On the morning before WrestleMania 33, I found myself walking through the Hyatt Regency Orlando alongside an UPROXX camera crew and Glacier, a pro wrestling ice ninja from 1996, while he told me a story about the contact lens he wears in his right eye to create a magic eyeball.
“It was such a defining part of Glacier, it’s the one eye, the ice-blue eye. So when kids would come up to me at shows or appearances or whatever, just in a child-like wonderment, they’ll stay stuff like, ‘Is that your real eye?’ ‘Does your eye really look like that?’ And what I tell them is, ‘Yeah, actually both of my eyes look like this, but I put a contact on this one to make it look like a real eye.’ And they go, ‘REALLY?’ And I go, ‘Yeah, but don’t tell anybody. It’s our secret.'”
We said goodbye to him at the end of the hall, watching him shake hands and laugh with old friends moments before the WrestleCon people shuffled him into a ballroom for the “Mania Moments” brunch. As we shot our final frames of footage, an independent wrestler noticed us. He broke line to approach me, and in a condescending voice asked, “You burying Glacier? You burying Glacier?”
This is the first thing people ask when you tell them you’re writing about Glacier.
The “Blood Runs Cold” posse — a live-action Mortal Kombat proxy featuring Glacier, his karate champion pal Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller, and their rivals, a giant Satanic knight (?) named Wrath and a radioactive Thai pit-fighting skeleton (?) named Mortis — would’ve fit in perfectly in WWF’s corny, cartoonish New Generation. They would’ve done karate to wrestling plumbers and wrestling magicians. They also would fit in perfectly on modern shows like Lucha Underground, where the pulp sensibility of grindhouse films meets a jaded-with-reality crowd of rowdy fans who WANT to see zombies and skeletons wrestle.
Instead, it debuted in the in-between, where kids who’d grown up watching Hulk Hogan in the ’80s suddenly wanted the real-life stars they read about on the Internet to show up and kick Hulk Hogan’s ass. Heroism and bright colors were replaced by shades of grey, both figuratively and literally, as the world’s biggest wrestling heels started wearing black and white and using their real names. The world’s biggest wrestling babyface started wearing black and white. On the other show, the dancing, happy champion who loved his fans was replaced by a guy who pointed at his dick every chance he got and showed his bare ass to the camera. The biggest star in that world was Stone Cold Steve Austin, a man who’d be a hated villain in any other era. People started pulling guns on each other. A Philadelphia indie started setting tables on fire. The cartoons were balled up and thrown in the trash.
Glacier was supposed to debut in the spring of 1996. Scott Hall made his WCW Monday Nitro debut first. Kevin Nash followed.
“I remember the moment where me and Chris Kanyon realized that there had been a paradigm shift in the whole idea was,” Glacier told us, “because we were supposed to go down to Bash at the Beach ’96 when Hogan turned heel. We were actually driving down, a group of us, and we were gonna stop off and visit in my hometown of Brunswick, Georgia, which is kinda halfway. And we got there, and we got a call to tell us not to come down. ‘Cause we were supposed to be down there for whatever, they were gonna do something. And we were like, ‘Okay. Well, what do we do?’ And they were like, ‘We don’t need you for the pay-per-view.’ We’re like, ‘Okay.’ So, of course, we just … I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we stay here, and I got some friends. We can watch the pay-per-view here. We’ll all just hang out and head back to Atlanta tomorrow.’
“While we’re watching the pay-per-view, Kanyon and I are sitting on the same couch watching it, and as soon as Hogan turned heel — of course, it was monumental to anybody that saw it ’cause they were throwing stuff in the ring and everything — I remember it, he didn’t even look at me. He just said, looking at the camera, ‘Well, there goes our push.’ And I was just like, ‘Wow, man. What does this mean?’ Because that was one of those defining moments in the history of professional wrestling, and I remember us going back. And at the time, the offices were in CNN center, and I remember us going to Eric’s office on Tuesday. Tuesday or Wednesday.
“And I remember he was just over the moon excited, and he was so delighted that people were calling up … He even told us, he said, ‘Parents are calling up, telling us that their kids can’t sleep and they’re having nightmares ’cause Hulk Hogan is a bad guy now. And he was just over the moon excited, and I thought, ‘Oh, wow. Man. That hill we had to climb just got a lot higher.’
