On Monday night, during what was a pretty routine episode of WWE RAW, the WWE Universe witnessed acclaimed wrestler and colour commentator, Jerry “The King” Lawler suffer a heart attack. In front of a live audience in Montreal he was heard breathing heavily and then collapsed and carried away. Throughout the rest of the night, Michael Cole updated the audience on Lawler’s situation and confirmed that he had suffered a devastating attack and had to be rushed to hospital. While he was initially critical, the proximity of EMT’s backstage and their speedy response ensured that he was quickly taken to hospital. As of this moment he is breathing by himself and has no signs of brain damage.
Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of Jerry Lawyer’s work as a ringside announcer, at least not in recent years. I do remember watching WWE RAW with good ole Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler in the hay day of the Attitude Era and back then they were fantastic commentators. It’s almost sad then to listen to Lawler now stumble over his words and make mistakes both when calling matches and when hyping feuds. In my mind, it is time for Jerry Lawler to go, to pass on the torch to a new colour commentator and have some much deserved rest, just as Jim Ross has. But it shouldn’t happen like this. Not carried out on a stretcher, barely breathing. He should be walking up that ramp with the crown firmly upon his head.
Of course, it’s unlikely that it is his commentating duties that led to the incident. Jerry Lawler has been much more actively involved in one of the WWE storylines than he usually is. A storyline that has involved a cage match against the WWE Champion, CM Punk, a back stage brawl with the same man and most recently a tag match with Randy Orton against Dolph Ziggler and Punk on Monday Night’s episode. Punk is currently feuding with John Cena, the number one contender for the WWE Championship, following a heel turn at the 1000th episode of RAW. It was the at the end of that episode, which I talked about earlier in the year, that Lawler made an offhand comment that Punk had ‘turned his back on the fans’. And thus, Jerry “The King” Lawler was thrust into the middle of a feud between Punk and Cena. A place he should probably never have been.
Now, I’m not against the WWE using on screen personnel such as Lawler and Josh Matthews to make a point. It makes sense that if you want one wrestler to send a message to another wrestler without making the second wrestler look weak then attacking someone who isn’t an active wrestler is an easy way of both vilifying the first wrestler and painting the worker as dangerous. But Punk already did that weeks ago when he kicked Lawler in the back of the head. Did we really need the cage match or the further attack last week? I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy those segments. The cage match was a nice change of pace from the usual and Punk would have looked weak if he didn’t retaliate. Considering that Jerry Lawler is sixty two, I can’t help but wonder that maybe he’s been overworked as of late.
It’s not just within the WWE that Jerry Lawler may have been over worked. Recently, Lawler returned from an independent wrestling tour of Aruba. It has been noted by more than one source that if the heart attack had happened during that tour, Lawler would probably not have survived as he did. Say what you will about the WWE but they care about the wellbeing of their employees’ physical health and always have a medical team on hand to deal with situations such as these. He was also rushed to a hospital in Montreal where he could receive dedicated specialist treatment while the same can’t be said for the tour in Aruba. Who knows if the EMT’s would have been as responsive during that tour or if the treatment he’d receive at their hospitals would be to the same standard? Thankfully, we don’t have to know.
It’s also said that, throughout the ordeal, the WWE owner, Vincent Kennedy McMahon was by Lawler’s side. Further rumours have said that he actually wasn’t at this side for the whole ordeal, but regardless it shows that’s the level of respect and care that Vince McMahon has for the wrestling business and the people that helped mould it. McMahon did a lot in the early days to annoy the NWA and caused an upheaval of the territorial construct of wrestling. A lot of purists and traditionalist didn’t take kindly to that approach but in doing so McMahon spread his net out wide and brought wrestling to the attention of a lot more people. Public interest in wrestling seems to have been waning over recent years but if the WWE had never been and McMahon had never made his drastic expansion I’d say wrestling today would literally be dead. I think Vince McMahon recognises that but also understands that a lot of what happened before the dissolution of the territories was important to the last legacy of the wrestling business. So I believe Vince McMahon genuinely cares for Jerry Lawler regardless of whether he could stay by his side during the incident or not and he wasn’t concerned because Lawler’s death might be ‘bad for business’.
It is very good news that Lawler is currently stable. He’ll definitely be back in the WWE soon, although I’d say it is unlikely that he’ll be back for next Monday’s WWE RAW. When he does come back, I’m not sure that it’ll be for long. Sixty two isn’t really that old but when you’re involved in such a physical career then it can be old enough. Lawler should probably retire sooner rather than later, unless he wants to end up replicating Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. Whether he comes back for one night only or he returns for one last extended run, the King of Memphis will be back.