The news that Jerry "The King" Lawler collapsed from a heart attack Monday night alarmed not only his close friends and family, but the fans who have supported the former wrestler and current WWE commentator throughout his career. To those outside the world of wrestling, Lawler might be best remembered for his friendship with comedian and Hollywood enigma Andy Kaufman in the 1980s, when the two had a very public -- and very fake -- feud.
"The King" rose to fame in the 1980s, around the same time Andy Kaufman was making a name for himself by appearing on "Saturday Night Live" and as Latka Gravas, the goofy character on the sitcom "Taxi" that was based on Kaufman's "Foreign Man" character perfected in New York City clubs.
Unlike comedians today like Kevin Hart or Jim Gaffigan, Kaufman aimed to challenge -- and annoy -- audiences with his performances. In "Man On The Moon," the film adaptation of the comedian's life starring Jim Carrey, Kaufman is depicted reading "The Great Gatsby" as his show and taking another audience out for milk and cookies. Lawler portrayed himself in that movie.
His eccentricities stretched into the world of wrestling, as well. Kaufman enraged audiences by touring across American claiming that he was the "Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World," wrestling almost exclusively women. Although most of the productions were elaborate hoaxes, Kaufman claimed he'd allow any woman that was able to pin him to marry him.
Continue Reading Below
"Now, I'm not saying women are mentally inferior to men, because when it comes to cooking and cleaning and washing the potatoes, scrubbing the carrots, nursing the babies and mopping the floors, they have it all over men," Kaufman said in an interview at the time.
After a private meeting where Kaufman put the idea to Lawler, "The King" publicly insulted Kaufman and challenged him to a match with a professional wrestler. Kaufman taunted the wrestler and his supporters in Memphis by speaking in a mock Southern drawl and appearing in videos insulting wrestling fans by instructing them how to bathe.
The two staged several matches, during the most prominent of which Kaufman injured his neck. The two appeared on "The Late Show With David Letterman" to discuss the feud, which led to a physical fight and Lawler slapping Kaufman out of his chair. Letterman had no idea the incident was staged, according to Lawler's autobiography "It's Good to be the King...Sometimes."
Kaufman died of cancer in 1984 and it wasn't until years later that Lawler confessed the whole production had been a joke. You can watch the infamous Letterman incident and Kaufman's taunts in the videos below.