It's a bird, it's a plane, it's...The King?
On June 28, Superman Returns opened in theaters nationwide. In its first week, the movie grossed over 100 million dollars, and of course, Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch gave their review of the movie on WWE.com Unlimited. But Cade & Murdoch aren’t the only RAW Superstars enamored with the man who’s “faster than a speeding bullet.”
RAW’s color commentator, Jerry “The King” Lawler, is a HUGE Superman buff. How much does he like Superman? Well, when I sat down to talk with King about it, he was wearing a Superman watch, shirt and ring. Those are just three of the items Lawler has in what he calls a “huge collection of Superman stuff.” In fact, Superman has been a favorite of Lawler’s since he was a young boy.
“I’ve had this Superman connection that has been with me since five years old. It all goes back to the fact that I have this artistic ability; the first thing I can remember drawing when I was five years old was cartoons of Superman,” Lawler told me. “I drew all through school when I should have been doing homework or school work instead. The teacher would always catch me drawing Superman.”
That love has only grown over the years, and now Lawler has a home full of Superman memorabilia.
“I’ve got almost everything that you can think of with Superman on it,” he laughed. “I must have fifteen different Superman watches, different jewelry, cufflinks, rings and shirts. I also have all sorts of collectable things from cookie jars to these fancy lava lamps. I probably have a couple hundred different items.”
As a youngster, Lawler’s love of Superman (and the artistic ability he honed as a result) made him want to become a commercial artist. He even went to the University of Memphis on a commercial art scholarship, but his ambition would actually open the door to a different path.
“My goal was to work for DC Comics as a comic book artist,” he recalled. “So I did some caricatures of wrestlers and sent them into a local TV station that was airing Memphis wrestling; they showed some of my drawings on TV and some of the wrestlers saw them. They invited me over and that was the first time I got to meet professional wrestlers in person; of course that’s when my interest went in that direction.”
So in essence, it was his artistic ability that led to him becoming a professional wrestler. “I credit the artwork to actually getting me in to meet the wrestlers. One in particular, Jackie Fargo, wanted me to do some artwork and some caricatures of him; actually getting to be around him is how I got my foot in the door in wrestling,” Lawler told me. “Still, when I go back it all goes back to me loving and drawing Superman. So anytime anything connected to Superman came about I would try to collect it or get it. I’ve collected Superman comics from the time I was five years old, and I still have those.”
And of course, being somewhat famous means that people find out about your talents and ambitions. For “The King,” it made one of his dreams come true.
“One of the highlights of my career and my life was getting to tour DC Comics headquarters in New York City and meeting guys like (DC staffer) Stuart Schreck,” he said. “Some of them turned out to be huge WWE fans, and I got to invite those guys to come over and view a show at Madison Square Garden. They even gave me this ring that I’m wearing when I did the tour of DC Comics.”
During that tour, “The King” found out that DC had given his RAW broadcast partner a little love as well.
“They dug out a cover of an old Superman comic and explained how they came up with it,” he recalled. “When the cover is ready, the last thing they’ll do is title the story; they all sit around a big boardroom table where they look at the cover art and the story and they try to come up with the title. Stuart Schreck was telling me that one day they were sitting there and the cover was this big villain punching Superman; as his fist was going past Superman’s face, it was distorted and spit was coming out of Superman’s mouth and everything. Schreck said ‘what about what Jim Ross says on RAW? What about slobberknocker?’ Sure enough, he comes out and shows me the comic book and there it was right across the bottom: slobberknocker.”
“The King” has also been lucky enough to work with some of the people who portrayed his favorite heroes and villains on the small screen.
“I’ve had the pleasure of doing two different film conventions with Noel Neil, who was the original Lois Lane in the old Superman television show,” he beamed. “She’s also in Superman Returns; she’s in the very first part of the first scene, signing over her fortune to Lex Luthor on her death bed. Just a couple weeks ago I did a film festival with her down in Memphis and I’m lucky to have some pictures of that.”
So speaking of the new movie, how does Lawler feel Superman Returns stacks up against Christopher Reeve and the old-school “Man of Steel?”
“Well, when I look back on the old shows now, they’re very campy; and of course the special effects are nothing like you have in the movies nowadays,” Lawler told me. “I was and still am a really a huge fan of those shows as well as the Christopher Reeve Superman. The movies seemed to go downhill as they went along, so I was anxiously awaiting the new Superman movie.”
Going in however, Lawler had a few doubts.
“I got a little apprehensive because I’m not a big fan of changing history,” he said. “I saw that just some young female Hollywood designer changed Superman’s colors because red, yellow and blue just weren’t “in” colors anymore so she decided to change them. Whether it’s “in” or not, red, yellow and blue were his colors, you know? This costume looks sort of like a guy wearing a Speedo rather than what I was used to seeing Superman wear. There was also no logo on the back of the cape; those are just some of the differences that I was a little bit worried about.”
But the question is…did he enjoy the flick? The answer is yes, but of course there are some things that “The King” didn’t enjoy.
“I enjoyed the movie simply because it was Superman,” he laughed. “There were a few things in there once again rewriting history. I wasn’t too crazy about the fact that all of a sudden Superman has a five year old son, and for some reason I wasn’t too crazy about the way the actress portrayed Lois Lane. It was good, but it was long; ordinarily I wouldn’t think I would be waiting around for a Superman movie to be over, but this one was like two and a half hours so it seemed a bit long. Overall the movie was good but I was hoping it would be super.”
The Rock once played Clark Kent in a sketch on Saturday Night Live; so if the opportunity arose, would Lawler want to become the next WWE Superstar to become part of the tradition?
“I would be faster than a speeding bullet trying to get the part,” he laughed. “I would love to be involved in something like that; I don’t know anybody that wouldn’t. I’m just hoping that after this there would be another sequel. I think they’ve set it up, so we’ll see what happens.”
And if there is, Lawler will be there to see it, because there is certainly no kryptonite powerful enough to break the bond he has with the “Man of Steel.”
Check out some exclusive photos of Jerry "The King" Lawler's impressive collection of Superman memorabilia.