World Wrestling Federation coming to city Friday night

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 21, 2000

Jerry “The King” Lawler has been to a lot of places during his nearly 30-year career as a professional wrestler, but on Friday he’ll come to Vicksburg for the first time.

Lawler, a Memphis native who appears as a commentator on “Raw is War,” the highest-rated cable show on television, will wrestle “Tazz” in the main event when Memphis Championship Wrestling, an offshoot of the World Wrestling Federation, puts on a card Friday at the Vicksburg Convention Center. Belltime is 8 p.m.

The card will also feature other wrestlers who have spent time in the WWF, one of the largest wrestling companies in the world.

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“It’s going to be an opportunity for people in Vicksburg to see a lot of WWF talent,” Lawler said. “Almost everybody on the card is WWF talent. It’s unusual for this many WWF wrestlers and superstars to be on a show like this.”

Lawler’s match will also be a preview of sorts for Vicksburg wrestling fans. He and Tazz will wrestle again in a “strap match” on a WWF pay-per-view Sunday night.

“I’m really excited about it, because it is an opportunity to tune up and sort of feel each other out,” Lawler said. “This isn’t a strap match …. but it is a good opportunity to have a match with the guy because I haven’t really wrestled with him.”

Lawler, who is 49-years-old but likes to describe himself as “$49.95,” has wrestled in Memphis for most of his career and was a part owner of a promotion there in the 1980s. But he never wrestled in Vicksburg because it was in a different promoter’s region than his own.

Before the mid-1980s, when Lawler was truly in his heyday in Memphis, there were dozens of promoters, each with their own territory that rival promoters never crossed into.

The obliteration of the regional lines with some of the smaller promotions signing developmental contracts with the bigger companies, similar to baseball’s minor league system is just one of many changes in the wrestling business in recent years.

While the outcomes of matches have almost always been predetermined, that fact used to be a closely guarded secret. Now, the companies and wrestlers openly admit that “sports entertainment,” as it’s often called, is more entertainment than sport.

“It’s an athletic event, but we want you to get involved,” Lawler said. “It used to be that people were ashamed to admit they liked wrestling. Now people aren’t ashamed to say that they watch it.”

Lawler added that all of the changes are OK with him.

“It’s better now than it’s ever been. I’m making more money now than I’ve ever made in my life,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been able to adapt and change with the times. I think it would be hard to find somebody who has been in this business and been on top for 30 years the way I have.”

Lawler, who wrestles several matches a week in MCW in addition to his commentating duties for the WWF, is quick to point out that wrestling is still dangerous. He considers himself fortunate that he’s never had a career-threatening injury, but has had several broken bones. He also credits his longevity in the business to years of clean living.

“I didn’t spend the first half of my life acquiring the habits that would mess up the second half of my life,” he said. “I never drank, or did drugs, or any of that stuff, and I’m reaping the benefits now.”