Memphis, TN has been known around the world for many years as being the hotbed of professional wrestling. Although times have changed over the years, former Memphis Wrestling superstars will be all over the biggest show in sports entertainment – WrestleMania 29.
From top to bottom, the card for WrestleMania 29 is jam-packed with guys who have passed thru Memphis on their way to World Wrestling Entertainment, the pinnacle of sports entertainment. Many of whom, Jerry “The King” Lawler defeated at the Mid-South Coliseum at one time or another.
Let’s take a look at the line-up. You might be surprised.
Team Hell No: That’s right, the WWE Tag Team Champions have both passed thru Memphis on their way to the WWE. In different Memphis Wrestling eras, Kane debuted on USWA as The Christmas Creature. Later, he was known as a mad dentist by the name of Dr. Isaac Yankum. MSL brownie points for whoever can tell me who his manager was. (post in comments!)
As for Daniel Bryan, he debuted on Memphis Championship Wrestling in the early 2000’s as “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson.
Zeb Colter: Here in Memphis & across the country, we know him as “Dirty” Dutch Mantell. Dutch had legendary feuds with Jerry “The King” Lawler back in the 80’s & 90’s. Dutch has also wrestled around the world, including Puerto Rico & as a writer/talent development for Impact Wrestling. Another trivia question for MSL brownie points to anyone who can give me the name of Mantell’s infamous whip that he frequently used as a weapon.
The Undertaker: That’s right, one of the most legendary figures in sports entertainment history made a name for himself by defeating Jerry “The King” Lawler for the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship in 1989 under the alias “Master of Pain.” Eventually, he would perform under the name of “Mean” Mark Callous. As a wrestling fan, I will personally never forget their battles at the old Adverture River, a water park in Memphis, TN.
The Rock: Do you smell what The Rock was cooking? Back in 1996, The Rock was certainly smelling Memphis BBQ. Then known as Flex Kavana, he captured the USWA World Tag Team Titles on two occasions. In the summer of ’96, The Rock signed with WWF & began his journey to becoming “The Most Electrifying Man in ALL of Entertainment.”
Jerry “The King” Lawler: This one certainly goes without saying. Jerry Lawler will not only be calling the action at WrestleMania 29, but he will also be hosting the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony. “The King” has defeated every wrestler mentioned in this list.
Big Show: Die-hard wrestling fans will remember Big Show debuting for WWE at The Pyramid in Memphis, TN. Big Show, then known as Paul Wight, debuted on pay-per-view during a cage match involving Stone Cold Steve Austin (whom also pass thru Memphis) & Vince McMahon. Can you name the pay-per-view?
Also, Big Show wrestled in place of Jerry Lawler against Hulk Hogan a few years back at FedEx Forum.
CM Punk: While working thru WWE’s developmental system, CM Punk was sent to work matches for several Memphis Wrestling live events. It might not be much, but he spent time in the Bluff City before becoming the longest reigning WWE Champion of the modern era.
Three of the WWE title matches at WrestleMania 29 involve wrestlers who started right here in my hometown of Memphis, TN. In my opinion, Memphis is still the hotbed of professional wrestling.
Dustin Starr is an active sports entertainer and regular contributor to MemphiSport and MSL. Follow him @DustinStarr.