Everybody is getting packages in the mail. Well, last Saturday I got one as well. The return envelope on this square, thin package said “Off The Top Rope Productions”. I opened it to find a DVD called Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’.
Now I became a big WWF fan in middle school. I discovered the WWF on USA one Sunday morning and was hooked. That was some time after the Memphis era. I had not known about wrestling during the Memphis era. I hadn’t even been born during the Memphis era. But one thing I can tell you about the Memphis era after watching this movie is that it was wild. Unbelievably wild.
The bulk of the story of this wild era is told through interviews with that era’s major personalities. The rest is told with photos and footage from the era. All are entertaining and enlightening. They cover the old carnival days (which I knew nothing about), the founding of the Memphis territory, and the rise of various personalities. The also cover some of the craziest anecdotes I’ve ever heard. Andy Kaufman’s wrestling escapades were in there. I expected that. But so were a private brawl between Jerry “The King” Lawler and Terry Funk that was kind of scary, the Gorgeous George strut, the Lawler and “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant songs written by Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart, and a little “back in my day” that I enjoyed in spite of myself.
One of my favorite anecdotes from this film? The fact that wrestling was covered on the Memphis news. I could not believe this. After finding the WWF on USA, I had always wondered why it wasn’t covered in the sports segment of the evening news. On the night of the first Wrestlemania, I tuned into the evening news to see who had won the main bout. I later learned that wrestling wasn’t on the news because it was “sports entertainment”, not true sports. But it was covered in the sports segment of the Memphis news. I said “unbelievable”, right? Let me say it again. Unbelievable.
I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Memphis wrestling. I got a little exposure to it on the WWF but it was too “old” for me. And I can’t say that this film has made me a fan. But it has made me respect Memphis wrestling. They did something special in that time and place, or at least they had something special. And the story of that something special was quite enjoyable.