In the interview below Lawler comment on working with JR & Cole, and comments on Sid Vicious, Andy Kaufman and more.
By JOHN SHARP
Jerry “The King” Lawler’s 35 years in professional wrestling have been anything but boring. But even he admits that spending an evening meeting fans – away from the hectic wrestling ring – is a practice that more sports stars should embrace.
Lawler, along with Hacksaw Jim Duggan and “The Birdman” Koko B. Ware, will be signing autographs during the Peoria Rivermen’s home game Friday against the Iowa Chops. WWE Legends Night starts at 6 p.m.
“It’s one of those sort of things that gets lost in today’s wrestling world with the fact that the shows are so big with WWE,” Lawler said during a recent interview with the Journal Star. “We go to these 20,000-seat arenas … you are pretty much busy all day long. Until the show is over and by the time you leave, it’s 11:30 p.m. or midnight. It’s so fast-paced, you can’t stop to meet people.”
Lawler has met plenty of interesting people during a career that has seen him showcased in wrestling companies such as the now-defunct American Wrestling Association, World Class Wrestling Association and United States Wrestling Association. He is famous for battles against foes such as Kerry Von Erich, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Henning and Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
Lawler wrestled last month during a show in Nashville celebrating his career. His original tag team partner from the 1970s was there, along with other wrestlers of the past. Lawler wrestled former WWE champion Sid Vicious, whose in-ring leg injury about eight years ago was so graphic, it could not be rerun on many TV stations.
It took Vicious several years to recover.
“To me, he’s better than ever,” Lawler said. “He’s the same Sid he was before the broken leg. He’s completely healed, and there is some talk … he might return to WWE. He could come back and make a big splash.”
Perhaps the most infamous foe Lawler ever faced was Kaufman, in the 1980s, which was highlighted in the 1999 movie “Man on the Moon” starring Jim Carrey.
“He was a great guy,” Lawler said of Kaufman. “A huge wrestling fan. Andy told me, ‘I’d give up everything in Hollywood if I could (be active) with wrestling.’ That’s how much he loved it. Sadly, it didn’t happen.”
Lawler said he probably will never make a return trip to Letterman’s show, even though the face slap garnered huge ratings for the late night host during his early tenure on NBC.
“Dave was a little miffed at Andy and I after that,” Lawler said. “He felt like something happened he wasn’t let in on. It did huge ratings for his show. He didn’t stay mad very long … (but) he’s never asked (for me to return), and I’ve never (asked him).”
Lawler has been on TV a lot, however. Any casual wrestling fan of the past 15 years knows his voice as a commentator with personalities like Michael Cole or Jim Ross during “Monday Night RAW” on the USA Network.
“J.R. and I worked together for 15 years. He is great at what he does. He takes it so seriously,” Lawler said. “Working with Michael Cole is easy, as well. Michael is a little more … gosh, he might be a little more like me in the fact he’s kind of laid back.”
Lawler added, “I always keep in mind, this isn’t brain surgery, it’s not life or death. It’s wrestling.”
John Sharp can be reached at 686-3282 or firstname.lastname@example.org