By Scott Bowden
Scott Bowdens Kentucky Fried Rasslin
2007-04-13 - King-Sized Challenge
King-sized challenge: Jerry Lawler locks up with Hulk Hogan one last time in Memphis
Update -- 4/13/07 As most of you know by now, the April 27 match between Jerry Lawler and Hulk Hogan has been canceled. Paul Wight, formerly known as the Big Show in WWE, will replace Lawler in the main event. The official reason given is that because of Lawler’s contractual position with WWE, in particular, his announcing job on RAW and the USA Network, he cannot appear on VH-1 as part of the reality show “Hogan Knows Best.” Most people, however, believe Vince McMahon’s current personal grudge with Hogan put the kibosh on the deal. Further, because Memphis Wrestling promoter Corey Maclin refused to cancel the show, despite an offer by WWE to refund his investment, no WWE-contracted talent will be allowed to work for the promotion. In fact, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Hass and Boogeyman were all pulled from tonight’s card at Sam’s Town Casino in Tunica, Miss. More on this next week.
The Big Show Must Go On: With the King bowing out, Hulk Hogan will now face Paul Wight in Memphis on April 27.
As I reported two weeks ago, Memphis Wrestling is hosting a bout between Hulk Hogan and Jerry Lawler on April 27. Originally, the match was booked to take place at the Mid-South Coliseum, site of their original encounter in 1981; however, the venue was changed to the FedEx Forum last week after Coliseum management became increasingly difficult. The final straw: The Coliseum suddenly claimed that the venue couldn't accommodate the handicapped--laughable, really, since the promotion for years allowed wheelchair-bound fans to attend the matches for free.
Side-Note Slam: In Hogan-speak, this translates to "Tickets were going so fast we needed a bigger venue."
At the time in '81, Hogan, fresh off his first WWF run in New York (where Vince McMahon Sr. gave him the name Hulk Hogan.), wasn't doing jobs for anyone, especially Lawler in the King's hometown. A compromise was reached, with Jimmy Hart, Lawler's nemesis, interfering for the disqualification after the King appeared to have the bout won following his trademark fist-drop finisher from the middle rope The next morning, the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL newspaper only reported that Lawler had won the bout before about 9,000 fans. (The gimmick at the time in Memphis: Jimmy Hart brought in a name wrestler each week to dispose of the hometown hero, who had recently returned from a broken leg.) Even before Hogan took the wrestling world by storm in '84, there was controversy over the Memphis finish in '81, with Hulk challenging Lawler to a rematch in St. Petersburg, Fla., later that same year. (Hulk lost via count-out.)
After Vince McMahon Jr.'s aggressive expansion efforts into the traditional territories in 1984 with Hogan as his champion, Lawler and promoter Jerry Jarrett frequently aired clips of that '81 bout, often editing the finish to make it appear that the Memphis Monarch had pinned Hogan. Lawler also implied that he had pinned Hulk in 1979; however, the King never wrestled a singles bout with Hogan when Terry "the Hulk" Boulder debuted in Memphis in 1979, although the two did team frequently.
Because of Lawler's fascination with Marvel Comics superheroes, the Hulk (whom I believe actually got the nickname from Jarrett), was a natural in Memphis in the late '70s, pushed near the top of the cards way before he was ready. To give you an idea, Adam "Batman" West, Spider-Man, the Kisser (Wayne Ferris dressed up like Gene Simmons), and Darth Vader all appeared on Memphis wrestling during the same time period. While Lawler was unquestionably my favorite wrestler in 1979, the Hulk got over in a big way with me and my friends, who had never seen such a specimen in Memphis rasslin'.
Side-Note Slam: Gotta love Hogan's recent diatribes on Bubba the Love Sponge, whom I'm told is a well-known DJ. Hogan got rolling on a recent interview, claiming that Elvis--or maybe just the King's ghost--used to watch him wrestle in Memphis. With Hogan, you never know. Maybe he meant that the spirit of Elvis was in the building, or maybe the Hulkster claims that Presley was at ringside--in his mind, even he probably doesn't know. Physically, it would be impossible, as Elvis died in August 1977... about two years before Hulk debuted as Lawler's mystery opponent against the Mongolian Stomper in 1979.
For months, the Memphis promotion has been teasing a rematch between Hogan and Lawler, something I thought would never actually happen. But, apparently, Hogan is hell-bent on proving to Vince McMahon that the Hulkster can still sell out arenas throughout the country on a farewell tour of sorts, with the likes of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine on the undercard. With rent at the FedEx Forum going for around $50,000, Hogan appears to think that the match-up will draw in the range of 10,000 fans. Having hometown boy Lawler as his opponent can only help. And if ticket sales are slow heading into the final week, I halfway expect Hogan's knee and/or hip injury to suddenly flare up.
Side-Note Slam: I had a nice laugh recently with Kevin Lawler, who told me that various wrestling legends were coming out of the woodwork to be on the Hogan-Lawler show. My response: "So if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being a wrestling 'legend,' then you want on the show." Kevin: "Pretty much."
All that said, Lawler and Hogan, if it comes off, will more than likely deliver with an entertaining bout on April 27, highlighted by incredible psychology that all WWE performers should study. Who knows: Maybe Jim Cornette will interfere, clocking both men with his tennis racquet. (Cornette can be seen taking photos at ringside during Hogan vs. Lawler 1981.)
Although I'm sure they'd scoff at the notion, I'm happy that two of my heroes growing up are again commanding the spotlight in Memphis...even if it is only for one night.