Saturday recap: Big Baller Board, tour of Jerry Lawler’s on Beale

It’s that time of year. Yesterday I pulled up a seat at the bar at Bardog at 11 AM and slapped a Benjamin on the bar.

“I hope you don’t think you’re getting change for that,” said Bloom.

“No, it’s for the kids,” I said. Three weeks from today, the Breakaway Bardog 5K and Monroe Avenue Fest will raise money for St. Jude. They are taking donations in advance. Anyone who donates $100 or more gets their name on the Big Baller Board at Bardog. My donation got my name on the board.

If you can’t make it to Bardog to donate, you can donate online. Do me a favor… there are teams competing to see who can raise the most donations. If you don’t already have a team when you donate online, I would appreciate it if you would select “Send Bob to the Dunk Tank” from the “Are you donating toward a team?” dropdown list.

After Bardog I got lunch at Havana’s Pilon, the Cuban place at Madison and Second. I got the Picadillo, the ground beef, over Congri black beans and rice with a side of boiled yucca. Huge portion for $8. Great value.

After lunch I headed to the Blind Bear, where I was joined by my friends Jeremy and Jeana. Jeremy and Jeana were recruited to join the Moody Ques back in March by our Deputy Director of Public Relations. “We just went by Bardog,” Jeremy told me. They showed me a photo.

Not surprised at all to see a BBQ teammate join me on the Big Baller Board. The Moody Ques are the most giving, caring BBQ team in Memphis.

After we finished our beers, Jeremy and Jeana asked, “Do you want to walk around Beale Street with us?” I hadn’t been to Beale in a while and it was a beautiful day out, so I came along. On the way there I noticed that the Silly Goose, now able to serve drinks on its area of Peabody Place, had added umbrellas to the tables out there, providing much-needed shade.

We walked down Beale looking for a place to go. “King Lawler’s?” Jeremy suggested. Believe it or not, as big a wrestling fan as I am, I had actually never been in Jerry Lawler’s bar. Beale Street just is not on my radar very much. Happy for a chance to check the place out, I agreed.

“You’ve never been here? I’m going to see if Randy will give you a tour,” Jeremy said. I knew immediately who Randy was.

Randy Hales was the founder and booker of Power Pro Wrestling that operated in Memphis in the 1990s. He is currently the manager of Jerry Lawler’s place on Beale. While the servers went to get Randy, I ordered a large Budweiser (they didn’t have PBR on draft) and the Deputy Director of Public Relations tried on a crown.

Being a sports bar, there were many TVs at Jerry Lawler’s, most of which were tuned to the ESPN family of channels. However, a few of the TVs showed classic moments from Memphis wrestling. In 1982, NWA World Champion Ric Flair came to town and he got some company as Lance Russell interviewed him:

Randy came over and introduced himself and the four of us went downstairs. I was like a kid in a candy store, and having read Lawler’s autobiography, I had lots of questions. Randy told stories about Jackie Fargo and how “The King” got his nickname. He told us how “Soul Man” Rocky Johnson’s son wanted to break into pro wrestling in 1996. Not wanting to ride his dad’s coattails, he took the name Flex Kavana. His first match was in Kennett, Missouri, right down the road from Jeremy and Jeana’s farm. When he got good enough to get called up by the WWE, he took his dad’s first name and his grandfather Peter Maivia’s surname: Rocky Maivia. Eventually he would shorten his ring name to The Rock.

I got to sit on the set of The Jerry Lawler Show, which ran for many years on Channel 5. I interviewed the Deputy Director of Public Relations of my BBQ team, who chose to stand on the coffee table.

Back upstairs, I sat on The King’s throne.

Back at the bar following the tour, I thought to myself, WHY HAVEN’T I BEEN COMING HERE? How many lifelong fans of pro wrestling have a wrestling-themed bar, owned by a living legend of the business, a quarter mile walk from their home? I get it that the clientele is mostly tourists, but just think of the conversations I could have in there, trading memories and stories. I’m not saying I’m going to make it my main hangout or anything, but I can see myself in Jerry Lawler’s place a couple of times a month. I want to try the deep fried ribs sometime. My friend Eric Hughes plays live music there from time to time, so perhaps I will go see him.

Thank you so much Randy for the tour, and thanks to Jeremy and Jeana for the idea.

Excellent Saturday. Now it’s time to follow it up with an excellent Sunday.