Ladies and gentlemen, Ring the Damn Bell is proud to introduce our newest contributor to the blog….B. Dangerous!
Remember the Time will take a nostalgic and opinionated look at ill-fated gimmicks, poorly conceived storylines, and forgettable moments in wrestling history.
Now join me as we take a few moments to unearth that which should remain buried forever and do our best to Remember the Time…
Remember the time that Jerry “The King” Lawler succumbed to his fascination with comic book villains and horror movie monsters and invited the Memphis faithful to witness him defeat them with his unrivaled heroicism and dynamic strength?
Jerry Lawler has remained the stalwart Monarch of Memphis for decades, both as arrogant antagonist and the lion-hearted hero. But a career dominating the Memphis wrestling scene was not on Lawler’s radar early-on. The man who would be King actually bent the knee to another sovereign, Jack “King” Kirby, the man who helped Stan Lee create the framework for what we know now as the Marvel Universe as well as the New Gods of DC fame.
That’s right, Jerry Lawler was a comic book fan. Not only that, but he was and still is a very talented artist who has occasionally worked his illustrations into the wrestling industry. Lawler intended to pencil comic books long before he ever laced-up a wrestling boot.
Years later, Lawler’s love of larger than life monsters and villains would weave its way into his booking of the Memphis territory where he reigned. Some of his greatest foes such as Terry Funk, Eddie Gilbert, Bill Dundee, and Randy Savage would float into the territory, have a classic program with Lawler and then move to the next territory in order to stay fresh and grab the next big payday.
So what does a victorious King do between epic wars with the great men of renown?
He battles monsters of course!
Of the terrifying and sometimes just terrible brutes Lawler did battle with, a few deserve note:
–Ta-Gar: Lord of the Volcano
Ta-Gar was introduced to the good people of Memphis by way of a number of prerecorded vignettes using what appeared to be the “negative” setting. The vignettes alone were far more horrifying in their distinct lack of quality than the Volcanic villain ever was in person.
The Lord of the Volcano was likely a largely unknown journeyman wrestler who Lawler equipped with a gimmicked glove which fired a relatively benign fireball and did little else besides keep his hand warm.
Ta-Gar was the scourge of Memphis for a brief few weeks in 1991 before falling to Lawler and returning to Castle Magma to regroup.
–The Christmas Creature
In the winter of 1992 Lawler warned the great fans of Memphis that the greatest villain of all, Vincent Kennedy McMahon was almost certainly sending an invader to the Mid-Southern region to crush them all and slap their grandmothers on Christmas Day (I may have taken some liberty with that last part) and behold, the Christmas Creature arrived to create chaos across the Tennessee landscape!
The Christmas Creature was indeed a monster of a man. At nearly 7 feet tall and over 300 pounds, he cast an imposing shadow. However, his shadow was where the fear-factor ended. This Yule Fool was adorned with the festive colors of the season and so much tinsel he looked like the living embodiment of a Day After Christmas Sale.
There is a bit of a bright side to the story though…
After The King overcame the Christmas Creature’s holiday harm-fest, the Creature returned to school and got his degree in dentistry and eventually became Lawler’s trusted dental-care provider.
In 1996 a man in a striped sweater and glove adorned with floppy rubber blades terrorized Memphis after arriving from Japan by way of your nightmares!
In this case, while Lawler did lay a Springwood (see: A Nightmare On Elm Street) Smackdown on Nightmare Freddie, it was in fact the copyright police that ended his villainy.
Freddie won a USWA Battle Royal wherein the victor would get a spot in the WWF Royal Rumble match of that year. Curiously, even though Nightmare Freddie won the USWA match, it was one Doug Gilbert who appeared at the annual PPV. Some mysterious may just never be solved.
Other characters who attempted to take the Memphis crown from Lawler were Dr. Frank, The Phantom of the Opera, The Colossus of Death, Bota the Witch Doctor, Jason, The Zombie, The Undertaker (no, not him), The Wolfman, Frankenstein (not Dr. Frank), and the second most successful Lawler creation of them all, Kamala the Ugandan Headhunter (behind the Road Warriors).
The takeaway from all of this is that Lawler was clearly the greatest hero this side of the Titans of ancient times and may or may not have enjoyed borrowing heavily from pop culture. Either way, whether taken for real threats or taken for laughs, the programs Lawler worked with these monsterous mayhem-makers are nothing short of iconic!
That’s all for this time grappling fans. Until next we meet, Remember the Time…