After over 40 years in the wrestling business, and nearly 20 years in WWE in particular, Jerry “The King” Lawler finally got his WrestleMania moment in 2011. Lawler had his first and only WrestleMania match at WrestleMania 27 where he was defeated by Michael Cole with Stone Cold Steve Austin as a special guest referee.
Lawler and Austin reminisced about The King’s only WrestleMania match on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions.
“Yeah, it’s so funny. I mean, it was great. But I’ll be lying if I said I don’t know why it didn’t happen sooner, especially the fact that I don’t know how many years I would wrestle and commentate, get up from the commentary desk, and go in and wrestle, and I’m back and finish commentary. I don’t know why that I just never got that WrestleMania match up until with Michael Cole, and then a lot of people say that may be the worst match in WrestleMania history, which I’m not going to argue with anybody,” admitted Lawler.
“I’m not going to say anything other than the fact that, and especially with you in there, it could’ve been so much better. And the main way it could’ve been so much better is if it had been shorter. With all the ingredients that we had, especially with you, with Jack Swagger, with Cole, there could’ve been so much more done with that match. Not that crazy about the way it went.”
When Lawler first joined WWE in 1992, he joined the commentary booth next to play-by-play man Vince McMahon. Lawler talked about what he’s learned from McMahon from watching him up close for nearly 30 years.
“I mean, nobody works harder on this company than Vince McMahon. It’s his life; he lives, breathes, eats, sleeps the WWE, and I’ve looked at that and I admire that kind of dedication, because when I look at Vince and watch [WWE], I think, gosh, he must love this because look what he’s sacrificing to stay this involved. What he’s sacrificing – I’m saying if I were in his shoes, what I would be doing is I’m thinking, I’d buy myself an island somewhere and I might show up at a WrestleMania once a year,” said Lawler. “But no, Vince is 24/7 working and thinking about this business, and never once does he want it to not be successful. Never once does he want it not to be as good as it can be, so everything that he’s thinking, everything that he’s working on is to try to make this business better.”
Lawler infamously suffered a heart attack during a Raw in 2012 just minutes after having a match. He collapsed at the commentary table and had to be stretchered out of the arena before undergoing an angioplasty the next day.
He talked about how he’s been feeling since then, and if the experience reduced his desire to get in the ring again.
“I feel great, I feel really good. I bet I had a thousand matches since then,” said Lawler, who hasn’t wrestled for WWE since his heart attack but has wrestled on the indie scene.
In 2007, Lawler and Jim Ross went into the WWE Hall of Fame, being inducted by William Shatner. Steve Austin asked if he remembered what was said to him when he got the call for the HoF.
“When I got the call? When I actually got the call from Vince and said, ‘We want to put you in the Hall of Fame,’ I said, ‘No, no, no, I don’t want to do that.’ And he said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said… because I always thought of Hall of Fames as like Baseball, Football Hall of Fame, it’s something that an honor you get after your career is over. And in 2007, I wasn’t even thinking about my career being over,” admitted Lawler.
“I was still thinking about how I still want to go in and wrestle every single night, and Vince had to explain to me that part of it was the fact that they want to put JR in. He said, ‘This doesn’t mean you’re retiring in any kind of way! Don’t even think about that. This is you going in as a commentator, you and JR basically.’ And he said, ‘This is not about the fact that your career’s over or anything like that.’ So, that made it feel a little more palatable.
“Then, of course the down part of that was my buddy, Bill,William Shatner, was asked to come in. ‘Star Trek’s’ Captain Kirk. He comes to me on the Hall of Fame night ? and this shows you how different our business is from these other entertainment businesses ? he comes in all the way from California, all the way from Hollywood to do this thing for me. He comes over and calls me to the side. He said, ‘How far is the teleprompter from where I’m going to be talking?’ And I said, ‘Oh, we don’t use a teleprompter,’ and he goes, ‘You don’t use a teleprompter?!’
“I said, ‘No,’ so he goes out there with the notes and he’s trying to look down at them, puts on the glasses, and then literally has to hold the paper up because – I mean, we weren’t best friends, we weren’t pals or anything – so, he’s reading this stuff and all of a sudden the crowd starts up with this chant ‘You don’t know him!’ And it was terribly embarrassing for William Shatner and for me as well. But then once we got to it, it’s always fun to look back and say, ‘Hey, I got inducted by William Shatner, Captain Kirk. Captain and The King.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.