Wrestling 365 – 12/1

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By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit

Jerry Lawler vs Jonathan Coachman 12/1/03

How many times do you think Jonathan Coachman wrestled for the WWF? Looking down the list of matches available on the WWE Network, I began to conservatively estimate that he had at least double figures, a significant amount more than I ever considered he could have been involved in. Checking wrestlingdata.com, I found out that Coachman had actually laced up the boots in the WWF ring no less than fifty five times! Whilst during this period the promotion wasn’t averse to sticking non-wrestlers in matches, this is the very definition of excessive.

Now, the breakdown is perhaps even more startling. Of these matches, at least thirty one made television or pay per view. There was a window during 2004 in particular where Coachman would be dropped in the middle of house show cards for a fan favourite squash, but for him to wrestle in front of the cameras so many times from the position of a non-wrestler is confusing and amazing in equal measure.

When Vince McMahon or Shane McMahon ended up fighting in a match, it often worked because they were characters and personalities that the fans cared about. Coachman, on the other hand, was never anything more than cheap heat and was never a member of the company that people actively wanted to see involved in the ring whatsoever. True, a lot of Coachman’s involvement on shows was limited in terms of actual wrestling – many of the matches lasting a matter of minutes, if that – but his first foray into the squared circle would see the playing out of a fairly interminable feud with Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross which did take way up too much television time.

Assisted by Al Snow, the two men would compete for the right to announce the Raw show. Coachman would defeat Lawler and Ross individually in September on Raw, which sandwiched a victory with Snow against the veteran commentators at the Unforgiven pay per view. However, with Mick Foley being appointed as co-General Manager of Raw as a means to curtail Eric Bischoff’s power trips, Foley would book Coachman in a second match with Lawler. This time, if Coachman lost the match, he would be fired from the company.

To give Coachman his due, he always played up his arrogant, kiss ass character to a tee and as Lawler waited in the ring for his arrival, Coach’s walk to the ring could best be described as casual. Wearing a cap and a pair of sunglasses, the Coach didn’t show any obvious fear of getting in the ring with a legend (admittedly, one he had beaten earlier in the year with the help of Snow) or of losing his job. Coachman definitely had a punchable nature, though it was notable how little response he garnered from the crowd when he stepped up to pose on the turnbuckle. They couldn’t have cared less.

Lawler saw an opportunity though, dragging him backwards off of the turnbuckle and taking the chance to test out exactly how punchable Coach was. Several fists to the face had Coach groggy, with a back suplex only adding to his woes. Channelling his Memphis days, Lawler chose to finish Coachman off with a second rope fistdrop, eschewing his usual piledriver for a vicious blow to the face. Three seconds later, Coach was officially ‘fired’ from the promotion. At least Lawler gained a greater reception upon winning then his fallen adversary, whilst the fans revelled in an opportunity to tunefully wish Coachman goodbye as Ross added his rhythmically challenged vocals as well.

As an odd addendum to this story, this wouldn’t be the last of the Coachman versus Lawler wars. Just over two years later, Coachman defeated Lawler to win entry into the Royal Rumble, officially putting him two to one up when counting just the singles matches they had fought. With no fourth match, Coachman becomes one of the few people who can boast a winning record over Lawler. Who’d have thought you could say that?

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