Archive and tribute to dead wrestlers

Andy Kaufman Death

Andy Kaufman Death – Lung Cancer

andy kaufman death

Andy Kaufman cuts a scathing promo after getting knocked around by Jerry Lawler. He offers $5,000 to any wrestler who can put Lawler in the hospital. Memphis, 1982.

1949-1984 (Age 35)

Although Andy Kaufman was often billed as a comedian, his place in history isn’t so simple. Part actor, part performance artist, and yes, part comedian – Andy was a multifaceted entertainer. Today, we dive into Kaufman’s run as a professional wrestler. That’s right, the self-proclaimed “Intergender Champion”. Kaufman truly left behind a legacy just as strange as he would have hoped for…

A Born Entertainer

Andy Kaufman was born on January 17, 1949 in Queens, New York. Growing up in upper-middle class Great Neck Long Island, young Andy entertained his friends and family from the time he was an infant, dancing in his crib to music and eventually entertaining people at birthday parties.

andy kaufman comedy store

Andy Kaufman performing at The Comedy Store

A tumultuous childhood saw Andy experiment with drugs and father an out-of-wedlock child (who was turned up for adoption but later connected with Kaufman’s family in 1992). However, he found peace through transcendental meditation and joined a comedy improv.

Kaufman’s off-the-wall antics amused audiences – with both fans and club-owners questioning his sanity along the way.

andy kaufman saturday night live

Andy Kaufman makes his Saturday Night Live debut in 1975. photo: youtube

By 1972, Andy Kaufman was appearing on national television, including his national debut on The Dean Martin Comedy World. He would go onto a then-record 14 appearances on Saturday Night Live. Kaufman co-starred in popular sitcom Taxi, which cemented him as a household name in the late 70s – though Andy was vocal about how much he hated sitcoms.

There was no stunt too grand or too outrageous for Kaufman to try, and the bigger his star rose, the more he could get away with. In an infamous 1979 performance at Carnegie Hall, Kaufman staged one of the elder actors having a heart attack. He later invited the entire audience out for milk and cookies following the show. A fleet of two dozen buses parked outside Carnegie Hall, waiting for anyone who took Kaufman up on his offer.

A Natural Progression

andy kaufman promo

A natural in front of the camera, Andy Kaufman played the role of a heel wrestler to a T. photo: youtube

With its outrageous characters and subtle manipulation of its audience, Andy Kaufman had always been intrigued by professional wrestling. It was an ideal venue for Kaufman to work his unconventional style of entertainment – and with a penchant for the grandiose, Kaufman’s run in Memphis became the stuff of legend. But getting there led to at least one closed door.

With high hopes of breaking into the wrestling biz’, Kaufman told Bill Apter, editor of the Weston family of magazines such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated and The Wrestler (known to fans as “The Apter magazines”), about his idea of entering the squared circle as a villain.

Apter informed Vince McMahon Sr. about Kaufman’s proposal, but McMahon turned the idea down – worried that the audience wouldn’t buy a Hollywood star in the ring, and in turn potentially exposing the business.

But Kaufman was determined to become a wrestler.

Apter put him in touch with Memphis wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler, who co-promoted Championship Wrestling Association (CWA) with Jerry Jarrett. Lawler bought the idea, and one of the most memorable feuds in wrestling history was born.

‘I’m From Hollywood’: Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler’s feud in Memphis

Kaufman began a legendary program when he appeared in the Memphis-based CWA, antagonizing fans by insulting them:

and challenging their women to wrestle him:

To no one’s surprise, the citizens in Memphis wanted to see someone destroy the outsider from Hollywood.

Kaufman offered $1,000 to any female who could pin him in three minutes and a Memphis resident named Foxy accepted the challenge. Foxy gave Kaufman the proverbial run for his money, but the Hollywood invader proved successful.

andy kaufman soap

Andy Kaufman gives the folks of Memphis a lesson in hygiene

In true wrestling tradition, the promoters took things to the next level when local hero Jerry “The King” Lawler offered to train Foxy for a rematch with Kaufman. Kaufman in turn, promised to marry Foxy if he lost, setting the stage for a highly anticipated rematch in Memphis’ Mid-South Coliseum (aka the Memphis Coliseum).

That night, Kaufman triumphed again, despite Lawler’s training and his presence in Foxy’s corner.

After the match, Kaufman humiliated Foxy by rubbing her face into the mat. An angry Lawler rescued Foxy, pulling Kaufman off her and shoving the TV star to the ground. Kaufman threatened to sue and reminded Lawler he only wrestled women.

Eventually, Jerry Lawler challenged Kaufman to a match, and on April 5, 1982, the two met in the Memphis Coliseum. During the match, Kaufman did everything possible to avoid Lawler, leading to Memphis’ number one hero to famously ask him, “Did you come down here to wrestle or act like an ass?”

jerry lawler andy kaufman piledriver

Jerry Lawler puts Andy Kaufman in the hospital after delivering a pair of piledrivers.

A crafty Lawler offered Kaufman the chance to put him in a side headlock and Kaufman fell into Lawler’s trap. Lawler quickly suplexed the hapless actor, driving him into the mat.

The 10,000 fans in attendance were electric as Lawler picked up Kaufman and piledrived him, laying him out and earning a disqualification from referee Jerry Calhoun (the piledriver was banned in Memphis).

With nothing to lose, Lawler piledrived Kaufman a second time.

In his memoir, It’s Good to be the King…Sometimes, Jerry Lawler recalls how Kaufman and Lawler negotiated the end of the segment through referee Jerry Calhoun. Kaufman quietly asked that an impromptu ambulance be brought in to stretcher him out, thus making the angle appear more dramatic to the fans. Lawler refused, telling referee Jerry Calhoun that it would cost the company $500 to pay for it. But Kaufman wasn’t taking no for an answer, offering to pay the $500 out of his own pocket to sell the storyline. An ambulance arrived, Kaufman was stretchered out of the arena, and he continued the act all the way to the emergency room – convincing the hospital staff he’d suffe