The Pro Wrestling Post: Lawler suffers heart attack on RAW
September 14, 2012
It was a surreal Monday Night Raw from Montreal as Jerry “The King” Lawler suffered a heart attack while commentating a match. Emergency personnel on hand acted swiftly in getting Lawler the help he needed and saved his life.
Although it appears that Lawler will make a recovery, the WWE was faced with another decision of whether to continue with the live event. The irony of the situation is that Raw’s special guest was Bret Hart. The Hitman’s brother, Owen Hart, died in the ring at a WWE PPV in 1999. Hart fell from the rafters as he had an equipment malfunction. Despite the tragedy occurring, the WWE decided to continue on with the PPV. This decision was heavily criticized as it forced WWE performers to continue with the event despite seeing a friend and co-worker fall to their death right in front of them. Not to mention the fact that many fans attending the event saw this too.
Which brings us to this past Monday. Commentating was cut off during the matches from the time that Lawler was taken to the back. Commentator Michael Cole did inform the audience what had happened. Honestly, I had flipped channels and when I heard Cole’s announcement I did not know something actually happened. I thought it some part of the show even though Cole said it was not.
Payout Take: The WWE management was faced with the hard decision of continuing with the show or abruptly ending it while medics attended to Lawler. Despite the lesson of Owen Hart, WWE continued with its programming. It’s hard to say if this was the correct decision or not. Since Lawler ended up ok (relatively speaking), having updates and WWE programming on probably helped. In a morbid way, the social media buzz about Lawler probably gained viewers as many casual and non-casual viewers turned to the USA network to figure out what was going on. The third hour ratings were up from last week but down from its average.
If the show had gone off the air abruptly, I’m sure it would be understandable. But, it would leave many scrambling to twitter to find out what was happening. However, if something tragic were to have happened, the WWE would have been criticized for the continued airing of the event. Again, the WWE gambled that the real life emergency would not disrupt this meticulously scripted staged environment. Notably this time, the WWE held off from commentating and gave updates on Lawler’s condition. Essentially breaking with the script to report on Lawler.
The WWE has become much more aware as a company since 1999. Of course, becoming a publicly traded company probably had something to do with this. Still, the WWE continued with caution in continuing with its programming with the full knowledge of the possibilities and the likelihood that rumors on social media would be rampant.
On another note, Lawler’s heart attack brings up the issue of older wrestlers performing. While we all know its scripted, the physicality is still present and someone in their 50s and 60s needs to be monitored much more than the guys in their 20s. I’m sure the WWE will take a deeper look into this after this incident.