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Archive for January, 2012

Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler vs. Muhammad Ali: The ‘Greatest’ Fight There Never Was

January 17th, 2012 5 comments

King Ali appears to be goading Lawler into a royal showdown for the undisputed monarchy of the mat.

As the sporting world honors the 70th birthday of Muhammad Ali, I can’t help but wonder who would have won in a battle between the Memphis King of the ring and the Greatest.

Oh, sure, Jerry Lawler finished off “top-ranked boxer” Rocky Johnson at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis around the same time Ali danced his way to a snooze-fest draw with Antonio Inoki at Nippon Budokan Arena in Tokyo, but we’ll never know how these two elite athletes would have fared against each other in their primes. (Don’t even bring up the fact that Ali twisted the Man of Steel into a pretzel during their ’70s comics showdown, as Superman was fighting under a red sun, which neutralized his powers.)

Noted boxing/wrestling historian Bert Randolph Sugar notes that “Lawler and Ali actually would have matched up very well, as the King’s punches pack incredible power, not unlike a Sonny Liston or a George Foreman in his prime. The key would be Ali’s speed and conditioning, as Lawler was known to have trouble with faster athletes like Koko B. Ware and the King’s bouts rarely went past the 19-minute mark. But if Lawler caught Ali with a piledriver or a fireball–look out. Plus, you have to consider location–in Memphis, Lawler would have the advantage. But outdoors in Kinshasa, Zaire, [now the Democratic Republic of the Congo], Lawler likely would have succumbed to the oppressive heat and humidity by the time he removed his cape.”

Boxing experts often cite further evidence that Ali could have held his own against any wrestler by pointing to the following footage, which aired on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” on June 12, 1976. Then again, Buddy Wolfe is no Jerry Lawler. (See if you’re able to spot former AWA World champion Verne Gagne in the following clip–very subtle attire.)

Monstrous mistake: Why Brodus Clay’s new ‘Funkasaurus’ gimmick might be destined for extinction

January 11th, 2012 15 comments

Given WWE’s increasing focus on providing its TV audience with outrageously bad comedy, nonsensical swerves and unpredictability to generate Twitter-trending topics as opposed to delivering solid storytelling and developing compelling characters for the long-term good of the company, it shouldn’t be surprising that Brodus Clay, a classic throwback monster heel with tremendous potential, finally made his delayed re-emergence on Monday’s RAW as “The Funkasaurus,” a jivin’, boogeyin’ babyface with the mannerisms of “the American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Flash Funk and Akeem” the African Dream.” (I wonder if some kayfabe-era fans saw “Funkasaurus” trending Monday and wondered if Terry Funk was back once again with a silly gimmick a la “Chainsaw Charlie.”)

Bringin' the Funk: Brodus Clay's new Dusty Rhodes-like gimmick is risky bidness, baby.

History shows that when a monster heel is switched for the sake of comedy, it’s usually the beginning of the end for the character–when the aura of mystique and invincibility have been eventually shattered after several months or years of buildup before falling to the top babyface in a series of matches and then dropping bouts to give a rub to second-tier stars. (Think Kimala/Kamala toward the end of his Memphis and WWF runs.)

On Monday’s RAW, I was expecting Godzilla and wound up the Godfather, accompanied by dancing hos. Adorned in a red tracksuit and bucket hat, the big man looked like he’d just eaten Run, DMC, and Jam-Master J. While the makeover was certainly shocking and did in fact get Brodus trending on Twitter (which carnival-barking Michael Cole was quick to point out), the timing of the gimmick is suspect.

In a new series of vignettes in November building up to Clay’s reappearance, it appeared the company was dedicated to getting Brodus over as an unstoppable force, much like the brilliant job that Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler did with Bam Bam Bigelow in Memphis. Maybe I’m too old-school, but I loved the oddball look of the Brodus character, as he stood out among a cluster of muscular clones in today’s WWE.

With the right push and a series of dominating wins on RAW, Brodus could have been the next big heel in the business instead of being wasted as Alberto Del Rio’s flunky as he’d been portrayed in the past. Taking him off TV was a step in the right direction, but Monday’s long-delayed follow-through may have been the fatal stake in the heart of the beast, as the man from “Planet Funk” (hey, it could be worse…could be Planet Stasiak) shucked and jived his way to a win over Curt Hawkins, despite being packed like a sausage in a bright-red singlet.

