After nine weeks of recovery from a near-fatal heart attack, Jerry "The King" Lawler made his triumphant return to the announce table on RAW this week. Lawler received a hero's welcome, but he was interrupted by WWE Champion CM Punk who went on to mock Lawler about the fact that he almost died.
Some may say that Punk's actions were in poor taste, but I believe that the WWE made the right decision in allowing Punk to exploit Lawler's misfortunes.
When Punk's music hit while Lawler was still basking in the support of the fans, the WWE Champion garnered instant heat. Things only got better from there, though, as Punk would cut a promo on Lawler and mock the fact that Lawler was actually clinically dead for a period of time after suffering the heart attack.
Rather than offering his well wishes, Punk lashed out at the fans who blamed him for Lawler's heart attack. He said that it was nobody's fault but Lawler's and that it was disrespectful for a man his age to step into the ring with the best wrestler in the world. As expected, the crowd was firmly against Punk by the time his promo ended.
Since Punk first started turning heel on the 1,000th episode of RAW, the WWE has done everything possible to turn the fans against him. He had a match with Lawler, he insulted Bret Hart in his home country of Canada and he even beat down Vince McMahon in a street fight. All of that has helped Punk go from a top face to a top heel, but his actions on Monday put him over the top.
I understand that some people are sensitive to the fact that Lawler nearly passed away, and there isn't anything wrong with that. At the same time, though, it's important to take into account why Punk was allowed to say those things. I have no doubt that the ball was in Lawler's court, and being that he has always had a great sense of humor about things, he likely agreed to the segment.
If it was fine with Lawler, then it doesn't really make sense for anyone else to be offended. Fans are constantly complaining about the PG era and the fact that nothing seems realistic anymore, but as soon as Punk takes a real-life situation and makes it a part of the show, there is immediate backlash because it's perceived as a mean thing to say.
The entire point of Punk's character is that he's a mean guy who doesn't care about the feelings of others, so I felt like his criticisms of Lawler were well done and relevant. Had the WWE brought out a guy like Antonio Cesaro and had him blast Lawler for the purpose of heel heat, then I could see the outrage, but Punk has a history with Lawler and a reason to say what he did.
Aside from Punk's comments, a lot of people took issue with Paul Heyman feigning a heart attack. It was admittedly a bit corny as everyone knew that Heyman was faking, but Heyman has always been that way. It's the heel's job to get on the fans' nerves and I have to believe that Heyman sufficiently did that on Monday.
Lawler has been in wrestling long enough to know that nothing that happens from a storyline perspective means anything in real life, though. Lawler himself has exploited real-life issues in the past in an effort to get over as a heel. While feuding with Bret "Hitman" Hart, Lawler constantly badgered Hart's parents, while making fun of their looks and their old age. It's simply part of the business.
Also, this isn't the first time Lawler has been on the receiving end of this type of attack. When he was in the thick of his feud with Michael Cole, Lawler's mother passed away. Cole used that as ammunition and called Lawler an awful son. In retrospect, that was probably 100 times worse than what Punk said to Lawler on Monday.
Lawler has obviously made peace with what happened to him and he even joked about it on multiple occasions on RAW. When performers take the stage in any medium, they are able to distinguish between what is real and what is fake. Lawler fully understands that Punk's actions are simply for the betterment of the product, and fans should come to that realization as well.