Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler has to be among the easiest interviews on the planet.
Ask him a question, and off he goes.
SLAM! Wrestling caught up with the highly-quotable Lawler in the media room at the WrestleMania Rage party last Saturday. The King was hyping WrestleMania for the other media, and on the WWF web site’s live broadcast, so the challenge was to ask him a couple of new questions.
As the colour commentator on WWF Raw is War and for pay-per-view events, Lawler is among the higher-profile WWF personalities. How does he prepare for doing commentary?
“Well, I know this sounds bad, but [I do] absolutely nothing!” Lawler said laughing. “I just walk out there and wing it. That’s one of the good things about my job. I don’t really have to work out, I don’t have to stay in shape [laughing], I don’t have to prepare. When the camera comes on air, I’ll say something — it may be stupid, but I’ll say something!”
Lawler is currently involved in the Jim Ross vs Michael Cole storyline. Ross wants to return to his spot as host of WWF events, despite his recent attack of Bell’s Palsy. To that end, Ross called the main event of Steve Austin vs The Rock at WrestleMania XV.
But where does Lawler stand on Ross?
“Well, I usually like to stand on his stomach. If I stand on his chest, I fall off,” he joked, reveling in the obvious set-up line. “I’ve known [Ross] a long time. He and I do good work together. A lot of people were really critical of Michael Cole at first when he and I started together. But I’ve never had one minute’s problem with Michael Cole. I think that he does a very credible job. He’s easy to work with. I have no problem whatsoever.
“Of course, naturally, I wish that it hadn’t happened to J.R. It’s a sad thing. But, honest to God, I think that he’s rushing it a little bit trying to come back until he’s 100% ready. I think that J.R. is a little bit insecure in that the longer he’s out, he’s really worried about job security. … Maybe it won’t be too long until he’s back, ready to go.”
Lawler himself is still going as a wrestler down in Memphis for Power Pro Wrestling. He’s not nearly as involved as he once was in the running of the promotion, but is still among Memphis’s best-known personalities. In fact, there has even been talk of him running for mayor.
Over his long career, Lawler has been AWA World champion for a spell, and held any number of other titles, mostly based out of Memphis. And the Memphis promotion from Lawler’s heyday of the late 70s to late 80s was among the most entertaining promotions around, doing live TV every week live in the studio and putting on shows for the wrestling faithful in towns big and small. Anybody who was anybody passed through Memphis at one point.
But does The King miss wrestling in the WWF, in the big arenas on the pay-per-views in front of an international audience?
“Not necessarily. Wrestling is wrestling,” explained Lawler. “I mean I certainly still enjoy wrestling. What I don’t enjoy anymore is the travelling, getting to and from the matches. And that’s the only reason I don’t. J.R. and some other people have asked me, now when the crowds are so big and everything, why don’t you want to [return]? If I wanted to, they would book me. I could wrestle all the time if I wanted to. But it’s like I just don’t want that travel schedule.”
At the other end of the spectrum in Memphis are the WWF ‘trainees’, young wrestlers on developmental contracts putting in time, polishing their characters in the smaller promotion.
Lawler sees a good future for many of the WWF dojo graduates who are in Power Pro.
“Shawn Stasiak. Kurt Angle’s down there right now. A guy the name of Matt Bloom. Vic Grimes. Aaron O’Grady. Also, what’s his name has just arrived down there too. Kulka from Canada,” Lawler said.
“It’s a really good situation in that these guys can go down to Memphis, they can wrestle every night in front of a crowd, they can do live TV, they can go out and make interviews and get themselves ready to bust right into the WWF and make an immediate impact instead of just having to come in and try to sharpen their skills here. So it’s working out real well. Down in Memphis when you look around, you’ve got a guy that was an Olympic gold medal winner on the card, and you’ve got Glenn Kulka and Shawn Stasiak and all these guys. So it helps them too. Some good-looking athletes like that, it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
Some wrestlers are able to make a name for themselves in Memphis before moving on to greener pastures. Current WWF stars Jeff Jarrett and Road Dogg Jesse James are both Memphis grads.
Other wrestlers, however, succeed in Memphis but can’t seem to make an impact in the WWF.
Take for example Lawler’s son, Brian Christopher. King, are you disappointed with the push for your son in the WWF?
“Who’s that? Who’s son?” Lawler replied, obviously having been through the son schtick before.
“There’s only one set of The King’s DNA now. The truth on that is, what happened was, I had a vasectomy a long time ago. Did I ever tell you that? True story. I had a vasectomy a long time ago, and I put the charge on my MasterCard. And I forgot to pay the bill, so they sent a guy out and got my wife pregnant. So that’s what happened. It’s not really my son [laughing]. So anyways… But if you’re talking about Brian Christopher and lack of push, I don’t even think about it. I don’t worry about it. He’s his own man. I’ve never really tried to get involved in his business.”