By Mike Mooneyham
May 26, 2001
Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!
No, this isn’t the crazed cry for the king of trash TV, Jerry Springer.
It is, rather, what a lot of WWF fans have been calling for ever since the self- proclaimed king of wrestling, Jerry Lawler, left his WWF color commentator’s role alongside Jim Ross.
Lawler walked out in protest three months ago after his wife, Stacy Carter (The Kat), was fired just hours before a Smackdown taping. His absence has left a void on WWF television that has yet to be filled. Paul Heyman has done an admirable job in Lawler’s former seat and comes up with the occasional funny line (“If John Wayne were alive today, he wouldn’t be half the American that Kurt Angle is”), but he’s not The King on the mic. The always dependable J.R. has seemed more like Abbott without Costello, or Martin without Lewis, since his longtime sidekick’s departure.
Lawler and Ross had a unique chemistry that the WWF is hard-pressed to match. The two were as much the face of WWF television as any WWF celebrity, including Steve Austin or Vince McMahon.
“We were on every minute of every show,” says Lawler.
Lawler admits he hasn’t watched enough of the shows lately to give a fair appraisal of Heyman’s work. But what little he was watched, he does know that the styles of Heyman and Ross are too similar, and that oversell turns the audience off.
“They’re both trying to be serious, hard- sell guys,” says Lawler, who was adept at offsetting Ross’ often serious tone by peppering the broadcast with his never-ending supply of humorous one-liners. “You certainly need someone pushing the product and pushing the pay-per-views, but in this day and time you also need someone there to offset that by saying, `(Wink wink) Hey, this is fun, let’s have fun with this.'”
Lawler, though, remains puzzled over why the company fired his wife without warning or explanation. It’s even more baffling how Lawler could have been allowed to walk away after nine years of loyal service.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. The WWF has taken some heavy hits the past few months. The jury on Austin’s heel turn is still out. Triple H could be on the sideline for as long as six months after suffering a torn quadriceps muscle at last week’s Raw. The Rock is making millions in Hollywood and could become Tinseltown’s next major action hero, making acting a much more attractive option than wrestling. The XFL flop reflected the fact that everything Vince McMahon touches doesn’t necessarily turn to gold. And buying out the competition has hurt rather than helped the WWF’s ratings thus far.
So why not let bygones be bygones, bury the hatchet and bring Lawler back into the fold?
Lawler says he would be glad to return. He just wants an answer.
“All they’d have to do is give me a call. Mainly I just want to know what happened. I just want an explanation.”
Lawler also would like to know what a member (or members) of the creative team could have said about Carter that was so bad that McMahon would want to fire her on the spot. According to Lawler, the only thing he was told was that someone on the creative staff had a problem with Carter’s attitude and that she was hard to work with, and that if she were given any more air time she might be even harder to work with.
“I’m not saying that nobody can be fired,” says Lawler. “I’m just saying that the way it was done was very unprofessional and that’s the reason I walked … I can’t think of any employee they could have done that to who wouldn’t have acted similarly under the circumstances. What did they expect me to do? They’re going to tell me two hours before a show that they want me to go down and fire my wife, tell her to leave the building, and want me to stay and do the show?”
Lawler says the fact that he helped write the RTC angle may have helped draw heat on Carter.
“They say it was the heat with the creative department. Maybe they didn’t like having to do something that wasn’t their idea.”
The writer whom Carter had been working with on the RTC angle, Jamie Morris, was released from the company several weeks ago.
There had never been any problems working with Vince McMahon in the past, says Lawler, 51, and the two had never had as much as a cross word.
“We always had a mutual respect. I’ve owned a territory, I’ve been in the position that he’s in, and been around a long time and been successful. And I think he respected that, or at least I thought he did.”
Still, to this day, no one from the WWF – McMahon or good friend J.R. included has ever talked to Carter to tell her she was released or why she was released.
“They had me go tell her,” says Lawler. “All she got was a release in the mail that they expected her to sign. Would I go back? Yes. Would I go back without Stacy? How could I? That’s why I left.”
The King and Stacy have been keeping busy, working several times a week appearing at wrestling shows, autograph signings and publicity events.