Andy Kaufman To Receive A Huge Honor Given To Governors And Presidents

Andy Kaufman is being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame's Celebrity Wing in Los Angeles during Wrestlemania weekend.

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler on Late Night with David Letterman

Legendary comedian Andy Kaufman, star of Taxi and Saturday Night Live, was a fixture on late-night talk shows, but he’s also known for his famous feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler in 1982, which took his talents to the wrestling ring. WWE announced today that it would honor Kaufman by inducting him into the company’s Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2023. Every year at Wrestlemania, legends of the ring are honored with entry to the Hall of Fame alongside one celebrity, which puts the stand-up comedian in the same Hall as Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and President Donald Trump.

In real life, Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler were long-time friends when they started “feuding” in 1982, making most of America think they were hated enemies. Kaufman started wrestling women, proclaiming himself as the “Inter-gender Champion of the World,” which Lawler took exception to, culminating in the multiple-time champion piledriving the comedian and “breaking his neck.” Kaufman started wearing a neck brace everywhere to sell the injury, loudly and publicly proclaiming how badly the Memphis wrestler injured him.

The pair were invited onto The Late Show With David Letterman, where Kaufman insulted Lawler and goaded the wrestler into slapping him on television. At the time, which was before Hulk Hogan and MTV’s Rock and Wrestling, the public wasn’t used to wrestling storylines taking place out of the ring, and while most fans knew the sport was pre-determined and “fake,” the fight on Letterman was broadcast nationally and hoodwinked millions of people.

Each consummate professional maintained “kayfabe,” the term used to describe the fake reality of wrestling, so well that it took decades for people to realize the two friends were putting on an elaborate show. Over 15 years after Kaufman’s passing, Jerry Lawler played himself opposite Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, one of the most successful biopics ever. While his involvement with wrestling was just one small part of an otherwise legendary career, the impact on the growing sport was phenomenal; it could be argued that without the Memphis feud playing out how it did, Rock and Wrestling would have never happened.

Jerry Lawler giving a piledriver to Andy Kaufman

Wrestling was brought to the mainstream for the first time with the incident on David Letterman’s show, and before that, Saturday Night Live broadcasted the match between the two. With the impact that Kaufman had on wrestling, his induction is long overdue and arguably should have taken place before celebrities such as Drew Carey or Bob Uecker, but it’s only fairly recently that WWE has acknowledged the history of the sport.

From 1996 until 2004, WWE didn’t induct anyone into the Hall of Fame before making it one of the major events during Wrestlemania weekend. An inductor would give a speech before handing over the microphone to the inductee, which sometimes results in amazing moments, like The Undertaker at last year’s event, and the most boring speeches imaginable, such as celebrity inductee Mr. T. For Andy Kaufman’s induction, it’s unknown who will be inducting him at the moment, since Jerry Lawler is recovering from a stroke suffered last month.

Regardless of who does the honors of finally inducting Kaufman into the WWE Hall of Fame, it will be an incredible moment for fans of wrestling and fans of the groundbreaking comedian. The man who played Latka on Taxi will forever be alongside legends of the sport, including Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Bruno Sammartino, Torrie Wilson, and Koko B. Ware.