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In the lexicon of all-time great feuds, Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman is easily one of the most recognizable and notorious.
For all of the people that criticized (and still criticize) wrestling for being "fake," this 1982 feud made even the the greatest of skeptics question whether what was going on was a shoot or a work.
As a fan of wrestling growing up, Kaufman began to integrate matches with women into his comedy act and went as far as to proclaim himself the Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World creating enormous amount of heat for his chauvinism.
But Kaufman wanted to take the act to a higher level and integrate with actual professional wrestling promotions. Initially being turned down by WWE, he was introduced to Lawler, and it set into motion a feud that might have centered in Memphis but ultimately captivated a nation.
Kaufman was incredibly dynamic in his chastising of Lawler and the people of Memphis, which only boosted Lawler's stock as a face and made Kaufman more hated. (These video recorded promos are the work of genius in generating heat.)
When they finally met in the ring, Lawler delivered his signature pile driver which Kaufman sold so well (by honestly just laying there completely still) that it appeared for a moment that wrestling was in fact "real." Of course, Kaufman would continue to sell it over the next few weeks with a brace claiming Lawler had broken his neck.
A subsequent appearance on Late Night With David Letterman with both men as guests ended with Lawler slapping Kaufman out of his chair; another notorious on-air moment between the two.
In the end, the reveal that the entire angle was a work did not come out for years until the 90s when Kaufman's biopic Man on the Moon was released.
It's a massive credit to Lawler and Kaufman (and a lot goes to Kaufman) for going to the lengths they did make their feud appear legitimate. There is so much more to say about this feud, it's under-serving to try and crop it to a small blurb, but it certainly helped define Lawler on a national stage beyond just the ranks of professional wrestling.
Chime in with your favorite Jerry Lawler Memphis wrestling memories.
For further reading on Memphis and Southern wrestling history, I highly recommend visiting Scott Bowden's very informative website Kentucky Fried Rasslin.
For DVD viewing, I recommend Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin', which examines not only the cultural impacts of wrestling in Memphis but also the business impacts of the regional promotion.
As a totally shameless and cheap plug, I wanted to post that I published my first short story on Amazon, available electronically. It is titled Harmony In Complete And Utter Discord. Hope you get a chance to read it. Hope you enjoy it.