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A referee’s worst Nightmare: Jerry Calhoun takes a piledriver

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I haven’t seen this footage since I was 10 years old. I could have sworn referee Jerry Calhoun was a dead man after taking a stuffed piledriver from the Nightmare (Danny Davis) and Speed (Ken Wayne) after the official attacked manager Jimmy Hart during a taping of Memphis “Championship Wrestling” in 1981. (The studio crowd pops like crazy when Calhoun becomes unglued as they’d seen the manager abuse the poor official for more than a year-Hart had it coming.) This angle set up Calhoun’s return weeks later as Jerry Lawler’s manager for a few weeks as the King took on members of Hart’s First Family of Rasslin.’

You have to understand how over the piledriver was as a potentially lethal maneuver in Memphis. The only move that was “officially barred in the state of Tennessee,” the piledriver was nearly the equivalent of a shotgun blast to the fans, who were educated to believe in the dangerous-looking maneuver. After all, in the “wild and wooly” world of Memphis rasslin’, the piledriver was the only move that called for an automatic disqualification from the referee. I achieved a boyhood dream and took a piledriver from the King himself in 1994 ..and lived to tell about it.

Lawler, of course, would receive nationwide fame when he applied the piledriver not once but twice to comedian Andy Kaufman, who sold it beautifully. (Andy didn’t have a choice, really; he had been knocked legitimately goofy minutes earlier when his head smacked the mat during a back suplex.) The funniest part to me about this clip is after Lawler delivered the second piledriver, seemingly breaking Kaufman’s neck in the process. Ms. Lily, an elderly African-American lady who always sat ringside, can be heard screaming, “One more time!” What a bloodthirsty old bird.

Years later, as part of the “Memphis Heat” documentary, which premieres tonight, Calhoun discusses his role in the Kaufman bout.

Jimmy Hart has obviously mellowed over the years. This morning, Hart literally took a walk down memory lane at the Channel 5 TV studio at 1960 Union Avenue to promote the “Memphis Heat” doc. Nice to see Hart with his black cane, his trademark weapon of choice in the days before the WWF’s megaphone.