Interview with Jerry Lawler
by Seth Mates

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Just moments after Monday's episode of RAW went off the air, caught up with Jerry "The King" Lawler, who talked candidly about his emotional return to the World Wrestling Federation broadcast desk alongside his longtime partner, Jim Ross. First and foremost, King, how does it feel to be back?

Lawler: It felt great. It was a perfect night. The fan reaction was terrific, the welcome was great, and then the first match to get welcomed back to is Trish (Stratus) against Lita. You can't ask for anything better than that. Was it a smooth adjustment working with J.R. for the first time since February?

Lawler: I looked over at J.R. after the third segment, and I said, "You know, it seems like we were doing this just the other day." I just fell right back into the groove I think. I hope it was OK. (laughs) Can you tell us a little about the process that led to your return tonight?

Lawler: The last time the WWF was in Memphis, J.R. called me at home the night before and told me to come down and say hi to everybody. So I did, and it was like a reunion. Vince (McMahon) came to me and said they knew I was going through some personal problems with the divorce, and also said, "King, this is your home, and whenever you're ready to come back, we'd like to have you." A few more weeks went by, and I was contacted by another organization. I even went and signed a contract with them, with the XWF.

I did two days of taping with them, and actually, the day that I was there doing the taping with them, I got a call from (Federation producer) Kevin Dunn and we talked and they said, "The timing couldn't be more perfect." In everything in life, timing is everything. I can't say enough about the people with the XWF -- they made me a heck of an offer -- but I explained to them that I felt that this was the place that I wanted to be, and they let me out of the contract there. They're first-class people, and I was able to come here and be on RAW tonight. J.R. said in the Ross Report a few weeks ago that you likely wouldn't return until things were straight in your personal life. How are things in your personal life today?

Lawler: It is a better situation, in that the more time that goes by from a breakup like that, the better you get each and every day. Personally, I'm feeling much better. Just the business end of the divorce -- that's something that you really can't control. It's up to the lawyers and that sort of stuff. That will just end whenever it ends. As far as emotionally and the pain getting better, it's a lot better for me than it was. Do you regret walking out back in February?

Lawler: Absolutely I do. But if I've heard this saying once, I've heard it a thousand times -- everything happens for a reason. And possibly it does. I just haven't found the reason that this all happened yet. Maybe somewhere in the future I will. I regret leaving in the fact that I realize now that I left for what was probably the wrong reason. I felt at the time like I was justified, and now in retrospect -- of course hindsight is 20/20 -- looking back, I probably would have been smarter to have investigated a little more thoroughly and not left so hastily. While you were away from the Federation, one of the ways Internet fans kept up with you was through the commentaries on your Web site. And some of the stuff you said when you first left was extremely personal, and directed towards people on the Federation roster. Has that caused any problems?

Lawler: None whatsoever, in the fact that I couldn't have been treated better today in my return, and you're right, I did do that at first, because I was confused. I didn't know what had happened or why it had happened, and I was probably throwing out some accusations -- and I was the first to admit this -- simply because I didn't know. I was just basically saying what I thought might have been some of the reasons. And in retrospect, some of those things that I thought were not what actually happened. And so if there was any hard feelings of animosity from people here in the WWF towards me, it was probably well deserved.

But coming back here today, it was literally like I was here last week. Everybody was great, everybody's the same, and it feels really good. I'm glad to be back, and I think most people are glad to have me back. Hopefully. (laughs) What was it like for you today when you first stepped foot into the locker room?

Lawler: I don't know -- I guess it was the funny feeling that I was having to go around, and getting hugs from everybody, and I swear it just felt strange in the fact that I've been gone nine months, but to me, it felt like it was just last week. I've been here for nine years, and over that time, these people have become like my family. So it was just like being on an extended vacation, and then coming back and going back to work again. What did it mean to you to come back the same night as Ric Flair?

Lawler: Tonight was just an all-around special night. I felt like they treated my return as a big event. Certainly Ric Flair returning is a huge event. And it was just an all-around big night. The thing Vince did with William Regal could have been one of the most entertaining things I've seen in the entire nine years I've been here. It was just a great night, a great show all around. Do you know yet if your responsibilities will also include providing commentary on SmackDown!, as you did before you left in February?

Lawler: I don't know yet. We're supposed to talk about that tomorrow. I do know that when we first talked last week, we talked about just reuniting J.R. and I, and having that be one team, and keeping a separate team for SmackDown!, which is fine with me. Not that I didn't enjoy doing SmackDown! I love working with Michael Cole -- I thought we had a good time and we had good chemistry as well. But it's probably good -- it's good to have different play-by-play guys, and it's probably good to have different color commentators. This is the first time in a while you've been here without your son, Brian Lawler (Grand Master Sexay), being here. Is that strange for you?

