By Mike Mooneyham
May 4, 2003
She had style and grace, all wrapped up in a pretty package that enthralled a new generation of wrestling fans. She was a pioneer who helped pave the way for women in what had been almost exclusively a man’s business. And, more than just eye candy and window dressing, she stood her ground when promoters attempted to put her in situations she felt uncomfortable with.
The recent death of Liz Hulette, better known to millions of wrestling fans around the world as the lovely “Miss Elizabeth,” is not only a painful reminder of the fragility of life, but yet another sobering reflection of a fraternity whose members are dying far too young.
Hulette died early Thursday after police were called to the Marietta house where she lived with wrestling star Lex Luger.
While speculation abounds as to the cause of death, it may be weeks before a clear-cut answer emerges. An autopsy Friday did not reveal how the 42-year-old Hulette died, and police would not say whether they suspect she died from a drug overdose, suicide or natural causes. The results of toxicology tests could take up to two months, investigators say.
A police spokesman said there were no signs of foul play.
Miss ElizabethThe arrest of Hulette’s live-in boyfriend, Luger (real name Larry Pfohl), has drawn added attention to the case. Luger, 44, has not been charged in connection with Hulette’s death, but was charged with 13 counts of felony purchase and possession of a controlled substance. According to reports, police on Thursday searched his home and turned up massive amounts of body-enhancing drugs, including the anti-anxiety drug Xanex, anabolic steroids, testosterone and hydrocodone. He also was charged with one misdemeanor count of possession, sale and distribution of a drug called Saizen, a synthetic growth hormone.
Luger, a former University of Miami football player and two-time World Championship Wrestling heavyweight champion, was released Friday on $25,000 bond for the drug possession charges. It was his second arrest in a matter of weeks.
Last month police responded to a domestic violence call at Luger’s residence and found Hulette with bruises to her head. An Atlanta TV station reported Thursday that Hulette told police she suffered a black eye and contusion after slipping while attending to the family dog. According to police reports, Luger punched her in the face and was charged with battery. He was out on a $2,500 bond in connection with that incident when he was re-arrested on the controlled substance charge.
Luger, a Chicago native, broke into pro wrestling in 1985 after brief stints with the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Bandits of the defunct United States Football League. For years he was one of the most highly paid performers in the business.
Hulette, a Frankfort, Ky., native, made a splash when she debuted in the World Wrestling Federation in 1985, along with her then-husband, Randy “Macho Man” Savage. As Savage’s beautiful valet and manager, she was as responsible as anyone for Savage’s ascension to the top of the federation, along with a highly lucrative program with Hulk Hogan.
The two, whose on-camera angles revolved around their on-again, off-again love affair, divorced in 1992, with Elizabeth taking a hiatus from the business until joining WCW in early 1996. She married a Miami Beach attorney in December 1997, but the couple was divorced in April 1999. Hulette left WCW in June 2000 and never worked for a major wrestling promotion again.
Luger, who hasn’t wrestled on a full-time basis since leaving WCW in 2000, owns the Main Event fitness club in Marietta that he once operated with Sting (Steve Borden), who sold his interest in the facility several years ago following a falling out with his former partner.
Luger, one of the few remaining WCW holdouts who has yet to receive an offer from WWE, was accompanied by Hulette when he worked overseas on the latest World Wrestling All-Stars tour last December.
Randy Savage released the following statement on his Web site Thursday:
“I am deeply saddened by this news, and our thoughts and prayers are with Elizabeth’s family.”
Hulette was known as the “First Lady of Wrestling” during her successful run in the WWF from 1985-92. It would be some years later, however, before Elizabeth’s true impact on the business would be felt, as doors would be opened for a highly successful group of WWE divas.
WWE, perhaps anticipating the negative publicity that could be forthcoming, issued its own statement Friday, noting that Hulette hasn’t worked for the company since 1992.
“We are saddened to hear of the death of Elizabeth Hulette. Miss Hulette played the very popular character of Miss Elizabeth in WWE from 1985 to 1992. She finished her career at WCW, from January 1996 through January 1999. We at WWE send our sincere condolences to Miss Hulette’s family.”
– “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, one of the most influential performers in the history of the wrestling business, made it official last week when he announced that he was stepping down as an active wrestler.
“In this business, I’ve learned never say never. But I would say probably 99.9 percent out of 100 that you’ll never see Rock and Stone Cold in the ring again. I’m not wrestling anymore. That was my last match,” Austin told the WWE Web site.
While it’s unlikely that Austin will “never” see action again, it does appear that his in-ring days are numbered and probably reserved for select high-profile events. Austin’s popularity began tapering off with his largely unsuccessful heel turn in 2001, which was followed by a number of personal and professional problems that led to his suspension last June. His recent return to the company has failed to live up to expectations, and a recurring neck problem led to his decision to retire.
“I’ve got some serious problems in my neck. It’s too long and too complicated to discuss. But a lot of the reasons I walked out of this company seven or eight months ago were things I didn’t want to talk about at the time because we had Wrestlemania coming up. The biggest reason I walked away was because my health is going downhill so badly, and I can’t compete at an acceptable level to me, and at a risk factor that’s high enough to me. Everything I do in that ring is very dangerous and makes me go even further downhill. It’s potentially something where I could end up being a quadriplegic. That was the biggest reason I walked out. The creative and the political issues were just icing on the cake – the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Look for Austin to be a constant thorn in the side of co-general manager Eric Bischoff. Among his first moves will be bringing back Jim Ross and Lita to Raw.
Even in a non-wrestling role, Austin remains a drawing card and should be fully utilized to pump up the company’s sagging house show attendance. WWE can turn a negative into a plus by using Austin to create another superstar, possibly in the Austin mold.
– Stampede Wrestling’s return to Calgary Friday night not only marked the promotion’s 50th anniversary, but also the 88th birthday of Canadian mat legend and Hart family patriarch Stu Hart.
Harry Smith, grandson of Hart and son of the late Davey Boy Smith, teamed with T.J. Wilson in the main event against Black Dragon and A.J. Styles.
– Bret Hart wrote a touching tribute to his father, Stu, in the Calgary Sun. “Make no mistake about it, even considering the many wrestlers of all shapes and sizes who I’ve locked up with from near and far, Stu Hart is the toughest man I’ve ever known,” wrote Hart. “But he is also the most fair and compassionate man and an indulgent parent to 12 children. My father has iron hands that have brought down giants – but these same hands have also gently cradled wounded birds and stroked the dogs and cats that follow him from room to room.
“My father is a man of gentle strength. He takes a common sense approach to life that enables him to keep a calm head when things go wrong or to unleash his harder side when he deems it necessary. It’s a balance I may not have understood as a young boy but that I quickly came to respect.”
– Former WWE star Jeff Hardy, now focusing on a musical career, is the lead singer of his band Peroxwhy?gen. WWE performer Shannon Moore is listed as handling programming and backing vocals.
– Bradshaw (John Layfield) came to the defense of Triple H in a recent article on the WWE Web site.
“Triple H came into this company years ago with an above-average build and above-average ring ability. His body has become the best in the business; he has become one of the best workers in this business. What is it that you guys who write bad things hate about him?
“Look at the facts. Triple H was here when Steve Austin was out injured, The Rock was making movies and Undertaker was hurt. Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle weren’t here yet; Kane was also injured during this time. So Triple H had to carry the ball in a very hard spot, and he did a great job. He was the whole show several times, because he was the only one at the time capable of doing it. So those of you who have written bad things, keep writing. You guys love to be negative, but at least be honest about the facts.”