For decades, he has earned adulation and caused agitation. For a quarter-century, he helped provide a signature soundtrack for some of the greatest in-ring performances in history.
Lions Pride Sports is honored to have The King as part of The Pride.
Jerry Lawler literally drew up his entrance into professional wrestling. The Memphis-born youngster sent in drawings of the competitors to the city's main wrestling promotion. The artwork caught the eyes of famed announcer Lance Russell and the top star, Jackie Fargo, and the cartoons were used on the air.
Lawler, who wrestled in college, also spent time as a disc jockey, and in exchange for promoting a different Memphis-based promotion on the radio, he got the chance to compete in the squared circle for the first time. A week later, Fargo brought Lawler into his company. The year was 1970. Who could have known over the course of the next five decades, he would become one of the icons of the industry?
With a gift for gab and through mentorship from Fargo, the torch for the promotion was passed to Lawler, who became Memphis's king. With a crown, robe and an exorbitant amount of charisma, Lawler exuded star power. He developed into the bad guy who could make you laugh one second and scream in anger the next.
By 1974, Lawler had entered national title contention, fighting for the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship. Despite the loss, Lawler's star rose even further. The King was a massive draw, regularly selling out the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis and becoming one of the most-watched people on television in The Bluff City.
It was 1982 that saw Lawler become a national celebrity thanks to a wild rivalry with one of the top comedians of the time. Andy Kaufman starred in the television show "Taxi" and was a huge wrestling fan, working matches between himself and a woman into his night club act. He wanted to perform in front of the biggest wrestling fans and eventually went to Memphis to compete in more inter-gender matches. As he had hoped, Kaufman drew the ire of the sellout crowds. Lawler would come to the defense of the women, igniting the feud.
In April 1982, Kaufman was piledriven twice by Lawler in Memphis and taken to a hospital. National media coverage quickly followed. Come July, Lawler and Kaufman appeared together on "Late Night with David Letterman" on NBC. A war of words ensued, and Lawler eventually slapped Kaufman, shocking everyone and creating one of the most memorable moments in late night television history.
The Kaufman rivalry would later be relived as part of the 1999 movie "Man on the Moon." The King played himself against Jim Carrey's Kaufman.
The saga vaulted Lawler to a new level of stardom. He traveled the country causing drama and winning titles. In all, The King has 168 championship reigns to his name, including the AWA World Championship. He unified that title with World Class Championship Wrestling's. Lawler was also a multi-time champ in the USWA.
The World Wrestling Federation would eventually come calling. In December 1992, the WWF audience gained a new antagonist behind the microphone at the announce table, in the King's Court interview segment, and as a competitor. Among his heated rivals were Bret Hart and his legendary family, Roddy Piper and Doink the Clown.
A spot on Monday Night Raw's commentary team opened up in the mid-1990s, and Lawler seized the opportunity. He partnered with Vince McMahon at first, and they were later joined by Jim Ross. When Vince became the evil Mr. McMahon, Ross and Lawler became Raw's announcers, forming what many believe is the greatest commentary duo in wrestling history. The two were ringside for the WWF's Attitude Era, describing the action and stories for the highest rated shows on cable television. For the better part of 25 years, Lawler announced the now-WWE's main shows, Raw and SmackDown.
In 2007, WWE inducted The King into the company's Hall of Fame for his contributions to professional wrestling. One of Lawler's fellow inductees that year, appropriately, was Ross.
At WrestleMania XXVII in 2011, Lawler added one more accolade to his long list. After announcing the event since WrestleMania X, he competed on The Grandest Stage of Them All for the first time. Lawler's rivalry with his broadcast colleague, Michael Cole, culminated in a match, with Stone Cold Steve Austin serving as the referee. Cole tapped out to Lawler, but the win was reversed due to Austin's actions during the match. Despite a loss in the record books, The King called it an awesome experience.
Lawler competed sporadically in the WWE into September 2012. Following a tag team match on a Raw in Montreal, he suffered a heart attack at the announce table. Thanks to quick work by the company's medical staff and hospital workers in Canada and back home, Lawler would make a full recovery. His emotional return to the WWE came just two months later.
Lawler received full medical clearance to return to competition following his scare. To this day, he travels the country wowing audiences. He also continues to provide his insight at ringside and during WWE Network pre-shows for many of WWE's major events, including WrestleMania and the Royal Rumble. He's the long-time host of the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
-Written by Steve Fullhart
(Information from various online sources)