February 5, 2005
REAL NAME: Jerry Lawler
Although he would rule the roost in Memphis, Lawler actually grew up in Cleveland. His artistic ability and his job as a disc jockey in Memphis brought him to the attention of a local wrestling promoter named Aubrey Griffith. In exchange for free publicity for his wrestling promotion, Griffith would train Lawler to become a wrestler.
Lawler debuted in 1970. By September 1971, he was already a champion, having won a battle royale to become the Tri-State Champion, the first of over 200 titles he would hold during his career. A second title, the Southern Tagteam title, came his way when he teamed with Jim White and was managed by Sam Bass, to defeat Jackie Fargo. Lawler would also hold the Southern Tagteam titles with Austin Idol, Jos Leduc, Big Bubba (aka Tugboat) and Tojo Yamamoto among others.
He would win his first Southern Heavyweight Championship in 1974. He would win that title over forty times in his career. Although initially a heel, Lawler would, by the end of the year, split with his manager, Bass, and become a fan favourite.
By this time, Lawler was Memphis's biggest star, battling Tommy Rich, Bill Dundee and Rocky Johnson.
After teaming with Steve Kovac and Fargo to earn several more tagteam titles, he defeated Billy Graham on November 12, 1979 to win the CWA World title. Unfortunately, Lawler's career came to a temporary halt in 1980 when he suffered a broken leg and missed several months of action.
In 1982, Lawler began a feud with comedian Andy Kaufman. Part of Kaufman's skits was to wrestle women, and proclaiming himself the Intergender Heavyweight Champion. Lawler was said to take exception to that, and the pair squared off on April 5th, in Memphis. Lawler gave Kaufman two piledrivers, sending the comedian to the hospital. On July 29th, 1982, the pair clashed on the set of the David Letterman show, where Lawler slapped Kaufman. The comedian responded by erupting in a fury and throwing hot coffee at Lawler.
Back in the ring, Lawler would defeat Austin Idol on March 7, 1983 to win his first AWA International Championship. Over the next three years, he would win the title three times, defeating Ken Patera on July 25th of that same year and Bill Dundee on July 19th, 1986 for subsequent title reigns. He would also defeat Randy Savage on April 12, 1984 for the NWA Mid-America title.
Knowing that to be a more complete wrestler, he must leave Memphis and wrestle against the world's best, Lawler traveled to Japan in the fall of 1985 and won the Polynesian Pacific title (defeating Lars Anderson) in Singapore on January 25th, 1986.
Back in North America, Lawler found himself in the middle of an incredible feud with Tommy Rich, Austin Idol and Paul E. Dangerously. The feud began over a title shot against AWA World Champion Nick Bockwinkel and would rage throughout most of the spring of 1987. The Dangerously-led team decimated Lawler, injuring him and cutting his hair in a brutal cage match that left Memphis's Mid-South Coliseum in the midst of a riot.
Lawler would eventually gain his revenge with the help of Bam Bam Bigelow and later Bill Dundee with whom Lawler would win the AWA Tagteam titles. A year later, on May 9th, 1990, Lawler would defeat Curt Hennig to finally win a World title, the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Not content with defending the title against the likes of Hennig and Soldat Ustinov, Lawler would engage in a rare champion vs. champion feud with World Class Champion Kerry Von Erich, which culminated with Lawler defeating Von Erich at December 13, 1988's Super Clash III to briefly unify the two titles. However, a falling out with AWA promoter Verne Gagne meant the end of Lawler's stay in the AWA and reign as champion, although he would continue to refer to himself as the "Unified Champion" for some time.
Von Erich and Lawler would meet again, with Lawler defeating "the Modern Day Warrior" for the USWA Texas title on December 15th 1989. In between maintaining a near-stranglehold on the USWA Heavyweight title, Lawler would turn his attention to tagteam wrestling, teaming with Jeff Jarrett to win five USWA Tagteam titles.
In 1992, Lawler and Jarrett would engage in an incredible feud with the Moondogs over those tagteam titles. The feud lasted for most of 1991 and 1992 and would earn Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Feud of the Year for 1992. It was during the summer of 1992 that the WWF came to Memphis and Lawler and Jarrett announced on Memphis television that they would be in attendance. Lawler accompanied Jarrett to the show, and watched as Jeff lept the guardrail and challenged Bret Hart for an Intercontinental title match.
