“ROUGH CUTS” GOES BACK IN TIME: ANDY KAUFMAN VS. JERRY “THE KING” LAWLER

Posted August 26th, 2018 by 1Wrestling News Team

This is Sal “Rough Cuts” LaSardo and welcome to this very special edition of Rough Cuts.  I want to go back in time and remember the Andy Kaufman/Jerry Lawler feud that elevated and gave the world of professional wrestling true meaning to the form entertainment as we know it today –

I first watched Andy on Taxi, the show that ran ABC from 1978-1983 — Andy appeared in 79 of 114 episodes as Latka Gravas and various alter ego personas that he would use in his stand up comedy routines.
I was too young to understand the comedic genius that Andy was. However, as I have gotten older I truly learned to appreciate what Andy was trying to accomplish as an entertainer.  Andy wanted to get a reaction out of people — That was Andy’s whole persona.  He thrived off reactions and getting people to notice what he was doing whether you loved or hated him you were intrigued by him.
Andy took that love to the next level when he decided to enter the squared circle and become a professional wrestler.  Initially Andy pitched an idea to then WWWF Vincent McMahon, Sr (Vince McMahon father) who was running the promotion at the time.  The idea was turned down and so Andy sought out another way to get involved in the business.  Andy was friends with our own Bill Apter.  Bill recommended that Jerry Lawler would the be the perfect person for Andy to work with because the chemistry would be instant.  Jerry Lawler was a huge attraction back in the 70′s and 80′s as part of theMemphis Wrestling area. He — was the big baby face much like Bruno Sammartino was to Madison Square Garden in New York.
During this time prior to meeting Jerry, Andy was wrestling women in his comedy acts on television and his stand up shows — The prize was for any woman who would pin Andy would receive $1,000 and Andy would marry the woman and he shave his head as a bonus.  Andy at this point never wrestled in front a wrestling audience which was Andy’s goal.  Andy’s goal was to take the bad guy of wrestling to center stage. With Bill’s help and Jerry on board these 2 took the wrestling world by storm from coast to coast and border to border culminating with the famous incident on David Letterman’s show where Jerry slapped Andy and Andy threw cup of coffee at Jerry. Before the incident on Letterman, Andy was working on his promo’s and doing his thing against women still.  Jerry Lawler was the one that recommended they get in the ring together so they can take this to another level.  This lead to a handicap match in Memphis May 2nd 1983, Andy and   Colossus of Death (supposedly Duke Myers under a rubber Tor Johnson mask.) This was the match where Andy received the famous pile driver from Lawler and that lead to the neck brace incident and Andy being taken out by Ambulance where Andy stayed 3 days in the hospital.
After this is over, it lead to the incident on David Letterman where Jerry and Andy were supposed to apologize to each other and that be it.  Of course, Andy did not want the feud to end and neither did Jerry so the famous slap heard around the world happened on Letterman and Andy throwing coffee at Jerry and culminated with Andy going on a profanity laced tirade which was bleeped on television, to keep this feud going.  TV Guide at the time had the Letterman incident with Jerry and Andy as one of the top 60 greatest moments in television history.  I am thinking Andy wanted to be number 1 in television history and if he was still alive he probably be trying to accomplish that feat. According to Jerry Lawler they kept this up until Andy’s death and even in death when Jerry was interviewed about Andy’s death Jerry did not break character and that was what Andy wanted.  They had several more matches, wrestlers brought in by Andy with a bounty on Jerry’s head, talk shows.  Andy just kept pushing the envelope right up till he died of lung cancer on May 16, 1984 at the age of 35.
Andy never did this for money. In fact any money Andy received he never deposited. He did this because he just loved the world of professional wrestling.   Andy brought a lighter side to the business that was unheard of at the time and to this day.  Andy showed the world wrestling does not have to be about blood and guts and steel cages and all these gimmicks we have today and back then as well.  Andy showed us that you can still get some one’s attention if you have something to show.  Andy brought us entertainment.  We reacted to Andy whether he faced Jerry or women.  We reacted because he sold us as fans on his story.  His interviews were impeccable.  There were no writers like today.  Andy, improvised and worked hard to bring the Kaufman character to the ring and give us entertainment like no other.  Andy was not about telling a joke.  Andy never told a single joke in his life.  He just wanted a reaction from people.  If no one reacted then he failed..  Whether it was good or bad, Andy wanted a reaction and with Bill Apter’s help and Jerry Lawler the 3 of them brought this incredible story to life in a way unlike no other.
