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Memphis Wrestling YouTube Finds: Jim Cornette is a smooth negotiator

September 1st, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments
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Jim Cornette and I are still trying to pin down a date for our Kentucky Fried Rasslin’ interview-JC’s as busy as ever nowadays. Hope to have it within the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, take a look at this Memphis TV clip from September 1982, shortly after Cornette’s debut. Rebuffed by Jerry Lawler a week earlier, Jimmy attempts to negotiate a contract-his first official public offer, mind you-with Bill Dundee. Although not the polished promo master he’d become in just a few short years, Cornette already displays his natural ability in getting over with the spoiled mama’s boy act, which was actually inspired by Gary Hart’s gimmick early in his career. (It didn’t hurt that Cornette was in fact close with his mother, and the two were ringside regulars at Louisville Gardens for years.)

JC and Sherri reunited at a wrestling convention before her untimely death.

Following this public humilation, the former photographer/would-be manager offered an “incentive” funded by his mother to any wrestler who could injure the King and the Superstar. (The Cornettes were too sophisticated to offer a bounty, hence the term “incentive.”) One wrestler finally had faith in Cornette: the late Sherri Martel, who earned the distinction as the first performer managed by the Louisville Slugger at a September show at the Cook Convention Center in Memphis.

Shortly after, Cornette had a brief stint managing Dutch Mantell, who fired him after his interference resulted in the native of Oil Trough, Texas, being disqualified in a Southern title match with Lawler on October 4, 1982.

Dutch was playing the role of a tough-talkin’ babyface/borderline heel who only cared about titles and money, always looking for an advantage over his opponent-ethical or not. Following a pop-quiz on Memphis TV, the Dutchman was convinced that Cornette could provide an edge in his rematch with Lawler. He was wrong. During the bout, Mantell had Lawler pinned, but referee Jerry Calhoun was (shockingly) knocked senseless. Cornette entered the ring to help the ref regain his senses and guided him over to make three count; instead, Calhoun called for the bell, disqualifying Mantell for outside interference. A good finish that made sense, playing off Cornette’s inexperience.
Mantell knew immediately that JC was destined for great things in the business, dating back to conversations he had during photo shoots with Cornette.
 “I thought Jimmy was a natural from day one,” Dutch told me. “I really think he was a natural because he was a serious student of wrestling. And he studied wrestling like most people study map books. If you want to be a mathematician, you know, you studied the craft. And he, you know, even talking to him today, he’s got thousands and thousands and thousands of hours on of footage on DVD that’s transferred from VHS. But, I always thought Jimmy would do well.”

 From Cornette’s point of view, his first main-event experience was harrowing, as he recalls in the Midnight Express 25th Anniversary Scrapbook, “My second time at ringside, I was in the main event with Jerry Lawler before 5,000 fans. I was scared shitless and almost had a stroke.” 

Rookie mistake: Cornette's first main event appearance cost Dutch Mantell the Southern title.

  1. September 1st, 2010 at 13:03 | #1

    Great stuff. This same footage is on JC’s “Rookie Year” DVD that you can get from his website.

  2. Old School Sammy
    September 1st, 2010 at 14:05 | #2

    I got a kiss and hug from Sherri on more than one occasion—both highlights of my being fan over the years….she was always a sweetheart the few times I met her

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