Emotion turns raw with 'The King's' return
They can never leave well enough alone.
Fortunate enough to have had Jerry 'The King' Lawler recover from a near-fatal heart attack on a live Raw on which the 62-year-old Hall of Famer both wrestled and announced, WWE gave thanks by bringing Lawler out nine weeks later on the same Monday night program to a genuinely emotional standing ovation from the fans in Toledo, Ohio, only to have the warm feelings doused with a bucket of ice water by trotting C.M. Punk out with manager Paul Heyman to interrupt Lawler's thank you promo with another one of the company's truly tasteless episodes.
Yes, Lawler had to be willing to go along with the idea of turning such a poignant moment into a veritable dictionary definition of tacky. No great surprise there. He is the consummate wrestler/promoter who for several decades has played whatever card he's held to the very best of his ability as a vehicle to do business.
Some things have worked great and others, not so much. Who can forget when Memphis and the surrounding territory went wild for matches between Jerry and the thermal underwear-clad, self-proclaimed inter-gender champion of the world and Saturday Night Live sensation Andy Kaufman? The feud was fueled by the infamous slap heard round the world and subsequent bleeping audio parade on the David Letterman Show, still regarded as one of television's most all-time shocking moments prior to the reality show era.
Was this latest episode any different than any of the other crass things broadcast on wrestling shows over the decades? A whole column could be done on that topic alone and it might have to be a three or four-part series stretching over the next month or so to do it justice.
As Punk proceeded to make fun of Lawler, and Heyman did the fake heart attack mime, complete with Punk doing chest compressions on his "fallen" manager, you just knew two things for sure. One, there would be plenty of reaction and two, that Linda McMahon is no longer in a Senate race.
Not sure that the angle will sell a single extra ticket or buy for tonight's Survivor Series pay-per-view, but there were plenty of people complaining about the bit on wrestling websites. It certainly did take its rightful place up there with the Fritz Von Erich and Ric Flair heart attack angles in terms of poor taste. Most readers probably don't remember the one where Steve Keirn's father's capture as a POW in Vietnam was turned into an angle in Florida during the mid-1970s, but may recall when Stone Cold Steve Austin terrorized the late Brian Pillman's residence with gun shots as part of our wrestling entertainment that evening on Raw.
Yes, there have been plenty of tacky things done on wrestling television over the years and there will likely be more in the years to come. As it does not even seem to be leading to a match between Punk and Lawler, what is the payoff? Lawler's heart attack was very real, but if you make such fun of it nine weeks later, it probably makes some folks wonder how real it could have been or how little regard they truly have for human life to make such light of it. Sure, you can say, "It's only wrestling", and that seems to cover a multitude of sins. No point in taking it too seriously. But, that is the way the national media seems to have viewed all of the premature deaths the business has endured.
It's only wrestling. What if Lawler had died? Maybe Linda should consider running for something else.