WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler recently spoke with SI.com about various topics. Here are the highlights.
How much of an influence was Jackie Fargo on your career?
I became friends, through drawing, with the top wrestler at the time in Memphis–the “Fabulous” Jackie Fargo. He actually hired me to do art work at the night club he owned, and he and I became friends. I finally convinced him that I wanted to try wrestling one time. He said, “Oh no, kid, you’re too good an artist. Stick with the art and stay away from wrestling.” I said, “I just need one time wrestling, Jackie, and I’ll promise I’ll go back to being an artist.” I finally talked him into letting me try it one time, and here, over 40 years later, I’m still doing it. I’ve finally gotten a chance to get back to doing some more of the art work I originally intended to do. But I never do it when I’m on the road–only when I’m in my studio at home. There is very little time on the road.
Do younger wrestlers recognize your contributions to the business, and are they even aware of your legendary status in Memphis?
There’s sort of a feeling in the WWE that, if it didn’t happen in the WWE, it didn’t happen. In reality, a lot of stuff happened outside the WWE. Throughout my career, I’ve won more titles than anybody in the history of this industry. I’ve won 168 championships. Sometimes we’re on saying, “He’s a 15-time champion,” or “He’s a 16-time champion!” Well, I’ve won 168 championships. But I just want to have a good time. Some people ask what I want for my legacy–who cares? I don’t, and I don’t think about it that seriously.
People thank me for everything I’ve done in my career for this business, and I’m flattered–but I’m also a little embarrassed. Maybe one of the reasons why I’ve had whatever success I’ve had is that I’ve never really taken this business that serious. I’ve always looked at this as something that I would have paid them to let me do. It’s just always been so much fun, and I feel like I’ve never had to work a day in my life. So I don’t ever look at it as what I’m doing for my legacy, it’s just something that I enjoy so much.
How do you feel about growing into an even bigger star as a broadcaster than you were as a wrestler?
It does still seem strange when people recognize me as a commentator more so than a wrestler. I certainly never, ever got in this business–back when I was begging Jackie Fargo for one match–to become a commentator. I was a wrestler, and that’s all I ever wanted to do. It was kind of thrust upon me when Randy “Macho Man” Savage left for WCW during the “Monday Night Wars.” Randy kind of jumped ship with no notice and showed up on WCW. Vince [McMahon] asked me to fill in for a night, and that was almost 25 years ago. It’s a lot more pressure than people think, but I try to keep in my mind that I am a wrestler and also a wrestling fan. That’s the way I like to approach it, not be too analytical–that’s the job for the play-by-play guy. I’m just commenting on what I’m seeing, and that’s worked for me. I like to add some humor to it, because it should be fun.