While Lawler battled WWF superstars in Memphis, he also began to appear on WWF television, initially as an announcer, joining Vince McMahon on WWF Superstars of Wrestling. However, he could not let his title of the King of Wrestling go unchallenged and attacked Hart after the Hitman won the 1993 King of the Ring tournament. The attack led to a feud that lasted for months. Not only would Lawler battle Hart but he would insult Hart's parents (Stu and Helen) and even bring in his "Demented Dentist" Isaac Yankem (now known as Kane). Even a brief departure from the WWF in late 1993 due to legal problems did little to derail the Hart-Lawler feud.
In late 1994-early 1995, Lawler wrestled in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, losing to Tony Anthony in the NWA World title tournament in November 1994, but then defeating Anthony for the SMW title in January 1995.
A year later, Lawler was battling Jake Roberts after insulting Roberts and his alcohol and drug addiction problems. However, in early 1997, with the promotional agreement in place between the WWF and ECW, Lawler found himself teaming with Rob Van Dam and Sabu against Tommy Dreamer, Paul Heyman and the rest of what Lawler termed "Extremely Crappy Wrestling". Lawler made several appearances in ECW and debated Heyman on Raw in March 1997.
However, late 1997 was a bittersweet time for Lawler. Although he was gaining world-wide fame as an announcer and part-time wrestler on Monday Night Raw, the USWA closed down in November 1997. Lawler had held the USWA title some 27 times between 1988 and 1997.
In 1998, Lawler began filming Man On The Moon, a biopic about Andy Kaufman. Lawler appeared as himself, opposite Canadian comedian Jim Carrey, who played Kaufman. An on-set altercation with Lawler allegedly left Carrey with the same type of neck injury "suffered" by Kaufman. The incident made national headlines, much like the original Kaufman-Lawler "feud" had.
For the bulk of the next few years, Lawler was usually heard but not seen behind the announcer's table on Raw. He was also involved in Memphis's Power Pro Wrestling, which acted as a sort of farm system for the WWE, with stars like Kurt Angle learning their trade there. With his notoriety in Memphis, he even attempted to run for Mayor in 1999.
In September of that year, Lawler married Stacy "the Cat" Carter and in February, 2001 left the company when Carter was fired from the WWE.
Not content to sit and wait for the situation to sort itself out, Lawler embarked on a tour of Australia and made spot appearances on the North American indy circuit. On November 19th, 2001, divorced from Carter, Lawler returned to the WWE and his announcing duties on Raw.
In addition to commentary, Lawler would step into the ring on several occasions, to battle Raven, Val Venis and Ric Flair. Many of Lawler's matches on Raw have come in tagteam action, where he teams with his broadcast partner, JR.
In the fall of 2003, Lawler and Ross feuded with Sunday Night Heat commentators, Johnathan Coachman and Al Snow. At Unforgiven in September, Coach and Snow actually defeated Lawler and JR to win the right to broadcast Raw but JR quickly defeated Coachman in a rematch.
In late 2004, Lawler and Ross took Muhammad Hassan & Khosrow Daivari to task over their anti-American comments, leading to a debate on Raw which, in turn, led to Hassan defeating Lawler at New Year's Revolution 2005.
In November 2005, Lawler lost his long-time announcing partner, Jim Ross, after JR was fired. Lawler welcomed Joey Styles who joined Johnathan Coachman behind the mic on Raw every week.
Lawler's next match in WWE came with a victory at New Year's Revolution 2006 when he accepted the challenge of Gregory Helms, who had issued the challenge after he heard Lawler making fun of him on commentary.
In between his commentating duties on Raw (and his fascination with the WWE Divas), Lawler continues to show up on independent shows, battling fellow legends such as Dusty Rhodes, Kamala and King Kong Bundy, not to mention newcomers like Kip James and Chris Harris adding to his already lengthy legacy as "the King of Wrestling".
- compliled by John Milner
JERRY LAWLER STORIES