Corey Maclin was an old-school wrestling fan in a new school era.
Outside of Randy Hales, Corey was the youngest member of the Channel 5 (WMC-TV) crew that televised Memphis Wrestling for decades. After Lance Russell left the territory, Jerry Lawler brought Maclin into the fold. Long before WWE had RAW on television every single Monday night, the Memphis promotion was running the legendary Mid-South Coliseum on Monday nights with live telecasts. They promoted weekly events through their Saturday morning 11 AM time slot on WMC. Dave Brown & Lance Russell may have been the greatest commentating duo the business has ever seen. Only The King & Jim Ross could match Brown & Russell. When Russell left, Maclin was brought into the promotion.
Unlike his contemporaries, he was viewed by the fans in polarizing terms: either you loved him or hated him. Maclin wasn’t smooth like Brown or Russell. He wasn’t understated. He was a fan, first and foremost. A high energy guy. Yes, he worked in advertising and television but he wasn’t the smooth, cookie-cutter fresh-out-of-broadcasting-school face you see dragging down television news programs. Maclin was an everyman who was living his dream of being in the wrestling business.
Tragically, the 43-year old Maclin died in an automobile accident on Tuesday night.
After WMC ended telecasts of wrestling in Memphis, Maclin teamed up with Jerry Lawler to start weekly 11 AM Saturday morning studio wrestling shows on UPN 30. Lawler handled the wrestling and Maclin handled the promotional aspects with live events and television duties. Jimmy Hart also got involved and contributed with his various radio & media connections. The weekly shows were largely a mixture of nostalgia along with some younger wrestlers like Derrick King, Too Cool 2, and Kevin White. Smart fans complained that the Maclin/Lawler promotion didn’t push the young guys hard enough to grow & develop the territory for the future. The complaint about focusing on too much nostalgia was valid. However, the complaints missed the point about what the promotion was all about in the first place. Memphis Wrestling under Maclin & Lawler was simply about staying active, living out their fantasies, and keeping a local scene alive on television. As long as you understood the personal ambitions of Maclin and Lawler, then the end-product should have not been a surprise to anyone.
Make no mistake about it, there was some awful wrestling and even worse skits on the UPN broadcasts. Lawler was the focal point. He was unrestrained and unfiltered with Maclin. Even a mad genius can get overexposed. However, there were some very entertaining angles that both men were involved in. Lawler often played the role of heel by wearing a RAW t-shirt and having various girlfriends appear on television, like “Queen Renee” from Providence, Rhode Island. Throw in goofy heels like Reggie B. Fine or Koko B. Ware with the Mountie’s shock stick and Maclin was largely the promotion’s top babyface. One of the positive aspects that both Maclin & Lawler brought to the table for the UPN series was a taste of the old school Memphis TV angle. Big, bombastic, in-your-face, gritty, and a bit dirty. Civilized it was not. Lawler loved outlandish comedy and over-the-top jobber characters. Maclin loved fiery babyfaces ready for a street fight. As Lance Russell once stated, it was Lawler’s fertile mind for the absurd that created such a national buzz for a regional territory that gained traction via tape traders from Hawaii to Boston.
Maclin and Lawler demonstrated a vision for an old-school angle when they set up a personal feud that lasted for over a year (2004 & 2005). As usual, Lawler was beating up somebody in the TV wrestling ring when Maclin stepped in to stop the confrontation. This led to one of the better back-and-forth, tit-for-tat segments that I can recall watching from Memphis Wrestling past or present. It had a ‘shoot’ feel to it with just enough honesty to suck you in. It was a demonstration of classic interview skills that you don’t see with too many wrestlers today.
JERRY LAWLER: “Are you through? Have you said your piece?”
COREY MACLIN: “You still are (the King). But, hey Jerry, everybody knows…”
JERRY LAWLER: “No, no, no, no, no… I thought you said you said your piece and now you’re going to listen.”
COREY MACLIN: “All right, I’ll zip it up.”
JERRY LAWLER: “Okay, yeah, you zip it up, Corey, because I’m going to tell you something right now. Let me just get things straight between you and I for a change, OK?
“Now, when I’m in that ring, no matter who I’m wrestling whether you think I’m being, going a little bit too far or whether you think I’m just being Mr. Nice Guy, it doesn’t matter what you think Corey because your job is to sit over here with Brian Teigland, behind this desk, and tell the people out there that are watching me what I’m doing.”
COREY MACLIN: “I said I was sorry, I mean…”
JERRY LAWLER: “I don’t… you know what, Corey? I don’t really accept that apology. I don’t think that you’re apologetic enough! Because I’ve been thinking about this all week long, Corey Maclin. I’ve been… OK, hey, that’s enough (message to the crowd), OK, just be quiet because I’ve got something to say.”
(the fans boo)
COREY MACLIN: “Well, there you go, that’s…”
JERRY LAWLER: “No, no, there you don’t go. Don’t go there.”
COREY MACLIN: “All right, well, you know what…”
JERRY LAWLER: “Hey, hey, hey, ho, ho, I know what you’re trying to do right now. You’re trying to rush me off of here, you’re trying to get me out of here, you’re trying to say, c’mon, OK, let’s wrap things up. Well, no, we’re notgoing to wrap things up, we’re going to get things out in the open, Corey. We’re going to go… don’t be looking at your
watch. You know what, Corey Maclin? Let me see that. You know what this is? That’s a Rolex watch, ladies and gentlemen. You know how much a Rolex watch costs? I’ll just tell you — a lot of money! And you know what, Corey Maclin? You wouldn’t be wearing that Rolex watch if it weren’t for me. If you weren’t palling around with Jerry “The King” Lawler, you would not be wearing that watch to look down at during this interview, do you realize that?
