The world of professional wrestling is known for its scripted entertainment and sometimes strange characters. However, on the rare occasion, real-life incidents occur on the show that shake up all involved, and the higher ups –  ownership, officials, producers, and announcers, have to react immediately. Unfortunately, one such incident occurred on the Sept. 10, 2012 episode of Monday Night Raw, and it overshadowed everything else on the broadcast.

During a tag team match, Jerry “The King” Lawler, who was doing commentary on the match with Michael Cole, collapsed suddenly, which, I am sure caused a lot of scurrying backstage. Cole finished the match commentary, while the medical staff checked on his fallen friend. Some fans at the Bell Centre, in Montreal, saw the incident, and had no idea what happened or why, and started chanting “Jerry, Jerry.”

After the match, Cole appeared on television, visibly shaken – it looked like he was about to cry on air, and nobody would have blamed him. He indicated that Lawler suffered a heart attack. For the rest of the show, out of respect to Jerry, there was not any commentary, only updates on Lawler’s condition after each match.  It was evident that Michael wanted to leave the commentary position, but he stayed. Cole’s final update provided some positive news – Lawler was alert in a Montreal hospital, but not talking.

I agree with the decision not to have commentary for the remainder of the show. However, I feel that the WWE should not have left Cole to sit at the commentary position by himself – someone else should have sat next to him for company, or they should have allowed him to leave the table and update the fans in attendance (because they may not have known what really happened), and those watching at home, at the end of the night.

This incident was eerily similar to May 23, 1999 – the night that Owen Hart died while attempting to make a spectacular entrance into the ring. That night, the WWE had its commentators fill almost an hour with updates and video packages of upcoming matches, until the play-by-play commentator, Jim Ross, broke the news of Owen’s passing.

So, was it ethical for the WWE to continue the show after the Lawler incident? Was continuing the show financially right for the company? Obviously. But, what about the human aspect of the show? There was a life involved, and while Jerry survived, perhaps, a little empathy for the family would have been a positive move for the WWE.

I felt the same way with Owen Hart. That was more serious, yet the show continued. I met Owen years ago at a signing event in Toronto. I sat next to him the entire time, and was deeply saddened when the news was announced.

Perhaps, the WWE would have been in trouble with the network if they stopped the show. But then, no harm would have been done if a repeat episode of Raw aired. Sure, fans at the arena would have been disappointed, but if someone told them what transpired, I am sure they would have understood. Showing some degree of compassion would have gone a long way.

I hope that once Lawler returns to the WWE, he will not wrestle. He will make the choice of being only a commentator. Even though he is 62 and in great shape, if he wrestles again, my fear is he could collapse again and the results could be devastating.

Monday Night, Sept. 10, 2012 will always be an unforgettable night – but for the wrong reasons. I am glad “The King” is recovering from this setback. With the support from his close relatives, friends, doctors and fans, I am sure he will make a full recovery. Let us all hope for the best for this wrestling legend. Keep praying for him, and I am confident our prayers will be answered.

Azeem Kayum

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