When It Gets Too Real, Owen Hart, Lawler, More
by, 09-13-2012 at 07:34 AM (8905 Views)
Hi there everyone.
As you are no doubt aware, one of the true wrestling greats is facing a new battle. Watching RAW when it happened, I couldn't help but feel physically ill at what was unfolding. I was scared that, in some way, as a viewer, I'd be witnessing the possible demise of a charismatic superstar and a great colour commentator, Jerry Lawler. The news seems to be more positive and I can only hope that is gets better from here. Jerry, from across the pond, we all wish you well and we cannot wait to see you back calling matches, but we all understand it'll be some time before it happens again.
It's already been pointed out in hundreds of posts and blogs thus far, but I seriously do want to shout out to Michael Cole for his brilliantly composed delivery of the news whilst there was so much still up in the air. This shouldn't really be too much of a surprise, given his war reporting background, but it takes a hell of a lot of courage to announce that the man you sit next to for years might not return. Mr Cole, I have the upmost respect for you and your professionalism. I can only dream that your colleagues and the hierarchy that be applaud you on your stellar job and I hope you are given a real face push, like you had on SmackDown.
This whole situation must be an absolute nightmare for all the superstars involved within WWE and the backroom staff. They live in a bubble where they are constantly surrounded by those that they work with. Something like this, it doesn't go away easily or fast since you are constantly reminded of what happened. That horrible realisation when you realise that fiction is fast becoming fact, and live to boot, is one of the worst feelings. Much like watching live events unfold at a riot, it can quickly escalate to things that weren't thought possible. In this blog, as possibly difficult as it might be to write, I want to try and recall the events where wrestling has, unwittingly, been the vocal point of news coverage for right, and wrong, reasons.
Owen Hart - 1999
At this point, I know I didn't watch wrestling full time but if something that you've never watched can make the national news, you know it had an impact. Owen Hart tragically died in a technical incident at a PPV, where he was due to be slowly lowered to the ring from the rafters, but fell and crashed to his untimely death. It made the news over here just for its ture tradegy value, plus WWE was starting to become slightly more mainstream in its popularity. But I went back and looked at footage from that fateful night and genuinely being scared that I might see this atrocious fall. Thankfully, the camera was panning round to the audience. Jim Ross was on commentary and handling things exceptionally well, but part of me thinks that he wasn't exactly clued in as to what was going on, so to keep an emotional distance from the incident. With the PPV being delayed, there was notable confusion amongst the crowd who couldn't see directly down to the ring. As news filtered through that someone had fallen, it looked like the fans just became increasingly worried as the day went on. To then find out it was a wrestler who died is shocking, to find out it was Owen Hart was near impossible for some to take in. Again, not physically watching it in person, I can only assume. But an incident like this sparked a chain reaction of protocol to change within the WWE, starting with no lavish entrances from the top. (With the possible exception of the New Brood) What was then seen next was a rise in the number of wrestlers asking for counselling and time off to get over the incident. Notably, Bret Hart was, of course, hit hardest by this and didn't really return to wrestling much after. But just by this event happening, the world was, in the saddest circumstances, relating to WWE.
SmackDown - 2001
It was a few days after the September 11th attacks that devastated the world. Apart from the scheduled live morning shows, there weren't any broadcasts that had quite the impact for me as the SmackDown broadcast that followed. It was billed as the first live broadcast since the attacks (which, technically, wasn't true) but was a celebration and a message. It was a respectful tribute to the solidarity that was shown and a clear message that freedom wasn't going to be compromised due to this atrocity. In amongst the midst of the chaos was Vince McMahon, opening the show and breaking character completely to address not just the WWF Universe (as it was back then), but the watching audience of increased millions. One of the most beautiful and meaningful renditions of the American National Anthem I can remember was sung by Lillian Garcia and the show was tastefully done so as to strike a careful balance between 3 factors: the loss of the innocent, the bravery of the rescue crews and the anger and injustice felt by all involved. It, to this day, was one of the highest rated SD shows ever and personified that, when called upon, WWE can be a voice for the masses, despite it being levelled on a fictional platform.
Extreme Rules - 2011
Well... this one was a surprise. And oddly enough, I found out what was revealed on Extreme Rules rather than Sky News or BBC News. By complete accident, I remember watching this PPV thinking 'who the hell are these punks?' (as I had not watched WWE in some time since) but found myself hooked somewhat. And then came the moment that, honestly, I never thought would happen. John Cena took a microphone and made me smile.
'Osama Bin Laden... is dead.'
*cue scenes of mass hysteria in crowd*
I cannot tell you the relief that I found in those words. I'm almost sure that everyone else's happiness and relief were much greater than mine, but for a few blissful hours, I thought nothing could go wrong in the world. Yes, WWE were amongst the first to report that Osama Bin Laden had been captured and killed. Suddenly, amongst all the spectacular matches and the new championship crowning, John Cena got word from the producers that this momentous event had taken place. And whilst news agencies covered everything from head to toe in excruciatingly beautiful detail, there was just something so special about hearing normal men, women and children chanting 'USA! USA!'out of happiness and pride for the world they live in. That's why when good news events happen out of the blue with people, you get the true face of the news and what it means. Tampa, Florida showed countries around the world just what a pleasure and a relief it was to their way of life that Bin Laden was vanquished. And even though, in the coming days, cities were on high alert and airports were being searched hourly, we could all allow ourselves a wry smile and a breath of relief that, for one night only, WWE gave us the news of the year.
Jerry Lawler - 2012
In the time I started to really get into wrestling, you had two completely different but hugely likeable commentating styles. You had SmackDown's Michael Cole/Tazz combination, which mixed hard hitting street talk and wrestling background with a calm and collected face figurehead like Cole. And the other partnership was the Jerry Lawler/Jim Ross partnership, which displayed enormous affection for 'puppies' and copious amounts of BBQ references, all tied neatly into a very wise and experienced double bow. I always preferred SD to RAW but I preferred JL/JR to MC/T, mainly because I got somewhat of an education by JR and JL. I wanted to know the names of the holds and the backgrounds of wrestlers and they were insightful. But the chemistry those two displayed was so fantastic. So I was slightly shocked to see JR go to SD in the Draft of 2009, but MC/JL seemed like an interesting combo. It left JL to be the babyface of the duo and allowed MC to build a character, which he had wanted to do for so long on SD. Jerry Lawler was always on the money and always had such an amazing connection with the fans, mainly down to his interaction with them at ringside before and after live shows. So it makes what happened all the more shocking that someone who you grew up and loved listening to, just went quiet. It haunts me now, listening to the match again, to hear the oxygen flow from the cannisters in the match. Michael Cole just falling near silent at the sight of Jerry lying motionless. I am somewhat thankful a fan filmed it and put it on YouTube because, in all honesty, I wanted to know that people came down to help him as quick as they could. But, nearly like Owen Hart, we could have had another tradegy fall before our eyes.
I'm sorry if this appears a sombre blog, but since the incident it's surely left us all feeling somewhat raw inside, knowing we might have witnessed the end of a real legend. God speed Jerry, I hope your recovery is fast and efficient and gets you back where you belong: in the spotlight. And once again, well done Michael Cole on your professionalism.
Bye guys and gals. Till next.