WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler made his return to the ring tonight on Dory Funk, Jr.’s !BANG! TV in Ocala, Florida. I was in attendance at the event, and witnessed Lawler step between the ropes for the first time since the heart attack that nearly took his life in September 2012. Lawler won his return match and I can happily and confidently report that Lawler can still work.
For those who may be wary about the 63-year-old getting back into the ring, he had been cleared by doctors, and by his own admission, he felt better than ever. In an interview days after his heart attack, Lawler revealed that he already had plans to wrestle again, noting that his heart had no permanent damage and his blood pressure was the lowest it’s been in his life. It’s easy to go with our guts and say that a heart attack survivor like Lawler has no business risking his life in the ring, but he and his doctors know better than anyone speculating. If he feels like he can still go and his doctors approve, let him wrestle.
Before his match, Lawler accepted the “Fighting Heart” Award (the name of the award was just coincidence, not named for Lawler’s heart) from Funk, and admitted that he was feeling excited but nervous. He said he hoped to “still be around in a few hours” to meet with fans. He made it, of course.
An hour later, Lawler made his way to the ring for the 8-person intergender tag match. He began the match in the ring against local talent Quinton “Drop-Back” Hitchcock, and Lawler quickly took control with a number of strikes and a scoop slam. When the pace slowed, Lawler was quick to shout out one of his infamous one-liners about his competition. In one instance, when a shorter opponent tagged in, Lawler quipped, “he’s so short, his hair smells like feet.”
Lawler remained on the offensive throughout the match, and didn’t take any major bumps (although 72-year-old Dory took a number of slams and other bumps). After Lawler had worked with most of the opposing team, the female on the team, Hollywood Heather, tagged herself in. Lawler was reluctant to grapple with her, but he changed his mind when she slapped him in the face. Lawler hit her with a piledriver to get the win for his team. The “You Still Got It!” chants that Lawler received throughout the match were warranted, as he looked like his old self in the ring. At no point did he seem like a performer that spent some time being clinically dead 8 months ago. Jerry Lawler still has it.
I hope Lawler will get a chance to wrestle on WWE television again. September 10, 2012 was a night that many wrestling fans won’t forget. I remember staying up all night, fully expecting to have to write the “Jerry Lawler Dead At 62″ article. The story turned out to have a happy ending, so why not capitalize on it? It would bring a level of buzz that the industry needs right now. “Did you hear? Vince is having Lawler wrestle less than a year after he almost died!” If Lawler was struggling through his return match, I wouldn’t want to see him compete in a ring ever again, but he can clearly still go. It’s clear that he wants to wrestle again. WWE has a great opportunity here. This could be Jerry Lawler’s crowning WWE moment – the one they didn’t give us at WrestleMania 27.
It’s also evident that Lawler has a lot to offer to the performers. I hope the performers at !BANG! picked Lawler’s brain while they had the chance. While much of the WWE Universe knows Lawler as a commentator first, many knew him as the Hulk Hogan or John Cena of the Memphis wrestling scene. He was one-half of one of the greatest and most high-profile feuds in wrestling history with Andy Kaufman. Not to mention, he can still get a genuine reaction from a live crowd. His TLC match with The Miz for the WWE Championship actually made people believe that Lawler had a shot at being the next WWE Champion. WWE legends almost always get nice pops as a thank you from the crowd, but very few could still work a crowd to the level that Lawler can.
I hope WWE capitalizes on a great opportunity. Maybe they can use it to promote that Memphis Wrestling DVD that they should really get around to producing and releasing. In any case, I’m glad he can still go in the ring, and I’m especially glad there were doctors at ringside when Lawler had his heart attack. There’s a lot that today’s performers can learn from a guy like Lawler, and there’s a lot of fans that want to meet the King of Memphis so they can mean-mug next to him. Long live the king.
For more, visit the official !BANG! website.