Adam West, the actor who first made Batman a popular figure on the small screen in the 1960s, died of leukemia on Saturday at the age of 88.
While West’s Batman will be remembered best from the kitschy half-hour comedy show he starred in for three seasons from 1966 to 1968, pro wrestling fans might best remember West’s bizarre appearance as Batman at a pro wrestling show in Memphis in the mid-1970s.
Batman, in a velour tracksuit, showed up to confront Jerry “The King” Lawler, a local villain who would go on to become one of the biggest stars in WWE. Back then, however, Lawler was a small-time troll for Memphis Wrestling who dressed up like Superman to argue with Batman.
The performance isn’t great in the traditional sense (many believe West may have had a tipple or two before making his appearance), but it’s certainly a joy to watch.
“I didn’t want anyone to recognize me,” West begins, referring to his snazzy tracksuit. He goes on to talk about Mr. Freeze and the Penguin rolling through Memphis because of unseasonably cold weather, before ragging on Lawler for dressing up like his good friend “Supe,” who he later explains is Superman, in case you couldn’t tell.
He adds, “I think that Spiderman — Spidey-Baby — would object, too” to Lawler’s get-up.
West ends his confrontation with Lawler, whom he calls a “naughty and mean person,” by urging him to be more “polite and courteous,” which includes, West says, using his “left and right turn indicator” in his car. (Batman’s a crime-fighter after all!)
The segment ends with Lawler trolling the crowd by calling them rednecks and West objecting, noting instead that they look like “splendid people.”
While fans probably would’ve loved it, it doesn’t appear West ever made another pro wrestling appearance again. Sports entertainment must not have been popular in Gotham City. Or, more likely, West just got better offers.
West didn’t shy away from reprising the Batman role, which is one of the reasons he was so beloved by fans.
“I decided early on to embrace the character,” West told the Guardian newspaper in 2014. “I mean how many actors are lucky enough to play a character that becomes iconic?”
Lawler acknowledged West’s passing on Twitter on Saturday by retweeting multiple tweets referring to his and West’s Memphis Wrestling appearance, including several from fans.
— Mark James (@markjames99) June 10, 2017
— Dustin Starr (@DustinStarr) June 10, 2017
As of Saturday evening, however, Lawler had not released his own statement.