The incredible career of an iconic figure in pro wrestling and sports entertainment is spotlighted in the “It’s good to be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story” DVD/Blu-ray release.
The project was a year in the making with the Hall of Famer having input as to who was featured. He provided names to WWE producer Matt Rogers, who spearheaded the effort. This included many from his past including longtime Memphis Wrestling announcer Lance Russell, rival Superstar Bill Dundee and referee Jerry Calhoun
“They even went as far back as talking to my high school art teacher,” Lawler said. “That was sort of what got me in and played a thread through not only my career, but life. My artistic talent and ability, I started drawing at a young age and basically wound up getting into the business with my drawings and caricatures of wrestlers later on. My high school art teacher is about 89 years old. She did a fabulous job. I was amazed that she was able to remember so much about me.”
When Lawler sat down to watch the finished project, he found the experience almost embarrassing.
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“It’s not that I don’t enjoy seeing those people talking about me,” he said. “I’ve never been one of those people to take compliments very well. You hear all these wonderful people singing my praises. It’s a humbling experience, but I kind of cringed when I watched it myself with my girlfriend and family.
“I was kind of surprised at some of the WWE people and the things they had to say. It was very nice, and it made me feel very good, especially the things Vince McMahon said about me. I haven’t spoken to him about it yet, but have to go out of my way to thank him for saying those nice things about me on the DVD.”
Lawler remains as active as ever in the business. He sits ringside for WWE SmackDown and calls pay-per-views. During the weekends he enjoys doing conventions and continues to wrestle. The 65-year-old’s still has a passion for his profession.
“The reason I got into this business over 40 years ago was because I loved the wrestling end of it,” Lawler said. “The commentating, I sort of backed into it. They had me go out there, almost out of necessity when Randy Savage sort of jumped ship. The whole story is on the DVD, but Randy Savage was doing color commentary with Vince McMahon. Then one day without any warning or notice, Randy Savage showed up on WCW. Vince had his back against the wall. Who was he going to put out as color commentator?
“In reality, he came to me asking if I would do the show with him tonight. The next week they were planning on having someone else on a regular basis. I really thought I was going to go on for one show. Now 20 plus years later, I’ve been doing it ever since. Though the wrestling end of it is what I really love more than anything, not that I don’t enjoy doing commentating.”
During a 2012 live edition of Raw his career and life were both in jeopardy. The beloved veteran had collapsed at the broadcast table. He had suffered a heart attack.
“Two-and-a-half years ago I had a little minor setback dying on the air,” he said, an example of his signature sense of humor. “Six months after I was given clearance to go back in the ring, and I haven’t missed a beat since. I don’t wrestle on a full-time basis like a WWE superstar. I do shots here and there, shows and fundraisers. I don’t know how to explain it. I still love it the same way I did when I first stepped foot in the ring. I enjoy being out with the fans and performing. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Along with the biographical portion, the DVD/Blu-ray set contains a series of memorable matches and moments from Memphis Wrestling, AWA and WWE. Lawler has produced a one-of-a-kind quality of work that crosses numerous generations.
“One of the cool things is my career spans so many decades,” he said. “I came along in the early 1970s at a time when literally the forefathers of the wrestling industry were kind of winding down their careers. I got to wrestle almost every big name, every superstar that came along in this business. I had a tag match early on in my career against Lou Thesz and Pat O'Connor. I was wrestling guys like Dick the Bruiser and the original Sheik, Bobo Brazil and Jack Brisco and all the NWA champions like Harley Race and Terry Funk and Dory Funk.
“From there, I went to wrestling guys like Hulk Hogan and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and The Rock. I mentioned this at Elimination Chamber when Kevin Owens was going against John Cena. He was basically doing his first match with WWE that night, although he was in the business 15 years. I mentioned I had been in the ring and wrestled Kevin Owens. I had a 20-minute long piledriver match with Kevin Owens.
“The next day he started with NXT. All of a sudden Twitter blew up saying, ‘What? You wrestled Kevin Owens!’ My match career has been pretty impressive, as far as the names I’ve been able to compete and be in the ring these years.
“One of the matches on the release is Ohio Valley Wrestling where I’m wrestling John Cena before they even called him John Cena. He was just getting started and training there at OVW. He was wrestling as ‘The Prototype.’ I’m watching this match and all of a sudden this brouhaha happens and wrestlers come in. Then, all of a sudden, here comes a very young Randy Orton. He was just getting his training days behind him in OVW. It’s just one of those things where you see it on the DVD of how my career has gone all these years and being in the ring with so many superstars through the eras.”
Lawler became a household name and put Memphis Wrestling on a worldwide stage while working with the late Andy Kaufman. “The Late Show with David Letterman” interview the two did is still discussed today.
“The recent issue of Time Magazine named mine and Andy’s appearance as number two of the top 10 appearances on the ‘Late Show with David Letterman.’ Out of all the guests, and he had over 19,900 guests in those 30-plus years on his show, it was quite a story. All of that is on the DVD. It tells the history of how [Andy] and I met and how he approached me. Then of course came his ill-fated match in Memphis Wrestling at the Mid-South Coliseum where afterward he spent three days in the hospital. What is cool about the whole background of how that Late Show happened, it’s probably not what people would expect.
“It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. It certainly wasn’t what David Letterman was expecting or Andy was expecting. It just unfolded and happened. The results were what one of Letterman’s top writers told me not long ago. He said, ‘We refer to that for years as ‘The Famous Show.’ That was David Letterman’s first year on late night. So there is another young guy I gave blessings to by being on his show. He ended up doing really well.”
In the past year the WWE announcing mainstay has transitioned from Raw to SmackDown. He calls the action with Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton.
“It kind of rejuvenated me,” Lawler said. “It’s fun to work with guys that you can tell are a little intimidated by you. You don’t want to play that trump card very often, but you know it’s always there. Byron is very talented. So is Tom Phillips, and they are a lot of fun to work with. SmackDown to me, and I’m not casting anything against Raw, but maybe it’s a little more fun. Maybe it’s because there is a little less pressure in the fact we tape the show and it’s an hour shorter than Raw.
“I mean Raw is like a runaway train sometimes, which is fun to watch. It’s not always fun to be a part of the broadcast because it’s high-pressure show, producing a three-hour live show every week. SmackDown has been a lot of fun. More moves are in the future. They are moving to USA Network next year. That is going to be huge with Raw and SmackDown on the same network.”
Fans can catch the decorated announcer, wrestler and artist at the Florida Supercon all four days, June 25-28, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Lawler has also done work for Michael Kingston’s “Headlocked” comic book.
“I do have a lot of fun doing those because it’s an opportunity to not only show off artwork, but I also do commission sketches while I’m at these comic conventions,” he said. “I started doing them around three or four years ago. I started in Chicago, then New York and then San Diego. It’s snowballed and seems I do more and more, but the Miami one is a lot of furn. The Convention Center is close to South Beach, which makes it a mini-vacation, and you meet so many people. There are so many cool people. I don’t want to really admit this, but I actually continue to go to these things because I’m a big fan of them. I’m a big pop culture fan (He owns a Batmobile!). My girlfriend gets to go with me, and we work together on them. It’s fun and enjoyable.”
- “It’s good to be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story” is available on DVD/Blu-ray.
Follow Jerry Lawler on Twitter @JerryLawler.
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