Nitro started promoting him with a Gabbo-esque, “GLACIER IS COMING,” on April 29. Because of the arrival of the nWo and the paradigm shift caused by Hogan’s leg, Glacier didn’t actually show up on Nitro until September 16. That’s five months of, “GLACIER IS COMING.” The fact that he never seemed like he was going to arrive killed a lot of fans on the character before he even had a chance to step into the ring. It’s still something wrestling fans joke about in 2017.
“Wrestling usually mimics what’s popular in society, what’s out there that is making money for society. Mortal Kombat was a huge thing in the early 90s, going into the mid 90s, and that was really what happened was … Turner saw an opportunity to capitalize on something that they felt was a good risk. And, as you and I were talking earlier I mentioned to you that, [Diamond Dallas Page] has a great saying where he says, ‘Give me talent, give me luck, or give me timing. I’ll take timing every single time.’ And as I look back on it, no one knew then that the timing might’ve needed to be a little bit earlier. But then again, no one knew that nWo was gonna take off the way it did. You can’t predict something like that.”
“Well, we’re here in Orlando for WrestleMania, the weekend of WrestleMania. And back when I was wrestling for WCW, we used to come to Orlando to tape at Universal Studios, to tape the WCW Pro Show and stuff like that.” 21 years after his Nitro debut, the man behind the one contact lens (and the mystical armor) (and the snow indoors) (and the lasers) sat in a chair on a hotel patio and introduced us to Ray Lloyd. Ray Lloyd had been training in Hung Ga, Kempo and Judo since he was 14. He got into pro wrestling through the the Georgia independent scene in 1987, where Tommy Rich named him “Sugar.” Because “Ray.” Two years later, he was getting his ass kicked by Butch Reed on the National Wrestling Alliance’s Great American Bash tour. In ’93, he was wrestling the Great Muta and heading to Japan. A few years later he’d be WCW’s ersatz Sub-Zero, and people would tell you he didn’t “know how to wrestle.”
Lloyd was in Orlando this year for a lot of reasons, but the most important one was his return to the spotlight as part of a crazy match at Joey Janela’s Spring Break wrestling show. It felt weird talking to an ice guy in 90-degree weather.
“Even though I grew up in Georgia, I didn’t come to Orlando that much as a kid,” he remembered. “I just fell in love with Orlando itself, so that’s … I always said, even during my WCW days, when I slow down long enough, I’m going to move to Florida. And if I move to Florida, I kind of feel like I made it. You know, and so here I am in Orlando, right where I want to be. I mean, day to day life here, I love it.” Ray is now 52 years old, over two decades removed from GLACIER IS COMING. He’s a little older and a little heavier, but he looks great. He looks the same.
“Honestly, one of my best friends, in and out of the wrestling business, is my buddy Luther Biggs. He went through the [WCW] Power Plant back in the day, and we’ve been great friends … he’s the one I really give a lot of credit to, because he got on me a couple years ago, ’cause I was really starting to get kind of lazy. It was just like, you know, kind of retirement mode. And I’m 52 years old. I’m not anywhere near ready to retire, so I just started reengaging and trying to put myself back out there. Started going to conventions more.”
Conventions are when and where Ray realized that Glacier was finding a second, presumably chilly wind for some fans.
“What I kind of found out by accident was through the WWE Network, where they rerun a lot of Monday night shows and our pay-per-views and stuff like that. So I went to a convention, and I realized … This kid came up to me, and he was probably 10, 11 years old and he was all about Glacier. I’m thinking, ‘How’s this kid even know who I am? He wasn’t even born when I was wrestling back in WCW.’ But his dad told me, he said, ‘Well, he watches reruns of WCW Nitro and stuff like that.’ So I’ve realized that I kind of got a second run, so to speak, as Glacier. But this one’s not near as painful.”
I was that kid during the first run. I remember huddling around a computer in my school library, using Webcrawler or Alta Vista or some other antiquated search engine to look for information about who Glacier was gonna be when he finally debuted. We laughed about how long it was taking, but we were also all-in. When he debuted, I probably liked him a little more than my friends did. I was the kid who always wanted to see something different in wrestling, something I hadn’t seen before. Whether that was the nobility of Magnum T.A., the enthusiasm of Sting, the brutal pro graps violence of the Steiner Brothers or the high-flying passion of Rey Mysterio Jr., I wanted the “next thing.” So I bought my nWo shirt and tried to lob a balled-up wad of garbage into the ring from my nosebleed seats in Roanoke, but i also wanted to know what the karate guys were doing. When Ray was younger, he was me, just like I was that kid.
