Jim Ross discusses his broadcast partnership with Jerry Lawler
Jim Ross discusses his broadcast partnership with Jerry Lawler
Without question, Jerry “The King” Lawler is my most recognizable partner and my favorite to work with over the years. We endured several things together that reach far beyond merely signing on and subsequently saying “good night everybody” at the end of the show.
Two of my three bouts of Bell's palsy came during my tenure with Jerry as did the untimely and sudden death of both my parents at age 64. Jerry’s unfortunate departure from WWE came during that time as well. Uniquely and unlike most wrestling friendships, we stayed in touch on a regular basis during that time in support of each other.
That’s what friends do — support each other as best that they can no matter the circumstances.
As much as Jerry and I have in common, we are also very different. However, that unique combination of personality traits contributed to our chemistry, which I feel was as natural and real as any broadcast team ever and right alongside that of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
“The King” and I clicked from day one and I couldn’t tell you exactly why — even if you threatened to take away my Oklahoma Sooner football season tickets. It was simply natural chemistry.
In the early days, Jerry was an antagonist, which was arguably his best casting. “The King’s” quick wit is perfectly suited to be an antagonist, but at the same time, he’s so funny that it is hard to hate Jerry Lawler as the villain — especially at this stage of his long career.
I was happy to accept the role of the straight man and become the butt of many of “King’s” jokes, some of which he would conveniently repurpose.
As time went on, the team of J.R. and “The King” became more popular largely because of our tenure and the outstanding product that we had the opportunity to broadcast. At that point, Jerry naturally became more of an entertaining fan-favorite although I never became immune to the occasional jokes that “The King” would throw at me. Bottom line is that the combination worked and if we went back working together tomorrow at the announce table, it would work again simply because we were blessed with chemistry and we legitimately enjoyed working together.
That’s the exact feeling I got when we sat down to do commentary for the Attitude Era portion of THQ’s “WWE ’13” video game available in October. It was as if we had never had the proverbial interruption of service.
I’ve always said that Jerry was the most talented of our team and it’s true. I did the prep work and made sure the nuts and bolts of the broadcast were in place. Maybe, on occasion, “The King” and I would casually discuss a couple of highline, bullet points of the show. We never rehearsed or planned lines to say to one another, so what you heard from us was spontaneous adlibs, for better or for worse.
Jerry strongly disliked doing prep work and I embraced it, so I did the preparation and “King” tuned in to what info I provided and put his own unique and creative spin to it.
It worked. I will egotistically say that our commentary played some role in WWE coming out on top of the Monday Night War. I get that “The play's the thing,” as Shakespeare said, but try watching some of those spirited Monday night broadcasts with the sound on mute. I’ll stop now before I break my arm patting myself and “The King” on the back.
We rode to the arena and back to the hotel together hundreds of times it seems. Jerry always liked to drive and I rode shotgun. The radio would usually be on an oldies station, classic rock or even sports talk occasionally.
I’ve heard Jerry do mini concerts while driving, especially when the music of The Beatles or a handful of other “British Invasion” bands aired. Hearing Jerry Lawler sing with a British accent is quite an experience.
Jerry always rented the vehicle, drove and had command of the radio, but we had the same taste in music so it really didn’t matter.
Our go-to place for lunch while on the road was Cracker Barrel. I bought. Always. However, if we found the occasional KFC Buffet along an interstate highway, that would trump the always dependable Cracker Barrel. For two country boys — Jerry from Tennessee and me from Oklahoma — to be able to eat all the fried chicken we could hold was just too good to be true when one was in a chicken-eating mood.
Of course, we both love BBQ, especially with Jerry being from Memphis, Tenn., and we’ve enjoyed many a great BBQ meal at a variety of places around the country. And we always have “Q” when I’m in Memphis. “The King” keeps plenty of J.R.’s products in the pantry of his palatial estate in Memphis. Plus, I slip him a bag of J.R.’s Beef Jerky whenever I see him.
Jerry’s penchant for dating younger ladies is true, but last I looked, there wasn’t a law against that. Plus, it obviously keeps the “World’s Oldest Teen” young. I’ve lived vicariously through many of his romantic adventures.
“King” always wears black pants, hates wearing socks, despises wearing coats or jackets no matter how cold it may be and would rather be celibate than dress up in a suit and tie. OK, perhaps that last analogy might be a slight exaggeration.
The one thing that I do know is that Jerry Lawler would much rather wrestle than broadcast. Over the years, “The King” may have been, arguably, the most underutilized in-ring talent on WWE’s roster. Jerry’s ring psychology is at the Ph.D. level and he is living proof of the legitimacy of the “less is more” theory that so many young wrestlers today simply don’t grasp.
I’m not sure that The Miz has had any better matches than the ones he had against “The King.” WWE Champion CM Punk’s recent outing on Raw versus Jerry in the steel cage was the highlight of the wrestling content on the three-hour Raw from Milwaukee.
Bottom line is that Jerry Lawler, when utilized strategically, can still deliver a compelling, main event level ring product. If one were to jot down a list of the all-time top performers in the genre and if tenure and success had anything to do with it, then Jerry Lawler would easily make any sane person’s all-time top 10 list.
He’s darned sure on mine.
Most of my fondest memories of broadcasting within the genre of sports-entertainment are with Jerry Lawler sitting by my side. He made me better and complemented my style as well as anyone could. He even helped carry my “cow on ice” athleticism through some awkward, tag team moments that we were thrust into.
I’m asked regularly on Twitter @JRsBBQ if I miss broadcasting Raw on a weekly basis. Well, I don’t miss the travel and being on the road multiple days a week, but I do miss working with my longtime partner and friend Jerry Lawler. When that red light came on, the pyro started exploding and I looked to my right and saw “The King” ... all was right in my WWE world.