Anatomy of an Angle: Lawler crowns Hickerson “King of Jackson”
One of the great things about Memphis Wrestling TV was how Jerry Jarrett and Jerry “the King” Lawler could either slowly build a turn or an angle over a month or make an abrupt change that morning to spark the house for Monday night’s show at the Mid-South Coliseum and attendance the following week (once TV aired around the loop) in the surrounding cities. Such was the case one Saturday morning, when longtime area heel Phil Hickerson turned babyface to become Lawler’s partner in his feud with the Fabulous Freebirds.
For about three weeks, Lawler had been feuding with the ‘Birds, teaming with Austin Idol, and the foursome had two great brawls that drew well, including a show attended by about 8,500 Memphians (including me) on Aug. 5, 1985. The feud had ignited when Lawler accidentally burned Michael Hayes’s hair with a fireball following a match with Bota the Witch Doctor (one those unfortunate Memphis gimmicks no one likes to discusss today). Recently, as part of the WWE Legends of Wrestling Roundtable discussions, Lawler revealed that Hayes wanted a larger payoff following the incident because his precious locks did actually catch fire, which prompted the former Freebird (who was also sitting on the panel) to bring up the fact that successfully lobbied Jarrett for more money–reportedly no small feat in Memphis.
With Jarrett’s territory hurting a bit for talent with Vince McMahon picking off Memphis stars like Randy Savage, Hickerson had received his first huge push as a singles wrestler in the area since ’76, winning the International title from Terry Taylor and beating former NWA World champion Harley Race on consecutive weeks at the Coliseum. (Not too shabby for a guy who was only working part time at that point; I believe was also running a watering hole in his native Jackson, Tenn.)
A former star in the territory in the ’70s teaming with Dennis Condrey–largely considered one of the best pairings of the era locally–Hickerson was always a solid wrestler with the gift of gab. He’d returned from relative obscurity the year before, teaming with the Spoiler (Frank Morrell–not Don Jardine) to feud with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and the New Fabulous Ones (Tommy Rich and Eddie Gilbert). During this singles run in ’85, he was turned loose on the mic, and delivered some hilarious promos that had the fans–and nearly announcer Lance Russell–in stitches. Case in point: When Lance questioned how much longer Phil might hold the belt, the International champion bellowed, “I’ll always be the champion! I love this belt, man! I take a bath with it! I go to bed wearing it! Heck, my old lady’s got belt marks all over her from sleeping with me.” It was almost getting difficult for the fans to hate the guy as his delivery was priceless.
Two nights later, Jerry “the King” Lawler walked down the aisle side by side with the newly christened “King of Jackson” Phil Hickerson.
Thankfully, here’s Dave Brown to break down this amazing turn of events:
The following week they came back with a Taped Fist match, which was loudly protested by the ‘Birds. After all, as Terry Gordy points out, he “never claimed to be a boxer!” (Apparently, Bamm Bamm was pretty tight with Elvis Presley, a fact I didn’t know.) I love the expression on Gordy’s face when Hayes refers to their good looks.
Clipping courtesy of Memphis Wrestling History.
File under Jerry “the King” Lawler, Phil Hickerson, Memphis Wrestling.