Andy Kaufman

Apr 4, 2023 - by Jamie Cruickshank

photo credit: WWE

Real name: Andrew Geoffrey Kaufman
Height: 5’11
Weight: 165 lbs.
From: New York City
Date of birth: January 17, 1949
Pro debut: April 5, 1982
Trained by: Jerry Lawler

Though undeniably better remembered by most people for his acting and comedy career, Andy Kaufman was involved with wrestling for far longer than many would expect. In his stage act in the 1970s, Kaufman would often proclaim himself to be the ‘Intergender Wrestling Champion Of The World’ and invited women from the audience to come up on stage and attempt to pin him, making sure to select easy or planted opponents. Sensing a promotional opportunity, Kaufman approached the local wrestling promoter, Vince McMahon Sr, about the possibility of bringing this act into the territory, but was shot down by the traditionalist McMahon. Undeterred, Kaufman was instead directed by Bill Apter to contact Jerry Lawler, the top wrestling star in the Memphis territory, and the rest is history. Kaufman would debut in the Memphis territory as a stereotypical ‘big shot celebrity’ from ‘up north’ who talked down to the ‘southern rednecks’, whilst also routinely challenging and defeating women from the audience. Kaufman would finally make his official wrestling debut on April 5, 1982, as Lawler stepped into the ring against Kaufman to defend the honour of the people. Though Lawler dominated the match, Kaufman would win by disqualification, as Lawler used the banned Piledriver on Kaufman. Kaufman was so committed to keeping kayfabe that he checked himself into hospital after the show and would wear a neck brace in public for months afterwards, including in a famous appearance on Letterman in which Lawler slapped Kaufman for continuing his bad mouthing. Kaufman would continue to make semi-regular appearances in the Memphis territory, usually working with or against either Lawler or Jimmy Hart, until his failing health forced him to step away from wrestling. Kaufman was diagonosed with lung cancer in late 1983 and would pass away from the disease in May 1984. Such was their commitment to the story, that it was not revealed until the 1990s that Lawler and Kaufman had staged the entire angle. Kaufman was immortalised in the Legends of Wrestling video games in the mid-2000s, had a WWE-backed action figure released later that decade and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2023.

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