WWE is saddened to learn that Lance Russell, the legendary voice of Memphis, Tenn., wrestling, has passed away at age 91.
A fixture of the Memphis circuit, Russell’s career as an announcer began in the late 1950s and spanned nearly 40 years until his semi-retirement in 1997. His avuncular charm and steady hand guided fans who tuned in to watch the region’s larger-than-life personalities and notoriously wild ring action.
As the unflappable host of the Continental Wrestling Association’s weekly Saturday morning show held at WMC’s TV studios, as well as the Mid-South Coliseum cards each Monday night, Russell provided commentary for all of Memphis’ most famous matches.
His relaxed drawl was the soundtrack for Jerry “The King” Lawler’s rivalry with absurdist comedian Andy Kaufman in the early 1980s, a groundbreaking event that made national headlines. When an impromptu tag team fight broke out in the concession stand of the Tupelo Sports Arena in Mississippi years earlier, after that night’s taping had ended, it was Russell who alerted the cameraman to begin filming and who literally shined a light on the brawl, which many consider a milestone moment in wrestling.
Over the years, Russell developed a level of credibility and trust with TV audiences that rivaled Walter Cronkite’s, and as Superstars like Lawler and Bill Dundee switched allegiances, Russell remained a consummate moral compass. His interaction with rule-breakers like Austin Idol and “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart — which often featured Russell voicing his disappointment over their dirty deeds — became as much an attraction to fans as the matches themselves.
Russell also commentated in WCW from 1989 to 1992.
Following news of Russell's passing, many of his friends, contemporaries and admirers expressed their love and affection for the "Voice of Memphis Wrestling."
WWE extends its condolences to Russell’s family, friends and fans.