It was 21 years ago we saw Jerry “The King” Lawler make an impact in WWE. It would put the next two decades of his career in motion.
The first King of the Ring pay-per-view event took place on June 13, 1993. Bret Hart won the tournament with some excellent performances against opponents ranging in style and size.
At the end of the night, Hart would put on the crown and pander to the crowd during the crowning ceremony. Out of nowhere, Lawler appeared on the stage and began to issue a brutal assault on Hart.
This wouldn't be the first time Lawler was seen in WWE. He made a short-lived appearance as one of the 30 men to enter the Royal Rumble five months earlier.
This attack on Hart ensured that anyone unaware of Lawler's status in pro wrestling would never forget him. It started a two year feud with Hart that featured some classic insults and memorable, for one reason or another, stipulation matches.
Up to this point, Lawler had been a legend in wrestling, especially in the south as he was a star and booker out of Memphis in the territory days. Lawler has always been able to communicate on the microphone, but in Memphis he was also as tough as they came.
His WWE career took on a different angle and gimmick for his "King" character. He performed as a heel who displayed a very ridiculous sense of skills and seriousness. The fans would chant “Burger King” at him. I can even recall a rare in-ring drop-kick from Lawler that the commentators made a big deal out of, it being one of the more impressive moves Lawler had ever displayed in the WWE ring.
Normally he was giving stiff punches with a foreign object while putting on a scary smile to the audience. Not long after that, he would find himself crawling away from the babyface opponent during the comeback.
During this time in WWE where the characters are historically labeled as very cartoonish, Lawler was arguably the best heel, even if he only performed on a part-time basis. He received a solid heel reaction whether he was fighting or simply doing commentary.
It was amazing, then, to watch Lawler evolve from the heat magnet he was to being one of the most loved characters on television. The Attitude Era allowed for Lawler to make some sexual jokes or entertain with his memorable squeals and laughter directed at the comedy skits taking place. Without any matches or feuds, simply by the merit of his commentary, Lawler made a babyface turn.
It's quite the accomplishment to remain in a role of narrating a show and managing to win the audience over with catchphrases like “puppies.”
Lawler had a brief absence from WWE in 2001 over a dispute involving WWE and his then-wife Stacy “The Kat” Carter. It wasn't before long, though, that he returned ringside and it was like he never left.
Since then, we've seen Lawler used like he was when he first entered WWE. Occasional in-ring appearances, but instead of being used to get the babyfaces over, Lawler played the babyface and would be utilized when they needed to help a heel look good.
A lot of fanfare always comes with The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels for their longevity, having remained so involved with WWE since 1990. However, I think more praise needs to be given to Lawler who's had a great run for a long time while simultaneously working independent wrestling shows or conventions on the weekends.
It's rare to see someone be so consistent for 20-plus years. I'll never forget the anger I felt when I was a kid watching Lawler beat up Hart. As an adult, I now know how significant a step it was at the start of an amazing WWE career.
Justin LaBar is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the creator of the "Chair Shot Reality" video talk show and "Wrestling Reality" radio show.
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