Jerry Lawler Discusses His Heart Attack, Hulk Hogan, Kaufman, Wrestling Elvis Presley & More
|By Jay Calderon | January 31, 2013 | Comments|
On whether or not he knew the Andy Kaufman angle would become as big as it did: "Oh, no. Absolutely not. Honestly, Andy first approached Vince McMahon, Sr. in Long Island, New York, which was where Andy was from, with the idea of wrestling women. Which was what Andy was in to at the time. He was calling himself the 'Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World.'
"So, he was wrestling women and he wanted to do it in front of a wrestling audience. So, he approached Mr. McMahon at one of his shows and at that time so many years ago, I guess Mr. McMahon said, 'You know, Andy, I'm just really hesitant to involve a Hollywood actor in our wrestling. Our fans are skeptical anyway. I just don't want to do it, but thank you for your interest.'
"Fortunately, a buddy of mine named Bill Apter, who wrote for wrestling magazines, overheard the conversation and he told Andy, 'Yeah, I have a friend Jerry Lawler who has a wrestling company down in Memphis. He would probably be interested in this.' He called up and, literally, the whole idea was for him to come down and wrestle women."
"...And [the Letterman appearance] changed wrestling. I honestly believe to this day that my involvement with Andy and getting that network and world-wide publicity there for wrestling, it started the ball rolling...I mean, now, wrestling is Hollywood."
His thoughts on Hulk Hogan's impact in the sport: "You know, a lot of people are not in Hulk's corner anymore and maybe the WWE isn't. But, and this is just my personal opinion, Hulk Hogan and Hulkamania was probably the most important thing that took place in wrestling. (He's asked who gets credit for it.] You want my opinion? McMahon and the WWE. I won't say they could have done the exact same thing with anybody but they gave him the platform.
On the movie The Wrestler and whether it reminded him of situations in wrestling he's seen: "Oh, yes. I can think of one single individual I've seen that that was his life when you watch it. It's probably no secret: Jake 'The Snake' Roberts. I think that he lived that movie. I understand that he is still trying to make a comeback and get his life back together.
"I thought it was pretty accurate, but my only problem with that movie was that I think a lot of fans or people that saw that movie didn't really know a lot about wrestling and it gave them the wrong impression that almost all wrestlers end up like that. That's certainly not the case.
"You could make that same movie about any form of entertainment. Any sports figure, any athlete, any entertainer. It's choices that people make in life and we've certainly had our share of guys that make mistakes."
On trying to work a wrestling angle with Elvis Presley: "Believe it or not, right before Elvis died, I spoke to his father Vernon and approached him with the idea of Elvis and I having an actual match. Elvis was a big wrestling fan, he used to actually go to the matches there in Memphis on occasion. He got really big into martial arts and karate and everything.
"...[H]e ran it by Elvis and he said, 'He loves the idea.' Then, I'll never forget, but he said, 'I'll be honest with you, Elvis is not in the greatest of shape but he's losing weight and he's starting to work out to get ready for this upcoming tour. Soon as we get back, we'll call you and we'll work something out.' He passed away before the tour."
To check out the entire interview, click here.
Lyle contributed to this article. Got a news tip or correction? Send it to us by clicking here.