can do everything wrong and still get it right. Scott Hall was legendary for his self destructive tendencies but that isn’t what brought him down. People get hip replacement surgery in their 60’s. In fact, these days, you are in and out of the hospital in a day or two. Right now, Hall should be starting physical therapy to get his mobility back. Instead, he is gone.
Life is unfair. It’s a game that nobody has ever won because nobody has ever gotten out of life alive. All anyone can ever do is their best everyday to leave a positive mark on life for themselves and others. For Scott Hall, he left a positive mark on millions of people. His influence on the business of professional wrestling is incalculable. His reach extends to this day. He truly is one of the best to ever lace up his boots and get in the ring.
His legacy will always live on. He truly will always be the embodiment of his famous line. Bad times don’t last. Bad guys do.