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[1990-05-19-USWA-Memphis TV] Jerry Lawler and The Snowman

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It's time for what may be the angle of the year, and one of the best segments in the history of Memphis wrestling. Lawler is out acting less heelish than he has at any point this year. He does an interesting spin on the Unified World title history, saying the NWA and WWF turned down the opportunity to unify their titles with the CWA and World Class. He is quickly interrupted by The Snowman. Dave Brown is stunned. Before he can get out a sentence, Eddie Marlin is out to tell him he can't just show up an interfere with the television show. Marlin points out that he tried booking Snowman in the past, and Snowman never made his bookings. He told him he'll give him another chance, but he has to work his way up. Snowman isn't happy about that and refuses to accept that.

 

Snowman is tired of Lawler making racist comments on television - talking about welfare and food stamps. He says the reason Lawler won't face him because he's black. Eddie Marlin says all "the blacks" aren't on his side and starts namedropping black wrestlers that have been in Memphis the past few months. Lawler tells him his problem is that he won't take the time to work his way to the top to get a title shot, but he claims that it's all because he's black. Meanwhile, security guards are out to try to clear Snowman's entourage out of the studio and Eddie Marlin is PEEVED.

 

Snowman says everyone in the USWA is worried that they'll wake up one day and that there will be a black king. Lawler mentions King Cobra in response. They argue for a few more minutes, with Snowman promising to buy a ticket to the show on Monday night. One of the first segments of its kind.

 

Lawler tries to get back on topic, and deals with a heckling fan. He leaves the interview and gets IN HIS FACE and suddenly, the heckler is no longer a problem. What makes this segment is Lawler doing a segue back to Kerry Von Erich at the end, which was the original purpose of the interview.

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It's way down on the list of things to talk about in this angle, but since it's the last thing we hear...along with seeing the "serious" side of Bobby the Brain we finally get to see the serious side of Lawler as a heel. The one-liners are funny but it's nice to see Lawler actually putting over his opponent and claiming to be the superior wrestler and not just better because his opponent is a talentless idiot.

 

Now, P.T. Anderson coined the term "gearshift movies" for movies that start in one direction and suddenly stop on a dime and veer into another territory--this is a gearshift angle and it's something I always mark out for*. Lawler is out giving a good but standard promo about Kerry Von Erich when the Snowman and Eddie Marlin are suddenly out arguing over what Snowman declares is a fear on the part of Memphis wrestling of having a "black King," while he also takes shots at Lawler for his comments about black people on welfare and his other snide comments. Marlin says that's bullshit and invokes the names of Brickhouse Brown and others who have been in the territory, all of whom are dismissed by Snowman. Lawler points out that King Cobra beat him for the title, but Snowman says that doesn't matter because the belt is back with Lawler. Eventually security gets Snowman out after a series of false starts and a promise to get a ticket for the Mid-South Coliseum, then Lawler continues the weirdness by VERY sternly addressing a heckler. Lawler briefly continues to defend the promotion's stance on black wrestlers after Snowman leaves, pointing out the large black population in Memphis and how much money could be made with a black World Champion, then veers back towards Kerry Von Erich.

 

And this is probably the best, most well-executed "shoot angle" in wrestling history. Even the CM Punk pipe bomb from the summer of '11 looked planned and organized compared to this:

- Dave's understated, "We're doing an interview here" to start with. No McMahon-esque "WAIT A MINUTE, WHAT'S THIS?!"

- There are a bunch of unusual, little-used camera angles that really add to the feeling of chaos surrounding this. Cameras in the ring showing the interview set, some jump-cuts as Snowman is doubling back around the ring, etc. Like a live breaking news report--this actually feels more out-of-control than Lawler destroying the set on Chris Champion.

- Eddie Marlin is FANTASTIC here. Everyone plays their roles great but I actually thought Marlin was the star of this segment.

- True "shades of gray," in a good way and not a Russo way. It's three guys all with a specific point of view trying to get it across and all of whom actually have valid points. Snowman is correct that racism is a problem for black wrestlers, and Marlin has a point that Memphis has pushed black wrestlers who've earned it, which Snowman hasn't done.

- Snowman looks like a guy who's both legitimately unhinged and would fuck up Lawler, Brown, Marlin, and security singlehandedly. If there's one weakness to this segment it's the idea of him being successfully escorted out by anyone.

- The thing that makes great shoot angles like the Punk promo and this work: kayfabe is never broken once. It's all about title shots and winning championships, something that race can and does play a role in even in a legitimate sport. Not a single "insider" term is ever used by anyone.

- To the best of my knowledge, the story that Lawler tells of Snowman going to the local black paper the Tri-State Defender and black radio stations REALLY WAS a shoot, and Lawler & co. decided to bring in Snowman for the angle so as not to alienate their black fanbase (which was sizable as any look at the studio crowd will tell you). That type of authenticity can't be matched or scripted. In that sense this is almost a NJPW/UWF or Choshu's Army storyline based on real-life conflicts.

