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August 28, 2012

4

Jerry Lawler: The Best AND Worst Ever

Jerry Lawler

Jerry Lawler: The Best AND Worst Ever

Let’s face it, everyone’s got an opinion of Jerry Lawler. For the most part, I think he’s a revered legend in the WWE realm, at least in average fan’s eyes.  However–and I’m going to try to avoid sounding snarky here, although it may be an impossible feat–the average fan doesn’t have a clue.

Now I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with cheering for the goodies and booing the baddies, but the average fan doesn’t recognize crap when they see it. Perhaps I’m jealous. The average fan doesn’t care about faces doing villainous things, and they don’t care about chain wrestling. They don’t care about John Cena main eventing at the ‘expense’ of CM Punk (that’s debatable and another argument entirely) because they are stuck in a rut and LOVE John Cena.

The average fan hates Michael Cole ONLY when he’s ‘beeing a heel,’ loves Jerry Lawler, loves Jim Ross, hates Johnny Ace, and loves Triple H unconditionally. I don’t consider myself better than these people and in many ways I envy them. I envy them for enjoying wrestling through pure eyes just like I did 15 years ago. I cheered for the good guys and booed the bad guys. There comes a time where you may learn more and begin to respect the people you grew up hating. This time came for me, but will it come for everyone? Maybe, maybe not. If it does, that’s fine. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too. But I do think that if you feel passionate about a topic you should learn and respect its history. And by history, I don’t mean whatever retrospective WWE DVD release came out that month. I mean tape/DVD trading, a staple of wrestling fandom for decades. If not that, there’s YouTube. There’s no excuse, with everything so accessible. Perhaps because everything is TOO accessible, the joy of getting that rare show in your hands is completely nonexistent.

Back on topic. Jerry Lawler as a performer and character is one of the most polarized examples in wrestling for me. I find myself dreading hearing his voice or mention, but put him in the ring and I’ve never been happier. Here’s why.

Jerry Lawler as an announcer

Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole

Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole

We’ll start with what everyone’s the most familiar with: Jerry Lawler’s days as an announcer. Currently, he’s 100% a babyface (good guy) persona, and Michael Cole is rather neutral. A heel play-by-play and face color commentator is a territory WWE has ventured into recently and I can’t say it worked at all. Before this, Jerry Lawler was paired with Jim Ross, with Jim Ross being a normal play-by-play guy and Jerry Lawler being a face color commentator. That really didn’t work either.

Many revere Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler for being the soundtrack of the beloved ‘Attitude Era.’ I do not. I think Jim Ross is one of the greatest announcers of all-time, but Jerry Lawler was always pretty terrible. There’s nothing  entertaining about a grown man shouting “PUPPIES!” at adult women half his age. It’s clear they were trying to market to the male, young-adult crowd, but and I was that demographic, but I still felt my intelligence was insulted on every week. As a result, I stuck to WCW, and had my intelligence insulted in other ways. What WAS good about Jerry Lawler as a heel, though, is he added ‘color’ to the broadcast. You know, like a color commentator is supposed to. He was a heel you could hate, because he was legitimately a piece of trash. We live in bizzaro-world, though, and pieces of trash get all the respect in the world.

Jerry Lawler as a promo man

Jerry Lawler used to be one of the top promo men in the business. I think he got bored–that’s the only explanation I have. TV. The truth is, the majority of the roster could learn a lot from Jerry Lawler on the microphone. He doesn’t have to be a heel, he just has to care. Lately, it seems like he’s been phoning it in, which is a shame, because he’s one of the greatest. See for yourself:

Bret Hart & Jerry Lawler Feud: Lawler Loud-Mouths Stu & Helen (Part 5)

ECW Jerry Lawler – Anti ECW Promo

Jerry Lawler promo: USWA vs GWF 9

Jerry Lawler promo for USA Championship wrestling

Eddie Gilbert & Jerry Lawler Promise Fireball Duel Tonight (3-28-88) Memphis Wrestling

Jerry Lawler as a wrestler

Jerry Lawler accentuated the basics in the ring.

Jerry Lawler accentuated the basics in the ring.

Jerry Lawler is as old-school as it gets. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing. Jerry Lawler’s style accentuated the basics and told a story. The truth is, the majority of the roster today could learn a LOT from working with Jerry Lawler on a regular basis. If he’s up to it, I’d say it’d be a very good thing for him to ‘compete’ more often. In a major storyline? Not necessarily. If you gave him a reason to care about what he’s cutting a promo about, though, it might be great. Jerry Lawler leading a stable and competing in tag matches–four man or six man–could quite possibly be the smartest option here. It would have made a hell of a lot more sense than having him wrestle a non-wrestler announcer at WrestleMania in a pretty dreadful match. Jerry Lawler’s most famous moments involved working with someone who wasn’t a wrestler, but that doesn’t mean it’s a plan that should be replicated. Michael Cole is no Andy Kaufman.

Some may say Jerry Lawler is overrated and only won what he won because he was a promoter. While there’s some weight to that argument, there’s a counter argument that everyone conveniently forgets: you can’t book a crowd to pop. You can’t book an arena to sell-out night after night. You can’t ‘decide’ to do good business just because you’re your own company’s champion. It happens. It happens based on the quality of content. If you’re the champion, and the seats are full, does it not say that you’re earning the right to book yourself that way?

I’m not an expert on Memphis wrestling. Honestly, I’ve barely seen any of it. Every second of it I’ve seen, though, has been some of the best wrestling footage I’ve ever seen. Why do I keep watching Raw instead of watching something I know is good? I don’t know. Like many, I’m a glutton for punishment. I can’t speak in great detail of Jerry Lawler’s ring work as I’m not an authority. If you want to learn more, I suggest checking out Scott Bowden’s “Kentucky Fried Rasslin’. He’ll tell you what I’m telling you, but with a lot more experience to back it up!

What are your thoughts on Jerry Lawler?

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