Last month, attendees and viewers of Raw experienced the tragic incident of Jerry Lawler collapsing at ringside due to a heart attack.
In the following weeks as Lawler recovered, the WWE Universe has nobly shown its support for Jerry Lawler—the man—despite how it may feel about his character—The King. For that, wrestling fans everywhere must be commended.
However, none of that changes the reality that, prior to his heart attack, Lawler’s character was stale and uninspired. Long gone are the days when he was one of the all-time great heel color commentators. In recent memory, Lawler has merely been a bland baby face with a limited arsenal of jokes.
Of course, such an personality change is less the fault of Lawler himself than that of WWE's current family-friendly direction, which doesn't play to The King’s comedic style. Add to this his lingering feud with Michael Cole that saw a match at WrestleMania XXVII and, more recently, some altercations with CM Punk, one can see why Lawler’s persona has become nothing less than annoying.
Whether behind the announce table or in the ring, Lawler has not exactly made for thrilling—or even entertaining—television in recent years.
With Lawler taking time away to recover, viewers have been treated to what has been the WWE’s best commentary in a long time. Ironically, it is the return of commentators from previous decades that has reinvigorated the announce booth.
Whether he's being paired with the “Wrestling God” John Bradshaw Layfield and his seemingly infinite knowledge of wrestling history or “Good Ol'" Jim Ross and his solid analysis of the in-ring action, Michael Cole always lifts his game when he isn’t forced to bicker with The King. Even the Miz and his antics combined with Cole have made for some must-hear commentary.
Over the past month, we’ve heard wrestling holds called along with descriptive play-by-play of what’s happening in the ring. That like wrestling commentary 101, but these basics have been sadly absent in many WWE telecasts over the years.
Due to his handling of Lawler’s collapse, Michael Cole has made somewhat of an unintentional about-face in the eyes of many WWE and Raw fans, earning their respect in the process. Booking Cole as the face and pairing him with heel color commentators (such as JBL and The Miz) is the right move, as it has resulted in a broadcast team that is both informative and entertaining.
Lawler’s absence has highlighted just how good WWE’s commentary can be. And, frankly, now that we’ve had a taste of something new and improved, reverting back to Cole and Lawler does not sound appealing.
There will always be a place within the WWE for the Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler, and fans sure do want to see him healthy and back with the company. That place, however, is neither in the ring nor at the announce table.
Unless Lawler rediscovers his energy and inspiration—or perhaps even does a heel-turn—the WWE’s commentary booth is better off without him.