‘Comeback King’ Jerry Lawler makes biggest comeback yet
– Mike Mooneyham
“Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”
WWE fans who tune in to Monday Night Raw this week will no doubt hear that thunderous chorus emanating from the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.
Thousands of others will be cheering the name from home.
Jerry “The King” Lawler won’t be sitting in his familiar chair at the WWE broadcast table. Nor will he be inside the ring showing off the considerable skills he honed during his 42 years in the business.
But what The King pulled off this past week may be his most incredible comeback in a career filled with them.
Jerry Lawler died last week on Raw.
He’d most likely laugh if he read that line today and joke that he’s “died” on quite a few shows.
But we’re talking died in the most literal sense. The 62-year-old pro wrestling legend actually was without oxygen and clinically dead for an estimated 20 minutes.
A stunned audience last Monday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, witnessed the Hall of Famer slump over at the ringside table, begin convulsing and collapse on the floor.
Paramedics immediately swarmed over the fallen announcer and wheeled him off to the backstage area on a stretcher where he was immediately given CPR and jolted numerous times with a defibrillator before being transported to a Montreal cardiac unit.
“It took 20 minutes to revive him,” Lawler’s son, Kevin, told WREG-TV in Memphis on Thursday. “They had to shock him seven times to bring him back to life. He was actually clinically dead for those 20 minutes.”
Lawler, who had participated in a tag-team match on the show 30 minutes before collapsing, had suffered a massive heart attack.
He underwent an angioplasty Tuesday and had a stent put in to open his coronary arteries.
By most accounts, had Lawler been anywhere else, he would have died, and today’s space would have been reserved for mourning his loss rather than celebrating his recovery.
But The King obviously had one more comeback left in him. And that would be coming back from the dead.
“King pulled his strap down when he saw the Grim Reaper,” said WWE Hall of Fame manager J.J. Dillon. “Long live The King!”
Less than three days after suffering a major myocardial infarction and an invasive heart procedure, Lawler was talking, walking, eating and even cracking his signature jokes in his hospital room.
“It was really good just to hear his voice, and to know that his voice sounded normal,” said Kevin Lawler.
A CAT scan showed no signs of brain damage, and no further surgery is expected.
Fellow Hall of Famer Pat Patterson visited Lawler on Thursday and noted that his friend “looks very, very good.”
“When I walked in there and he saw me in the window, he had a big smile on his face,” Patterson told WWE.com. “He was very happy … The King’s outlook is incredibly positive.”
Lawler, whose voice has been a staple of WWE programming for two decades, addressed his fans via Tout and displayed some of his hilarious wit and trademark humor. He joked that he felt like the Bionic Man and had more wires coming out of him than AT&T.
“His sense of humor is there, I made him laugh. He’s doing very good,” said Patterson.
His doctors even stated that Lawler was healthy for his age and saw no reason why he wouldn’t be able to wrestle again.
That’s pretty amazing for a man who was knocking on death’s door.
Dr. Kevin Campbell, a cardiologist at Wake Heart and Vascular in Raleigh, N.C., noted that Lawler was extremely fortunate to have had medical personnel and equipment nearby.
WWE has a full-time medical team. A doctor at ringside began working on Lawler within seconds of his collapse.
“The only place better would have been if he were in a hospital visiting someone in the emergency room,” said Campbell. “I really think the wrestling organization and those in that facility in Montreal should be commended because they’re responsible for saving that man’s life.”
Ringside medical personnel performed CPR for more than 10 minutes while attempting to revive Lawler. He received seven electrical shocks before doctors were able to get his heart back to a regular beat.
The trained medical professionals who moved swiftly to his rescue have been hailed as heroes for saving Lawler.
“It’s a real testament to the first responders at the arena,” said Campbell. “They saved the man’s life.”
“Jerry would be dead right now if it did not happen where it happened,” echoed Stacy Carter, an ex-wife of Lawler’s.
“I shutter to think what the outcome would have been if Jerry had been wrestling on one of the indy shows that he was often booked. Heck, even driving to the arena or sitting in a restaurant might have proven fatal based on the hand that The King was dealt in Montreal Monday evening,” longtime friend and announce partner Jim Ross wrote on his blog.
Campbell called Lawler’s recovery thus far “amazing.”
