There are five distinct phases of Scott Hall's life as a pro wrestler:
- The big journeyman with an impressive look who got some opportunities and theoretically could have been a big star, but never really progressed as a personality or in-ring wrestler to the point he could actually be a big star.
- One of the biggest stars in the WWF in the "New Generation" era as Razor Ramon.
- An even bigger star as one of the founding members of the NWO
- A walking statistic who was considered unlikely to ever get sober after about a dozen trips to rehab, maybe more so than any other star wrestler.
- The current version, who's made a remarkable recovery to the point he looks and sounds like a completely different person.
Scott Hall broke into pro wrestling in 1984. He had gotten Florida legend Hiro Matsuda to start training him, but his trajectory changed when he bumped into Barry Windham in a grocery store. Hall introduced himself, explained his situation, and Windham told him to ditch Matsuda because he was infamous for trying to break prospective wrestlers down.
If you were lucky, Matsuda made you do a lot of Hindu Squats. If you weren't, he might break your leg like he allegedly did to Hulk Hogan.
When it was time for him to break in, he was sent to Jim Crockett Promotions in the Carolinas, where, as "Coyote," was joined by training partner Dan Spivey as "Eagle" to form "American Starship." They were kind of a cross between a Fabulous Ones style matinee idol team, the Road Warriors, and Hulk Hogan, whose shirt tearing act they lifted.
They didn't last very long, eventually moving to Bob Geigel's infamously dead end (low payoffs, small crowds, and Geigel's best friend Bob Brown constantly pushed beyond all reason) Central States territory based out of Kansas City.
From there, they parted ways, with Hall staying in Kansas City a little longer while Spivey went back to the Carolinas.
There was one redeeming thing about Central States: If you had a push in Kansas City, you generally got a spot on the shows at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis. At the time, the St. Louis Wrestling Club was running on fumes.
After promoter Sam Muchnick retired in 1983, the city was run by a partnership that included AWA promoter Verne Gagne. From there, they lost their TV deal to the WWF and had to promote the house shows using a smaller station airing a block of weekly shows from the promotions that sent talent to the city.
The AWA connection allowed Hall to start networking and get out of Kansas City. One night in St. Louis, Jack Lanza of the AWA asked him to make the move to Minneapolis, and after some persuading (he thought he wasn't good enough), Hall accepted.
With his bushy, Tom Selleck-esque mustache when "Magnum P.I." was a huge hit, he was dubbed "Magnum" Scott Hall. Well, sort of: Terry Allen was one of the hottest stars in the business as Magnum T.A. working for Crockett, so Gagne was ripping off that gimmick more than he was the TV show.
Eventually given the similarly creative name of "Big" Scott Hall, he got his first really strong push when he formed a tag team with second generation wrestler Curt Hennig. In January 1986, they won the AWA World Tag Team Titles from "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin and "Mr. Electricity" Steve Regal (the wrestler who William Regal named himself after).
It appeared that they were just in the right place at the right time, as they lost the titles a few months later to Buddy Rose and Doug Somers, who held the titles into 1987 while feuding with Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty.
The AWA had maintained some of its popularity into 1986, but that was the year where business really fell off a cliff. In 1987, the promotion started to lay dormant for months at a time, mostly subsisting off their TV deal with ESPN in lieu of running house shows.
With his home promotion effectively done as a full time wrestling office, Hall went him to Florida. He was gone after a few months, as Crockett took over the territory and replaced most of the newer members of the crew.
It wasn't really a notable run aside from being the place where be befriended Paul Heyman, who was also in and out of the territory quickly.
For the next few years, Hall kept going from place to place. He started touring with New Japan Pro Wrestling and the Catch Wrestling Association in Germany with various stops back in the States in between.
He also stopped in Memphis (where he came and went quickly again in the middle of a another roster overhaul), back in Florida (where a new promotion opened to fill the void of the CWF office), Puerto Rico and even WCW.
In 1991, he knew he needed a makeover and called his friend Diamond Dallas Page, who he met during his second Florida run. Hall shaved his mustache, straightened and slicked back his hair while leaving a single curl in front, and grew some perma-stubble.
When he showed up at a WCW event, the other wrestlers didn't even recognize him. He joined up with Page as the Diamond Studd.
While this run didn't necessarily go anywhere, either, it did put him on the path to being noticed by WWE. When he had a meeting with Vince McMahon, the conversation was being steered towards Hall getting a military gimmick, which he didn't want.
Out of nowhere, he asked Vince if had ever seen Scarface. He hadn't, so when he did a Tony Montana impression, Vince loved it, and that was the birth of Razor Ramon.
If you were a kid in 1992 like I was, you probably didn't realize it then, but it's fairly obvious now that Razor was a thinly veiled portrayal of a drug dealer who was laundering money through his jewelry.
Besides some character-establishing skits, the through-line in his promos was that he was "oozing machismo," putting him on a collision course with Randy Savage. He was immediately paired with Ric Flair and it was clear that he was a main event level wrestler as soon as he debuted.
At Royal Rumble '93, he got his first shot at the WWE Championship in a losing effort against Bret Hart. Hart noted in his book that Hall was still fairly green at the time, but they had a good match.
From there, since Flair was gone, Savage was not going to be a full-time wrestler anymore, and he had lost to the champion, Razor killed time for a few months before starting the program that turned him babyface, a role he'd remain in until he left the company.
The show aired live on May 17th, 1993 is, without a doubt, the best episode of the early years of Monday Night Raw. That night, Razor Ramon had a squash match against "The Kid," who had lost a few weeks in a row while changing his name each time out.
