Jerry Lawler: Heart Attack Scare Makes Wrestling A Bit Too Real

David LevinSenior Writer IISeptember 11, 2012

Jerry Lawler and I have a few things in common. We both like “The King”  (Elvis) and the great city of Memphis. We both love the “sport” of wrestling from years gone by and the business that it is.

And surprisingly, Lawler and I now share the fact we both have suffered heart attacks.

There are a few differences in the two, mainly the fact that Lawler, 62, has been an athlete for decades and I, soon to be 41, have been a sports writer for the last 21 years.

Last night’s edition of Raw was supposed to be about the “go-home show” from the great city of Montreal, where Brett Hart and Angelo Mosca are king. It turned out to be more than a wrestling program but instead reality television, proving that there is such a thing as “reality” in this business.

While Lawler’s heart attack (as confirmed by Anthony Castellano on Tuesday morning) hit the social media and Internet outlets last night, giving us fans and the mainstream entertainment buffs bits and pieces of information (I did not see the show because of family business), I could only wonder what seeing it live and the moments when Michael Cole “humanized” the situation were like.

The reality is that wrestling, no matter how we look at it, is REAL. You cannot escape injuries. You cannot escape the sometimes odd chemistry between characters and plot lines. And in this case, you cannot escape a heart attack when it happens right before your eyes.

I could not help but wonder, as I read stories, Twitter accounts and comments by fans, if the events of the past few weeks contributed to Lawler’s sudden illness. I mean, I was moving furniture when I suffered my “minor” ordeal. Lawler had been in the ring the past couple of weeks with WWE champion CM Punk.

The two are in no way familiar and in no way comparable. But they also became front and center in terms of importance. Night of Champions did not seem as important as it was when the taping started at 8 pm. While the show had to continue, reality did set in.

Were the events of the past few weeks contributors to Lawler’s attack? Will we see the WWE really look at angles in which older superstars are involved? Will this storyline (because it is one now), be a springboard from the original Punk/Lawler storyline that leads to retribution from John Cena?

Somehow, in the back of the WWE compound, I cannot help but think of how figureheads might thinking of ways to take advantage of this situation.

There have been a few in-ring deaths in wrestling history or deaths that were attributed to being in the ring.

Ted DiBiase’s father, Mike DiBiase died in the ring of a heart attack and Gary Albright, an independent wrestler, suffered the same fate.

There are grumblings that Ox Baker’s ill-fated “heart punch” caused death to opponents (Ray Gunkel and Alberto Torres). These were never confirmed but were used in storylines to increase Baker’s mystique.

Lawler’s situation should never be categorized in the same manner as these events. What it should do is raise the awareness of the fact a 62-year-old semi-retired wrestler should not get in the ring in the first place.

We see Lawler as a larger than life character, a persona that he has had since his days in Memphis beating up the likes of Austin Idol, Randy Savage and Bill Dundee. The reality of it is we do not know Lawler outside of the wrestling world. We don’t know his lifestyle, his habits or how he conducts himself.

What we see is what we get. And in this case, that is a mystery other than the character.

But when that “reality” sets in, what we see is a man who is human, happens to be a WWE Superstar and now leaves a floodgate of questions to be answered about his role as a wrestler and whether or not he should have been in the ring in the first place.

This is reality television at both its finest and its worst.

And now, Lawler and I have something else in common. We both will probably not be getting in a wrestling ring any time soon.

As a fan of “The King,” I hope the recovery is speedy and that we see his smile and bravado on screen soon.