“Monday Night Raw” is the longest running weekly TV show of all time. We recently had the oppurtunity to talk to WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler to talk about Raw, WWE, and some of his own personal interests. Jerry Lawler has been in the wrestling business for over 40 years, and has also been doing commentary for WWE for the past 19 years. He has more titles than any other wrestler in the history of wrestling. The King was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007 by William Shatner.
This Monday June 11th WWE “Monday Night Raw” returns to the XL Center in Hartford for a very special 3 hour episode, can you tell us a little of what to expect?
It will be a very special episode indeed. Two main event matches have been announced so far, John Cena in a handicap match against The Big Show and John Laurinaitis, and Daniel Bryan vs CM Punk for the WWE Championship. Even more importantly, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon returns to “Monday Night Raw” to give a job evaluation to Raw and Smackdown general manager John Laurinaitis (who is also Executive Vice President of Talent Relations). A lot of fans have been unhappy with the decisions Mr. Laurinaitis has been making lately, and hope Vince McMahon will make a tough decision and make a change in the GM position.
Vince has done some outrageous things over the years. What shocked you the most?
The fun thing for me, is even though I’ve been in this business for forty years, I’m still a big fan of wrestling. I have the pleasure of having the best seat in the house every week. Some of my fondest memories are of the feud between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. You never knew what to expect. Every single week something shocking happened, like when Stone Cold poured cement in Vince’s Corvette. My most fond memories of WWE involve Vince McMahon. He never ceases to entertain and shock.
Did you ever envision yourself working for WWE when you were running wrestling down in Memphis?
A long time ago, pre-satellite, pre-cable days, wrestling was set up in territories. When satellite and cable TV came along, WWE wasn’t just regional it was national, and all the main stars from the territories wanted to be on the main stage . Its funny, over time people look at it as McMahon putting smaller companies out of business, but it wasnt the case. The bigger stars wanted to be on main stage in front of the world so they went willingly. I personally never envisioned collaborating with WWE. Vince came to me and worked out a deal in 1993, where I could work for both Memphis and WWE. Memphis could supply new faces and talents down the road, and in turn WWE would send down some stars for shows. In fact a lot of main superstars went through Memphis to help including Bret Hart, and Owen Hart. It was a win-win situation.
How did the transition from wrestler to commentary come about?
My whole life it was my dream to be a wrestler, and I’ve been able to fulfill that dream for 40 years. When I first started in WWE I was fortunate enough to have big rivalries with Bret Hart, and Roddy Piper. My big opportunity on commentary came when Macho Man Randy Savage unexpectedly jumped ship to WCW. Vince came to me and asked if I would like to work with him on commentary for the night and they would find someone else for the next week. Well, 19 years later and I’m still doing it every week! I still love wrestling and I never know when I will get the call to wrestle on Raw. A few weeks ago I fought Daniel Bryan, and if I had won I would have gotten a shot at the WWE championship from CM Punk. I do still wrestle outside of WWE and I’m at the point where I can pick and choose my spots. They are mostly independent shows and tend to be fundraisers or for charity. It keeps my feet wet and keeps me in ring shape. I want to get another match at Wrestlemania under my belt before I retire.
Can you describe the feeling and environment of Wrestlemania for someone who has never been to one?
Wrestlemania is a one of a kind event. There are 52 live episodes of Raw every year and they are spectacular. However, when Wrestlemania comes around its not just a 3 hour special “Monday Night Raw”. Its a week long event that fully takes over a city. There are different events going on constantly all week. Everywhere you turn there are wrestlers and fans. Its and amazing event. Fans come from all over the world every year to attend. Its even very exciting for superstars. It is so special, its hard to describe. I am looking forward to Wrestlemania being in the NY/NJ area this year. You never know what will happen, its going to be off the hook.
Which young and up and coming superstar do you think is impressive and has the most potential to become a huge star?
Guys come along and are impressive for different reasons, and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised. I’ll be honest and say when I heard of the idea they had for Brodus Clay and the build up they were going to give him, I said he’ll be OK but he wont catch on. But boy was I wrong. He’s popular and kids love him and want to dance with him every week. Another guy is Mason Ryan. He has all the tools, he’s a great physical specimen, and has charisma. We haven’t seen a lot of him lately but I expect him to be a big superstar of the future.
We know you are a huge fan of the Cleveland Indians. Do you still have time to keep up with the team with all of your travel?
I do and I’m friends with a few guys on the team. The other day the closer, Chris Perez, sent me a text saying “You’ve got to see the replay after I struck out one of the Kansas City Royals. I did the John Cena ‘You can’t see me’ hand motion”. It was a big story. There was a big article about it in USA Today. I keep up as best I can, I watch the games on MLBTV when I’m on the road.
You also are an established and talented artist. Can you tell us about some of projects you have done or are working on?
Sure, I have done covers for WWE comics, and Dynamite comics. I am currently working on some covers for Vampirella which is part of Dynamite comics. I’m still waiting in the wings to do some things with Superman for DC. That is still an unfulfilled dream of mine.
You are an avid collector of Coca-Cola memorabilia. Is there a potential for a match between you and CM Punk because of his love of Pepsi.
(Laughs) That’s so funny you asked that. The other day I got a tweet from Mean Gene Okerlund saying it’s got to happen. Jerry”The King” Lawler vs CM Punk for the title. Pepsi vs Coke. I’m a huge collector of Coca-Cola memorabilia. I have about 5 or 6 vending machines in my house, and a ton of advertising, art and other collectibles. I recently had to buy a bigger house to house my growing collection.
Every week on Raw we see you wearing a very flashy t-shirt. Where do you get them?
They are actually custom made for me from a company out in California called Xzavier Brand T-shirts. You can buy them at the store “The Buckle” in most malls. It’s funny I actually saw one I liked one day , bought it, and wore it on Raw. They must have seen it because I got an email next day from the company saying if we send you some will you wear it on TV , and I said sure. I was expecting one or two t-shirts. Two days later I got a huge box with 52 shirts in it. One for every week. I love them. People stop and comment on them everywhere I go. I’m down in Nashville for the CMT awards, and I ran into Stone Cold Steve Austin, who is also here because he has a show starting on CMT this week, and the first thing he said to me was “Man I love your shirt”.
Do you have a favorite place to go and eat when you are in CT?
This is going to sound bad from someone who is supposed to be an athlete, but I’m a huge junk food eater. I never really stop anywhere fancy. I just go to the closest fast food restaraunt. A lot of people dont realize this, but just like CM Punk, I have never had a taste of alcohol in my life. No beer, whiskey, wine not anything, so I don’t go to any bars either.
With the 1000th episode of “Monday Night Raw” coming up in July, WWE has been airing segments of superstars favorite moments from the history of Raw. What is your favorite “Monday Night Raw” moment?
That is probably the hardest question you could have asked me, to just pick one moment. Well a few years ago I got into a disagreement with WWE and I quit for a period of time. Paul Heyman was brought in to do commentary since I was gone. Over time the WWE and I worked out our disagreement and I rejoined the company. On Raw Vince came down to the ring and fired Paul Heyman. As he was literally being dragged out kicking and screaming I walked down the ramp past him to take back my rightful seat next to good old JR.
King, I have one more question for you that my friend Zach insisted I ask. Why have you and Michael Cole switched seats at the commentary table?
Honestly no reason behind it at all. Just did it to switch it up a little bit. You would be amazed by how many tweets and emails I have received about it though. It’s a major disruption for fans that we have switched seats. It’s all wrong, it’s like dogs and cats got together.