Last night I was at the Bell Centre in Montreal when Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack. It was both uncomfortable and concerning.
After Lawler had already competed in a tag-team contest on Raw, he was performing his usual commentary duties with Michael Cole. During a tag-team match between the Prime Time Players and Daniel Bryan/Kane, I looked over to the broadcast table and saw Jerry Lawler hunched over, beginning to shake. It looked like he was choking. Then, suddenly, he collapsed from his chair. Michael Cole was quickly flicking his hand clockwise, as if to say to the cameraman nearby to "get away and get help." EMTs came to check on Lawler. Confusion set in among the fans in attendance, the match in the ring completely being ignored. Lawler was then carried out by several EMTs backstage. I have heard from several sources that the backstage area was cleared for EMTs to attend to Lawler. Initially, before seeing Lawler carted on a stretcher, many backstage thought a fight had escalated in the arena.
Michael Cole updated the TV audience throughout the night that Lawler had been administered CPR backstage, was being taken to the hospital by ambulance, was being administered oxygen and was breathing on his own, as well as responding to light. Unfortunately, this was not relayed to those in attendance in Montreal. We were told by ring announcer Justin Roberts that the planned Pat Patterson Appreciation night was to be postponed to another date because of Lawler's condition, which was not specified.
The crowd remained silent for much of the event after Lawler's collapse -- only during the last segment of Raw involving Bret Hart, John Cena and CM Punk did the crowd begin to react as loudly as they had in the beginning of the evening, which was often deafening and could easily be categorized as one of the hottest crowds in recent memory.
Michael Cole decided to remain silent during the Raw telecast, except to provide updates on Jerry Lawler. I found this to be a very classy and warranted move, particularly because the collapse happened mere inches away from him. Cole remained at his broadcast position, but his expressions and body language throughout the night (including the picture above) said it best.
In May of 1999, Owen Hart fell to his death live at a WWE pay-per-view event in Kansas City, Mo. That event continued as planned. It was later mentioned on that broadcast that Owen Hart had died. Many criticized WWE's decision to move forward with the show. Similar criticism has appeared in this situation. Many feel that a man's life is in danger and it's both insensitive and disrespectful to keep a program going.
I completely understand the notion that "the show must go on." Raw has an obligation to USA Network and broadcast partners around the world for three hours of content on Monday nights, regardless of what happens in that live environment. While that may seem insensitive, it's also business. If Vince McMahon collapsed and was rushed to hospital during an event, the show would go on. The same would apply for any employee.
It's also a tough situation for the superstars who must perform after an occurrence like this. To the trained eye who sees John Cena every week and can notice a change in his demeanor, it was clear that he was less enthusiastic than normal during his entrance. You must give credit to him and the other superstars for maintaining composure when a fellow colleague is being administered CPR backstage.
Lawler's match didn't seem overly strenuous. In an interview with me a few months ago, Lawler mentioned that despite being 62 years old, he still wrestles on average twice a week, whether it be WWE or independents. Pro wrestling matches can often happen at a blistering pace or at a very slow one. Perhaps Lawler's matches these days fall under the latter, but is it not a touch concerning that a man his age continues to take damage to his body like that? On the same episode of Raw, Bret Hart, a stroke survivor, also got physical, albeit a very small amount.
I'm sure it goes without saying but our thoughts are with Jerry Lawler for a speedy recovery.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times