Jerry Lawler is a legend in the wrestling business. Millions watch him each week on Monday Night RAW on the USA Network as half the WWE Hall Of Fame broadcast team, with his partner “Good Ole JR” Jim Ross. Millions more remember him from the time he famously slapped Andy Kaufmann on the David Letterman show. The man is a legend in the wrestling business as the “King” of Memphis wrestling, and is also a best-selling author, musician and talented artist. This Saturday, Jerry “The King” Lawler comes to Logan to wrestle for All Star Wrestling. We were lucky enough to steal a few moments of his time while he was working on a special Wrestlemania 24 promotional project so we could subject him to the PopCult Interview:
PopCult: You’re coming to Logan on March 22nd to face Charleston’s hardcore icon, Mad Man Pondo. Have you ever wrestled Pondo before?
Lawler: I have not. You know, I’ve been around wrestling since Col. Saunders was a private (laughs). I’ve wrestled just about everybody that there is in this profession and he’s a guy that I heard about a lot. I know he’s made quite a name for himself in one of my old stomping grounds that we used to wrestle in on a weekly basis here in the Tennessee area, Evansville, Indiana. And I had some people call me from up there saying “Ah, this Mad Man Pondo is wreaking havoc all around Evansville, you need to come up here and take care of him!” but my schedule never fit in to where I could get up there and get a match with the guy. So that’s why I’m really looking forward to coming to Logan and facing him for the first time.
PopCult: Have you wrestled in Logan before?
Lawler: I have never wrestled in Logan, so this is going to be a night of firsts for me. You know, when you’ve been around as long as I have in this business, there aren’t many firsts left, so this is exciting for me.
PopCult: Have you had many memorable matches in West Virginia?
Lawler: Oh….gosh…You know to be honest with you, I haven’t. I haven’t had the opportunity to wrestle in West Virginia all that often. We’ve done a couple of Monday Night RAW’s in West Virginia, but as far as me wrestling there personally, I haven’t had the opportunity to work there that much. I understand there are a lot of great wrestling fans there, though, and I’m looking forward to coming and doing an event like the All Star Wrestling Show.
One of the great things about these type of events as opposed to our WWE events is that the WWE is so big and on such a grand scale that it’s really hard to have much personal contact with the fans. And this show in Logan, it’s sort of like an old-school throwback to me. It’s like the way wrestling was when I got into the business and it’s what I loved about it. The fans that come to the show that night will have an opportunity to actually meet the wrestlers, get pictures made, autographs, and things like that. Whereas our WWE shows are so huge that we don’t have that chance to have the personal contact with the fans. That’s the reason I like doing shows like this one in Logan.
PopCult: Speaking of WWE, in a couple of weeks you have WrestleMania 24 coming up. It’s such a huge, iconic event, how do you prepare for that?
Lawler: I’m real lucky in the fact that I’ve got probably the best partner, as far as broadcasting goes, in the business. That’s “good ‘ole JR”. He pretty much takes care of all the preparation. I’m lucky in the fact that I can almost just show up, sit down, and react to what I see. JR and I have such good chemistry, if there’s any technical details or whatever that need to be brought up, JR’s always right there with it. So I don’t. do a lot of preparation, other than, of course, you know, being familiar with what the matches are and what the past history is between these guys.
PopCult: In addition to wrestling, you’re also an accomplished artist. What are you working on at the moment?
Lawler: As we speak, I’m sitting at my art table, drawing a comic strip that’s running in the Orlando Sentinel for four weeks leading up to WrestleMania. It’s a little WrestleMania comic strip that I’m drawing, featuring…right now I’m drawing a picture of Triple H smashing John Cena in the face. It runs every Sunday in The Orlando Sentinel newspaper.
PopCult: Actually, speaking of comic strip art, I hear you’re doing a Superman project for DC.
Lawler: Well, that’s still in the works. I’m working on a project that’s been kind of brewing for months now with the DC Comics people. It’s going be online. DC’s got a new thing called DC Artists Online, which will be on their website starting up sometime in the middle of summer. And that’s when I’ll be starting, doing the artwork for (the online Superman comic strip), and then hopefully, from there, maybe doing some cover work. That would be like the little dream come true for me, to actually do a Superman cover or something.
PopCult: Now, you’ve sort of got the Renaissance Man thing going on…
PopCult: …you’re doing artwork, you’ve acted in movies, you’ve done television announcing, the wrestling, you’ve written a book, and you have a CD.
Lawler: Yeah, I have a CD. It actually, it wasn’t released in the states, is what I like to tell people. (laughter) It’s me doing a little bit of singing. And, you know, early on in my career, I rescued a guy who was a former…well, he had gone to the same high school that I had gone to, and he’d had a big hit record. He was in a band back in the mid- sixties. A guy named Jimmy Hart.He was in a group called The Gentrys, and they had a song called “Keep on Dancing” that actually knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts when it came out.
And of course, this was just like a little local garage band from Memphis that turned out to be sort of, like, one hit wonders. But later on, I met Jimmy and he was still doing the music thing. And the guy had such charisma and personality and everything that I wound up taking him into wrestling as my manager. One of the things we did along the way was not just wrestling projects, but we also did a couple of music projects. So we cut a couple of albums and did some songs together. As a matter of fact, during WrestleMania week, Jimmy and I are going to be performing during a big block party in Orlando. We’ll be performing some of the songs that we did on that album back then.
PopCult: Speaking of music, your entrance music is Mussorgsky’s “Great Gates of Kiev” (from “Pictures At An Exhibition”)….
Lawler: (laughs) Yeah, a lot of people ask me about that and how I came up with it. And of course, I didn’t come up with it. When they ask me why has it not ever been on the WWE music CDs, and I guess it’s simply because it’s actually not original music. It’s an old Russian piece.
PopCult: I always wondered if Emerson, Lake, and Palmer had anything to do with that. (music nerd note: ELP recorded a rock version of “Pictures At An Exhibition” in 1970)
Lawler: (laughs) No.
PopCult: Okay, I’ve got to ask the obligatory Andy Kaufman question.
Lawler: Oh, boy.
PopCult: You had an infamous feud with Kaufmann, yet you kept your friendship with him private. Did it bother you when that came out? Or did you feel it was time to let everyone in on the joke?
Lawler: Oh no, it didn’t, it didn’t bother me when it came out. And of course, you know Andy and I weren’t close friends by any means, but Andy respected the wrestling business and loved wrestling so much. So we had that in common and he just wanted to continue on and do as much with the wrestling as he possibly could. Of course, I capitalized on the fact that, I mean, here was a big Hollywood star that wanted to be a wrestler, so it just…worked out really well.
PopCult: I’ve noticed that your work with Kaufmann sort of broke ground and now more wrestling psychology is making it into pop culture and even politics. (laughs) That wasn’t really a question, just an observation.
Lawler: Right. Well, I mean it’s true. It’s like, right after Kaufman and I did our little thing, of course, wrestling was over run with Cyndi Lauper being involved, and Mr. T, and a lot of the celebrity and the business has moved a little more towards show business, so to speak.
PopCult: Right. Plus now you turn on the news and it’s like “woah, Hillary just turned heel on Barack!”
Lawler: (laughs) Right.
IF YOU GO: All Star Wrestling’s Second Anniversary Show, featuring Jerry “The King” Lawler, Mad Man Pondo, WCW’s Daffney, TNA’s Velvet Sky and others will be held at The Logan Memorial Field house Saturday March 22 at 7 p.m.. A “meet-and-greet” autograph session will begin at 6 p.m. Admission is $15. Advance tickets can be purchased by calling (304) 752-1999 or visiting www.asw-wrestling.com.