COREY MACLIN: “We’ll, that’s true…”
Later on in the interview, Lawler starts scolding Maclin for ungratefulness in only a way the King could.
JERRY LAWLER: “But then, out of the goodness of my heart, I put you on over at Channel 5 when Lance Russell and, believe me, if Lance Russell had never left you would not be here Corey. But I put you on the air and made you the star in Memphis, Tennessee that you are today. Do you realize that? And this is the thanks, this is the appreciation I get. Corey Maclin used to be walking around begging people to buy an ad in The Silver Star news. NOW he’s got a big mansion down in Oxford, Mississippi, got about 7 bedrooms and, believe me, A BATHROOM bigger than most of your people’s homes!”
COREY MACLIN: “Well, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait… let’s don’t get personal, Jerry. I live in Olive Branch,
Mississippi, yes I do. My children go to school there in town. Yeah. But let’s, and first of all, I’m no Lance Russell and you know I’m not Lance Russell.”
JERRY LAWLER: “You’re right! You’re no Lance Russell! I know Lance Russell and you are no Lance Russell!”
COREY MACLIN: “You’re absolutely right and I mean that by a lot of ways, Jerry.”
JERRY LAWLER: “Well, like what kind of ways?”
COREY MACLIN: “Well, you used to push Lance around and do all that stuff, I’m not going to take that stuff off of you!”
(fans cheer while Lawler smirks)
“The only reason you were ever really pushed in Memphis, you were the King, you were in all the main events Jerry is because you and Jerry Jarrett ran this territory for over twenty years.”
JERRY LAWLER: “In front of the whole world, I will knock you out! Do you understand that? And Brian Teigland will be standing over you going, OH, YOU GOT KNOCKED OUT! YOU GOT KNOCKED OUT, COREY! That’s what I’ll do to you.”
COREY MACLIN: “It’s my watch, I paid for it, and I want it back. Now what?”
JERRY LAWLER: “You want this back?”
Lawler proceeded to take Maclin’s Rolex and throw it on the ground. Then he stomped on it. And a few minutes later, he slapped Maclin for good measure.
This set up Corey Maclin to recruit Kamala as a tag partner, only for Maclin to discover that Kamala would turn on him because Jimmy Hart offered him 18 karat gold with diamonds. So, naturally, Maclin went for blood by booking Terry Funk, one of Lawler’s most famous rivals. Their Empty Arena match is still talked about to this day. On the same television taping that Maclin announced Funk as his new tag partner, Lawler stretchered Maclin out of the building by pile driving him on the concrete floor. On the Saturday morning before the Mid-South Coliseum show, Funk popped out of a coffin and started chasing Lawler around the studio. When the two old rivals met at the Coliseum, Funk torched Lawler’s ass with a hot branding iron. Boogie Woogie Man Jimmy Valiant was the guest referee. Lawler got his payback when he cut Valiant’s beard on television.
As the stakes got higher, Maclin brought in new (and old) rivals to combat against Hart & Lawler. The late Jackie Fargo, Stan Lane, Bill Dundee, Eugene, and others joined the fray. Lawler and Maclin even had a political debate where they were debating why there was so much mudslinging going on between the two of them. Lawler then picked up a bucket of mud and threw it right in Maclin’s face only for Corey to turn around and choke him out on the debate table. Lawler would proceed to trash Maclin by using an imposter to claim that Maclin was stealing gas, drinking alcohol out of a brown paper bag, and visiting prostitutes. Jimmy Hart threw gasoline on the fire when Lawler faced the imposter in the ring.
“Beg, Corey! Beg for your life! Beg! Tell them what a bad promoter you are. Tell them what a horrible family man you are. Tell them how you stole from the church!”
The program between Lawler and Maclin escalated further when both men started digging up individuals from their past. Lawler accused Maclin of fathering several children and claimed that the children were showing up to the weekly TV tapings. They did a Maury-style skit in a doctor’s office where the doctor claimed Maclin was not the father of the children, which led to Lawler destroying the office windows and typewriter with a crowbar. Maclin then went out and recruited Lawler’s ex-wife, Paula Lawler, to wrestle The King. Jimmy Hart started going through Corey’s High School year book to make fun of “The Stud.”
Eventually, the feud ended between both men. The King went babyface, and the negotiations for a match between Lawler and Hulk Hogan began for a super-show at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. Maclin would soon book himself in a racially-heated program with Koko B. Ware where Koko repeatedly screamed about “negro fights.” Welcome to Memphis Wrestling.
For as trashy as Memphis Wrestling angles could be, I always found the territory to be funny and shameless. It was a guilty pleasure. Some of the angles went way too far and that was largely due to Lawler’s influence. However, many of the people involved in the Memphis territory were great at putting over basic concepts. Love him or hate him, Corey Maclin had an impact on the territory and became a part of the institution.
Jerry Lawler was quoted in a few media outlets about the death of Corey Maclin. WMC TV in Memphis quoted a friend of Maclin’s stating that Corey was going to try to bring back the territory. Despite whatever enemies Maclin had in Memphis, he had just as many friends and a lot of fans who are sad about his tragic passing.
Thanks for the fun memories, Corey.