The name of comedian Andy Kaufman should ring a familiar bell to longtime professional wrestling fans.
He was a close friend of WWE Hall of Famer Jerry "The King" Lawler and grew up as a professional wrestling fan, admiring the theatrics of kayfabe used by the industry to make rivalries look legitimate.
In a recent interview Lawler had with theScore, mentioned on WrestlingInc.com, he believed that Kaufman deserved a spot in the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame. Here were comments Lawler had on the subject:
"I truly believe that's when wrestling became sports entertainment when we involved this Hollywood actor [Andy Kaufman]. Vince McMahon even told me he was jealous that we got Andy Kaufman to come to Memphis. Andy actually approached Vince Sr. with the idea to wrestle females on his show and he was hesitant. That's how I got hooked up with Andy, just by a stroke of luck... He definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."
Before Vince McMahon thought up the idea of making the WWF/E into sports entertainment, Kaufman was notable in blurring the line between kayfabe and reality in the early 1980s through his work with Lawler.
The two agreed to work together in setting up a kayfabe rivalry where Kaufman mocked the world of professional wrestling where he would wrestle against women in his comedic acts and proclaimed himself to be the "Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World." Disgusted with Kaufman's ridicule of the sport, Lawler challenged him to matches on the Memphis independent wrestling circuit.
The most memorable moment of the rivalry came on a 1982 episode of Late Night with David Letterman when both Lawler and Kaufman appeared on the program as guests and had an on-air fight with one another, which can be seen here.
The rivalry was believed to be legitimate for years until it was revealed to be a work in the 1995 TV documentary, A Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman, over a decade after the comedian's death.
Personally, I feel Kaufman would be a worthy addition to the WWE Hall of Fame's celebrity wing.
Back in a time when professional wrestling was believed to be real by much of the public and kayfabe was strictly adhered to by those within the industry, Kaufman was notable for being one of the first major celebrities to be involved in a wrestling angle and his knowledge of kayfabe allowed him and Lawler to help make their rivalry look convincing to pro wrestling fans.
As discussed by Lawler in the comment above, his rivalry with Kaufman also helped lead to the rise of professional wrestling becoming sports entertainment with the media hype and celebrity involvement in the feud.
Do you folks think Andy Kaufman deserves a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame?