On a Monday night at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis in 1978, Joe LeDuc pressed Jerry Lawler over his head and tossed the Southern heavyweight champion from the ring like a ragdoll onto the ringside announcers’ table. My hometown hero took a wicked bump, crashing off the table and crumpling in a heap onto the floor.
I was sure the King was done for.
Indeed, Lawler was really hurt on this night in ’78 . This was no angle— this wasn’t part of the show.
Although he was treated for a leg injury at a Memphis hospital that night, Lawler was back in the ring two weeks later seeking revenge against the maniacal Canadian lumberjack.
I was only 7 years old, and I thought Lawler was Superman.
Over the years, no matter the odds, Lawler always battled back when a dastardly heel like Terry Funk or Nick Bockwinkel had the King on the ropes. Bleeding and reeling, Lawler always rallied in the end, pulling down the strap on his singlet to make his comeback—think Popeye and his spinach—as the rowdy crowds at Monday Night Rasslin’ went berserk.
Thirty-four years later, on the September 10 episode of WWE’s “Monday Night RAW,” Lawler, who had been experiencing chest pains of late, collapsed to the floor near the announcers’ table, where he was doing commentary.
My hero had fallen once again, this time as a result of a massive heart attack. And once again, this was no angle–“…not part of the entertainment,” as his visibly shaken announce partner Michael Cole told the millions watching Monday night.
I again feared my childhood hero was done for. But on the ropes and reeling, Lawler again rallied, pulling down the proverbial strap to make the comeback and overcome his most dangerous adversary yet.
Three days later, with rumors of death and possible brain damage circulating on the Internet, Lawler began showing amazing signs of recovery, joking and laughing with friends and quickly regaining his appetite. Even Lawler’s doctor was reportedly amazed at the shape he was in following surgery.
I shouldn’t have doubted his resolve–the King has made his living triumphing against the odds in heart-stopping action and suspense.
I’m 41 years old, and I still think he’s Superman.