Andy Kaufman began wrestling women as part of his stand-up act and then decided he wanted to get involved in professional wrestling. By the way, I remember seeing the above video clip on our local Saturday morning wrasslin’ program after spending the night at a friend’s house. Hilarious now, but as kids, we didn’t think the taunts were so funny.
Y’all probably know all this already, but here’s wiki-wiki-Wikipedia to tell the whole story about Kaufman’s feud with Jerry Lawler …
Kaufman initially approached the head of the World Wrestling Federation, Vince McMahon Sr., about bringing his act to the New York wrestling territory. McMahon dismissed Kaufman’s idea as the elder McMahon was not about to bring “show business” into his Pro Wrestling society. Kaufman had by then developed a friendship with wrestling reporter/photographer Bill Apter. After many discussions about Kaufman’s desire to be in the pro wrestling business, Apter called Memphis wrestling icon Jerry “The King” Lawler and introduced him to Kaufman by telephone.
Kaufman finally stepped into the ring (in the Memphis wrestling circuit) with a man—Lawler himself. Kaufman taunted the residents of Memphis by playing “videos showing residents how to use soap” and proclaiming the city to be “the nation’s redneck capital”. The ongoing Lawler-Kaufman feud, which often featured Jimmy Hart and other heels in Kaufman’s corner, included a number of staged “works”, such as a broken neck for Kaufman as a result of Lawler’s piledriver and a famous on-air fight on a 1982 episode of Late Night with David Letterman.
For some time after that first match, Kaufman appeared wearing a neck brace, insisting that his injuries were much worse than they really were. Kaufman would continue to defend the Inter-Gender Championship in the Mid-South Coliseum and offered an extra prize, other than the $1,000: that if he were pinned, the woman who pinned him would get to marry him and that Kaufman would also shave his head.
Eventually it was revealed that the feud and wrestling matches were staged works, and that Kaufman and Lawler were friends. This was not disclosed until more than 10 years after Kaufman’s death, when the Emmy-nominated documentary A Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman aired on NBC in 1995. Jim Carrey, who revealed the secret, later went on to play Kaufman in the 1999 film Man on the Moon. In a 1997 interview with the Memphis Flyer, Lawler said he had improvised during their first match and the Letterman incident.
Although officials at St. Francis Hospital stated that Kaufman’s neck injuries were real, in his 2002 biography It’s Good to Be the King … Sometimes, Lawler detailed how they came up with the angle and kept it quiet. Even though Kaufman’s injury was legitimate, the pair exaggerated it. He also said that Kaufman’s furious tirade and performance on Letterman was Kaufman’s own idea, including when Lawler slapped Kaufman out of his chair. Promoter Jerry Jarrett later recalled that for two years, he would mail Kaufman payments comparable to what other main-event wrestlers were getting at the time, but Kaufman never deposited the checks.