Andy Kaufman Gets the Belt as Member of WWE Hall of Fame
It’s official. The greatest wrestler ever — also known as comedian Andy Kaufman — is being inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame. All we can say is: It’s about damn time.
As pro wrestling ascended to new heights in the 1980s, many give credit to wrestlers like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage for the sport’s increased popularity. But for people outside the wrestling oilysphere, Kaufman shined a spotlight on professional grappling's glorious excesses. He was, after all, the self-proclaimed Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World, offering cold hard cash to any woman tough enough to pin him in the ring. Kaufman’s partner, Lynne Margulies, even got a deal for a book called Dear Andy Kaufman, I Hate Your Guts, a compilation of hate mail Kaufman received from women he challenged to wrestle on Saturday Night Live.
You know who else hated Kaufman’s guts? Fellow WWE Hall of Fame member Jerry “The King” Lawler. Incensed that the comic’s lady wrestling was making a mockery of his sport, he brought Kaufman into the ring for a 1982 match in Memphis and delivered not one but two highly illegal piledrivers. The brutal moves put Kaufman first into the hospital, then into a neck brace.
But Lawler wasn’t done. The two men went on David Letterman’s Late Night show for a postmortem, only to have tempers flare once again. Kaufman demanded an apology and threatened Lawler with a lawsuit, with the pro wrestler dismissing the comic as “a wimp.” Letterman gingerly brought up the notion that many people view the sport as pure entertainment or an exhibition, but Lawler took exception to that idea. As if to prove it, Lawler stood from his own chair and smacked Kaufman clear out of his.
With all due respect to Kaufman’s fellow entrants into the 2023 class of the WWE Hall of Fame (for now at least, Rey Mysterio and the Great Muta), none did for the sport what Kaufman did. His love for wrestling catapulted it into new prominence, renewed once again when Jim Carrey reenacted Kaufman’s bouts in the biopic Man on the Moon. How the hell else was the audience of The Merv Griffin Show going to be introduced to the sport’s pleasures?
Hell yes, wrestling is real, and Kaufman proved it. Some people didn’t want Lawler to fight the comedian because they were afraid it would make wrestling look phony, longtime wrestling trainer Jim Cornette told Vice. “But Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman in Memphis, because of the psychology that they approached it with and because of the way that they executed, they actually did more to make people believe wrestling was real than anything else done in the last 30 years.”