The most talked-about event on this week's edition of Monday Night Raw was not related to the build to Sunday's Survivor Series pay-per-view. Instead, what most wrestling fans are talking about was the way that the heel WWE Champion CM Punk and Paul Heyman mocked Jerry Lawler for the heart attack he suffered on September 10.
Did I expect it to happen? Yes.
Did I expect it to happen as quickly as it did? Yes.
Did I expect it to happen in the manner it was done? Yes.
It's all about the expectations. If you didn't think WWE was going to use the heart attack in an angle, then you are underestimating what WWE does. If you expected it to do it, then you're like me and you realized it was just a wrestling angle used as a device to get more heat on the current WWE Champion.
History Repeats Itself
There are many things that WWE has done over the years to push the envelope in terms of the health of somebody on the show. If you'll recall they had Eddie Guerrero's mom suffer a heart attack in 2004 due to the heel tactics of John Bradshaw Layfield. JBL has since said he had to get a police escort to the next town because they were worried about his safety.
Remember the angle in 2006 when heel Randy Orton was feuding with Rey Mysterio? It was a few months after the death of Eddie Guerrero, who was a close friend of Mysterio. As a way to get heat for Orton they had him say that: "Eddie Guerrero's not in heaven. Eddie's in hell." That angered a lot of people. While I'm sure that somebody probably thought Eddie would be OK with it, there's no way of knowing if that's true.
If you'll recall in 2011 while Lawler was feuding with Michael Cole, Lawler's mother passed away. Once Lawler returned, Cole used the death of Lawler's mother as a way to get heel heat as well. Watch this clip and listen to the crowd reaction at the 4:30 mark. You can hear how angry the crowd is just by their reaction. I'm sure that Lawler was OK with it because as a heel he said some very nasty things about Bret Hart's family among others over the years.
The WWE Champion Is a Jerk? Heels Are Supposed to Be!
This week on Raw, Punk basically took credit for Lawler's heart attack saying that the beatings that Punk gave him are the reason Lawler nearly died. It's not true, but heels lie and that's just part of the wrestling business. We know that.
Where things might have went too far was when Paul Heyman faked a heart attack in the ring. Then he, along with Punk, laughed at Lawler. I think that's what probably pissed off people the most because they were making a mockery of a very serious situation. Don't get mad at Punk or Heyman. They are just doing their jobs as wrestling heels who are being booked to act that way.
Later on Raw, CM Punk got beat by John Cena. He tried to run away from him, but Ryback prevented him from running away. That is WWE's way of saying "he paid for what he did" because he got his ass kicked. On Sunday if you want to see Punk get his ass kicked, buy the Survivor Series pay-per-view and see if it happens. I'll save the predictions for another column.
There Are No Limits
Wrestling fans complain about a lot of things. In this case if somebody complains about WWE using a very real heart attack for the purposes of a storyline, I think he or she is justified for having that opinion. It was pushing the envelope.
The question shouldn't be: "Did WWE go too far?" The question is does WWE really think it's necessary to use a real life serious situation like a heart attack as a way to add heel heat to its top heel?
The answer to that question, in the eyes of Vince McMahon and the WWE creative team, is obviously yes. They did it on Monday. They've done it many other times over the years.
There's no exact way to measure if doing angles like these hurt or help the product. You can't look at television ratings because while they are used for accuracy, who is to say that somebody turned the show off because of a previous segment or because they had no interest in watching Tensai get squashed?
If you look at the pay-per-view buys for Survivor Series, we won't be able to tell if people were put off by the Lawler angle. If the buyrate number is perceived as low you can blame it as the main event switching two weeks before the show aired or the lack of depth on the card. Maybe there's some big NFL game that night—there usually is on Sunday nights. There will be no exact way of knowing why a number is down.
Is Jerry Lawler OK With It?
The best thing to do is to look at this storyline from Lawler's perspective. He's been a part of the wrestling business for 40 years. He's been an announcer and part-time wrestler in WWE for nearly 20 years (he started in 1993).
Think about it. If Lawler suffered his heart attack alone in his hotel room or while driving a car, the chances are very high that he would be dead right now. Because of where suffered his heart attack—live on Raw—he was able to receive medical attention right away. The WWE doctors saved his life. The EMTs in Montreal saved his life.
Remember this. He was given a second chance on life. He was dead for a few minutes on September 10. Medical personnel had to revive him. Think about what the last nine weeks have been for that man. He went literally from his deathbed back to work in two months. It's amazing. Nobody was happier on Monday than him, and that's what I most enjoyed about Raw this week.
If you're Lawler and WWE says: "We want to use your heart attack in an angle to get CM Punk heel heat" what do you think he's going to say? Chances are if he said no, then they wouldn't have done it. He probably said it was fine. McMahon was there for Lawler when he suffered his heart attack. They are very close friends. If it was an issue on Monday, I really doubt it would have made it onto Raw.
What I'm trying to say is that if Jerry Lawler is OK with WWE making fun of him for having a heart attack on their television show two months ago, then we, as wrestling fans, should be OK with it too.
I'm not saying you should love it. I just think it's acceptable because everybody involved with it knows it's part of the story for the greater good of the company (in the minds of WWE Creative), so it's important to realize it and get past it.
Heels are mean. Babyfaces are nice. That's wrestling. That was what we got on Monday just like we get every single week and will continue to get for the rest of our lives as wrestling fans.
Monday Night Raw, Friday Night Smackdown and any other WWE show is no different than any television show with a script. They are actors on a television. Just because they used a real life situation to further a storyline doesn't make them wrong. It just means they know what they are: a scripted television show that is trying to gain viewers. More than anything WWE is a business.
What did the WWE prove by using Jerry Lawler's near-death experience to further a storyline? That nothing is off limits.
Business as usual.
John Canton is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He doesn't defend mocking heart attacks unless it's done in the wrestling business. You can read more of his work at his website TJRWrestling.com along with his talented staff of writers. He also writes a lot about the NFL at TJRSports.com, so check him out there as well! You can follow John on Twitter @johnreport, too.
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