We have Bill Apter to thank for this feud between the two because Bill Apter brings wrestling to life in a way that can only be told through Bill’s eyes.  Andy was intrigued by the wrestling magazines  and that passion and love of entertainment came ahead when both Bill and Andy got together and then Bill continued the story by enlisting his friend Jerry Lawler into the mix.
Bill Apter for over 50 years has told his story to us fans from Pro Wrestling illustrated, his work in the AWA, Andy Kaufman, appearing at wrestling conventions, the Apter Chat podcast, his book “Is Wrestling Fixed  — I Didn’t Know It Was Broken” (a must read for wrestling fans), and of course 1wrestling.com which I am proud to be apart of and able to bring this stories to life once again.  We would not have Andy Kaufman in the ring without Bill Apter.  Andy would have never succeeded without enlisting Bill’s help and for that the entire wrestling world owes Bill Apter a deep debt of gratitude for bringing Andy into forefront.
Andy was the first mainstream Hollywood celebrity to cross over.  This was a before Wrestlemania 1 and Mr. T.  Andy set the stage for future crossovers because Andy proved you can entertain inside the squared circle as long as you work at and put the effort into it.  If you do then people will take notice.  People did notice because 35 plus years later in 2018 people are still talking about Andy Kaufman’s contribution to professional wrestling more so than his work as an actor and stand up comedian.  Again, we have Bill Apter to thank for this because it was Bill who brought this incredible piece of wrestling history to life.
I always said the highest honor that any wrestler could receive is to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  Grant it there is no true museum of the WWE and I am sure one day there will be but the fact is the McMahon family to be acknowledged is the highest honor a wrestler can ever receive because the WWE is the standard of all Hall of Fame as we know it today.  Andy Kaufman deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and deserves to be acknowledged by the WWE for the for the fact that Andy entertained us in an era that was uncharted territory and succeeded at doing so.  Just because Andy never worked for the McMahon’s does not mean Andy does not deserve to be honored.  When you become a wrestler you become part of a special fraternity whether you work for the promotion or a work for rival the goal is just the same and that is for every paying patron that bought a ticket you go through that curtain and entertain them and leave them wanting more.  Andy succeeded in doing just that and should be honored by the WWE highest honor even though Andy is not alive to accept the award.  The fans deserve to see what Andy meant to the industry and still means to those who follow wrestling.
I also feel Bill Apter deserves the same honor and over years have gained a greater appreciation of what Bill does through his work and as his friend.  Bill tells stories and bring stories to life and there will never ever be another Bill Apter to ever come our way again.  No one has ever done more for the business than Bill and because of Bill we had Andy Kaufman.  We have Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Apter chats, books, and so much more.  Every interview Bill does a new story comes to life and leaves us with wanting more.  The same way Andy approached his matches and promo’s.  Andy left you wanting more.
I thank you Bill for being my friend and opening my eyes for 48 yrs as a wrestling fan and teaching me how to tell and write story so fans can ask for more.  Because of you professional wrestling lives, breathes and thrives and will continue forever because of you.  There will never be another man like Bill Apter and I truly believe the WWE needs to do right and give Bill Apter and Andy Kaufman there right place in the Hall of Fame so they can be remembered for all eternity.
For this edition of Rough Cuts this has been Sal LaSardo.  May all of your matches be a main event..  Your feedback is welcome to salnbandit42@gmail.com

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