Memphis born Jerry Lawler has had storied career. In a career that spans 41 years, Lawler has held 164 championships, 32 of which were world heavyweight titles.Despite never winning a WWE world title, Lawler has won more championships than any other WWE superstar. His feud with the late Andy Kaufman took his stardom to a national level and just four years ago, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Despite all the accomplishments, Lawler, now 61, has never competed at Wrestlemania, which is tagged as the biggest sports entertainment event of the year.
“The King” will get his chance has he steps into the ring to face his Raw broadcast partner of more than 10 years, Michael Cole, this Sunday at Wrestlemania 27 with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as guest referee. The Superbowl of sports entertainment will be held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta beginning at 5:30 p.m. on pay-per-view.Lawler spoke exclusively with The Examiner about his big match, love of the sport and youthful friends.
Do you see similarities with your fued with Cole as you did with Andy Kaufman?
Absolutely. There are a ton of similarities. Andy was an outsider who had never been in the ring like I had been my entire life. Though Cole has been around the ring, he’s never competed. Like Andy was, Cole is going to be on unfamiliar ground, which puts him at a huge disadvantage. Andy ran his mouth so much about what he was going to do to me, I told a reporter before the match I think I have to hurt him. The same with Michael Cole. If I don’t hurt him and he comes out unscathed, it would make my whole career look like a joke.
Was it difficult to listen to him bring up the death of your mother and turn your son against you?
It was tough, but the same token, the whole world is talking about this match because it’s so personal. He crossed several lines. Once he mentioned my mother, just after her death, he thought, what more could he do. His intent was to make it very personal.
When were you first introduced to professional wrestling?
My dad worked for the Ford Motor Company and was transferred out of Memphis to a little town in Ohio called Amherst. I was 8 years old and for the next eight years or so, I remember watching wrestling in Cleveland. We moved back to Memphis and I realized there were no pro sports teams in the city but pro wrestling was really big. Every Monday night they had matches at the old Ellis Auditorium then it moved to the Mid South Coliseum. They had a live 90-minute program every Saturday morning and I mean to tell you, the entire city shut down to watch wrestling. My dad and I started to going to the live events and I was hooked.
Was it a smooth transition from the ring to the announcer’s table?
It wasn’t a natural step and it wasn’t attended. When I first got into the business, I never thought about becoming a color commentator. Around 1994 during the Monday night wars with WCW, Vince McMahon was doing the play-by-play on ‘Raw’ and “Macho Man” Randy Savage was doing color commentary. During that time, WCW ‘Nitro’ came on an hour before ‘Raw’ did and one night before ‘Raw’ came on, someone turned the TV on in the back and saw Savage on ‘Nitro.’ He jumped ship without any notice or warning. Vince came to me and ask if I would fill in and I did. I was thrown into the deep end and some 17 years later, I’m still doing it.
How excited are you to compete in your first Wrestlemania?
This is the crowning jewel of my career. It’s one of the very few things that I haven’t done. I told Vince back in 2007 when they were going to induct me into the Hall of Fame, I said to Vince I don’t feel like I have done anything. I’ve never won a WWE title match or competed at Wrestlemania. He then vowed to correct the fact that I have never been in a match at Wrestlemania and it sort of slipped between the cracks. I had given up on the thought of me ever getting a chance but the stars have aligned this year.
With the WWE gaining new fans everyday, how does it feel to still be a relevant part of the industry?
I feel incredibly lucky. Looking back on any career, you have to be lucky to have longevity in this business. Any one wrong move either by yourself or an opponent, you could suffer a career-ending injury at any given time. I don’t have a physique like some of these guys, but I try to keep myself in pretty good shape. Another thing is, never in my life have I tasted beer, wine, whiskey or any kind of alcohol. I’ve never smoked a cigarette or even tasted coffee. All that played a major part in my life. Age is a number, but I’ve always tried to hang out with young people, especially women. Having younger girlfriends help you keep a younger frame of mind.
Other scheduled matches include Edge defending the world title vs. Alberto Del Rio, The Miz defending the WWE championship against John Cena and The Undertaker puts his 18-0 undefeated streak on the line vs. Triple H. Duane “The Rock” Johnson will host.