WWE – It’s Good To Be The King – The Jerry Lawler Story (Cert 15)
2 Disc Blu-ray / 3 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 82 minutes approx.
There are probably scores of newer and younger wrestling fans who may not fully understand or appreciate why an aging announcer and part-time wrestler should be deserving of the DVD biography treatment; older fans however will know why and will say this is one long overdue tribute release.
Overdue it most certainly is but sadly the main feature is a little underwhelming, when one takes into consideration the potential there is in a look into the life and storied career of one of the biggest names in Memphis Wrestling history – Jerry “The King” Lawler. Forty-five years in the wrestling business and involved in some of the most famous and wildest feuds in wrestling, as well as a number of contentious incidents outside of the business, Lawler deserves more than 82 minutes to discuss it all.
A lot of ground is covered including some touchy subjects so don’t be under the illusion that this is a fluff piece, it just could have been so much more under the circumstances. For example, if you didn’t already know that Honky Tonk Man is Lawler’s cousin, you wouldn’t from watching this. So, with that in mind let’s look at the positives on offer here.
Lawler opens up by discussing his childhood and his early love of art which became his way into the wrestling business when he sent some drawings of the wrestlers into the Channel 5 TV station where legendary announcer Lance Russell would display them during his end of show wrap-up. Russell finally makes a long awaited appearance on a WWE DVD to corroborate Lawler’s story which is a treat for old school fans.
In fact for the first half of this documentary it is the older fans or those interested in wrestling history who will get the most enjoyment from it, delving into the Memphis archive for some rarely seen footage, the earliest being from a 1974 NWA World title match between Lawler and the late great Jack Brisco. Unfortunately the Memphis footage is not in the best of conditions which may explain its comparatively limited use in this presentation. Considering the historical value of this footage it is both a shame and remarkable that it hasn’t been better preserved so we have to take what we can get.
Lawler discusses earning the “King of Memphis” title from Jackie Fargo and how it was something he ran with to make an official title for himself, later adding the crown to accentuate the gimmick. Many of Lawler’s big feuds against the likes of Superstar Bill Dundee, Macho Man Randy Savage and Austin Idol are skipped over completely (even the infamous 1987 hair vs. hair cage match which caused a riot!) but the legendary Andy Kaufman feud gets a complete airing.
Footage from the actual match is pieced together from two sources with all the previously seen classic clips in pristine condition while the remaining clips look like third generation VHS copies complete with tape creases and tracking jumps. But historically this is a must see match and while nothing happens, it is great to see it in all its glory. One can assume this was a WWE call but Lawler maintains that the Letterman incident (not shown here) was a shoot, despite previous public admissions that it was a work.
After a quick look at Lawler’s working partnership with the AWA we jump to his shocking WWF debut in December 1992 and now we are in familiar territory. Many fans may not understand why this was shocking but once the WWF went national and Vince McMahon drove all of the territories out of business, Memphis was the only major one left (WCW was also a national company by now). Lawler would regularly bad mouth the WWF on Memphis TV and was not above ripping of their gimmicks either – YouTube “The Grave Digger” and “The Warrior” for two of the more audacious efforts. In response, upon his arrival in the WWF, some members of the locker room at the time expressed their disapproval by using Lawler’s crown as a toilet!
At this point Lawler was also of part owner of the USWA, and offshoot of CWA and WCCW which later folded in 1997 before the resurgence of Memphis Wrestling at the turn of the millennium. None of this is mentioned however which is surprising as it involved much talent trading with WWF as well as building future stars such as a Flex Kavana – real name Dwayne Johnson!!
The first few years of Lawler WWF career is given a cursory glance, understandably leap frogging over his six month suspension in 1993 when he was falsely accused of inappropriate behaviour with a minor. One major situation given significant time and treated with candour was Lawler walking out in 2001 when his then wife Stacy “The Kat” Carter was fired, in a tale in which Vinnie Mac comes out of as an untrustworthy and duplicitous bully.
After discussing Lawler’s ill-fated stab at politics to become Mayor of Memphis (he came third) which was followed by his WWF return (after Carter left him) and his one and only WWE title shot against The Miz, we jump to the fateful night of Lawler’s heart attack. Rather ghoulishly the whole incident was filmed and shown here, so if you are sensitive to seeing a near dead man being desperately revived you may want to skip this.
As ever this is a very well presented and put together feature along with some interesting archive footage from the Memphis and WWF/WWE stages of Jerry Lawler’s career. Aside from skipping some crucial moments and stories in Lawler’s career this retrospective should serve to educate newer fans about the man they only know as the old Puppies lover who cracks jokes at announce table and prove a treat for older fans.
Perhaps not a release fit for a king but a respectful, enlightening and entertaining one fit for Jerry Lawler.
Meeting Jimmy Hart
Jerry’s First Match
The King Gets His Crown
Life On The Road
The King vs. The King
Brian Christopher: Mexican Shooter
Memphis Wrestling – August 4th 1982 – Jerry Lawler vs. Ric Flair
Memphis Wrestling – November 21st 1982 – Wrestler vs. Boxer – Jerry Lawler vs. Andy Kaufman
WWF Wrestling Challenge June 27th 1993 – Jerry Lawler Interviewing himself
OVW Wrestling – June 28th 2002 – Jerry Lawler & Nova vs. The Prototype & Sean O’ Haire
WWE Monday Night RAW – November 29th 2010 – After RAW Birthday Celebration.
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black