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Sunday, January 29, 2023

First Bout

Jerry Lawler would be, well, just Jerry Lawler if it weren’t for his crown and penchant for piledriving baddies on the professional wrestling mat. That’s why Lawler’s nickname is “The King,” and he’s bringing his crown and his finishing move, the piledriver, to Evansville May 8 for Main Event Championship Wrestling’s inaugural headlining match.

The new organization arrives after a group of local wrestling fans convened in November 2009 and decided they wanted a different wrestling experience, “an old-school feel, the way shows used to run in Evansville,” says Jeremy Lewis, MECW’s spokesman. That style includes a four-sided ring where grapplers bodyslam, knife-edge chop, and dropkick — three traditional moves. It won’t include tables, ladders, and chairs — three weapons used for “hardcore” style.

A.C. West, a former wrestling manager and MECW’s executive director, worked his industry connections to land high-profile wrestlers: Jeff Jarrett — a legendary pro wrestler and founder of World Wrestling Entertainment’s rival organization, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling — and Lawler.

Lawler’s career began in Memphis, Tenn.; he frequented Evansville. He drew national attention for his feud with late comedian Andy Kaufman in the 1980s. Later, his hilarious ringside commentary for nationally televised WWE programs made him a WWE Hall of Famer.

Landing active wrestlers from big-name companies was important to a young organization, says Lewis, and each superstar needn’t too much convincing to wrestle for a fledging event. “We wanted to bring them back to the area,” Lewis says, “to show them there’s still wrestling out there that’s not ‘sports entertainment.’”

WWE CEO Vince McMahon popularized the term “sports entertainment,” a combination of over-the-top theatrics and competitive athletics. Though Lawler and Jarrett come from organizations heavy on sports entertainment (the acronym for Jarrett’s wrestling company is TNA), MECW is not that. It’s free of pyrotechnics and long-drawn-out speeches. Lawler will do in Evansville what he did here decades ago: wrestle in an environment where he feels like a king.

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