Jerry Jarrett learned all about throws, reversals, and other moves that could confuse an opponent while competing as a professional wrestler in Memphis alongside legendary grapplers Jackie Fargo and Tojo Yamamoto.
But, Jarrett’s best manoeuvres occurred away from the ring. As a promoter and owner, Jarrett contributed as much as anyone else in the industry to the growth of wrestling’s fan base during a renaissance in the 1970s and 1980s that featured spectacles like the Jerry Lawler vs. Andy Kaufman feud and had an influence on the World Wrestling Entertainment arena extravaganzas of today.
The co-author of Jarrett’s book, “The Best of Times,” wrestling historian Mark James, said of Jarrett: “He altered the business, and that’s not an understatement.”
Dave Brown, a veteran broadcaster of local Saturday morning television wrestling in Memphis, remarked that “Not only did he help create Memphis wrestling, I think that he built wresting in general.” According to me, Jerry Jarrett is to blame for modernising wrestling such that it appealed to a wide audience when Vince McMahon launched the WWF and WWE.
80-year-old Jarrett passed away on Tuesday at his Franklin, Tennessee, home. He had recently been open about his health issues, and at the time of his passing, he was receiving treatment for esophageal cancer.
Born in Nashville in 1942, Jarrett dedicated his life to the sport, even working as a teenager trying to break into the business to sell refreshments and build wrestling rings in tiny communities.
He eventually began scheduling wrestlers for the region controlled by promoters Roy Welch of Dyersburg and Nick Gulas of Nashville while still residing in Middle Tennessee, which encompassed Memphis.
Jarrett put relative newbies like Lawler and “Superstar” Bill Dundee at the top of the “card” on Monday evenings during the wrestling matches at the Mid-South Coliseum after recognising their loud, motormouth appeal. This helped turn them into local celebrities. This approach assisted in restoring the wrestling’s declining live audience in the aftermath of the Sputnik Monroe era, the 1968 sanitation strike, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder.
As everything was going on, the blond and dashing Jarrett rose to fame as a popular and effective wrestler, winning multiple tag team title belts and winning over fans who were mostly ignorant of his impact on the backstage.
However, Jarrett began having the greatest influence on the sport in 1977, after working in the industry for more than ten years, when he split from Gulas, whom he claimed had “bamboozled” him in a commercial arrangement, according to James, and established the rival Continental Wrestling Association.
The action ended Memphis’ long-standing monopoly of the Gulas’ business. The biggest stars signed with Jarrett, and some of them joined him as business partners.
The most significant change was that WMC-TV Channel 5 became the new home of the wildly popular Saturday morning wrestling programme, which had previously resided at WHBQ-TV Channel 13. Along with his longtime sidekick Dave Brown, who left WHBQ to become a newsreader and wrestling commentator, veteran Channel 13 programme director and “studio wrestling” anchor Lance Russell joined Jarrett as an employee at WMC.
And from there, Brown continued, “he was able to establish a dynasty.” In little time at all, the programme was transmitted live throughout the area and beyond, all the way to Indiana in the north, in addition to being syndicated for late-night transmission in other areas.
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Brown praised Jarrett by saying, “He was forward-thinking, he was diligent.” “He was excellent at creating plot lines, which was crucial to Memphis wrestling’s success. It resembled a soap opera on Saturday morning.”
Brown stated that an hour prior to the show’s 11 a.m. airing, he, Russell, Jarrett, and several wrestlers would gather to plan the intricacies of the action. “Remember that there was no tape delay at all; we were broadcast live. Well, it was live, but everything had been prepared beforehand.” With By modernising and energising wrestling, Jarrett expanded its pop-culture appeal for a younger audience while simultaneously maintaining the devotion of devoted followers.
A “Hollywood” vs. “Memphis” battle was started when comedian/performer turned mimic (or was it fake?) wrestler Andy Kaufman arrived in town. This fight made television history when Lawler smacked Kaufman out of his chair during a 1982 joint appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman.” The incident was later memorialised in the Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon,” directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Milos Forman of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus,” with Jim Carrey as Kaufman.
Jarrett, according to Brown, was “quite interested” in the Lawler/Kaufman relationship and appreciated having “the star of a great smash sitcom, ‘Taxi,'” Brown added.
taking part in the Memphis wrestling scene.
Of the Jarrett era, James remarked, “I’ve always dubbed them the glory days. The Mid-South Coliseum had the most sold-out events. At a time when the city had about 500,000 residents, 30,000 people watched it every Saturday morning between 11 and 12:30. a sizable audience
On some Saturday mornings during the program’s prime, according to Brown, 80 percent of all televisions in use in the Memphis market were tuned to “studio” wrestling. The programme aired until 1997 in a variety of forms.
Other promoters, including Vince McMahon, whose WWE company (originally, WWF, or World Wrestling Federation) used cable television, embraced Jarrett’s innovations, including the promotion of colourful, telegenic personalities and increasingly theatrical and byzantine storylines over relatively straightforward wrestling.
Professional wrestling was popularised nationwide through television, eventually superseding the local territories’ rather niche popularity.
The final remaining territory, Jarrett’s business lasted until the late 1990s before being completely national “explained James. Jarrett spent several years working for WWE as a consultant because McMahon valued his tenacity. During this time, a new emphasis on smaller, more agile wrestlers—like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels—was introduced in place of the company’s previous preference for behemoths like Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. James claimed that because “anybody could become a champion,” the playing field was opened up and the sport of wrestling became more entertaining. Jerry knew his crowd better than any other promoter, according to Brown. “Despite giving the audience what they wanted, he was restrained enough.
to entice them to return for more.
Jason, Jerry Jr., and Jeff, who was a successful professional wrestler, are among Jarrett’s three sons; he also leaves behind a daughter, Jennifer. There are no plans made for the funeral.
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