“Rick, I hear you do a great Razor Ramon… I own the trademark to the name, the costume and the character… Rick, I want you to be my new Razor Ramon.” said Vince McMahon over the phone.
On the other line was a young man, who like many in the wrestling industry, was looking for an opportunity at the big time and what was being pitched to him seemed like it could potentially be his moment in the sun. McMahon had watched two of his company’s biggest superstars leave and walk on to WCW’s “Monday Nitro” program, causing a shift in the ratings that would inevitably change the course of professional wrestling from that moment forward. With the losses of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, the WWE (WWF at the time) had lost two of its biggest performers in the banner characters “Diesel” and “Razor Ramon”, a pair of their biggest draws in an era where WWE was actively pushing the term “The New Generation” to describe a locker room full of fledgling young stars, none of which were brighter than Nash and Hall in their WWE roles. Between the two were multiple title reigns, Diesel being a former World, Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion, While Hall (playing the role of Razor Ramon) was as a Perennial contender and holder of the Intercontinental championship in a time where being Intercontinental champion was almost as important as being world champion.
“Suddenly he [McMahon] had gotten up that morning and said I own the rights to “Diesel” and “Razor Ramon” so we’re just gonna…have em…” said Jim Cornette in a shoot interview, as his face radiated disbelief and silliness thinking back on the botched attempt to “stick it” to WCW for taking off with two of its biggest talents. Whether the idea was an ego based decision to prove that McMahon could make the roles work with anyone in them or it was simply a joke, meant to make WCW sweat, on the September 30th, 1996 edition of “Monday Night Raw” a young man named Rick Bogner walked through the curtains looking more like an adult wearing a Halloween costume than a believable version of “Razor Ramon”. He copied Hall’s signature stride as he slid past a literal tombstone sitting in the middle of the aisle advertising one of WWE’s “In Your House” pay per views dubbed “Buried Alive”, an ironic piece of symbolism to describe the moment if there ever was one.
The crowd reaction was not one of excitement and quickly the cheers of those expecting Scott Hall to walk through the curtains had turned to flat groans and “boo’s” of anger as WWE had openly “trolled” its fanbase in the process of attempting to achieve whatever it was going for by bringing in the 290 lb Bogner. The reception to the “fake Diesel” may have been even flatter, as a young Glenn Jacobs (who would later become Kane) was relegated to the “copycat” role after already spending the better part of a year wrestling as a menacing looking dentist named “Isacc Yankem, D.D.S”, a heel character with a curly blonde mullet haircut who ironically possessed incredibly bad teeth. As if his look weren’t already bad enough, WWE also chose to air multiple vignettes that were all shot while “Yankem” worked on a squirming patient in a dental chair, speaking around the loud grinding sounds of drills and noisy dental equipment in an effort to en vouge fear into the fans watching at home.
Though the characters failed from the get go, WWE continued to use them for the better part of five months, allowing the characters to continue into early 1997. If anything, this only helped Hall and Nash flourish in WCW, as rumors of “Diesel and Razor” returning to WWE RAW prompted WCW brass to offer the pair even more money to ensure they weren’t about to bail out on their new employer. If anything, the stunt merely stuck it to Ted Turner’s wallet and little more as WCW continued its growth centered around Hall and Nash, who now had the “N.W.O” rolling as the hottest thing in professional wrestling, while the WWE was stuck cleaning up its own mess with Jacobs and Bogner.
The fake Razor Ramon and Diesel were relegated to USWA programming in 1997 and actually competed in a cringe worthy “loser leaves town” match on USWA television, which saw the fake Razor Ramon defeat his phony counterpart. Soon after, Bogner’s stint as “the bad guy” was also over, as WWE swept the idea under the rug in hopes that everyone would simply forget it ever even happened. Jacobs continued on with the company and became the Undertakers storyline brother “Kane” in one of the best storylines and gimmicks WWE has ever created later that same year.
Rick Bognar, on the other hand, didn’t fare as well. With his contract set to expire, he picked up the phone and called Vince McMahon, hoping the company would give him something better to work with if they chose to keep him around. When he asked McMahon about his contract, McMahon simply replied “Rick, Please dont call me at this number again.” abruptly hanging up. From there, Bogner would go back to Japan, competing as the “The Free Spirit” Rick Titan and also returned to his original character character “Big Titan” who oddly enough was a member of New Japan’s “NWO Japan”, he later conquered an addiction to prescription pills he had begun due to injuries sustained during his wrestling career and later wrote a book on his struggles.
“You’re not always going to hit a home run…” former WWE creative producer Bruce Prichard stated in an interview when asked about his role in bringing in the “fake duo”. “…Hindsight is 20/20, you can look at it and go “boy that sucked” but at the time, legally you have something to prove, you own “marks”, you own trademarks, you own names, you own character likeness, you created it. We created Razor and Diesel, they didnt. We owned it and we put the investment into those characters and now they’re capatilizing on that investment that we put in…its just more of a you had to set an example, you had to set a precedent that you owned it, it wasn’t necessarily the person portaying the character, as it was the character that got over.”
Whether it was a purposeful mockery or a move made out of pure delusion, the fake Razor and Diesel are prime examples of how wrestling ideas can go completely array. Since this debacle, WWE has pulled the old “bait and switch” on at least one other occasion, swapping out Sin Cara’s a couple of years back, but being much more careful to ensure the same backlash wouldn’t be rendered in the process. Luckily for McMahon, ratings were down in 1996. When I polled a few wrestling fans in lieu of writing this piece, over half of them could only vaguely remember and the other half reminded me that WWE was absolutely unwatchable at that time, and they didn’t even know that it had occurred.