Jerry Lawler comments on the death of wrestling legend Jackie Fargo

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June 25, 2013

For those fortunate enough to watch “The Fabulous One” Jackie Fargo thrill wrestling audiences with his fiery fisticuffs and unimpressionable strut, this is a week of remembrance of a true ring innovator.

Fargo’s death Monday at the age of 82 was felt throughout the wrestling community and beyond, but few are better qualified to talk about the man’s legacy and influence on the mat game than WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler.

“Probably every Superstar that has ever been in WWE has, at one point in time in their career, had someone who inspired them; without that person, they wouldn’t have even dreamed of being a WWE Superstar,” Lawler said Monday. “And I can say that for me, that person was ‘The Fabulous’ Jackie Fargo.”

To those who grew up in Southern wrestling hotbeds such as Memphis and Chattanooga, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky., in the 1950s and 1960s, Fargo was far and away the sport’s most popular figure, akin to John Cena today, said Lawler, a Memphis native. With his bleached blond hair, aggressive ring style and an entertaining, if funky, way of walking that’d eventually be known as the “Fargo Strut,” Fargo was a revolutionary force.

“He was such an innovator at a time when a lot of wrestling, to me, at least, seemed bland,” The King said. “Suddenly, Jackie Fargo stuck out, and I idolized the guy.”

Whereas Fargo was a larger-than-life hero to most who saw him, to Lawler, he eventually became nothing short of a father figure. The King credits Fargo with helping him break into the sport, and once Lawler was well on his way to becoming a Memphis ring legend, he spent countless matches in the 1970s and 1980s fighting both with and against Fargo.

On June 24, 1974 — 39 years to the day before Fargo’s passing — Lawler and Fargo battled over the NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Title in Memphis’ Mid-South Coliseum. Lawler ultimately lost the match, which was billed as a no time limit, no-disqualification duel, but interest in the match was so great that it drew 11,783 fans, setting a new indoor sports record in the city. The King’s run of matches against Fargo around that time helped cement Lawler, then in his early 20s, as a credible main event wrestler in Memphis and earned him the title “King of Wrestling.”

“For me to finally actually get to meet Jackie and become friends with him — have him help bring me into this business and become literally a father figure to me over the years — is just something so special,” Lawler said. “He’s just been the greatest inspiration. I’ve tried to emulate him throughout my entire career, and it’s such a sad day for me for Jackie to be gone. I’ll miss him forever.”

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