“I’m a wrestling fan first. I’ve always been. I mean, some of the greatest memories I’ve ever had in my life are my dad taking me and my twin brother to Jacksonville Coliseum to watch wrestling.”
Yes, Ray Lloyd has a twin brother. Yes, I’m retroactively angry in 2017 that Glacier never had to fight his evil twin.
“And it’s just, I always say that … Next month will be 31 years I’ve been in the wrestling business. I’ve never taken a year off. I’ve been very active for 31 years and … But I always feel like I’m a fan first. I enjoy, I still sit down and watch matches on YouTube. I’ll just pick anybody out like [Ricky] Steamboat or Les Thatcher or whoever I can pick up and start watching matches. I’m still that much enthralled by it and passionate about it. So I started realizing, you know what? I still got a lot of life left in me, and thank God I still look somewhat like I did when I was on TV. I’m a little bit heavier than I need to be right now, but I’m working on that.”
I remember marking out for the tag team match at Bash at the Beach ’97, which I talked to Ray about a little too much. I asked him about how hard he kicked Alex Wright, and how hard he kicked Ciclope, and how hard he kicked Lizmark Jr. He would really kick the piss out of people. But the Blood Runs Cold Characters started disappearing from the screen, and eventually, they were gone. Time moved on. Glacier “sold” his armor, and eventually became controlling gym coach “Buzz Stern.” Ernest Miller slowly morphed into James Brown, then danced with the actual James Brown on pay-per-view. Wrath became the equally threatening-sounding “Brian Clark.” Mortis grew a face over his skull and became Kanyon.
As time passed, WCW went out of business and was absorbed into WWE. The story of a gimmick that didn’t work got retconned as one of wrestling’s “great embarrassments,” the kind of thing the Road Dogg Jesse James and Josh Mathews would laugh about on Dot Com exclusives. Wasn’t WCW terrible? They did everything wrong! The wrong gimmick at the wrong time became a joke. When people write about Glacier now, they have to lead with what an expensive joke it was. When people see you filming Glacier, they ask you if you’re burying him. Because WWE, and because the Internet, and because wrestling fans, and because everything.
21 years later, the character was still alive.
He didn’t win the match at Spring Break, but he’s alive.
Ray Lloyd doesn’t mind that Glacier came at the wrong time.
“Someone sent me an article a while back, just recently, actually, where they said that … ‘Pentagon and Lucha Underground is where Glacier was supposed to be.’ And someone that sent it to me said, ‘That’s gotta make you mad.’ I said, ‘No. I actually agree with it.’
Ray spent the weekend in the contact lens and the Glacier armor — the original set, thank you very much — meeting fans, signing autographs, karate chopping Jervis Cottonbelly in the chest and reconnecting with the sport that made him come alive. The kid who grew up watching wrestling inspired another kid who grew up watching wrestling to write about it for a living, and to do funny martial arts poses in the courtyard of a Florida hotel despite being deep into his 30s. He also inspired that 11-year-old who just saw him on WWE Network. And maybe changed the mind of someone who saw a 53-year old prove he could still go in WrestleMania weekend’s most ridiculous match, on WrestleMania weekend’s most ridiculous show.
To some, “Glacier” will always be a joke. I’d like to fight those people with my martial arts poses, but Ray takes a wiser point of view.
“One of the main things that my buddy Diamond Dallas Page always says is that the world is going to be full of people that tell you what you can’t do. He says that all the time. He said it in his speech the other night at the Hall of Fame. I was so fortunate to have a lot of great teachers and coaches in my life. Every time when I felt like it was the next chapter in my life, where I needed that, someone just came into my life and filled that. I don’t know how that’s happened but I’ve just been so fortunate.”
One of those coaches was less inspiring than DDP.
“I had some great coaches through high school and college and after that through wrestling and one time I’d come back, about two years after I’d broke into wrestling. I was just cutting my teeth like everybody does. I was lucky enough to come in at the end of the territory system, so I was able to do all that. I came back for one of my college football games and ran into one of my former coaches and we were talking. It was a great experience, some small talk and then just out of nowhere he said … He said, ‘What are you doing these days?’ And I told him I was teaching school and I was still … and I know that I was excited to say … and I’m still pursuing the professional wrestling, it’s going pretty good right now. And just this look on his face was a look of shock, and he said ‘Are you really still pursuing that crap?’ But he didn’t say ‘crap.’
