|The King with his famous fist drop
For the ones of you who know me you know I am in no way, shape, or form a supporter of fan of the WWE. I have not kept up or watched in long while. The last WWE program I watched was WrestleMania from Atlanta. And that is a whole other story for another day.
Monday night I was home watching Football when I started getting text, calls, and facebook messages about Jerry "The King" Lawler. My first thought was the same as many others. That this was just another tasteless gimmick of WWE. I mean come on they had and elderly lady give birth to a rubber hand and a former police officer steal a casket at a funeral just to name a couple tasteless moments. It was not until a facebook post from a person with WWE connections that made we turn over to see what was going on. As I turned over there was no commentary and nothing seemed right.
I then text a couple of friends of mine who have worked for WWE and still speak to people there. I became very worried. Each text I got back reassured me how serious this was.
Growing up in a hot bed of wrestling here in East Tennessee I was blessed to see the greatest of the greats. I watched Mid Atlantic Wrestling, Southeastern/Continental, and ICW every week but my favorite wrestling hands down came from Memphis.
I lived Memphis Wrestling. I could not wait to see that trophy spinning each week to tell me Lance Russell and Dave Brown were 60 seconds away from telling me the news. Memphis was like none other you truly had no idea what was coming next. No matter who wild and crazy it got , no matter how far they pushed it there was always a voice of reason who in three minutes or less could not only make you understand it but feel it and believe in it. That was Jerry "The King" Lawler.
The King is more than a wrestler here in the Volunteer State. Before the Titans, before the huge boom of NASCAR, before SEC football was seen every week on TV we had our own home grown sports stars and idols Pro Wrestlers. Here in East Tennessee we had the Wrights and Whitey Caldwell, The Gulas Area had Jackie Fargo, but The King covered the state he was a star among stars. He is our Mickey Mantell, Hank Aaron, Troy Aikman, Chipper Jones all rolled into one.
He is one of a kind. He started wrestling in 1970. By 1972 he was a Main Event attraction teaming with my friend the late Jim White and managed by the late Sam Bass. They were in demand wrestling in Memphis on Monday, Lousiville on Tuesday, various cities Wednesday and Thursday, Knoxville on Fridays doing as many as three live TVs on Saturday and various city Saturday Night.
In 1974 Lawler became the break out singles star everyone close to him knew he would be. He had a run in his home city that no other wrestler until then or since then has had. He faced the Top 10 wrestlers in The NWA (the real one that meant something) on his way to historic match with NWA World Champion Jack Brisco.
His box office success in the 70s as a fan favorite and not so fan favorite is still record business in places like Memphis, Knoxville, Nashville, Birmingham, Chattanooga, Louisville, Evansville, Johnson City, Tupelo, and Jackson.
He was able to keep people coming back to there TV sets and local arenas every week. Only he knew what was coming next. And he had you on the hook to see what he was going to do from singing, music videos, Dr. Fank, shaving Bev Dundee's hair, drawing cartoons of his opponents, making fun of Lance's suits or nose. No matter what it was he was able to get the emotional reaction from the fans that he wanted.
My first hand memories of The King are his come back from a broken leg.But I do have what The King told me himself may be the biggest Memphis library. At the end of 1979 he suffered a broken leg playing football with his buddies on a Sunday afternoon. During his time away Jimmy Hart his manager had crowned a new King and built his First Family of Wrestling. No matter how mean, tough, or bad The First Family got the people had hope, we knew The King would be back! And come back did he ever!!!
The memories of his battles with Bill Dundee, Randy Savage, Terry Funk, Rick Rude, King Kong Bundy, Tommy Rich, Austin Idol, Dutch Mantell, Joe LeDuc, Eddie Gilbert and others through the 1980s are as fresh in my mind as they were then. Who can forget his quest for a World title chasing Nick Bockwinkle, Ric Flair, and Curt Hennig? I still am half hot at my Dad because he would not take me to Memphis May 9 1988 to see Lawler's career vs World title. We all know how that turned out.
|AWA World Champion Jerry "The King" Lawler 1988
As a kid growing up dreaming of becoming a pro wrestler the only places I ever wanted to wrestle were Continental and Memphis offices. Most people who get into wrestling want to be world wide super stars. Not me I wanted to wrestle the places I watched every week, the buildings I saw clips from on the TVs, and against my heroes. My most important goal was a Main Event in Memphis against The King. And thanks to Randy Hales that came true in 1998.
|me vs Jerry "The King" Lawler WMC TV 5 August 1998
I sat here Monday night and Tuesday and all I could think about was Jerry Lawler. I prayed to the King of Kings who I know has our King in his loving healing hands.I grew up idolizing the man. I have been so blessed to get to work with and know him over the years.
Wrestling, singing, and movies are about the only jobs you can grow up and have a chance to work with your heroes. I have great memories of working with The King in Memphis and out and about in the independents.
In 1998 I was working in Memphis and my sister and her family was living in Memphis. At times she would bring my nephews Dakota and Jacob to TV 5 to watch the matches. Jacob was a huge Lawler fan and at 3 years old was able to meet The King. Halloween that year fell on a Saturday and that morning we were at TV when Lawler's then wife Stacy walk up and said here Jerry wanted your nephews to have these. She handed me two brown bag full of candy and on the side was Halloween cartons drawn by The King.
In 2006 Bill Dundee booked me for his Legends card in Jackson Tennessee. The Main Event was of course THE Memphis Main Event Lawler vs. Dundee. As the matches ended Tracy Smothers and I were trying to get out and beat the crowd. As we started up the steps Lawler was coming down the steps. Knowing of my huge Tennessee Wrestling collection He looked at me and said "hey go hang that on your wall" and tossed me the chain he had used on Dundee.
In 2010 Jeff Tankersley and I brought Lawler to Kingsport for a set of matches over the year. The King as always did above and beyond what we asked. The first night he was in, was shortly after Jim White had passed. I gave The King a 1972 Knoxville Wrestling DVD with him White and Bass. He was amazed anyone had this footage much less on DVD.
In the spring of that year King sent me a email wanting to know where I got the "Bad News" video he had watched on our online TV. I told him I made it. I tried to get as much of his career in 3 minutes as you can. He asked me if I would send it to him on DVD. I more than happily did. When he came in the next time for us he gave Misty several promotional pictures of him from the 80s and told her to give them to me after he flew home. On one of them he wrote me a note. It hangs in my office beside the chain.
In the 19070s Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Hart did a song The Ballot of Jerry Lawler. One of the lines is "He's The King and he can do anything". Well to me he is more than The King. He is a Hero, a friend, and now an inspiration.
Next October will be my 25th year in Wrestling. Just last week Misty asked "what was I going to do for that event". I said "easy Team with Bill Dundee vs. The King and Handsome Jimmy".
The will never be another 40 year Main Event Star. There will never be another man who sells out his home town week after week, year after year, The will never be another Jerry "The King" Lawler.
Get well King. And know that I'm not the only one who feels this way about you.