Friday, April 26, 2013
Book Review: "It's Good to Be the King...Sometimes."
Jerry Lawler has certainly experienced a lifetime in the last seven months. It was an absolutely surreal moment when "The King" suffered a near fatal heart attack on air at the September 10, 2012 Raw. He defied the odds, pulled down the strap, and made a remarkable recovery. With all those fuzzy feelings fostering inside me for the King, I felt I would be inclined to give Jerry Lawler's biography a good rating, figured I would enjoy the book and the remarkable journey of a remarkable wrestler and personality.
I was wrong.
"It's Good to Be the King...Sometimes" is probably one of the worst volumes the WWE has published....and that covers a lot of ground...which, trust me, you are going to see in my next few reviews. It just seems impossible that a wrestler as renown and decorated as Jerry Lawler would have anything but a spectacular biography. I am saddened to report that this is not the case.
This is going to be a bit of a different review, as I just cannot bring myself to recap the career of the man. The big reason is that Lawler does a spectacularly shitty job himself in the book. Instead, I will try to hit on some of the main points and narratives offered in the book.
Lawler grew up in a fairly nondescript middle class home that moved from Memphis to Cleveland and back to Memphis again all while Jerry was still a child. Young Jerry Lawler was not a model student, except for one exceptional skill: art. Lawler is an incredible artist, which is shown throughout the book in the form of some of his illustrations. Unfortunately, these are the best written parts of the book.
Jerry's wrestling career began in a most unorthodox way. As a youngster, he would send some of his drawings to the offices of Memphis wrestling, and to the young man's shock, announcer Lance Russell actually displayed some of Lawler's work on the air. Memphis wrestling legend Jackie Fargo was impressed by these illustrations, and invited the impressionable artist to help decorate a club he owned in town. From there, Jerry Lawler would never look back, as he was now neck deep into the wrestling industry.
Lawler was not exactly a womanizer in school, but once he had that first taste...forget about it. His first girlfriend became pregnant when Jerry was just beginning to engage in the mat wars, and he became a father at 21...and again 10 months later. Quite the fertile couple. One of those offspring was Brian "Grandmaster Sexay" Christopher (Lawler). Jerry was not exactly thrilled by this, but he married the girl, and made an absolutely unfathomable decision at such a young age: he got a vasectomy.
While Jerry was married, this did not stop his young, budding, womanizing ways, and he makes no bones about it in the book. He makes some veiled references to marital infidelities early on, but nothing too much in detail. Just keep that in mind for later.
Lawler was basically a sensation in Memphis, which led to a feud with his childhood idol Jackie Fargo. Lawler made an off the cuff remark about Fargo being the "King" of Memphis wrestling, and when Lawler defeated Fargo in a highly publicized match, Jerry Lawler became Jerry "The King" Lawler.
There is a rather funny story about Jerry's crown early on in the book. One night he forgot his crown somewhere, and another wrestler who was using a "King" gimmick offered the use of his to Jerry. This wrestler died in a plane crash the next week. This happened again down the road, only the wrestler lending the crown this time died in a horrific auto accident. Since then, Jerry has always made sure to have his own crown at all times, lest the "Curse of the Crown" rear its ugly head again and kill another wrestler.
Now, while the stuff about his early career is excellent and pretty detailed, the rest of the book just falls off a cliff from here. The only exception are the chapters on Andy Kaufman. I hope to GOD people reading this know who Andy Kaufman was, and his importance in pro wrestling. I will assume you do, and spare all the details. Jerry did not want to break kayfabe or tarnish the legacy he had with Kaufman, but seeing the book was published in 2002, post "Man on the Moon" , Jerry offers his insight to the whole thing. It was a total work, but Andy was a very enigmatic person (fuck Jeff Hardy). The matches in Memphis were one thing: scripted to a degree, with some leeway. But the David Letterman appearance was something different altogether. Lawler was in the dark on what Andy was EXACTLY going to do, only having a very broad, general idea of what was supposed to occur. The coffee throwing? The slap? All improvised, left to Jerry to figure out what the enigma Kaufman wanted. And if you watch that today, it is still a tremendous piece of business, as Letterman is practically wetting himself as all of this occurs. The matches at the Mid South Coliseum drew big time sellouts and made Lawler much dinero (as he and Jerry Jarrett had basically taken over the territory by strong arming Nick Gulas out of the area when he tried to push his untalented son George past the bounds of all sanity), and Kaufman never once demanded any money from the King. Lawler gave him checks, but they were never cashed. It proved to be kind of a bittersweet swan song for Kaufman, for he died shortly after from lung cancer. As a quick aside, that the WWE Celebrity Wing of the Hall of Fame does NOT have Andy Kaufman in it is a joke. OK, I know the WWE Hall of Fame IS a joke, but no celebrity has EVER had the impact and the passion for the business as Andy Kaufman did. Bar none.
Now, Lawler basically skips over most of his great eighties stuff. He gleans over the Von Erich/Hennig/AWA stuff in like two paragraphs, which is a goddamned shame. He doesn't mention the money distribution problem with Gagne over WrestleClash. He barely talks about Hogan in Memphis. I mean, he just basically jumps from Kaufman right to the WWF. And even here its choppy.
