Q&A with Derrick King, Star of WGN’s Wrestling With Death 

Memphis '90s wrestling star is featured on new reality show about "morticians by day, wrestlers by night."

In the late '90s, when Memphian Derrick King, aka Mr. Personalities, was taking on Jerry "The King" Lawler and other pro-wrestling legends on local TV, he never dreamed he'd end up working in a funeral home in rural Arkansas.

But that's what happened after King married into the Latham family of Osceola, Arkansas. The Lathams run Mid-Southern Championship Wrestling in the Northeast Arkansas town, and they also happen to run Wilson Funeral Home. The family, including King, are the stars of a new WGN reality show, Wrestling With Death, which offers a glimpse into the family of "morticians by day, wrestlers by night."

King still wrestles — in Osceola, Memphis, and Newbern, Tennessee — but now he spends most days greeting customers in the funeral home (and occasionally digging graves and embalming bodies). King took a few minutes to talk about his wrestling career and what this season of Wrestling With Death has in store.

Bianca Phillips

click to enlarge Derrick King
  • Derrick King

Flyer: How did you get involved in Memphis wrestling?

Derrick King: I started at the age of 16. I used to work at Piggly Wiggly in Memphis. One of the wrestlers came in who used to wrestle on Memphis TV. I recognized who he was and I asked him how to get into it. He had a school in Dixie, Arkansas. So I drove over there every Sunday morning and trained for three months. And the next thing you know, I'm a pro wrestler.

What was the most memorable moment in your wrestling career?

I grew up watching Memphis wrestling. And getting the opportunity to wrestle Jerry Lawler or being with Dave Brown or being promoted by Randy Hales of Power Pro Wrestling, that was a big deal. Those kinds of things don't happen to people overnight. My dream was to be a wrestler and to actually live out my dream and be [wrestling] on Channel 5, where I grew up watching it. Life could have been over the next week, and I could say, I got to do everything I wanted to do.

Why did you go by Mr. Personalities?

I used to dress up as different wrestlers, like Jeff Jarrett, Jerry Lawler, and Shawn Michael. I'd come out and imitate these guys and eventually have to wrestle them dressed like them.

When did you meet the Latham family, the funeral home owner/wrestling family on Wrestling With Death?

I wrestled for the Lathams in Osceola when I first started wrestling in 1995 or 1996. I met their daughter, Jamie, who is now my wife, and we had an on and off relationship for years. And four or five years ago, we started dating again. We got married a year ago in November.

Did you realize when you married into the family that you'd working for the family business?

No, absolutely not. I just thought I was going to be a wrestler forever. But when I got married, I realized that wrestling wasn't going to pay every bill for my wife's lifestyle. I had to do something, and working in the funeral home was flexible around my wrestling career. But once I was in, I was hooked. You end up doing all kinds of things you'd never thought you'd do.

On the first episode, you said that you don't like being dirty and you don't like death. Has this job helped you open up to things that make you uncomfortable?

It has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I would have never thought I'd be in a funeral home for as long as I've been in one. Of course, digging graves, that kind of hard work and manual labor was something I never did before. They put me to the test to break me into this family. I grew up a little bit.

Can you say anything about what's coming up on the show? I would say watch every episode because there's something crazy in every one. It's all real. Everything that happens to me, and I can only speak for myself, is for real. I know people watch reality TV and think that it's scripted. But this is real life happening.

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