Professional wrestling by nature demands larger than life characters. John Cena, the Road Warriors, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin were bombastic wrestlers that sometimes felt like they were bigger than the sport itself. Some wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were seemingly the living embodiment of cartoons. Sometimes, though, professional wrestling promoters decide to turn the gimmickry up a few notches and fans are introduced to characters like P.N News, Max Moon and the Gobbledy Gooker. In order to drum up ticket sales, smaller territorial promotions would often use gimmicks based on current trends so fans would often see a Ninja Turtle, Beetlejuice, and other popular mainstream characters in the ring.
The Memphis territory may have been the most (in)famous territory when it came to outlandish gimmicks. A hotbed of professional wrestling since the 1970s, Memphis was no stranger to cartoonish stunts. Over the years, Freddy Kreuger, Jason, The Christmas Creature and other bizarre characters graced Memphis rings. Usually, they served as opening match fodder. However, one hero was able to overcome the odds and confront local legend Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Jerry Lawler began his wrestling career in 1970 and by 1974 had defeated Jackie Fargo to become the “King of Wrestling.” Over two decades, Lawler would fluctuate between face and heel while wrestling the area’s biggest stars. Along with his famous feud with comedian Andy Kaufman, Lawler had notable feuds with Bill Dundee, Terry Funk, and Randy Savage. He also had a years long feud with Jimmy Hart before Hart’s WWF run. Lawler was also constantly in the title picture, capturing pretty much every title in the area. In between winning feuds and belts, Lawler also challenged Nick Bockwinkle for the AWA World Title and Ric Flair for the NWA World Championship. Lawler truly was the “King.”
Batman has been an iconic character for almost one hundred years. Debuting in 1939, the Caped Crusader was an immediate hit. Buoyed by the success of other adventure shows, Batman was ready for television in 1966. ABC was eager to oblige, making a campy pop art classic. The show is still fondly remembered, but only lasted for three seasons and by the time 1976 came around, the Dark Knight was ready for a new challenge.
We can quickly infer that Gotham City is relatively safe at this time. For starters, Batman does not find it necessary to be dressed in full gear. Instead, the normally Caped Crusader has decided to go with a far more comfortable looking cowl and tracksuit combination. While it is odd to see Batman in this attire, it is also somewhat comforting. Batman deciding it’s safe enough to go out in a track suit engenders a sense of security.
Batman quickly informs us that he is in Memphis due to a “radical change in the weather.” The World’s Greatest Detective has deduced that Mr. Freeze and the Penguin are the culprits. Even worse, the two villains have apparently been teaming up with the evil King of Memphis. In his storied career, Batman had dealt with many super villain team-ups, but even he is obviously worried about this new partnership.
Batman’s worries are quickly confirmed and it is even worse than he initially thought. It turns out that it is not the King that he has to deal with, but something far more sinister. At first, Batman is in shock, refusing to believe what is before his eyes. Jerry Lawler quickly confirms everyone’s worst fears and lets the world know that Super King has arrived. Just when it appears that things can get no worse, the non- Caped Crusader responds to Super King. Batman lets us know that his friends “Supe” and “Spidey-Baby” would not let this treachery stand. He ends by taking the high road and letting Super King know that by changing his wicked ways and using his turn signals he too can be a hero. Lawler decides that discretion is the better part of valor and simply leaves.
Batman is one of the most recognized and respected heroes of all time but he is clearly in over his head here. Lawler has always been a master on the mic and this is no different. Batman is out of his element and speaks with awkward pauses while Lawler reacts smoothly and naturally to everything. (In Batman’s defense, it is possible he had a drink or seven before appearing on the show.) As Bats lectures Super King, Lawler smirks to the crowd, drawing laughter. Later, Lawler is able to get nuclear heat by making fun of the studio audience. Batman is left standing there, incredulously repeating Lawler’s insults.
And where did this epic confrontation lead? Lawler opened the box he mentioned in the promo. What was inside the mystery box? Frankenstein. Unfortunately, a blow off match never took place.