“I remember it was like someone had punched me in the stomach because I thought here’s this person that I really, really admire. I really look up to and I realized that however you want to phrase it, but to me it was like he didn’t believe that that was something I could be doing or should be doing. I just thought, wow, not you and so it stuck with me all these years because I remember … it was a really hard thing for me at first, for a long time, and it still sticks with me all these years later.
“I just remember walking off, and after I got past the emotional blow, I remember all of a sudden another thing that Page always says, ‘If you want to see what I can do, tell me what I can’t do.’ And I just remember thinking, I’ve just got to step it up a notch, because that’s one more person I need to prove to that I can do this. When I do seminars, I always tell people, ‘Everybody’s got a different definition of success,’ and my definition of success in wrestling was yes, I wanted to make it to the big league. At about my third or fourth year I felt like I might have a chance. I might be good enough to get there. The first … I was just trying to figure it out. I was trying to not embarrass myself out there, but I just told this in a seminar the other day and I told every young wrestler, ‘You have to define your definition of success, and that may be if you’ve got a wife and three kids and you’re pursuing wrestling. Your definition of success of may be you just want to be a superhero to your kids and wrestle on the weekends. That’s okay.'”
Glacier made it to the big leagues. He performed in WCW in one incarnation or another from 1996 until 1999, and he’s been dipping that deadly, Ciclope-obliterating toe into pro wrestling ever since. He’s got eight feature films under his belt, usually as a bad guy, and he’s working on new projects this year. He’s had roles on TV as a cop on Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns and as a bad guy on Burn Notice. No amount of, “LOL, remember Glacier,” can stop him, because there are too many kids who still say, “Remember Glacier?”
“Everybody … you hear so many people say if your definition of success is not to ever get to WWE and be a world champion, if you’re not shooting for that then what are you doing in this business? I get that, but I got a little different take on it.” You can almost feel the weekend beginning to sink in for Ray, now positioned on a couch and covered in microphone wires in the lobby of the Hyatt. In a few minutes we’d walk him down to the ballroom.
“There’s going to be so many people in this world that tell you what you can’t do, and I call them dream killers, and they don’t mean to be dream killers, most of them. Unfortunately, most of the dream killers are people that are close to you. Your friends and your family. And my buddy Marc Mero, who has an incredible career as an inspirational speaker, he always says that typically people who are dream killers are people who for whatever reason don’t have the guts to pursue whatever it is that they were passionate about, and that doesn’t make them a bad person, but they somehow feel better if they help make sure no one else pursues theirs. So you just got to let those people not rent space in your head, because they will if you let them. But the great thing is, and I take it back to Dallas; one of his other favorite sayings is ‘Life’s 10 percent of what happens to you, and 90 percent in how you react to it.'”
Fans start to notice that Glacier’s in the lobby and we have to wrap it up, but it took me 21 years to get here, too, so I’m sticking it out.
“You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can always, always, always control how you react to it. Period. So I hope that helps, and if anyone’s listening to this, and they’re wanting to pursue whatever their dream is, wrestling or not, is don’t let people rent space in your head, and don’t let people stop you from whatever it is you love doing. Because the greatest gift you could ever give yourself is pursuing a career in life, something you can make a living doing that you absolutely love and I can say during my whole run in WCW, those few years when we were 250-plus days on the road, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt — being in a different hotel room, different bed every night. Sometimes sleeping in an airport to catch a red eye flight … there was not one single time that I ever remember waking up and putting my feet on the floor and saying, ‘Oh God, I got to go do this again today.’ Not one time ever, and I wish every person could experience what that feels like.
“So that’s my advice to anybody who’s got a dream. Chase it. Chase it realistically. Get a game plan, write some goals and don’t let anybody stand in your way. Period.”
In a few minutes I’d be talking to him about his magical ice eye. In a few days we’d all be home. In a few months, I’d be typing this out to you on my wrestling blog, and in a few years, I hope I’ve taken something grand from a conversation that started about karate kicks with chains wrapped around your foot and ended inside the heart of a sweet, gentle man who absolutely will not stop. No matter what you say.