Twenty years ago, inside the Alamodome in San Antonio, the 1997 Royal Rumble produced several truly historic moments that millions of fans remember to this day. Many remember Shawn Michaels' hometown WWE championship win, or "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's controversial Rumble win.
What most likely don't remember, as the WWE gets ready for the Rumble's return to the Alamodome on Sunday, is that it was also the final televised WWE appearances of "fake" Razor Ramon and Diesel -- portrayed by Rick Titan and Glenn Jacobs, respectively.
Titan's infamous role in wrestling history is clear, but there was a whole lot more to his career before a severe injury ultimately brought it to a premature close at the age of 30. Before it ended, Titan's two stretches wrestling in Japan, both before and after his infamous five-month stretch in the WWE spotlight, were quite financially lucrative.
Ultimately, his last stretch in Japan led Titan, real name Rick Bognar, down an entirely different path -- one of enlightenment, and one that changed the way he looked at the world as he found a career that continues to this day as a life coach and motivational speaker.
When it came to how Titan wanted to start a wrestling career, he had the same idea as a lot of young men growing up in Canada -- move to Calgary, and train with the Hart family.
"It really appealed to me," Titan told ESPN.com. "I was living in Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada. I had seen all these guys from Stampede Wrestling go to the States -- to WWE and WCW."
Titan's timing was poor, in a sense, as Stampede had closed its doors for the time being when he arrived in Calgary. But several smaller promotions had opened up to fill the void, and that ultimately may have helped Titan take advantage of an opportunity to work from the ground up and build a name for himself.
After a couple of years paying his dues throughout Western Canada, Titan sent a videotape over to Japan and drew the interest of Atsushi Onita, who ran Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling. FMW holds a significant place in wrestling history as the originator of the violent style that would ultimately take the United States by storm via ECW. Titan found a great deal of success in FMW, where he was both a singles champion and a tag team champion with Mike Awesome, and later in another Japanese promotion, WAR.
After a five-plus-year run of making a living outside of North America, Titan got his first big chance to wrestle in the United States for ECW. From there, a chance backstage moment with Paul Heyman planted the seeds for Titan's eventual shot in the WWE and, eventually, his place in wrestling infamy.
"I've always kind of played around with characters and accents and goofed off with things like that," Titan said. "I was in ECW, and Paul E. Dangerously says to me, 'Here's what I want you to do in this 6-man tag match.' I pulled a kind of Razor Ramon character from my back pocket, just for a joke. I said, 'What the hell do you want me to do, mang?'
"He freaked out and said, 'Oh my god, oh my god. Can you do that out there?'"
While he was a bit apprehensive to participate, Titan was still brand new in ECW -- and it wasn't as if he'd be the first person in the company doing a blatant rip-off, as the bWo was just getting its legs underneath it.
The moment ultimately didn't amount to much within ECW, but by mid-1996 Titan found himself receiving the opportunity he truly coveted with the WWE, thanks to meeting Heyman and some connections he made while wrestling in Calgary.
"Bret Hart was a friend of mine, and he was going back to the WWF at the time," remembered Titan. "He said, 'We got you a tryout.' I went down and did a tryout there as Rick Titan, and kind of stomped on this poor guy."
After not hearing back for weeks, he got the call that every wrestler dreams of. Well, sort of.
"Vince McMahon called me and asked me to call him back," Titan said. "I was pretty excited about it, and then I got on the phone with him. He says, 'The people want Razor Ramon back, and I want you to be my new Razor Ramon.'"
The plan was to debut the new versions of Razor Ramon and Diesel with a newly-turned-heel Jim Ross. In the weeks leading up to Titan and Jacobs' debuts, fans and even WCW officials thought WWE was simply bringing back Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, who had left the characters behind in going to WCW. From the moment it was clear that Hall and Nash were not coming back, it was equally clear that fans were having absolutely none of it. Ross quickly exited the scenario and quietly returned to the announcers table, while Titan and Jacobs were left in limbo. They'd receive a WWE world tag team title match at an "In Your House" pay-per-view event that December against Owen Hart and The British Bulldog, but to anyone watching, it was clear the future was bleak.
