WWE's Jerry Lawler talks about heart attack
October, 1, 2012
By Lynn Hoppes | ESPN.com
Moses Robinson/Getty ImagesJerry Lawler has been wrestling since 1970 and wrestled the night he had a heart attack.It's been just three weeks since WWE wrestler/announcer Jerry "The King" Lawler had a heart attack during a live television broadcast in Montreal. And it's been two weeks since Lawler returned to his Memphis, Tenn., home.
And now Lawler wants to get back into the ring.
"I honestly think I could go into the ring and wrestle right now. That's how normal I feel," said the 62-year-old Lawler, who has been wrestling since 1970. "I know it wouldn't be wise to do that. But I'm improving on a daily basis."
The millions of wrestling fans who were watching the "Monday Night Raw" telecast didn't know if the heart attack was real or part of the show.
That's because Lawler had wrestled that night in a tag match and wasn't showing any signs of problems -- until he later sat at the announcer's table with partner Michael Cole.
Lawler slumped over off camera, and paramedics were called. Lawler was taken by ambulance to a hospital and spent a week there before heading home.
Playbook had a few minutes with Lawler to talk about his recovery at home.
How lucky do you feel?
"For this kind of heart attack, only one out of 260 people survive. My girlfriend told me that on the way to the hospital they thought I was dead but they were still working on me and eventually shocked me seven times. It is a real comeback. People were asking me whether I saw bright lights and saw relatives who have passed. No, I didn't see any of that. Michael Cole said that's because I was heading in the opposite direction!"
You seem to be in good spirits. Your voice is a little raspy from the breathing tube.
"I'm probably doing better than expected. I broke my leg in the 1980s and I was out of the ring for a year. That was painful and agonizing. The funny thing about this heart attack is I didn't even realize it was happening. I just passed out. I didn't have any excruciating pain. When I woke up three days later, the only soreness I had was in the chest from all the compressions they were giving me to revive me."
The reaction from the fan base has been unbelievable, hasn't it?
"I never dreamed in a million years I'd get this kind of concern. I know we have the WWE universe of fans, especially with our TV show in 160 countries. I think there was so many people who were watching it live and felt a personal bond and felt part of it, that they reached out with prayers and concerns. It's been amazing and I see how big social media really is. I have almost 500,000 Twitter followers and it's been blowing up my phone constantly every minute of every day. People are in different parts of the world and on different hours, so they are sending notes, emails and videos. It's been overwhelming."
What has your girlfriend, Lauryn Laine McBride, meant to you during these times?
"Without a doubt, she has been a rock. She was home in Memphis and watching it on TV. She was first at her parents' house, and they just assumed it was part of the show. Then Michael Cole comes on and says it's not. She went into hysterics. She was trying to leave as soon as possible. She left at 6 a.m. the next morning and got in around 4. There were so many stories that I had brain damage and I was without oxygen and stuff. She walks in and sees me with breathing tubes down my throat and my eyes rolled back and my tongue halfway sticking out. I must have been a horrible sight. 'Oh, my God,' I'm sure she thought. That I was going to be a vegetable. She was the first thing I saw when I eventually woke up."
Can you remember anything?
"I think there is going be the gap on the show when it actually happened. I really don't think it's going to come back. I remember doing the first segment when Bret Hart confronted C.M. Punk. Then I had a match with Randy Orton against C.M. Punk and Dolph Ziggler. It was like nothing was wrong. I actually wrestled better than usual. I don't remember one bit of that. I think it was surreal watching the tape of that match. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital. I thought my girlfriend and I were still in Aruba, where we were the previous week."
Are you serious that you want to return quickly? I see that the WWE has a WWE Raw show in Nashville on Oct. 15 and a Smackdown show in Memphis on Oct. 16. Think you'll be there?
"I would like to. I know because of my voice that I would sound horrible on the air. It's a few weeks away, so I honestly think I could; I'm so thankful for the fact that I feel good at this time."
So, probably smart to stay off your feet for a few weeks and cherish what you have.
"From a business perspective, I realize that tomorrow is not promised to anybody. I just blanked out in a matter of seconds and I could have been gone. I don't even have a will. I think it's important to take care of what you have before you're gone. Personally, it makes me appreciate everything, every time I wake up in the morning. It's a whole different feeling. I'm sure a lot of people out there have survived a traumatic event. It makes you have an appreciation for life and enjoy life more."