 

Easily the angle of the year to this point. Absolutely out-of-the-box booking that had never been attempted anywhere and may not have really been attempted since. Race angles had been done but always in an over-the-top, Col. DeBeers or "throwing buckets of paint" type of way, even when the Gangstas were doing this shtick in SMW. This truly felt authentic. Maybe not any less exploitative than those angles, but it was still something that genuinely stirred emotions in people in a real way.

 

*Of course I can only think of two real "gearshift angles" in wrestling, period--this one and the OMX run-in, which came immediately after Cornette hyped what we all thought would be a Midnights/Road Warriors feud over the titles.

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Cant add much to Loss and Peters excellent description but this really was something special and as a 15 minute segment had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The two things I would like to reiterate is how awesome Eddie Marlin is and the uniqueness of the camera angles in making it look more like a shoot.

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Lawler talks about his previous match up against Von Erich in AWA for the Unified championship. Snowman makes an appearance. I don’t know who this guy is. Eddie Marlin is very defensive about Snowman being here. Lawler lets Snowman know the reason he doesn’t get title shots has nothing to do with his skin color. Marlin was aggressive here repeatedly putting his hands on Snowman. This was very captivating to watch. Lot of the stuff has been summed up by previous posts but just really something to watch

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I can't possibly hope to add anything that hasn't already been said, but this has been the highlight of the Yearbook for me so far. Even ahead of Sid cutting a promo on RoboCop while wearing a tuxedo.

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I agree with PeteF3 in that the key is that kayfabe is never broken. It could have been so easy/lazy to do but they take the high road.

 

Snowman had been in the area before a couple of times. Once under a mask as The Killer and then without the mask as The Snowman. He had a habit of no-showing Louisville and Evansville, IIRC.

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This angle has just recently been brought to my attention, and it's terrific and the best example of how to do a worked "shoot" angle correctly. It's a shame that more people haven't seen this.

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I would love to know what the fan said to set Lawler off and, of course, Lawler's response. As for the angle, it's the first time I seen it as an adult and it's fantastic. I can't wait for more.

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Most of my thunder has been stolen, but I'll reiterate a few things:

 

1. Eddie Marlin is the star here, a man trying like hell to save the USWA from the utter chaos threatening to descend upon it. Snowman accuses Lawler of hiding behind Eddie, and in this case it's true, because Eddie makes it true. He clearly wants to deal with Snowman purely at an executive level without letting him near Lawler before what he feels is the proper time.

 

2. Snowman has several points about racist Lawler, but he's also perpetuating a stereotype by demanding a title shot before he's earned it and claiming that the reason he's not getting it is because he's black. I hope Lawler or Eddie will address this in future segments.

 

3. I wonder what the heckler said that caused Lawler to go off. The only thing I can think of is some type of racist slur, although the heckler's white, so that really makes no sense.

 

4. As real as this looked, the one fatal flaw, as Pete mentioned, was that Snowman was subdued far too easily. What this really needed, and I'm absolutely serious here, was for Dave Brown- not Lawler, not even Eddie- to do a stretcher job. Have Snowman break the one cardinal rule of wrestling TV: Never mess with the announcer. Hit him with a chair, knock him out with one punch, ram his head into the post so that he bleeds, something. Have WMC send him on vacation, and really sell this by having various Memphis wrestlers come in to read the weather for him for at least two weeks, and let Michael St. John fill in for him on Saturday mornings.

 

I realize that that may be the exact reason that they didn't go there- being the weatherman for Channel 5 was (and still is) Dave's primary duty, not the wrestling show- but that might have also been the one way to convince the viewers that there was absolutely nothing fake about this whatsoever. If Dave's unwilling, which would have been completely understandable, find a non-worker who will bump (just once) for Snowman.

 

Aside from that minor flaw- and for all we know they asked someone to do it and couldn't find any takers- this was perfect. I can't wait to see how this angle unfolds. Congratulations to one and all.

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Everything, and more has already been said about this, but Lawler going at that fan so hard really was a great moment that kept the intensity up.

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This was pulled off very well. I went back and read the Observer from this time period and Meltzer wasn't sure whether this was a work or a shoot. His only doubts about this being a shoot was the length of time they allowed Snowman to talk. Very intriguing stuff here.

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Okay, this is one of the things I've been looking forward to in 1990. I've heard of this angle for several years now, but really I've tried to avoid knowing too much about it until I could see it played out. Really all I knew was that it was a racial angle but supposedly done tastefully. I didn't realize it was also a worked shoot angle, which really blew me away. I've been confused and disoriented by a lot of Memphis stuff but I really didn't know what was going on here. I immediately picked up on the fact that Lawler was less heelish, so I'm assuming this is the start of a face turn? I really can't add anything that hasn't been said, but wow, this is one of the more special things I've seen in wrestling.

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Pete's review of this segment is spot on, so I won't have much to add to that. As mentioned, Eddie Marlin was so good here. Just fantastic. The entire segment really just blew me away. I was watching this without looking at the menu, or knowing what was coming next, and it felt so "authentic" and "real" as mentioned above. When we recently had the GWE vote on the board, I was so close to placing Lawler at number one. I had recently watched the Memphis 80's set, and was so very very close. He truly is "The King." What a great segment and promos all around. The crowd was great here too, all the shouts and noises in the background from the crowd played a big role in making this special. I am really looking forward to watching this story unfold.

