Legendary professional wrestler and commentator Jerry ”The King“ Lawler will headline a Mountain Wrestling Association show against area wrestler ”Legendary“ Larry D. in Richmond on Friday.
The King took a few minutes earlier this week to chat with the Herald-Leader about his career, Kentucky's rich wrestling history and how he says his defeat of Randy Savage in Lexington years ago was among the best things to happen to the ”Macho Man.“
On Kentucky's contribution to professional wrestling and any impact from World Wrestling Entertainment's decision to no longer use Louisville's Ohio Valley Wrestling as a training league:
Lawler said he was surprised by WWE's decision to cut ties with OVW in favor of Florida Championship Wrestling. He said that WWE is moving some of its operations to Florida because a lot of the company's wrestlers live there.
But just because WWE no longer has a presence in Kentucky doesn't mean the state won't continue to influence the industry, he said.
”Kentucky just has a great history as far as wrestling ...“ Lawler said. ”It's always been a place that has produced young talent.“
In light of the recent feud between wrestler The Big Show and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., Lawler spoke about why his feud with Andy Kaufman still stands out as probably the most successful such rivalry:
”It was innovative in the sense that that was the first time that there was any crossover between a mainstream Hollywood celebrity and the world of wrestling,“ Lawler said of the feud.
When the rivalry hit the airwaves on Late Night With David Letterman in the early 1980s, professional wrestling wasn't even close to being on a national media stage.
”At that time, for a small-time promotion in Tennessee and Kentucky to all of a sudden make national headlines ... was groundbreaking,“ he said. ”That paved the way for things like Mayweather ... (and) it will always stand out because it was pretty much the first.“
Lawler on his commentary for WWE:
It all started by accident, he said. ”Macho Man“ Randy Savage had been doing commentary for the company but jumped to rival World Championship Wrestling.
WWE owner ”Vince McMahon rushed into my locker room and said, "King, Savage is on the other show. Would you mind doing the commentary with me tonight?'“ Lawler recalled. ”I thought it was just going to be a one-week thing.
”I never once intended to get into this business to be a commentator. My first love was always wrestling.“
And he says he and play-by-play man Jim Ross receive no direction from WWE's writers.
Lawler on still wrestling while in his late 50s:
He doesn't wrestle often anymore but does it because he likes smaller shows. ”It's a throwback to our old-school type of wrestling that I really loved when I started,“ he said. ”WWE's great, but it's gotten so big that some of the shows are on the impersonal side.
”When I come to a venue like Richmond, the fans can come and bring their cameras and have their pictures made with me, come up and shake hands ...“
Lawler on his favorite memory of wrestling in Kentucky:
It was a loser-leaves-town match in Lexington against Randy Savage, who ran an area promotion with his father.
”Randy, I'm sure, never thought that losing that match would be the best thing that ever happened to him,“ Lawler said. ”He was then forced to get out and basically go national. From there, he went on and caught on with the WWE and had a huge run as "Macho Man' Randy Savage.“