The unanswered question: was Jerry "The King" Lawler included in WWE's Talent Wellness Program or not? (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Michael Cole was on Fox News this morning discussing the latest tragedy that has befallen the pro wrestling industry, Jerry "The King" Lawler's serious heart attack on Monday Night Raw while announcing, just minutes after working a tag team match with Randy Orton against CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler. An interview of Cole's appearance can be seen after the jump.
When finding out that Lawler was 62 years old, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked the obvious question of whether he was too old to be wrestling. Likely coached for this question by WWE lawyers before his appearance, Cole gave a very robust defence of WWE still using him as an in-ring performer at such a mature age:
No, I don't think so and I'll tell you why. He passed all the physical exams that were needed to participate, number one. Number two, Jerry Lawler, he's been doing this forty two years, he loves it, he's like a kid, it's all he's ever wanted to do. But more importantly than that, he wrestles a hundred to a hundred and fifty times a year. Not just for us, but for independent organisations around the world, so he wants to do this, he's in the shape to do this, and I don't think he would be in this business, if he didn't love it.
But clearly Lawler's health wasn't as good as WWE believed, which poses a couple of questions.
Firstly, given that he was primarily an announcer and not a full time wrestler for the company, was he included in WWE's Talent Wellness Program, where performers undergo extensive cardiovascular monitoring and testing twice a year by Dr. Brian Donahue of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center?
I would hope WWE would not be so negligent, after WWE road agent Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat suffered a similar health scare at age 57 just two years ago when he developed bleeding on the brain after a capillary burst, only a couple of days after being involved in a Nexus beat down angle. But given Dave Meltzer's account on his subscriber only September 11th Wrestling Observer Radio show of Lawler as someone with an old school mentality of "If I don't know, it can't hurt me" and who never got regular health check ups, the possibility of negligence on WWE part can't be ruled out at this point.
Secondly, if he did undergo cardiovascular testing with WWE, which I'm personally sceptical about, then were they aware of a pre-existing heart condition but still allowed him to wrestle, or had he somehow passed all his tests, which would raise further questions of the efficacy of WWE's Wellness Policy at discovering potentially fatal health conditions before it's too late. These are issues I would like the media to probe in further detail, so a scenario like this doesn't happen again. So far, WWE's official statements on the matter have been terse and there has been no transparency on what, if any, medical testing Lawler underwent before being cleared to wrestle. Hopefully there aren't any nefarious reasons for this.