When the news broke that Jerry Lawler had collapsed at ringside, the wrestling world held its collective breath. He had just been involved in a match and he was seen as being in reasonable physical condition. Therefore, the announcement that he had collapsed came as a pretty big shock.
For many older fans, there was a real fear given the reaction of commentating partner, Michael Cole.
Many have justifiably criticized Cole in the past for his over the top antics and heel character, but credit is due to him for his excellent handling of the situation. His ability to convey his emotions was a perfect demonstration of the fine line that exists in wrestling between being a character one moment and a real person the next.
However, the fear that wrestling fans had was just as genuine because they had been here before.
The death of anyone is a tragedy. The death of someone young is devastating.
For many fans of a certain age, their first brush with death in wrestling is hard to take. They have grown up with certain wrestlers and have considered them to be pure athletes. They are sculpted like Greek gods and perform their moves with skill and grace.
And so when someone dies, it devastates every sense of rationality.
Whilst some might remember the deaths of Kerry Von Erich and his tragic family, my first experience was that of Brian Pillman and Owen Hart. These deaths in particular struck home the sense of how unfair life can be.
In the case of Pillman, here he was in a new wrestling environment, his loose cannon character was about to start and given what happened next, his encounters with Steve Austin could have been legendary. His death from a heart attack just seemed unfair.
The case of Owen of course lives long in the minds of many. Here, more than perhaps any other death, there is a real sense of anger . His death was preventable. It was not necessary. And yet at the age of 34, when most people begin their adult lives with a family and a mortgage, he was dead.
Unfortunately for wrestling, the deaths have not stopped and almost systematically, some of the biggest names in pro-wrestling have been struck down by what almost seems like a curse. Yokozuna, Davy Boy Smith, Randy Savage, Miss Elizabeth, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Umaga, Crush, Kanyon, Curt Hennig, Big Boss Man, Rick Rude and Lance Cade to name a few.
Hearing that Jerry Lawler had collapsed sent a devastating reminder to all fans that his well being was not a guarantee.
However, recent reports together with photographs even today, have given us hope that not only is Jerry okay, but that he might make a complete recovery and return to the commentator's booth. Whether he wrestles again remains a doubt but there are other more important things.
The number of articles this week on Jerry Lawler's life and career have been impressive and yet why does it take death to remind us of how good someone is?
The memories I have of wrestling are now partly shadowed by the deaths of those involved. I cannot look back on the career of Mr. Perfect, for example, without thinking of how he died. Equally, those who proclaim Chris Benoit to be a great wrestling technician almost face a barrage of criticism because of what happened next.
Death hangs over the wrestling ring even to this day.
I hope this does not prelude some great tragedy but wrestling has not endured any recent tragedies other than Randy Savage last year. I hope that the days of young athletes dying young are over and that wrestling's honor can be restored. Whether the WWE and TNA take their athletes' well being seriously enough remains a question but I hope that the superstars themselves at least take note that if they are in bad shape, they should take a step back.
Superstars need to plan ahead. When their time is up in the ring they need to leave. Armed with their life's money, they must enjoy their retirement and not subject themselves to harm. For some veterans including Jerry Lawler, wrestling is their life and whilst they can perform to a good quality, they should continue until they decide to call it a day.
I rate Jerry's recent work as being of a high standard, especially his ladder match last year. I would like to see him return to the ring.
However, the shadows that exist remind us of two things.
One, that life is fragile and that we cannot take anything for granted. One day our life is here and the next it is gone.
Second, we must appreciate what we have. We must see the history, the legacy, the honor and respect of what we see. We must take a step back and count ourselves lucky to have seen great people in action and respect them for it. We must not be quick to criticize or accuse, we must be thankful for what we have.
The case of Jerry Lawler remains a scary one. How close were we to losing the King this past Monday night? It is not worth thinking about.
Whatever forces were at play, we are grateful that Lawler is hopefully on the road to full recovery.
Long Live the King.
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