By Brad Carroll
Over my years as a newspaper sports writer and editor, I've had the opportunity to interview some big names in the world of sports, and some of my most enjoyable and favorite interviews have come from the world of professional wrestling.
So, with WrestleMania 33 just days away, I thought it would be a good idea to look back on those interviews and let our loyal readers have a peak inside the world of professional wrestling from some of the biggest names ever. We're talking guys like Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Kevin Nash, Kurt Angle, Jerry Lawler, Christian and Jimmy Hart.
We'll break it down into seven parts, each focusing on some interesting tidbits to come out of each interview subject, which for many was exclusives for the time.
Part 3: Jerry "The King" Lawler
Unlike previous interviews with Christian and Kurt Angle, who were still very much in the thick of their professional careers, my interview with Jerry Lawler came when "The King" had already accomplished pretty much everything he could in the ring. While moving to the microphone as a commentator during this time, he still would lace up the boots occasionally, including a steel cage match against a young wrestler on this card he was promoting. But Lawler went back over his career in our talk, including his infamous appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.
Here are some of the interview highlights:
First, hyping his steel cage match with Michel Sane: "These young guys, they have dreams that when they beat me they'll get the call from Vince McMahon and get a big contract for a ton of money," Lawler said. "But this is my opportunity to show everyone why, for the past 30 years, they call me 'The King.'"
Lawler is one of the bigger names in the history of wrestling, and a great deal of that notoriety comes from a feud that took place outside the ring. Lawler gained national fame when he slapped comedian Andy Kaufman in the face on the Late Night with David Letterman show in 1982. It is still considered one of the top moments in the history of television.
"That's probably the highlight of my career," Lawler said. "I was suddenly in the national spotlight – and so was wrestling. The Letterman people still call that episode their 'famous show.'"
Now, a new generation of wrestling fans may best know Lawler for his role as color commentator on WWE television and pay-per-view events. But "The King" still sees himself as simply a wrestler.
"I never dreamed of being a commentator," he said. "When the Monday Night Wars were going on, Macho Man Randy Savage was doing color commentary on Raw, but he soon jumped ship to WCW. I was a last-minute replacement. I remember Vince McMahon coming up to me and asking if I wouldn't mind doing it. Fifteen years later and I’m still the main color commentator. But I still think of myself as just a wrestler watching a match and talking about it."
Lawler has had a long and historic wrestling career. He has held the most championships in wrestling history (127), was elected to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007, and has feuded with some of the biggest names in the sports-entertainment world — including Roddy Piper.
"I think a lot of people think I’m semi-retired," Lawler said. "I could still wrestle full time, but it's the travel that kills you. I’m tired of wrestling and traveling five days a week. Commentating on Raw and wrestling occasionally is perfect for me."
Maybe a day or two later, I got to interview one of my all-time favorites, the legendary Rowdy Roddy Piper, who would pass away in 2015.