Recently on The Steve Austin Show, WWE Hall Of Famer Steve Austin welcomed fellow WWE Hall Of Famer Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler to the show. Among many other things, Lawler talked about transitioning from being an in-ring performer to color commentator
According to Lawler, he hated transitioning to commentary and that is why he continued to wear full gear on commentary. ‘The King’ went on to say that taking Macho Man’s commentary spot is what made the transition more “palatable”.
“Absolutely, yeah, that’s why for so many years, I would always wear my tights out to the [commentary table]. I wore my tights and outfit out to the ring and people, finally after years of doing it, said, ‘why does ‘King’ wear wrestling tights when he’s an announcer?'”
Lawler added, “I never thought about being an announcer. I only thought about being a [pro] wrestler. When I got up to New York, but Vince [McMahon] helped me out on that. The fact that he said, ‘we’re still going to use you [as a pro wrestler]’ and they did. From time-to-time, they used me in a wrestling role, but not as full-time. But he convinced me that, if you remember, the guy’s place that I took was ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage when he jumped the ship and went over. So he was already using top guys as color men. And so, that’s how he made me accept it a little more. He said, ‘I felt like you’re taking the place of Randy Savage here when he jumped ship to WCW,’ so it made it a little more palatable.”
On the subject of McMahon being on the headset during RAW, Lawler explained that McMahon has a headset with a row of buttons that enables him to talk to various workers. Lawler said he has never been yelled at by McMahon, even after all these years with WWE.
“Vince McMahon is at every TV show and he’s in the back,” Lawler explained. “And he [has] got a set of headphones on and Vince has a row of buttons in front of him and he can punch a button and he can talk to anybody. He can talk to the director; he can talk to the cameraman; he can talk to the referee; he can talk to any one of the three announcers at any given time. So he has a huge input throughout the entire show. And yeah, I’ve been in a lot of situations where my [broadcast] partner would really get an earful if he said something that didn’t please Vince. I, on the other hand, over all these years, Steve, it’s unbelievable. Vince has never yelled at me one time. I would go through weeks and weeks of shows where I wouldn’t hear Vince say one word to me.”
Lawler, who refused WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan’s recent to hold a seminar for WWE performers, shared that WWE Hall Of Famer Mick Foley was once going to become a WWE commentator, but he could not tolerate McMahon’s criticism and verbal abuse.
“Heck, I know at one time they brought in Mick Foley,” Lawler recalled. “And Mick Foley was going to be part of the announce crew. And apparently, Vince just really got on his case on the shows and there [are] some people, Michael Cole, I’ve heard Vince scream at him. [Jim Ross], I’ve heard Vince scream at him. And both those guys know the situation. They realize it’s the heat of the moment. They let it roll off their back, which is hard to do when you’re on live TV. And they let it roll off, but poor Mick. He could not take it. He did it a few weeks. Then, he said, ‘man, I can’t take being talked to like this.'”
According to Lawler, McMahon’s goal has always been to make WWE Superstars celebrities on par with other big starts from other areas of entertainment.
“As we’ve evolved from pro wrestling to sports entertainment, and now you see the WWE Superstars, of course with guys like [‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin] becoming movie stars, guys like The Rock becoming movie stars, John Cena? if Vince? that was his goal in life and he [has] accomplished that, is to make the [pro] wrestling stars or the [WWE] Superstars on the same level with other entertainment stars.” Lawler said, “and he [has] done that.
Moreover, McMahon wanted to change the traditional heel/babyface dynamics and this is why heels will win cleanly nowadays.
“And one of the things that I think has evolved about that is in the past in pro wrestling, you had to have a heel and a babyface. And I think Vince thought – I think it’s one of his beliefs was that, ‘if we’re going to make these Superstars on the same level as other movies stars and entertainment stars, we don’t need to go that far to make it, make them appear’ – I don’t know, I’m probably saying this wrong – but they don’t have to go out of their way to get heat.’ In other words, I mean, do the old time getting heat or being heels and babyfaces. We kind of suffered through it. I think we’re there now, but everybody was sort of vanilla. Everybody was sort of the same. It was like cookie cutter personalities and nobody could get any [heat].”
Lawler continued, “and to me and [Austin], that’s probably the major change to the [pro wrestling] business as we know it because to me growing up the whole philosophy was you got a heel and a babyface. And the babyface was better. And the heel could only win by cheating. And that’s the thing that came along. Vince said, ‘don’t cheat. We don’t need to cheat.’ And that [has] been a major thing.”
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