If you’ll indulge me and my nerd-like, lifelong passion for pro wrestling for a moment…
Tonight, during WWE’s three-hour, live broadcast of its flagship program Monday Night Raw, legendary Memphis wrestler and famed commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler collapsed and was taken backstage by medical staff.
Things were obviously amiss, as the live crowd’s attention seemed to be focused on the ringside announce table rather than the tag team match taking place in the ring. To the television audience at home, confusion set in as the normal chatter of commentators Lawler and Michael Cole stopped suddenly as nothing but silence came through the speakers.
After a befuddling and tense few moments, Michael Cole returned to his commentary duties, but the absence of Lawler’s voice was glaring. After the match, cameras showed an obviously shaken and concerned Michael Cole, who assured the audience that Lawler’s collapse was not part of the night’s entertainment and that “The King” was taken to the back by medical staff and was receiving CPR.
For the remainder of the program, nearly one hour, Michael Cole remained at ringside, ignoring his commentary duties, out of respect for Lawler, and periodically offered updates as they became available between matches.
Lawler was subsequently taken to a local Montreal, Quebec, Canada medical facility where he received further treatment.
In the closing moments of the program, Cole, with an empty chair beside him, told viewers that Lawler was now breathing on his own and that his heart was beating on its own, as well.
Word has now come out, with CNN, the Baltimore Sun’s Arda Ocal (who was at the live event) and WWE iself reporting that Lawler suffered a heart attack.
Rumors also making the rounds, as tweeted by legendary Hart family member, Smith Hart, are that Lawler was clinically deceased for nearly twenty minutes, before being revived by medics. This should be treated as solely rumor at this point, as it is not being reported by any news outlet or WWE Inc. itself.
As always, in the world of WWE, despite the horrible events of the evening, the show went on and will continue to go on in Lawler’s absence.
Jerry “The King” Lawler is most well known as the protagonist to Andy Kaufman’s wrestling antagonist in the late 1970’s, famously slapping a neck-braced Kaufman on David Letterman’s Late Night program.
Lawler, a beloved, if not sometimes controversial figure in the wrestling world, has reached legendary status, being inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2007.
Thoughts and prayers are with Lawler, his family, friends and colleagues during this tragic time.