A Rundown on Memphis Wrestling

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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Rebecca gets educated on the art of wrestling and learns why Memphis is rich in this particular history. We hear from Adam Pritchard, a devoted wrestling fan who visits Memphis in hopes of encountering one of the many heroes he only ever experienced by watching tv from across the pond. 

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First, we asked what memories you had of Memphis wrestling and we shared a few of those stories to kick us off on what the highlights were. But what ended up happening was it gave me a lot of questions. What was with these wrestling names? Was “Handsome Jimmy Valiant” truly handsome? What was the Fargo strut? 

Image by Derrick O’Dell | Wrestling News Center

Fortunately I have a brother-in-law, Adam Pritchard, who is very passionate about wrestling and was the one who even informed me that Memphis was a big deal in this sport. When Adam came to visit Memphis, the highlight of his trip was touring the Channel 5 station because that’s where DAVE BROWN was. At the time, I only knew of Dave Brown as the meteorologist. Another visit highlight was King Jerry Lawler’s Hall of Fame Bar & Grille.

And so it came to be that out of curiosity of this topic, I interviewed Adam to learn exactly why he loves wrestling so much and what role Memphis had in this entertainment that I was unaware of.

Adam first shares how he fell in love with wrestling and what he remembers most about it. He says there is more to wrestling than what we may realize and you can tune in to the episode to hear what his current favorite type of wrestling is.

He also gives a 101 on wrestling. Was it always staged? Was there always a story? The answer is yes. It was a way to engage the audience to follow along with the wrestler and his character or story.

One character that many are familiar with is Hulk Hogan who was considered as one of the “good guys.” However, I learned that one city’s hero could enter another wrester’s territory and become the bad guy for that city.

Via villains.wikia.com

 

Jerry “The King” Lawler was an example of a wrestler who was seen as a good guy and hero in Memphis but seen as a bad guy in other territories that he crossed into, fighting the good guy wrestlers in those places. The best part was that him as a bad guy in, for example, Florida or Texas, wasn’t televised in Memphis. So he remained as only a bad guy in the eyes of other territories because that’s all they saw.

Today you don’t really see that anymore because everything is pretty much national.

It made me wonder how Adam even knew about all of this at a time when it wasn’t national and he started watching wrestling while living in England.

He said the way fans connected and learned all the stories was through wrestling magazine and VHS tape trading.

1963 Photo of the Mid-South Coliseum courtesy of the Memphis and Shelby County Room, Memphis Public Library & Information Center

I then learn about how the Mid-South Coliseum was where wrestling was at and even about a particular show that happened there between Terry Funk and Jerry Lawler when the arena was completely empty. You can imagine the tape trading was huge with that one because no one was there to see it.

1981 match at the Mid-South Coliseum between Terry Funk and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler via ringthedamnbell.wordpress.com

While Memphis was known for not being the most well-paid territory for wrestlers, it was a territory that many wrestlers came through because it was well-respected and gave them great exposure and experience.

Announcers Lance Russell and Dave Brown

In addition to learning about the greatness of the Coliseum, I learn about the role of the announcers, other well-known Memphis wrestlers like Sputnik Monroe, and the famous beef between Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler, who I discovered has a dangerous signature move. Learning that it was all staged also made me realize wrestling can actually be quite convincing.

To sum it all up, if you’re a true wrestling fan, you probably have a high respect for Memphis and it’s a good territory to be in. So good, they even put a bear in the wrestling ring once. Check out the video to see that bear match in action but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to get all the details. 

Links Mentioned:

Jerry Lawler’s foes

Lance Russell and Dave Brown

Memphis Flyer article

Listen to our episode that includes additional stories of Sputnik Monroe that we reference here.

 

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Rebecca Phillips

I am a female born in the United States though I generally fear the border patrol. Buy me an ice cream cone and maybe I'll paint you something.

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