Now we get the re-masked Kane chokeslammed down our throats again as a movie-monster-type heel, regurgitated like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Leatherface, etc,. in so many sequels and remakes that don’t do the original version justice. With Kane getting the mega-monster push, perhaps WWE felt a bruisin’ bad-ass Brodus would get lost in the Big Red Machine’s massive shadow. But I just can’t see The Funkasaurus having a long shelf life–again, this is more like a gimmick that winds down a career when the fans no longer take a big man seriously like George Steele’s transformation from “the Animal” to the lovesick puppy dog chasing Miss Elizabeth in 1986. (Granted, that new direction gained Steele a lot of money and noteriety, but it was effective because we’d seen him as a crazed maniac for several years, so the babyface turn meant more as they successfully executed the “Beauty and the Beast”-type angle.)

For Clay’s sake, I hope I’m wrong. Nothing would make me happier if the guy made the funky-like-a-monkey routine click with the people like Dusty decades before. But personally, I’m rooting for WWE to get the Funk out as soon as possible and mold Clay into the monster he was destined to be.

 

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Memphis Blues: Andy Kaufman costs Jerry Lawler the AWA World title 29 years ago today

January 10th, 2012 1 comment

Eat your heart out: A typical light breakfast in Memphis...a full rack of Corky's ribs, skinny latte and a cup of nonfat yogurt. (I only gained 10 pounds during my recent trip back to my hometown over the holidays.)

So, I’m back from my sabbatical–like a wrestler from the territory days returning to the area fresh and recharged after a brief run in another promotion. I realize it’s asking too much, but I’m betting you stinkin’ rednecks have learned to appreciate me in my absence. (Yeah, I missed you, too. Well, some of you.) Anyway, my wife and I spent the holidays apart, as Hayley visited her family in England for a monthlong trip, which I was unable to do because of work commitments and other difficulties. Instead, I returned to Memphis for a week, as I had not been home in nearly four years, and I was afraid that all my parents had to remember me by was my old rasslin’ clips on YouTube. (They weren’t exactly bursting with pride when I became a hated heel in my hometown years ago using my real name.)

I had a good time in Memphis  (highlighted by a bowling battle royal with my old college buddies), but frankly, I’m happy to put 2011 behind me. I’m making progress overcoming carpal tunnel syndrome, and I’m focused more than ever on my physical therapy and recovery. That means more KFR goodness coming your way in the New Year. (Rejoice, dear marks, rejoice!)

Andy Kaufman and Jimmy Hart get the last--and loudest--laugh.

Obviously, I didn’t get much writing done  while I was in my hometown; however, I did eat plenty of BBQ, which, where I come from, is far more important. I did wait patiently outside Jerry Lawler’s house, hoping to ambush him with a giant snowball while he checked his mailbox every hour on the hour for Christmas cards; however, weatherman/former Memphis wrestling announcer Dave Brown failed to deliver on his holiday promise of heavy snow. (You could never count on Dave’s forecasts and his commentary for accuracy, especially when I was involved in my heated feuds with the likes of Randy Hales and Ms. Texas.) When the King appeared in his driveway on Dec. 23, I attacked Lawler anyway with a molded-plastic baby Jesus from a neighbor’s nativity scene but he wrestled Him away from me and ended up piledriving me on the hard concrete. (I sold it by wearing a neckbrace until my return flight touched down in Los Angeles.)

Anyway, I’m back. With a vengeance. I’m catching up on WWE programming at the moment, and I’ll resume my look at the year 1983 in both Memphis and Mid-South soon.

On that note, it was 29 years ago today that Andy Kaufman cost Jerry Lawler the “held-up” (more on that later this week) AWA World title when the Intergender champion and “Taxi” star interfered on Nick Bockwinkel’s behalf to uncrown the King…and put a damper on Brian Christopher Lawler’s 11th birthday. (Incidentally, happy birthday, Grand Master Fortaay.) Here’s the clip, with a classic Memphis finish, from January 10, 1983.