After a few months on TV, and the forgettable Rumble appearance, it was all over.
"I tried to fill those boots, fill those shoes, that Scott Hall had built such a huge reputation on," said Titan. "I thought it wasn't going to fly that well, but it was my chance to get to work in the States after I'd been going to Japan for quite a while. I was frustrated and let down, but I know they had their plans and their bigger picture. For me, now, it's one of those things I let go of."
While Jacobs was ultimately repackaged as Kane and went on to a high-profile WWE career that carries on to this day, Titan ultimately dropped the Razor Ramon gimmick and left the company at the conclusion of his contract. He later found success with New Japan Pro Wrestling, but as the years went by, things ultimately felt a little bit empty in his life.
During one of the last stretches of his career in NJPW, where he spent a big chunk of time as a member of nWo Japan, a chance decision one night after a show provided Titan a fortuitous push toward a much different way of life.
"I was so used to going out every night and drinking and partying with the guys," Titan said. "There was this one night I remember that I just didn't feel like going out, so I stayed in my hotel room. I pretty much knew my wrestling career was coming to an end. My body was getting pretty beaten up, and I was getting tired.
"I found this book in the night stand. ... It was a little book of the Buddha. I started reading it, and the instructions really made sense. I had never seen any of this information in my entire life. The philosophies really agreed with me, and I started to think about using them in my life."
Titan took further advantage of the locale in which he was wrestling by visiting Shinto shrines and other spiritually significant sites in Japan in the waning moments of his career. Eventually, Titan's contract ran out in Japan, and after a short stretch of wrestling for a revived Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, injuries forced him to call it a career.
After getting a taste of what Eastern religions could teach him, Titan -- now in search of a new path to follow in his life -- threw himself completely into the pursuit.
"At the end of it all, I was about 30 years old and I thought, 'Jeez, what am I going to do with my life?' I knew I wasn't going to be able to go back," said Titan. "Eventually I studied with a Buddhist monk for about four years, a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He taught me a lot, on meditation, on how to calm the mind, on how to de-stress."
That pursuit led Titan to the type of work that he's doing to this very day, as a life coach and a "transformational" speaker. By combining the charisma and a flair for performing in front of a crowd with his new-found knowledge and enlightenment, Titan found a purpose in life that made the struggles and issues he dealt with during his professional wrestling career worth it.
Titan has taken the knowledge he gained in his studies over the last two decades, along with a mentorship under Dr. John Demartini of "The Secret" fame, and turned it into a successful enterprise. He coaches clients all over the world, both online and locally in Calgary. He uses strategies based heavily in Buddhism and Taoism to help people work through things like divorce, financial loss and letting go of internal problems that take over their lives.
But he hasn't let the experience of performing in front of audiences as large as 50,000 people during his wrestling career go to waste, when he takes his work on the road.
"A lot of people wouldn't be able to do that," said Titan. "A lot of speakers that I talk with as well, they say, 'If I have five or ten people I'm good, but if I get any more people than that I get really nervous.' I'm kind of the other way around. The bigger the crowd, the more jacked I am, the more fun the audience is and the more they get behind it."
Titan, 47, doesn't look back on his wrestling career with regret. As much as he's taken responsibility for the kind of person he was at that time, he also feels like experiencing that kind of darkness was key to him being able to fully embrace such a dramatically different path once that part of his life was over.
"The injuries, the letdowns, the times going between different territories in Japan and Germany -- these were all really down times," Titan said. "I didn't know how to have a relationship while I was on the road all the time. As I started to figure these things out and looked at, maybe not necessarily my mistakes, but my troubles and my challenges through all that, I thought, 'Okay, what's the opposite? How do I improve that?'
"I didn't want to feel the sadness, the emptiness, the melancholy of it all anymore. It was powerful on me, and it had a huge negative effect, especially when I was on the road. [Once I pulled myself out of that], I wanted to give that gift back to people. I wanted to pass that information on -- find fulfillment by seeing them grow as a human being and better their lives. I want to help people turn it around and transform, so they can have the same kind of happiness I've found."