Lawler: We spoke yesterday. We have a unique relationship, in the fact that we're more like two wrestlers and friends than anything else. His situation is his situation, and we actually discussed it very little. I think he realizes that he made a huge mistake, and he's disappointed. And by the same token, I made a huge mistake when I left here too. So we don't really sit around and talk to each other about that. He's gone out and done a lot of good work on the independent circuit, and he's doing really well. Certainly, he'd love to come back here and be reunited with the WWF. He'd love to be reunited with Scotty 2 Hotty and Rikishi. And maybe some day that can happen. As they say, anything can happen in the World Wrestling Federation.

There was certainly a time a few weeks back when I thought that I would never be back. So you can never say never in this business. While you were away, who from the Federation did you keep in touch with on a regular basis? I know J.R. mentioned a few times in the Ross Report that you and him were still in close contact.

Lawler: I talked with J.R. probably more than anyone. But I spoke with several people. Of course, Harvey Wippleman. He lives down there in Memphis, and we've been close friends for years. I helped get him in the business. Kevin Dunn, I spoke with him regularly. One person too who came to one of the independent shows I was working at was (Federation timekeeper) Mark Yeaton. We talked backstage at that show for a long time, and he actually came back and talked to the people here in the WWF, and he and I talking led to opening some more doors here. I think that helped get me back here too. How was your trip to Australia a few weeks back?

Lawler: Australia was great. I would advise anybody to go there. In fact, if you couldn't live here, Australia would be the place to live. It's the most Americanized country that I've ever seen in the world. They love Americans over there, all the cities are beautiful, they're all on the coast, the weather is great and the girls are beautiful. The only bad thing is the trip -- getting there and coming back. Oh, man, it's murder. Plus, they do drive on the wrong side of the road.

But other than that, it was great. We have a couple of new girls who've started here since you left -- Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler. What is your assessment of these fine ladies?

Lawler: I haven't had a chance to see Torrie yet, but I certainly saw Stacy Keibler. She is a beauty, without a doubt. What legs. What a face. I'm a sucker for a pretty face. And she's got a beautiful face. I think that one of my strong points is helping to get the girls over. And I enjoyed watching those matches, and I like to help making everyone else enjoy watching those matches. One of the things you have mentioned in a few interviews since you left is that you think the product has been less fun since you left.

Lawler: Right, and I had a line I was going to say when I first came out, and I just forgot -- as soon as I sat down, I was going to say, "Well, how goes the war on fun?" (laughs) That's just my assessment. We've finally told the world that this is sports entertainment, and I think one of the best forms of entertainment is anything that's fun or funny, something that you really enjoy watching or listening to. And watching the show, it seemed like they had gotten away from that a little bit. I remember a few years ago, Vince used to poke fun at WCW and say, "The reason they'll never catch us is that they just do a rasslin' show." And we're entertainment.

And then all of a sudden when I would watch this product, I would say, "My gosh -- all of a sudden, the WWF is doing a rasslin' show." And it was like everything was so life and death, and you had J.R. -- and that's J.R.'s job; he's the play-by-play guy, and he's the guy who's gotta really tell the story and sell the product to the people -- and then you had Paul basically doing the same thing. Certainly it's a business and you've got to have a salesman, but in my mind, when you've got two guys doing the same thing, you don't need one of them. And that to me was their problem. That's where they lacked in chemistry. I'll be the first to admit -- when I do commentary, I may not know all the stories and things that are going on, but J.R.'s so good at that, and I can literally just go out there and have fun with the matches. And then the people get that balance -- they get all the information they need, they get sold the product, plus they get entertained and they get to have fun. And I think that's what our product needs to be about. I think that's what the WWF always intended to be about when they first called themselves "sports entertainment." I'm not saying that I'm the only person that can do that, because I'm certainly not, but I just think that's what was lacking while I was gone. One final question. Internet fans have always been a huge supporter of yours, especially while you were gone, and they no doubt played a role in your return. What do you want to say to the fans on the Internet here on the night of your return?

Lawler: Certainly, thanks to all the people that not only sent e-mails and letters and all kinds of correspondence to the WWF. I was getting at the same time about 3,000 e-mails a day coming into my Web site. It was just overwhelming. Not only were the people supportive of my decision there and wanted me back in the WWF, but they also -- once they found out what happened with my split with Stacy -- gave me just unbelievable support and people trying to make me feel better about things. I received literally thousands of e-mails of life experiences from different people that were almost exactly like mine. I mean, every e-mail I opened up, it said, "King, I've gone through the same thing," and because I was so open on the Internet and shared all my feelings with the fans, they in turn came back and shared their feelings with me. I printed off so many. I read every single one of them, but I was never able to answer all of those that I would have loved to. But I printed them all out and I have them, and I still read some of those because some of the letters were so heartwarming, and they really did make me feel good. And then some made me sad, because the people were going through situations as bad as or worse than mine.

And so I just want to thank all of those people and hope they realize that I did appreciate their caring. And that's what's so neat -- the Internet's a way now for people to share with those who are going through similar situations. It was really a helpful experience, and I want to thanks everybody for that.