Flair flops in Memphis: The Champ took this dive for Lawler but not the three-count. Notice how the King is just barely able to grab Flair, who called his typical spot.
On September 30, 1985, Jerry Lawler and Ric Flair drew a record gate ($95,000-plus) at the Mid-South Coliseum, with nearly 9,500 fans paying the highest tickets prices in the history of Memphis wrestling ($8, $15 and $25) for a loaded Great American Bash card promoted by Jerry Jarrett and Jim Crockett.
The stage had been set in fall 1984, with Lawler vowing on the air to win a World title the following the year or retire. At the time, Jarrett had reached a talent-trade agreement with Ole Anderson and Crockett to help combat Vince McMahon, who had taken majority stock control of World Championship Wrestling on WTBS after buying out Jack Brisco and Jerry Brisco.
For more on this bout and the build-up, click here.
The battles pitting the King vs. the Universal Heartthrob and Wildfire was the territory’s best-drawing program of 1987 and is widely considered the last great Memphis feud. (For my first-hand memories of being in the audience that night, click here.)
The Lawler vs. Idol hair match on April 27, 1987, had to be one of the most heated bouts of the era, culminating with the King’s royal locks being shaved in the middle of the ring as irate fans literally were climbing the (cage) walls to get to the dastardly duo and evil manager Paul E. Dangerly (aka “Dangerously” aka Heyman). Only a fully encircled police escort out of the ring and back to the safety of the dressing room 30 minutes after the finish saved the three heels from being lynched that hot Monday night.
Ironically, in this photo, Lawler’s close-cropped cut practically much matches the “head shaving” he received that night at the manicured hands of his own personal hairstylist, Ted Cortese. That was the only downside to the evening–Lawler didn’t come out looking like a cue ball a la Bill and Bev Dundee, Jean Louie, etc. (In fact, one argue Lawler’s perms in 1978 and 1985 were much worse.)
Incidentally, it’s amazing that then-21-year-old Paul E. was even in that spot as the manager of Idol, who was one of the best promo guys in the business. As Paul E. remembers it, he had a rocky start in Memphis, according to this video below. (It didn’t end so well either when Lawler deliberately broke Paul E.’s jaw in Evansville, Indiana, after the manager refused to scale the scaffold during the feud’s blowoff match the night before in Louisville.)
Paula's Pic: The former Mrs. Lawler still has an great set of teeth.
Every young man who watched Memphis wrestling throughout the ’80s most likely had a crush on Mrs. Paula Lawler, the King’s Queen.
The former Paula Carruth, who met Jerry Lawler at the Mid-South Fair in the late ’70s, wasn’t a wrestling fan when the monarch of Memphis mayhem began flirting with her during a personal appearance. (Fans were lined up at the Fairgrounds to pose with Lawler for a picture, which could be turned into a poster for a few bucks; Paula was one of the pretty girls hired to work the booth.) They were married on Valentine’s Day evening 1982; earlier that afternoon, Lawler dropped the AWA Southern title to Dutch Mantell. (The Dirty Dutchman discusses that bout and his memorable feud with Lawler here.)
King Lawler loses his AWA Southern crown but gains a bride. (courtesy of memphiswrestlinghistory.com)
Paula went on to become a fixture on “The Jerry Lawler Show” (the King’s Sunday morning talk show) during the fall for “Paula’s Picks,” a segment in which she supposedly selected the winners of that afternoon’s NFL games. (Like a woman could do that.) Paula and Jerry had a great chemistry together and played off each other very well.
Perhaps most memorable for pubescent boys was Paula’s appearance wearing a bikini in the video for “Wimpbuster,” Lawler’s parody of the popular “Ghostbusters” theme song by Ray Parker Jr. (And you thought listening to “Weird” Al Yankovic could be brutal.) If you look closely, in the video, you can see his young sons Kevin and Brian Lawler.
Although as a young mark I briefly wondered how Jimmy Hart happened to be at the same beach (Maywood?) as Paula was catching some sun just in time for the TV cameras to capture the moment for the video, my young mind quickly wandered off that subject as Mrs. Lawler stormed off–nice um…bikini.
Because of my friendship with Lawler’s son Kevin, by 1990 I began hanging around the dressing rooms and even frequently visiting the King’s castle, his Coca-Cola-memorabilia-filled home on Walnut Grove Road in Memphis. And it seemed like every time we dropped by, Paula was cooking fried chicken, the food of heavyweight wrestling champions everywhere. (I suppose the inspiration for Kentucky Fried Rasslin’ was hatched right there in Lawler’s kitchen.)
She was always really sweet. Shortly after I became a referee, Paula asked me, “Scott, why are you involved in such a crazy business?” I recall not really having a clear answer for her other than it had always been a childhood dream.
Fans weren’t the only ones smitten with Mrs. Lawler. Supposedly, Antonio Inoki sunset-flipped for her when Lawler brought Paula along on a tour of Japan in the early ’80s. Inoki treated the Lawlers like royalty the entire trip, taking them to expensive dinners and showing them the sights.
Paula and Jerry divorced in the early ’90s; both of their subsequent marriages didn’t turn out so well. Through it all, they’ve remained good friends over the years.
I’m happy to say that Paula is as pretty as ever–and still looks great in a bikini–as evidenced by the recent picture above. She’ll always be rasslin’ royalty in my eyes.
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