Wrestling autobiographies are usually ten-a-penny. You know the sort, a guy who's been a star for 5 years or so writes a book concentrating on every big match he's had with a few road stories thrown in for good measure. Now, I've read a lot of these books and after a while, they all seem to be rather generic (especially the ones published by the WWE). This one is different because it focuses on a guy (Jerry Lawler) who made his name away from Vince McMahon's global company. For those who only know Lawler from his time in the WWE, you've missed out on a very colourful career. This book helps in painting a portrait of a guy who was, at one time, more `over' (popular) than the likes of Ric Flair and a (pre-1985) Hulk Hogan.
First off the bat, there's a couple of things you need know about Jerry's autobiography: firstly, he doesn't spend too much time talking about his tenure with the WWE. When you think of it, that's understandable considering he spent over 20 years of his in-ring career outside the WWE. All that's covered in detail is how Vince fired Stacey (Lawler's 3rd wife and WWE Diva) which led to Jerry quitting in protest; his relationship with Jim Ross & Vince McMahon; and a brief page about getting heat from some WWE superstars that once worked for him in Memphis.
Quite simply, Jerry Lawler was more than a wrestler. During his career, Lawler found fame also as an accomplished artist, a TV personality, a radio DJ, a recording artist and as a short-time political campaigner amongst other things. In fact, he was so famous, when he wrote that he was more popular in Memphis than Elvis in 1975-77, Lawler wasn't joking (although he does admit Elvis' career had sunk to rock bottom by then).
It's only natural that Jerry spends a lot of time writing about Jackie Fargo, an already established wrestling star and the biggest name on the scene in Memphis by the time Lawler finally made his debut in 1970. Fargo, as you'll discover, was more than just his trainer. He was his mentor and a father figure who ended up being one of Jerry's closest life-long friends. Others who played an important part in his career are also featured in great length. Lance Russell (the voice of Memphis wrestling), Jerry Jarrett (booker, co-owner of the CWA/USWA and business associate of Lawler's), Bill Apter (the world-renowned wrestling journalist), Sam Bass (a close friend of Lawler's who was killed in a car crash), Nick Gulas (who Jerry worked for at the beginning of his career) and several soon-to-be top wrestlers who went on to bigger things with the WWE and WCW.
The most interesting part of this book is Lawler's involvement with Andy Kaufman. Kaufman, who was a big comedy star in the 80s, was a huge wrestling fan and wanted to get involved in the sport. Lawler saw the opportunity to take their feud mainstream (something that had never been done before) and it became bigger than even Jerry Lawler could've imagined. The part describing their worked (fake) fight on the David Letterman Show is particularly funny. Even Vince McMahon's WWWF (as it was then known) wasn't getting that much publicity.
Of course, there's many `road' stories in the book too. Some work as bridges between one story and the next, but some don't. I guess Jerry thought these insider tales would be understood by the readers. There are several omissions from Lawler's career (both inside and outside the ring) that aren't covered in his autobiography. In an early chapter, he makes reference to Owen Hart's tragic death in 1999 and writes that he'll discuss it in a later chapter. He doesn't, except for reiterating it was "the worst moment of my career" (sic). Jerry also talks about various legal battles he's went through in his life but fails to mention when he was falsely accused of raping an under-age girl in 1993. No mention is made of Lawler's involvement with ECW which led to the birth of the `Attitude' Era (the most profitable time in WWE history). And his relationship with his mother, which he is said to have adored, is never mentioned.
If his break-up with Stacey `Kat' Carter hadn't happened so soon to Jerry writing this book, I doubt he'd have spent as long as he did discussing it. But he goes into great detail about the separation (maybe too much detail). I feel quite indifferent to the whole situation to be honest. A part of me felt sorry for Jerry when he discovered Stacey had been cheating on him and you can `feel' his pain when he describes how he felt when she told him she no longer loved him and they separated. However, what Stacey done to Jerry was what Jerry had himself done to his first and second wives (Kay and Paula). In fact, when talking about cheating on Kay with Paula then cheating on Paula with Stacey, there are times when Jerry makes light of the situation. So it is kind of hard to feel sorry for the guy.
There are parts of the book which are unnecessary. Lawler's love of "puppies" is a running theme throughout the book, and he even spends a page fantasizing which WWE Diva (in 2002) he would like to have sex with but never did. The anecdote about what he did with two `ring rats' in the back seat of a limousine seems to have been more for his pleasure than the reader's. I also found his tales of finding a replacement for Stacey to be quite creepy: a 52 year old guy going on the internet to find a "young girl" (sic) between late-teens and mid 20s to be his wrestling valet and `more' (sic) just made Lawler come across as a 'dirty old man'.
In closing, I found this book to be a very enjoyable read. As someone who first started watching the WWE in 1990, it's fascinating to read how the old territory system worked at a time when the USA was awash with wrestling companies and not one company (sans maybe JCP) ruled supreme. Jerry had an illustrious career. This book is testament to that.