As the world is well aware, Jerry “The King” Lawler suffered what appears to be a major heart attack during last nights live broadcast of Monday Night Raw.
The moment came off as surreal on television as Michael Cole struggled to explain to the viewing audience what had taken place. In wrestling, fans have come to learn that anything you watch on TV is part of the WWE “story.” In this case, the story was no longer fictional and the results will have very real consequences on one man’s and one company’s future.
WWE had a matter of seconds to make a decision as to whether to continue on with their live broadcast. They decided to finish the show, while respecting Lawler’s condition and going “silent” (no broadcasting) for the rest of the night.
Was this the right choice, or should WWE have ended their live show and cut to video of a past episode?
To begin to answer this question, we must first take a look at some WWE history. Years ago, live on PPV, Owen Hart tragically fell to his death in the middle of the ring. He was taken to a local hospital, but news of his death was announced live on TV. WWE decided to finish their show and the PPV, a decision that they were highly criticized for. This memory came to mind last night as fans awaited an update on Jerry Lawler’s condition. Would WWE feel forced into cancelling their show?
WWE made the choice to continue with their broadcast, updating fans on Lawler’s condition throughout the night and paying respect to his situation by performing without commentary from Michael Cole. In my opinion, this was the exact right decision to make.
All major sports have horrific in-game injuries. Last week, Brandon McCarthy, a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics was struck in the head by a line drive. He spent the better part of a week in and out of brain surgery in what was considered a life-threatening situation. The A’s lost that game to the Angels by a final score of 7-1.
On a fall October day in 2010, Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand was paralyzed on a kickoff. Two years later, he has regained some sensations and is still attempting to recover. Rutgers defeated Army that afternoon by the final score of 23-20.
The bottom line is that live sporting events do not stop for catastrophic injuries. They never have, and given the amount of money on the line in live television, they never will. The media can sometimes hold WWE to higher standards than other professional sports. However, the facts are that WWE has a stricter drug policy than many major sports, sponsors any past employee who needs to enter a rehabilitation program and continuously shows great tribute to its fallen stars.
WWE made the right decision to continue with their live broadcast after Jerry Lawler’s heart attack last night because they followed the precedent that every major U.S. sport has set time and time again. This is not a decision or situation that requires debate. Simply, it requires all wrestling fans to keep Jerry Lawler in their thoughts and prayers as he fights for his life and hopefully begins the road to recovery.