Home > Uncategorized > Ageless wonders: Jerry Lawler and Dutch Mantell rekindle Memphis wrestling feud, memories

Ageless wonders: Jerry Lawler and Dutch Mantell rekindle Memphis wrestling feud, memories

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Still the dirtiest--and hairiest--player in the game: Dutch takes the fight to Lawler outside the ring.

More than 28 years after their memorable feud in the Memphis Wrestling territory, Jerry Lawler and “Dirty” Dutch Mantell squared off a week ago at an indie show in Paris, Tenn. The two Tennessee legends may be older, but according to longtime Memphis fan and belt-maker extraodrinaire Dave Millican, Lawler and Mantell’s chemistry was as strong as ever.

“Maybe it wasn’t ’82–no black hat and singlet for Dutch and the King’s old style crown replaced by the style he has in front of him every week on RAW–but none of the little changes in the nostalgia of it all mattered,” says Millican, who first became transfixed by the Memphis mayhem unfolding on his TV screen as a kid around 1976. “It was the best live match I have seen in years. These guys might not have the same look that they had 28 years ago, but they still have the same ability to put a crowd in the palm of their hands.”

While Millican still follows the business and is widely regarded as one of the top championship belt makers in the country, his interest in attending live shows has waned in recent years. But with happy memories of those classic ’82 bouts (easily the best matches at the Coliseum that year and, in my opinion, some of the greatest Lawler performances of his career) entrenched in his mind, Millican had to be there last Friday night to see Lawler and Mantell lock up again at the National Guard Armory in Paris.

“There is very little going on in wrestling, sports entertainment, or whatever you want to call any of it these days, that holds my interest. In many cases, I can walk right in the back door of most any wrestling event by making a call, and I still can’t make myself care enough to do it. I don’t mean to be insulting, because I know there are plenty of fine workers out there these days if you look around enough, but I just can’t get interested in anything I have seen recently. The remedy for that? The Dirty Dutchman vs. The King. It was a one-night chance to revisit one of my all-time favorite feuds, as well as visit for a few minutes with two of my favorite wrestlers, whom I have been fortunate to get to know over the years.”

Just like the good ol' days: Strap down, shoulders down, referees down as Lawler goes for the pin.

Millican attended the matches with Memphis Wrestling historian Mark James, who also grew up with the magic of those Monday nights at the Mid-South Coliseum with Lawler and Mantell and the rest of Jerry Jarrett’s crew in the late ’70s and throughout the ’80s.

“Mark and I were talking before the match about how we didn’t expect it to be 1982 all over,” Millican says. “We were just glad to get to see them in the same ring again. Dutch was there early, selling books, pictures, posing with any fan that wanted to snap a pic with him, no way he was the heel on this night.. Then he hits the ring at match time and turns on the crowd; suddenly, Dutch has them booing him, calling for Jerry Lawler so he can beat his brains out. Lawler then takes the mic, telling Dutch that people in the area had a lot to be frustrated about these days, not the least of which was the recent flooding, and that he was gonna help them take all of that frustration out on Dutch. It was a great example of men who truly understand their craft. They weren’t lazy and they didn’t phone it in; these guys went at each other like they did almost 30 years ago. They made it easy to suspend disbelief. Dutch even slid out of the ring at one point, pulling Lawler by the feet into the post, bringing back memories of what Austin Idol and Tommy Rich did to the King during their feud. The best compliment I can give it is that if they were doing it again next weekend, I would make the long drive again and buy a ticket to see it.”

In the end, Lawler got the win; however, Dutch points “that egg-sucking dog had to use a chain.” Smells like a no-disqualification grudge rematch to me.

File under Jerry Lawler vs. Dutch Mantell.

  1. dlc320
    May 14th, 2010 at 08:37 | #1

    Great article! THANKS!

  2. David
    May 14th, 2010 at 15:10 | #2

    Looks like fun… too bad Dutch didn’t see fit to even get out of his street clothes…

  3. Old School Sammy
    May 15th, 2010 at 05:51 | #3

    Dutch looks like he got to the show after finishing off his shift at the local Texaco…

  4. Susie
    May 16th, 2010 at 06:24 | #4

    I am sorry and mean no disrespect to the gentleman who liked the match but how could anyone claim those two weren’t mailing it in. Every match Lawler wrestles in these days is the exact same. It was a terrible match by two legends. When he does do an indy show these days every King match is the exact same and while we are at (not trying to be critical) but he sounds bored to death on Raw. The fans want him to turn heel again and do more than sit behind a desk and then complain he has never had a Wrestlemania match. Maybe if he would be willing to actually go on tour with them for a few weeks a year and get in an occasional feud, he would get a match.

  5. Dave
    May 16th, 2010 at 13:39 | #5

    I can certainly respect someone else’s opinion that saw the match, but how anyone could say they were “mailing it in” is beyond me. The response to it live tells me I was in the majority that enjoyed it. The fact that much of the crowd left after it was over & didn’t stay for the 2 remaining matches, tells me it was what people paid to see. These guys, both 60 years old, could have collected the same pay for taking a few simple bumps in the ring & going home. Instead, they took the time to tell a story, including stiff chair shots & knocking each other through rows of chairs. I’ll take that over two clones trading over rehearsed high spots any day. As for Jerry’s WWE schedule, like any other employee, he does what he is asked to do. He doesn’t just decide he will go on the road & pick up a wrestling schedule with them.

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