Starting in 1972, under the leadership of local legend Sam Bass the legacy of the future "King" would begin to take shape. Jerry Lawler would see his stock rise in 1974 with a feud against another legend Jackie Fargo. Lawler would win the feud against his former trainer and mentor from winning the feud Lawler would not only become the NWA Southern Champion he would also become the "King of Wrestling." For the next forty years Lawler would be the one true "King" in the wild world of wrestling.
Breaking down the career of Jerry Lawler maybe opening doors that are unneeded to open, but at one point Memphis was able to turn even misfortune into gold with Lawler's broken leg in 1979 setting up a face turn for the top star and Jimmy Hart's First Family becoming the most hated presence in the promotion. In the past a lot has been made about his historic rivalry against Andy Kaufman who again had Lawler's earliest rival by his side Jimmy Hart. On a list of the top ten names from the territory era Jerry Lawler would be near the top five. I would even say of the talent outside WWE at the time Lawler was behind only Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes as the hottest draws during the entire era. Feuds with Dutch Mantel, Eddie Gillbert, Austin Idol, and various others would leave the Mid South Coliseum rocking for decades.
Lawler and Jarrett had an uncanny ability to start a new talent in the territory get them over just by feuding with Lawler and every time it would lead to a sell out. Fast forward to end of his time in Memphis and his legendary feud with Bret Hart focusing on the chemistry these men had with each other was incredible. We haven't spoken about Lawler's time on commentary and him forming the greatest commentary pairing in wrestling history alongside Jim Ross.
In my opinion, "The King" doesn't get the credit he deserves as most are unaware of the legacy he leaves behind in the wrestling business. As someone who has been in wrestling for 52 years at this point it would be impossible to put into words the impact he has had on the sport. One thing is for certain though Jerry Lawler will always be "King" and a legend of Memphis wrestling. It is my honor and privilege to induct Jerry Lawler into the Wrestling Express Hall of Fame Class of 2022.
Back during the territory era, various territories had their leaders with announcers Lance Russell, Gordon Solie, and various others setting the bar as the announcers to teach the future. Soon after Bill Watts took control of the Mid South territory he would replace long time announcer Boyd Pierce with a fresh youngster named Jim Ross. Watts wanted a new look for his product when he brought the Oklahoma territory from Leroy McGuirk which prompted Watts to decide to change perception and allow Ross to become the lead announcer. Mind you this was the early 1980's and he is still going strong to this day in the business. I did a lot of talking about JR's career when I awarded him the lifetime achievement award. click here!
Jim Ross has done it all in this wrestling business and continues to prove that he can still lead the charge being the voice we here every week on television. Ross has been in creative, talent relations, and has done more to help announcers of the future then pretty much anyone else in the wrestling business. In my opinion, the shock of seeing Jim Ross make the move to AEW was surprising, but at the same time added legitimacy to the product from the very start.
I don't feel like there is a need to a say much about JR, because there isn't much that most wrestling aren't aware of. But from his time with Bill Watts in Mid South, to WCW/NWA, to WWE, and now with AEW JR has been a constant presence in the world of wrestling for over forty years. It is my honor and privilege to induct Jim Ross into the Wrestling Express Hall of Fame Class of 2022.
In wrestling there are few wrestling names that carry more weight then the Hart family. Stu and Helen Hart had twelve total kids one of which was the "Hitman" Bret Hart. Bret would be the eighth child within the Hart family lineage and would follow his father's footsteps into amateur wrestling like his dad having success wrestling in college before striking into the wrestling ring. Originally Bret would work as a referee for his father in Stampede before being asked to fill in for a wrestler who missed the show on a specific night and the rest as they say is history.
Hitman would quickly rise through the ranks of Stampede Wrestling as the tag team partner of his brother Keith and they would hold gold on four separate occasions. Bret would become one of the promotions top stars until the promotion was sold to the WWF in August 1984. Fortunately Bret, The Anvil, Davey Boy, Dynamite were brought along for the ride when the company was sold. Upon his arrival he would start exclusively teaming with his brother in-law Jim Neidhart as the top team in the Hart Foundation (Jimmy Hart's stable). Bret and Jim would become one of the top teams in the company during this era which is in many ways known as the golden age of tag team wrestling in WWF.
The New Generation of WWF took the lead with names like Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Scott Hall and others to bring in the new era of WWF following the departure of Hulk Hogan. Bret was one of the most stable member of the roster constantly giving the best match on the show with anyone and everyone. During the new generation Bret would have two of the most underrated feuds of the era with Jerry Lawler and of course a year long blood feud with his brother Owen Hart. Fast forward to 1997 when Bret turned heel to reform the Hart Foundation with Davey Boy, Owen, Jim Neidhart, and Brian Pillman. Hart would become a Canadian hero denouncing American and becoming a rare start that was a heel in one country and a face in another.
In 1996, Hart started his first blood feud in a few years fighting relative newbie "Stone Cold" Steve Austin who would become a star thanks to the "Hitman." The other feud began in early 1996 and would be more backstage then on camera against Shawn Michaels. We ain't going to talk about Montreal! Bret would head south in late 1997 to join WCW and a lot has been made of his run in WCW not much of it was good. Bret would hold the WCW Tag titles, United States Title twice, and World Title during his run with the company that was cut short due to a concussion he sustained against Goldberg at Starrcade 99.
It can't be understated the legacy that Bret Hart has left behind on the world of wrestling as he made it cool to be a technical wrestler. Truly "Hitman" was the "Excellence of Execution" and it is my honor to induct Bret Hart into the Wrestling Express Hall of Fame Class of 2021.