It went how you'd expect until, all of a sudden, The Kid dodged a charge into the corner, hit a moonsault bodyblock from the top rope, and scored a clean pin.
The Kid was Sean Waltman, then an independent wrestler as the Lightning Kid. Over the next few weeks, he had to fulfill previously scheduled bookings in Japan while Razor demanded a rematch, offering increasing amounts of cash every week.
When it reached $10,000, the newly renamed "1-2-3 Kid" (for his upset win) decided he had to accept. They met up the following week, and after a few minutes of action, the Kid bailed with the money into a car running outside the arena.
So, how did Razor turn face? Ted DiBiase made fun of him for losing to the Kid, so Razor, who now respected his rival, helped the Kid win when DiBiase took him on.
A few months later, he won the Intercontinental title, which would be associated with him for the rest of his time in WWE. Shawn Michaels had been suspended while champion and kept the belt, so the new champion was crowned via a Battle Royal where the last two wrestlers faced off, and Razor beat Rick Martel to take the title and a new physical belt.
Within weeks, Michaels was back with his own belt, which he carried around even though he was no longer champion, leading to their famous ladder match at WrestleMania 10.
This was the first time the gimmick was used on WWE television, and while the moves aren't quite as spectacular looking in 2013, it still holds up as an incredible match. With Michaels taking the next several months off to nurse lingering injuries, Razor moved on to his bodyguard Diesel (Kevin Nash), who he traded the title with.
After their feud ended, Razor didn't really have any compelling storylines for a while, but he traded the title again, this time with Jeff Jarrett, though Jarrett got the title in the end. It went back to Razor by the end of 1995 when Michaels (who had turned, beaten Jarrett, and gotten injured in a bar fight) relinquished it to Dean Douglas, only to immediately lose it to Ramon.
The last reign saw the start of his last major feud in WWE: "Bizarre, androgynous" newcomer Goldust had declared his love for Razor Ramon, which led to an obvious, but controversial feud, since Goldust was either a predatory gay stereotype or using said stereotypes as evil mind games.
Hall even complained about it, feeling the negative press would extend to him. Goldust won the title and they were set to have some sort of pre-taped "Miami street fight" at WrestleMania when Hall gave his notice and was coincidentally suspended.
While he finished up and did jobs on his way out at the end of his suspension, Hall was off to WCW, as was Nash.
As I'm sure you know, Hall walked out of the crowd during the Memorial Day 1996 episode of Monday Nitro, acted like Razor Ramon invading on behalf of WWE (soon to be joined by Nash as a "big surprise"), and that was the beginning of the NWO. It got WCW sued and was toned down, but the cat was out of the bag.
Hulk Hogan turned heel to join them, and there was no stopping WCW at that point.
Even though Hall was in the middle of the most lucrative period of his career, he fell off a cliff as a performer and wasn't involved in many memorable angles on his own.
He and Nash feuded with the Steiner Brothers for close to a year and they got to goof off in some funny skits, but he had no momentum on his own, while Nash and Hogan did. His addictions were catching up with him, to the point that someone decided to turn them into a storyline where he and Nash split.
By the end of the '90s, Hall was more notable for his escapades outside the ring than anything he actually did in WCW. At one point, he was put out of action when a car ran over his ankle after he had fallen down in the the parking lot.
His wife became an Internet celebrity for her pleas that WCW stop exploiting his addiction issues. While he was off TV, he was brought back for a one-shot skit where he was revealed to be in the same mental hospital as Ric Flair (don't ask) for reasons that were never explained.
This went on and on in a depressing cycle until he was finally fired after the lawsuit over the initial version of the NWO gimmick was settled. WCW was in such disarray that his friends would constantly namedrop him on TV, be banned from doing so, and then do it anyway, which led to interviews being edited down to the point of incoherence.
When WWE reunited the original NWO lineup in 2002, he got his last chance for a real run on top, and he knew it. He started taking Antabuse (anti-alcohol medication) to help him start drinking, which led to issues when he feuded with Steve Austin, who usually poured beer on his opponents. Whatever the reason, he hadn't fully conquered his issues and was released within months.
While he continued to make occasional appearances in TNA, Puerto Rico, and large independent promotions, that was basically the end of his in-ring career. In the last few years, he went into a complete spiral that included being carried to the ring at an independent show, footage that was eventually shown in a ESPN "E:60" feature on him.
It was in an interview for "E:60" that it was revealed his issues go back to killing a man in self defense in 1983 after an argument outside a night club, which went a long way in explaining...well, everything.
Early this year, it seemed like he was in worse shape than ever before. After having success helping Jake Roberts clean up, Dallas Page called Hall, who droned into the phone that he was dying, but seemed kind of interested.
They stayed in contact, Hall was detoxed in a hospital, and headed to Atlanta to live with Page and Roberts.
Several months later, Hall reached the point where Page felt he was ready to move out of the house, as he had made even more progress than Jake. He knew it was his last chance, his real last chance, and so far, the results are legitimately shocking.
Sure, he intentionally talked slowly as Razor Ramon, but he sounds like a completely different person.
Is it the "DDP Yoga" exercise plan easing the pain of his injuries? Is it having a support system of peers who know what he's going through? Is there something we can't quite put our fingers on? It's probably all of the above.
All I know is there are few things in wrestling right now that put as big a smile on my face as new Scott Hall interviews do. He has no illusions about what's going on, no false hope about a comeback. He's just trying to repair himself and his relationship with his family.