“Several factors contributed to his successful resuscitation and apparent full recovery,” said Campbell. “Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of death in the U.S. today (second only to all types of cancers combined). Suffering a heart attack and having a subsequent ‘out of hospital’ cardiac arrest is associated with a very low chance of survival.”
Again, stressed Campbell, Lawler was in the right place at the right time if there had to be a medical crisis.
“In the case of Mr. Lawler, his survival chances were greatly increased by the immediate and well-coordinated medical response at the arena. The fact that he received immediate CPR and defibrillation at the arena is the reason he is alive today. Most cardiac arrest victims are not as fortunate. It is a real testament to the WWE and the local arena that Mr. Lawler is alive and making a complete recovery.”
Perhaps most surprising is the fact that Lawler, in great condition for a man his age, had a heart attack in the first place.
“For Jerry Lawler to be sick is highly unusual,” commented Ross. “Being a 62-year-old man, The King has been as fit as anyone that I’ve known. He wrestles several times a month on the indy circuit and still plays in his Memphis softball league on Wednesday nights. Jerry is also ‘young at heart’ which isn’t new news.”
Lawler has never smoked, drank alcohol or used recreational drugs.
“Heart ailments are equal opportunity killers that care not who they attack,” said Ross.
“Genetics plays a major role in the development of coronary artery disease,” said Campbell. “Jerry Lawler never smoked or drank alcohol or drugs and was in excellent physical shape. However, other risk factors such as high cholesterol and family history may have contributed to his heart attack.”
Lawler will be on a routine modified diet and medication.
Lawler began his wrestling career in 1970. A feud with late comedian Andy Kaufman in the early ‘80s brought him national fame.
Watching “the King of Memphis” make comebacks is nothing new to Scott Bowden.
Bowden, who authors the popular Kentucky Fried Rasslin’ blog, grew up on Memphis wrestling and once managed Lawler during the territory days. He remembers as a youngster watching Lawler being tossed around “like a rag doll” during a 1978 Southern heavyweight title defense against the villainous Jos LeDuc.
The hometown hero took a wicked bump, crashed onto the table and crumpled like a heap on the floor.
“I was sure the King was done for,” Bowden recalls.
Lawler really was hurt, says Bowden, adding that the Memphis favorite was treated at a local hospital that night. In typical Lawler fashion, however, he was back two weeks later seeking revenge against the Canadian lumberjack.
“I was only 7 years old, but I thought he was Superman,” says Bowden.
Over the years, Bowden would watch in awe and amazement as Lawler continued to battle back from seemingly insurmountable odds, pulling down a strap on his singlet to make his comeback while whipping the rowdy crowds into a frenzy.
It was, notes Bowden, like watching “Popeye and his spinach” in action.
Thirty-four years later, he says, Bowden watched his friend and childhood hero accomplish the same amazing comeback — this time against his most dangerous adversary yet.
“I shouldn’t have doubted his resolve—the King has made his living triumphing in heart-stopping action,” says Bowden. “I’m 41 years old, and I still think he’s Superman.”
Long live the King
Who will be the irrepressible broadcaster’s replacement as color commentator at the Raw announce table?
The answer is simple. No one.
There’ll certainly be another announcer sitting in Lawler’s chair, at least for the time being, but as far as being replaced, one simply can’t replace a legend.
It just won’t be the same until Jerry Lawler returns to take his rightful place on the throne.
But one thing’s for certain.
The King’s reign is far from over.
— Like independent wrestling?
How about great independent wrestling?
Then you might want to check out tonight’s Old School Championship Wrestling show at the Hanahan Rec Center.
Two of the top workers on the circuit, John Skyler and Josh Magnum, are expected to put on a tour de force when they meet in a rematch for the OSCW heavyweight title.
Their last meeting, won by OSCW champ Skyler, was Match of the Year-caliber, and tonight’s Ladder Match should rival or even top it.
Former Flock members Raven (Scott Levy) and Lodi (Brad Cain) will square off in a co-featured bout. It marks only the second time these two have ever locked horns.
The event, billed as “Tag Wars 6,” also will showcase a tag-team tournament to determine challengers for OSCW tag champs Legit (Brandon Paradise and Bradford Steele). Legit’s manager, Reginald Vanderhoff, will tangle with Ms. Harden in a special Manager vs. Manager Match.
The show begins at 5 p.m. Doors open at 4:30. Adult admission (cash at door) is $10; kids 12 and under $5. For more information, call 743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.
– Mike Mooneyham