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Dave Brown says that Jerry Lawler has an upcoming title defence against Kerry Von Erich and they have a fair bit of history between them. Lawler joins Dave and ‘The King recaps how the Unified title came about. How he went to Verne Gagne with the idea of having a one night tournament on PPV featuring all the World champions, including the likes of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, to find out who is the one and only true World Heavyweight champion. Of course he didn’t get any response from the WWF or the NWA as they wanted their champions to only wrestle other wrestlers that wrestle for their company. What they were admitting by doing this is that their champions are not ‘World’ champions, they are company champions, which is what he knew all along. To his surprise, World Class accepted the challenge and at Superclash III he defeated Kerry Von Erich to become the Unified Heavyweight champion and that has eatedn away at Kerry ever since. He had to walk out of that ring on national TV a loser and had to go back to Dallas, where he is worshipped like a God, no longer a champion.

 

At this point a man approaches the interview desk and Dave tells him that they are doing an interview. He puts the mic in front of him and starts to say something when he is almost immediately cut off by Eddie Marlin who is out there sharpish. He tells Snowman that this is their wrestling program and he has no business being out there unless he contacts him or one of the USWA officials. The Snowman tells Marlin that he’s not going to contact him again as all he ever does is contact him. Marlin explains how he booked Snowman in the CWA everywhere and he refused to make his bookings as he only wanted to wrestle Jerry Lawler. Snowman says that’s what he wants and he’s here to make an open challenge to him. Marlin says that he’s not challenging him, he’s challenging his company and he’s not going to put up with it. He’ll put him on the card Monday, but it won’t be against Jerry Lawler, he can work his way up just like all the other wrestlers. Snowman says that he’s not working his way up and Marlin tells him that he won’t be getting a title shot then. Snowman tells Lawler that he’s sick and tired of him putting down his people, putting down on the black people with all his talk of welfare cheques and food stamps. He’s sick and tired of him, claims that he’s hiding behind Eddie Marlin and won’t wrestle him because he is black. Marlin is having none of that and thinks the Snowman is trying to make it racial so he can get all the black fans on his side. Snowman says how they don’t have one black wrestler to take Jerry Lawler out and Marlin responds that the Junkyard Dog came in and that Brickhouse Brown is black, but Snowman dismisses them both as nothing. Eddie has had enough by now and tries to get Snowman to go and sit back down but Lawler has got some things of his own to say. If the Snowman thinks he’s afraid of him he’s mistaken as he isn’t scared of anyone. He says that the Snowman is using the racial card as an excuse claiming that he’s not getting a title shot because he’s black, when really it is because he won’t take the time and trouble to work his way up to one. Marlin once more tries to get Snowman out of there, even bringing over security, while Snowman again claims that Lawler is hiding behind Marlin. ‘The King’ has now had enough and takes off his shirt and gets in the ring with Marlin having to stop Snowman from getting in there himself. Snowman states that they know the white wrestlers can’t beat Lawler and they’re worried that they would end up with ‘a black King’. Marlin says that it wouldn’t bother him at all, as long as they worked their way up for a title shot, while Lawler reminds everyone about King Cobra. Cobra worked his way up and beat him, then he regained the title after working his way back up; Snowman just wants everything given to him. Snowman then warns Lawler to watch his back on Monday night as they might be able to run him out of here, but they can’t stop him from buying a ticket for the Coliseum. Dave Brown finally says that they have heard enough and tells security to escort him out of here.

 

Lawler starts to talk about Snowman when a member of the audience heckles him. You can’t hear what is said, but he goes over and gets right in the fan’s face. He returns to Dave and says how Snowman has gone to newspapers, to every black radio station, to anyone who will listen, complaining that he doesn’t get booked in this organisation because of his colour. Lawler says that there are as many black people in Memphis as there are white and there is nothing Eddie Marlin would love more than to book a black World Champion. Snowman just wants everything given to him, he wants to walk in and on day one have a title match but he doesn’t deserve it. If he starts and works his way up he will wrestle him any day of the week, but he hasn’t earned one yet. It’s not a racial issue, he doesn’t care what colour a man’s skin is when he defends his World title against them, its just that Snowman isn’t a World title contender. He closes by returning to Kerry Von Erich and tells him that he’ll be returning to Texas with his tail between his legs.

 

This was some gripping television, not just wrestling television, but television, and easily the angle of the year so far. Eddie Marlin was MVP, but Snowman, Lawler and even Dave Brown were perfect, while Lawler going over to get in that fan’s face gave it an added element of realism. I wasn’t too keen on Snowman blowing off the comments on King Cobra, but I suppose you could just claim he’s delusional and blinkered in his views. Can’t wait to see what happens on Monday at the Coliseum and how things progress from here.

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I knew going in this was worked, but loved how close they played it. Nobody is letting on that this is not a shoot. Great, great stuff all-around.

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