WWE: Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole and the Most Important Monday Night Raw in Years
It all seemed to unravel at once.
Men dressed in black coming in and out of frame as Kane and Daniel Bryan battled the Prime Time Players for No. 1 contendership to the WWE Tag Team Titles.
Fans in the front row directing their attention off camera towards the announce table.
A sudden chant of "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" when it seemed it didn't belong.
A noticeable silence from the commentators.
And then came Michael Cole's dead serious "this is not a part of the entertainment" statement. Jerry Lawler had suffered a heart attack...
Montreal already carried the ominous and notorious distinction of being the site of where Bret Hart was screwed by Vince McMahon and promptly left the WWE in 1997. It almost seemed for the next couple of hours, the Survivor Series incident of 15 years ago would be superseded by Lawler's sudden collapse at the announce table in front of thousands of fans.
We all sat on the edge of our seats, picking up our phones or whatever means we had to access Twitter (#PrayForJerry). Some even doubted the authenticity of what was going on. But that statement by Cole, "not a part of the entertainment," took so many wrestling fans back to the frightening events of 1999 when Jim Ross was in the same position when Owen Hart tragically fell to his death in Kansas City.
We knew what was happening was, in fact, very real.
Reports were flooding the Internet and social media. The worst was being forecast. Lawler was clinging to life. Would the show go on? Cole had withdrawn from commentary out of respect to his colleague's life-threatening condition. How about the wrestlers?
No, they pressed on and masked the panic that was going on in the backstage area and somehow (for even a short moment) directed everyone's focus toward the Night of Champions pay-per-view this Sunday with CM Punk and John Cena at the event's epicenter.
By the end of the show, the shaken Cole seemed optimistic of Lawler's condition with positive updates of "The King's" responsiveness to medical personnel.
Thus ended one of the most emotionally draining episodes of Raw in years, if ever.
But the questions and criticism seemed to be mounting for the Tuesday swarm of media releases on the events in Montreal.
And somehow, remarkably, professional wrestling, (most notably the WWE) seemed to finish in a rare positive light by Friday after days of uncertainly as to whether Lawler would recover.
Cole garnered much deserved praise for his professionalism in handling the heightened events of Monday night, which came on the heels of years of criticism to his direction as a commentator and character in WWE. If there was ever a moment where one event (whether intentional or unintentional) could shape or define a character, this was it for him.
It was also an incredible moment of valor by the WWE and Montreal emergency medical staff in the arena who acted immediately and decisively, bringing Lawler back to life after being clinically dead for 20 minutes. (source: wrestlenewz.com)
But as the updates came over the next couple of days, brain damage was feared following Lawler's heart attack. At first he was barely speaking but able to make detailed notes on a pad with his family nearby. The final results were extremely positive: no brain damage found.
Then on Thursday, less than one week after being on his deathbed, Lawler stood with wires sticking out, like Wolverine as Weapon X, and sent a video message to all of his fans, thanking for them for their support. He smiled and seemed in the best of spirits.
How could this be? How could there honestly be a feel-good ending in professional wrestling? Everyone wanted to eulogize Lawler by Tuesday with career retrospectives and condemn the WWE for allowing "old men to wrestle" and not stopping the show altogether.
But is it possible what could have been WWE's darkest hour of television might have actually been their most triumphant moment where so many acted so well under so terrible a circumstance?
Could it be the show that creates the kind of momentum that could make the most bitter of bitter critics (writers and comment posters) quiet for maybe a little while when it comes to WWE?
No, it won't. That's foolish, naive and terribly pretentious.
But it was still an important Raw. Maybe one of the most important in a long time for reasons other than actual wrestling. It was a show where a program that proudly boasts it's 1000-plus episode catalog acted more mature and professional than it ever has when it seemed the worst possible scenario was going on.
One to hang your hat on.
Or maybe even a crown.
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