Kaufman and "The King": 30 years later

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July 27, 2012

“Did you come down here to wrestle or to act like an ass?”

WWE CLASSICS: You both had a working relationship. How did the rivalry between you two start?

LAWLER: On one of the shows, one of his opponents was this really feisty young girl named Foxy. Andy had already beaten a few of the women that night, but this Foxy, when the bell rang for their match, she charged across the ring like a veteran wrestler, picked Andy up in the air and bodyslammed him. The roof almost blew off the Coliseum. You couldn’t have written a better scenario. She wore Andy out, and he was literally trying to crawl out of the ring. Finally, she just got tired, Andy got the best of her and pinned her. But the crowd reaction through the whole thing was phenomenal.

WWE CLASSICS: What was Andy’s reaction to nearly being beaten by a woman?

LAWLER: He came backstage after that match and I said, “My god, did you hear the reaction?” And he was so excited. So I said, “Why don’t we do this? Come back next week, we’ll bring Foxy back and I’ll go out on TV and I’m going to train her. She was so close to beating you that with me in her corner, I can teach her in just a matter of days all she’d need to know to beat you.”

WWE CLASSICS: Was Foxy comfortable with that?

LAWLER: Well, she and I did an interview at the TV taping. When I gave her a second to talk, she said, “Well, I sure do need the $5,000. To be honest with you, my house burned down last Friday. But I'll tell you this, I wouldn’t marry Andy Kaufman if he was the last man on earth.” She was perfect.

WWE CLASSICS: How did the rematch between Andy and Foxy go down?

LAWLER: I was in her corner, but Foxy didn’t do nearly as well in this match as she had done in the first one. Andy just kinda manhandled her and pinned her. And then Andy started pushing the envelope. He started stomping on her, kicking on her, showing his muscles, and then got down and rubbed her face in the mat. Suddenly, 10,000 fans in the Mid-South Coliseum started yelling, “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”

WWE CLASSICS: You knew you had to get in there do something to stop him.

LAWLER: I got in the ring, grabbed Andy by the arm, and pulled him off of her. He staggers, falls across the ring, jumps up and starts screaming, “I will sue you! You can’t put your hands on me! I will sue you for everything you’re worth! I’m a big Hollywood star and you can’t touch me!” And that’s how it all started.

WWE CLASSICS: It was time for Andy to wrestle a man, and he was scheduled to face you in April 1982. He started to make these infamous interviews that really stirred the pot, talking about having brains and being a big star from Hollywood. He made fun of Memphis residents’ southern dialect. Where did those air?

LAWLER: They aired locally on our NBC affiliate, Channel Five — WMC-TV. We had a 90-minute wrestling show every Saturday morning there on Channel Five. He would tape some in LA and some when he was here at the Coliseum. In one he said, “Ladies and gentlemen of Memphis, I’m going to do you all a favor. I’m going to teach you some personal hygiene.” And he held up a bar of soap and said, “This is soap. Say it with me. Soooaap. You run it under the water, you lather it up, and you wash under your arms, and you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll smell.”

WWE CLASSICS: What was the public’s reaction to these interviews?

LAWLER: He also did one about toilet paper, and after that one aired, the station manager, Mori Greiner, called up and said, “We can’t air more of these Andy Kaufman videos. We’re getting so many hate calls it’s tying up our switchboard. Not just on Saturday, but all week long people are calling and threatening Andy and threatening the station for airing these offensive interviews.”

WWE CLASSICS: Yeah, he really did everything he could to make people hate him. What happens when you both finally meet in the ring in April 1982?

LAWLER: We had so much media coverage. Up until that time, the only people that would cover our wrestling was the station we were on. But everybody was interested in this. Andy and I finally have this so-called match, and in the Memphis Wrestling Association, the piledriver was an illegal move. If you used a piledriver on your opponent, you were immediately disqualified. But that’s what I was famous for. That was my finishing maneuver.

WWE CLASSICS: But he wouldn’t even tangle up with you, he was prancing all around the ring. Even before the match began, he was acting like a goof, and you get on the mic and you say that famous line.

LAWLER: Yeah, I said, “Did you come down here to wrestle or to act like an ass?”

WWE CLASSICS: So how did you finally get him to fight you?

LAWLER: I got in the ring, put both hands behind my back and said, “Come on, I’m going to give you a free headlock. You’ve talked about all of these moves that you know. Put a headlock on me and let’s get this thing started.” He put me in the headlock, I hesitated for a few seconds, then lifted him up into the air and gave him a back suplex. Then I got up and immediately gave him a piledriver, and that caused the referee to ring the bell and I was disqualified.

WWE CLASSICS: What was the crowd’s reaction?

LAWLER: Well, Andy was down, so I pulled him up and gave him the second piledriver, which really pleased the crowd.

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