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Jerry Lawler’s got the Eye of the Tiger

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King of the Jungle: Clubber, Kimala, it makes no difference--they all fall to the eye of the tiger.

As I noted on August 4, several wrestlers set the standard for entrance-theme music long before Hulk Hogan unveiled his thunderous, T-shirt-shredding posing routines of the ’80s, most notably the Freebirds and Jerry Lawler, all of whom a young Terry Bollea (Hulk) studied while working the mid-cards in Memphis in 1979.

While ESPN’s Bill Simmons wrote an entertaining piece about Hogan paving the theme-music entranceway for today’s WWE superstars with Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” Mark James’ excellent Memphis Wrestling History Presents 1982: A Legendary Year from the Golden Era backs up my claim that a month after the release of “Rocky III” (in which Hogan had a memorable cameo as wrestler “Thunderlips”), Lawler was using “Eye of the Tiger” as part of his royal, elaborate entrances at the Mid-South Coliseum. (The 1982 book features high-quality scans of every Memphis arena program that year, with quotes from the men who were a part of that Memphis magic, including Jerry Jarrett, Jim Cornette, Steve Keirn and Austin Idol.) Every top Memphis wrestler had entrance music and over-the-top arrivals to the ring by fall 1982.

In the June 28, 1982, program, Lawler declares that despite losing his Southern title to Kimala, he was so fired up after seeing “Rocky III” with his friends recently that he was aiming to reclaim that “eye of the tiger.” (Hey, if that kind of determination can work for Rocky Balboa, why not the King?)

Here’s a quote that would have made Bill Apter proud: “I’ve cancelled personal appearances, refused offers for commercials and turned down matches far from home. I’m taking care of business and I’m training. It’s mental much more than physical, but I WILL get the eye of the tiger. When I do, Kimala, who’s as mean as Clubber Lang and a lot crazier, will feel like he’s in the ring with a tiger. There will be another day with Kimala, and with the eye of the tiger, I’ll make him fall.”

Almost immediately, “Eye of the Tiger” became Lawler’s theme for the rest of the year and into 1983. Hell, as one loyal KFR reader recently informed me, even Superstar Graham was using “Eye of the Tiger” upon returning to the WWF in 1982 with the kung-fu gimmick to go after Bob Backlund. (See the clip below.) Poor Superstar–Hogan kept ripping him off at every turn in the ’80s!

Damn! I’m so fired up just reading Lawler’s words from decades ago that I could bitch slap Ms. Texas all over again right now! The scan to the right doesn’t do Mark’s book justice–his scans are mint quality, while the background info on what was arguably the greatest, most entertaining year of Memphis wrestling is fascinating. I’ll have more of an overview of Mark’s 1982 book later this week, but for now…click here to get your hands on this great piece of Memphis rasslin’ history.

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