Monday night, Jerry Lawler hit the ground running in his return to WWE, being involved at the middle of a controversial and polarizing segment where CM Punk brought up his real life heart attack, Paul Heyman faked one himself and Mick Foley came out to defend him. There are two camps. One claims that the angle was pro wrestling at its finest, a carny display from a carny form of entertainment where the lines between reality and kayfabe were blurred heavily. The other thinks that it was tasteless, even by pro wrestling standards, and that a real life brush with death should have been off-limits.
Basically, the reasoning is that Lawler himself was okay with the angle because he has a history of doing risqué stuff throughout his career, and people assumed (probably correctly) that it was his idea in the first place. Obviously, he would have to be okay with it as a prerequisite for it to be ethical as part of his job, especially after coming back from such a stressful event such as a heart attack. But is that reason enough to tell people that they shouldn’t be offended?
I don’t think that’s the case whatsoever. Everyone has a different line. No one’s is the same, and that’s why something like Lawler’s heart attack being used as story fodder is polarizing instead of a cut-and-dried case of right or wrong. Maybe it’s something that hit too close to home for them. Maybe they felt that Lawler being okay with it was a sign that he didn’t take his own health seriously enough and was setting a bad example to other people. I don’t know, but whatever it was, there is a chance that Lawler’s participation in the angle could have been objectively wrong. I don’t know if I’m in the position to say whether anything on Monday regarding what took place was right or wrong. Then again, it’s a matter of opinion anyway.
People are going to get offended no matter what. Ricky Gervais said once “Just because you’re offended doesn’t make you in the right.” He’s absolutely correct, but at the same time, it might not matter because people taking offense to things might make them turn off the show. Honestly, I think if you do watch wrestling, you should have a reasonable expectation that they’re going to do some carny stuff. Then again, I don’t know if I’m the authority to tell you what should offend you or not.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.