Usually, fans watching World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Monday Night Raw” settle in for a show filled with pre-determined matches and storylines where real life and wrestling fantasies don’t mix. But that wasn’t the case Monday when announcer Jerry “The King” Lawler suffered a heart attack on the air in Montreal.
It was a show, interestingly, that Lawlor actually physically competed in when he assisted the WWE’s Sheamus in beating back two “heels” : C.M. Punk and Dolph Ziggler. A short time later, Lawler and broadcast partner Michael Cole were calling the tag team match between the Daniel Bryan and Kane and the Primetime Players when the camera showed Lawler looking distressed. According to various accounts, he collapsed and was immediately tended to by medical personnel and taken to a local medical facility.
Cole, whose character on the show is somewhat of a heel and who himself has wrestled Lawler, quickly got serious and talked directly into the camera looking very shaken. He reported what had happened and made it very clear that the news was not a wrestling story line. Cole also tweeted the news through the WWE’s Twitter account and gave two more updates to fans later in the show.
And what was a very rare occurrence for the WWE, a portion of the show didn’t have any commentary at all presumably because Cole was too shaken to continue. While Cole’s character has often been booed in the past, there was a lot for fans to cheer about from him on Monday and there were many positive comments for him on Twitter. Even “heels” can be loved under the right circumstances.
Early reports that Lawler had suffered a stroke or a heart attack gave way to confirmation that Lawler had had a heart attack and was responding to treatment. The WWE later confirmed that with this revised statement that said “Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler suffered a heart attack while commentating during last night’s broadcast of Monday Night Raw in Montreal. We are hopeful Jerry makes a full recovery and returns to WWE in the near future. Our thoughts are with Jerry and his family.” The latest update said ” Lawler is in a cardiac care unit and all his vital signs are stable.”
It’s not often that real life intrudes on pro wrestling in such an extreme way. One such incident was when wrestler Owen Hart died during a pay-per-view event in 1999. His death was not shown on TV. By some strange coincidence, Hart’s brother Bret opened the show appearing for the first time in 15 years at the Montreal arena that played a major role in his wrestling history.
But here, TV wrestling fans did see at least some of what was happening. In addition to see Lawler’s distress, they saw personnel rushing to Lawler’s aid and fans looking over and chanting “Jerry!, Jerry!” in support.
It’s too early to say whether Lawler will return to the WWE. But wrestling fans will long remember Monday night for one big reason: No matter how much wrestling is choreographed and planned, there is always the possibility of life changing the script.