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RIP, Mr. Guy Coffey, longtime fixture on Memphis wrestling scene

January 10th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments
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The late Guy Coffey with Andy Kaufman and Jimmy Hart backstage at the Mid-South Coliseum in 1983.

Over the weekend, I was saddened to hear about the suicide death of Mr. Guy Coffey, a longtime fixture of the Memphis wrestling territory for decades. Apparently, Coffey had been in poor health and distraught over family problems for some time now. He was found  dead Saturday morning with a handgun nearby, with the apparent cause of death a gunshot to the head. He was 86.

Most Memphis stars recall Mr. Coffey being around for as long as they can remember. He sat alongside Lance Russell many Monday nights at the Mid-South Coliseum as the timekeeper and bell ringer as well as handling the backstage payoffs to the boys. His chain-smoking late wife was a fixture at the gimmick table, with the best-sellers being color 5″ x 7″ photos for a buck apiece–a booming business in the early ’80s with heartthrobs like the Fabulous Ones, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and Austin Idol in the area.

I believe Coffey, in his younger days, worked as an employee for the City of Memphis and helped run the Cook Convention Center Ellis Auditorium, the former home of Memphis wrestling prior to the move the larger Coliseum. Legend has it that he used to employ a young Elvis Presley, who sold Cokes during the matches. Years later, after Elvis hit it big, Mr. Coffey sneaked the entertainer through the book door so he could watch the matches. A young Jimmy Hart also sold Cokes at the matches at the Ellis Auditorium.

My earliest memory of Mr. Coffey was during a Lawler vs. Dundee hair match at the Coliseum on Aug. 22, 1977. The Lawler-Dundee feud had captured my imagination as a young man over that summer, with a series of bouts that had the most bizarre stipulations in the business to that point. Dundee had risked his long, flowing black locks against the hair of Lawler’s stooge Mickey Poole and the NWA Southern title. Throughout the bout, Lawler pummeled his challenger with a vicious series of rights to the point of exhaustion. (Promoter Jerry Jarrett years later recalled that Lawler and Dundee worked very stiff with one another–seemingly testing the resolve of one another.) In a brilliant false finish, Russell rang the bell signifying the end of the match. Over the house PA, Lance announced that “NWA representative” Mr. Guy Coffey had decreed that Dundee could not defend himself: the Superstar’s head would be shaved. In a dramatic moment, Dundee crawled over to Coffey and begged for the match to continue, with Lance exclaiming, “‘It’ my hair, it’ my hair. Please.'” Coffey paused for a moment and then whispered in Lance’s ear. The match would continue, but the “NWA would not assume responsibility” for Dundee’s injuries. Of course, Dundee rallied to win, and Poole’s head was shaved. Years later, in hindsight, I was amused over Coffey’s distinction as a so-called representative of the National Wrestling Alliance.

Mr. Coffey was a nice man, especially for this business–many of the boys would remember him mostly for his soft-spoken, kind demeanor and, later, his obvious toupee and burgundy sports coats that appeared to be at least one size too big. Still, whatever backstage ribbing he might have endured as a result was all lighthearted–after all, he was a Memphis wrestling institution. I remember him for his laugh when something funny would happen on the backstage monitor during a live TV taping–he could get very tickled when the unexpected happen, which often did on those Saturday mornings.  The referees knew to watch for Coffey or promoter Eddie Marlin to walk through the curtain to signify that it was time to whisper to the boys in the ring to take the match home.

Lawler, who attended his his own dad’s funeral on his 19th birthday, looked to Jackie Fargo and Mr. Coffey as father figures, according to Jerry’s son Kevin. When Lawler resurrected Memphis wrestling last year, he brought in Mr. Coffey as co-commissioner along with Buddy Wayne. Lawler always took care of the folks who’d been by his side for years. Mr. Coffey thought the world of Jerry, and I can assure you, the feeling was indeed mutual.

More than anything, Mr. Coffey loved the wrestling business. He will be missed.

(In the clip below, Mr. Coffey announces Lawler as the new World champion over the PA after the King seemingly defeated Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA World title. Notice how when he hands Lawler the belt, he shakes his fist approvingly, almost like a proud father–a nice little moment.)

  1. chuck morris
    January 11th, 2011 at 22:04 | #1

    Scott,this is a very fine tribute to a really good man.

  2. chuck morris
    January 11th, 2011 at 22:10 | #2

    chuck morris :
    Scott,this is a very fine tribute to a really good man.

    I was at Ole Miss once for Lawler vs Savage and Macho man was signing autographs and as you can imagine there was a mob for the Macho Man.I decided to just stand at the side of the table and wait it out.Out of nowhere Mr. Coffey walks up and tells Randy,”Randy,yhis young man has been waiting a long time up here.”Savage stood up,shook my hand and signed the autograph,intense Macho Man style.I made sure to thank him and made double sure to thank Mr. Coffey.

  3. Gritsboy
    January 12th, 2011 at 00:54 | #3

    Very sad to hear. It was just a month ago that I was searching for more information on Mr. Coffey when I stumbled upon this blog. I had always heard the name, and saw him standing off to the side on TV, but never knew exactly what he did, besides run the gimmick table. Sounds like he was a bit of an office renaissance man and did a little bit of everything. Rest in Peace Mr. Coffey.

  4. Jeff Shackelford
    January 12th, 2011 at 11:22 | #4

    Thanks for the article on Mr. Coffey. Although sad he felt so bad at the end of his life, I hope he took some comfort in knowing he helped make Saturday mornings, as a kid, something special when wrestling came on the TV. A big thank you to you, Mr. Coffey, and all the others from that time. It was a great time to be a wrestling fan!

  5. January 12th, 2011 at 13:01 | #5

    Thanks for the Guy Coffee Post. Guy, Pat Malone and a handful of others took care of a lot of the nuts and bolts on Monday night giving Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler the time to discuss the critical matches in painful detail.

    The Dundee story and Jerry vs Nick brought back some fond memories. I will always remember Guy Coffee as one of the good guys in the business.

  6. brenda milton
    August 4th, 2012 at 14:01 | #6

    rest in peace dear one. you and ms coffee made wrestling great for us

  1. January 13th, 2011 at 00:01 | #1