One item Lawler does clear up is the rumor of someone, upon his entry to WWF, shitting in his crown. He confirms it, but has no idea who it was.
So Lawler enters McMahon Land. He is programmed with Bret Hart following King of the Ring 1993. Lawler seems to suffer from selective memory, as he mentions the King of the Ring beatdown on Hart at the coronation ceremony....and then jumps to the Kiss My Foot Match two years later. No mention of SummerSlam 1993, no mention of the buildup to Survivor Series 1993 in BOSTON, and CERTAINLY no mention of the rape charge that was dropped but kept him out of said Survivor Series. Not even his return at WrestleMania X (which, as a young 13 year old fan back then, I was PISSED when Lawler showed up there. Sign of a good heel). Nope, none of that...straight to the Kiss My Foot match, with a quick backpedal to the Piper match at KOTR 1994, which Lawler says is the stiffest he has ever been involved in.
Here is where the train jumps off the rails. Lawler doesn't go too in depth about his WWE run, besides his respect for Jim Ross. Expecting witty banter about Vince McMahon, particularly the whole "McMemphis" storyline? Not there. I am going to skip over a bit of the stuff Lawler prints, and get to the nitty gritty of this book.
Lawler has never done drugs, and has never drank. That is admirable in an industry where those two vices seem to run rampant. Lawler himself states in the book that he has one vice: Sex. The Lawler you may remember during the Attitude Era, carping on and on and ON about the Divas and their "Puppies?" THAT is a shoot. Lawler is a depraved sex addict, and if you need further proof, well, this book is for you. Lawler was married twice before coming to WWE, and even while married, his sexaul dalliances were almost deviant and depraved. This guy is a fucking sicko. He has a whole chapter devoted to some of his printable sexual exploits and the divas, past and present, that he would like to fornicate with. It is absolutely unreal how fucked up Lawler is in this fashion. Keep in mind, many of these dalliances occurred when he was married. He talks of a time he got a blowjob in the back of a limo from two ring rats, and when they left the limo, the voyeur limo driver, sweat dripping off of his brow, turns to the king and says...and i basically quote from the book..."Mista Lawla..you da man...those bitches be slurpin you fo an houa...you is tha King." Witty repartee there. Lawler talks about wanting to bang Sunny, Missy Hyatt (he didn't...is he the only one who hasn't?) and Terri Runnells. He married Stacy Carter...who might I add, was pretty damn hot in her WWE run...and life seemed good. To quote Mel Brooks, "Its Good to be the king."
Then No Way Out 2001 happened. For my money, that is the greatest non Wrestlemania PPV the WWE has ever produced. Every match had something, and stars abound, particularly the three stages of hell HHH-Austin match. On that PPV, Steven Richards defeated Jerry Lawler in a match that if Lawler had won, his wife, The Kat, would have gotten naked that night. The RTC (Right to Censor) abducted Kat, and she was never heard from again on WWE TV. The next night, Vince fired Kat...for reasons never known. Maybe it was the fact that her only marketable skill was the possibility of nudity (see Armageddon 1999). Maybe because she was long time good employee Lawler's wife. Whatever the case may be, she was shitcanned, and Jerry Lawler made the worst possible decision of his life: he walked away from WWE with his wife.
To be truthful, King did as much as he could with his trophy wife, fulfilling as many bookings as the independents would give them. But Stacy, who, Jerry says, was not a girl looking for publicity, didn't HAVE enough publicity anymore. She wanted a divorce, and started cheating on King.
OK, here is where the book gets ridiculous. Jerry Lawler, bastion of great marriage and fidelity, the beacon of what very young blonde bimbo should aspire for, a man who has rampantly cheated on every "soul" partner he has ever had...is DEVASTATED by Stacy Carter's marital betrayal. Its comical. Lawler sounds like a teenager scorned in describing the breakup, and it is absolutely pathetic. But it only gets worse. Stacy leaves him, and Lawler is desperate for young pussy, but now he is 51 years old and off of TV, so his tastes far exceed what reality is about to deal him. He has his agent put out a search for young nubile women to "accompany" him to the ring in his matches and accompany him outside of the ring. Basically, he has his agent set up a fucking Beaver Hunt. It is so lame and pathetic. Dude, you are a man who has been a public figure, famous for years. GO TO A FUCKING BAR OR CLUB. Use your wit, your chops, your pick up lines....anything is preferable to this farce. Christ...it is pathetic.
Believe it or not...THAT is basically where the book ends. You get a quick paragraph on him returning to WWE after Survivor Series 2001, where he took over for Paul Heyman (who was far superior in that color role...may I add). In that instance, as he says, it was good to be the king.
All in all, this is one of the WORST books I have ever read by a wrestler. Jerry Lawler has won more titles than anyone EVER in the industry and has experienced both the highs and lows that go with it. Instead, this book devolves into a bad version of "Desperate Letters to Penthouse." If you want to read into the demise of an all time great, read this book. Otherwise, I will let this quote do the talking:
"It was the first time I had seen Chyna since she left the WWE and we sat down and talked about what went wrong for the both of us. She told me what happened between her and Triple H (and Steph) and I talked about what happened between Stacy and me. We wound up crying and hugging eachother, but she seemed to be stronger and in better shape emotionally than I was."
No wonder he has been a shell of his former self for 10+ years....