May 26, 2013
Lawler returns to the ring
By RANJAN CHHIBBER, Ph.D. - SLAM! Wrestling
OCALA, Fla. - In his first match after his shocking heart attack in Montreal in September 2012, Jerry "The King" Lawler returned to the ring in classic form on Saturday night in Ocala, Florida, in an eight-person intergender tag team match. The show was sold out, with the tiny parking lot overflowing: cars were parked on the side of the road, as fans lined up to see the Memphis legend return. Thunderous applause greeted the current WWE Superstar and commentator when he came to the ring.
The King cut a classic promo and showed no sign of ring rust at all. Being in an eight-person tag team match, with Lawler, Dory Funk Jr., Johnny Magnum, and Jessica Hill against Cory Weston, Quinton, Hitchcock, Romero Youngblood, and Hollywood Heather, his physical participation was limited, but nothing visibly revealed that The King had slowed down in any way, at least compared to his matches in the past few years. In fact, he seemed to give the youngsters in Funk's promotion a run for their money, in that he still had that extra energy to verbally taunt his opponents after the match was over. Lawler and Funk in the ring together brought awe to the audience, considering the combined influence both men have had on the history of pro wrestling.
Funk presented Lawler with a Fighting Heart Award.
The King's return to in-ring action not long after his serious health problems was not without controversy. Some wrestling writers thought his return to wrestling was too premature, like SLAM! Wrestling's Jon Waldman [Mat Matters: When will it be enough for Jerry Lawler?], but The King seemingly defied all odds, and most of the audience in attendance supported his decision to return. The only controversy of the night occurred when two members of the audience were ejected from the arena for jeers that offended some of the management of the Funking Conservatory.
Ten minutes after the show, every member of the audience was then invited back into the arena to exchange words with and take photos with The King. It was a rare opportunity for fans to interact with a WWE Superstar and Hall of Famer up close and personal like that. Unlike other members of international Royalty, King Lawler was gracious and humble to every member of the audience who came to meet him. One audience member had numerous items he requested The King to sign, and The King did so happily and without complaint.
For one night only, everyone in the audience felt the warmth of The King's heart.
Ranjan Chhibber is a former WWE Writer with a Ph.D. in Film History, and award-winning academic, who has taught Film Studies and Popular Culture at various universities across the United States and Canada. He is currently Assistant Professor of the Humanities at Florida State College, and can be reached via Jaclyn Allmon, at firstname.lastname@example.org.