Jerry Jarrett Death – Cancer
1942-2023 (age 80)
Jerry Jarrett, was a wrestler, promoter, and visionary. For those familiar with his work he was an innovator and nothing short of a legend.
The saying “never has someone done so much with so little” best epitomizes his approach to promoting wrestling as Jarrett managed to keep his territory alive for years after the WWE had crushed nearly all the competition.
Jarrett’s acumen as a booker was so good that wrestling legend has it that Vince McMahon chose him to run the WWF if McMahon lost his criminal trial.
Wrestling in His Blood
Born on September 4, 1942, Jerry Jarrett grew up around wrestling. According to Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online’s Dave Meltzer, Jarrett’s mother Christine worked in the southern promotion run by Roy Welch and Nick Gulas, eventually promoting shows herself. Jerry:
promoted spot shows as a teenager, worked in the office, and was one of the youngest bookers in the country by the late 1960s.
Jarrett eventually stepped into the ring, initially as a referee and later, as a referee. Jerry became a popular territorial star in the NWA territories NWA Mid-America and Southeastern Championship Wrestling. However, his real success came following a dispute with Nick Gulas over a business deal.
Starting His Own Promotion
In 1977 Jarrett launched the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA). The Memphis-based promotion:
which Jarret operated alongside wrestling legend Jerry “The King” Lawler, was known for drawing huge, raucous crowds on a weekly basis at the Mid-South Coliseum.
With Jerry “The King” Lawler headlining the CWA, the promotion quickly became a success. The CWA became part of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) which meant the NWA World Champion regularly toured in the territory.
Based in Memphis, CWA ran weekly shows at the Memphis Coliseum and nearby cities. The Memphis shows became must-see events as Jarrett promoted the shows on the wildly popular Championship Wrestling program that aired from WMC-TV studios.
The show’s popularity was so great that the CWA was paid for airing the show. At the time, wrestling promotions usually had to pay local stations to air their shows, using the TV time as commercials for live events (this in an era when pay-per-view was years away).
The Wild West of Wrestling
The CWA became known as one of the wildest promotions in North America. Wrestlers competed in every stipulation match conceivable. For example, wrestlers would put their hair on the line in a match and on at least one occasion, a wrestler’s wife put her hair on the line in a match, losing it after her husband dropped the match.
Angles ranged from the bizarre (a Frankenstein’s Monster-style wrestler) to the batty (an appearance by Batman TV star Adam West in his Batman cowl).
CWA seemed open to any idea to put fans in the seats, including the famous angle when TV star and comedian Andy Kaufmann feuded with Jerry “The King” Lawler. The feud garnered national attention for the small promotion from Tennessee.
A Wrestling Genius and a Visionary
Was Jerry Jarrett a genius? He certainly was when it came to promoting professional wrestling. He found what worked for the fans in his area and gave it to them—matches based less on mat wrestling and more around fisticuffs.
Like any good promoter, Jarrett knew the importance of changing things up. However, the Memphis style worked brilliantly for him as he managed to build the promotion around one major babyface for years, that man being Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Although Jerry Jarrett’s promotion never achieved national success, it was ahead of its time and many of the elements used in today’s products such as entrance music and videos were successfully developed in CWA.
He was also a visionary. While it’s impossible to pin down when wrestlers regularly began using entrance music, Jarrett was one of the first to use it on a regular basis. He also kept his finger on popular trends. For example, the success of MTV led to Jarrett using music videos to push some of his wrestlers.
The CWA was a pioneer in what became known as “Crash TV” during WWF’s Attitude Era. Jarrett made sure his TV shows featured short matches with brawls, run-ins, exciting interviews, and even occasional skits to drive storylines and more importantly, drive fans into the arenas.
The WWF crushed many promotions big and small in the 80s. However, CWA stayed in business thanks to Jarrett’s ability to find young talent and run shows on a budget.
CWA was never known for its big paydays but it attracted a who’s who of talent from its earliest days until its demise including Hulk Hogan, Bruiser Brody, Scott Hall, Randy Savage, Jack Brisco, Ric Flair Harley Race, King Kong Bundy, and many others.
Jerry Jarrett was also able to watch his son Jeff walk the same path as he had. Jeff entered wrestling as a referee, eventually becoming a wrestler and later, a promoter.
By the late 80s, Jarrett had purchased an interest in Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship Wrestling, transforming it and the CWA into the United States Wrestling Association (USWA). Despite working with the WWF, the USWA began losing money. In 1995, Jarrett sold his interest in the CWA.
Jarrett remained in wrestling, working as a consultant for the WWF and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). As mentioned, wrestling lore has it that when Vince McMahon was facing imprisonment if convicted by the federal government, Jarrett was on standby to help operate the WWF.
Although his bid to buy WCW was unsuccessful, Jarrett founded Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling in 2002. He built the promotion around weekly two-hour pay-per-views. Jarrett sold a controlling interest in TNA to Panda Energy in 2002.
Jerry Jarrett’s booking skills, ability to survive when nearly every company had been crushed by the WWF, and his vision for wrestling saw him inducted into numerous wrestling halls of fame including the NWA Hall of Fame and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.
The Death of Jerry Jarrett
Jerry Jarrett was battling esophageal cancer. On February 14, 2023, he passed away at age 80. He is survived by his wife Deborah and four children.
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