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Michael Cole: Jerry Lawler 'in great spirits'
On Wednesday evening, Michael Cole spoke with Jerry Lawler for the first time since the WWE Hall of Fame announcer’s heart attack during Monday Night Raw. In an interview with WWE.com, Cole recounts the incident, describes what it was like to talk with his friend once again and delivers a message from “The King” to the WWE Universe.
WWE.COM: Michael, on Wednesday evening you revealed on Twitter that you spoke to Jerry Lawler over the phone. How did that conversation come about?
MICHAEL COLE: I had just gotten home to Texas after what had been a whirlwind two days dealing with this situation. I actually got a phone call from Jerry’s girlfriend, who’s in the hospital with him. And she said “Michael, I’ve got somebody who wants to talk to you.” She handed over the phone and it’s “The King”!
We immediately had a couple of laughs. He’s weak, but he’s alert. He talked coherently and he’s not completely out of the woods yet and he’s got a long recovery process to come, but he’s awake. Jerry’s in a lot of pain — he said he feels like he’s been through a 60-Minute Iron Man Match, but he’s in great spirits.
The biggest thing Jerry wanted me to do was to let the millions and millions of fans out there that have been tweeting their well wishes to me, WWE and to his account, that the outpouring of support from around the world has really, really touched him. He broke down a little bit and was very emotional in talking about the love of the WWE fans, thanking the company for its support and he had very kind words for the people that helped to save his life: to Dr. Sampson, to [WWE production assistant] Mike Mansury, who was at ringside, to the EMTs in Montreal. Obviously, he doesn’t remember what happened, but he’d been told over the past 24 hours everything that went down, and it’s a miracle. The man had a massive heart attack and he was talking two days later. I never thought I’d hear his voice again, let alone two days after the event.
WWE.COM: Can you take us through what was going through your mind once you realized Jerry was in trouble?
COLE: We were in the middle of calling the match between Kane & Daniel Bryan and The Prime Time Players, and I didn’t see anything different about Jerry. He was actually cracking his old jokes and we were talking about [Kane & Bryan’s] anger management process. I work from a monitor on my right at the table and Jerry works from a monitor to his left, so a lot of times while we’re calling the action we don’t have much eye contact with one another. We’ve worked together for 15 years and we know each other so well that we don’t have to constantly be looking at each other. When I was looking down at the monitor, all of a sudden I heard what sounded like snoring. For a split second, I thought that it was part of the show. I thought that maybe Jerry was just — like I used to do back in my WWE NXT days — pretending to be bored with the match and was snoring like he was sleeping through it. So I took my headset off and looked at him like “What are you doing?” All of a sudden, his head dropped to the table and his arm started shaking. At that point I realized we had an issue on our hands.
Immediately realizing that he was in trouble, I think instinctively — just because of my news background — I hit my “mute” switch. I didn’t want our fans at home, especially if Jerry’s girlfriend and family were watching, to go into an unnecessary panic because I obviously didn’t know what was wrong with Jerry at the time. Perhaps he had just fainted, we didn’t know.
I jumped up and I started screaming for Dr. Michael Sampson, our ringside doctor who was just about three feet away from Jerry, and our production assistant Mike Mansury. They jumped out of their seats and came over, and at that point Jerry had slumped to the floor. Within 20 or 30 seconds, probably a half dozen security guys jumped over the barricade and were literally carrying Jerry out of the ringside area and placing him onto a stretcher. At this point, my focus returned to the action in the ring, and I decided to continue calling the match as if nothing was going on. Again, I had been ordered not to panic anyone.
During the commercial break when I was getting information from our producers and directors that Jerry was undergoing CPR, was when we made the decision to start updating the fans on the condition of Lawler. And also, it was a team effort to make the determination to suspend commentary for the rest of the broadcast out of respect for Jerry.
I was lost in my emotions and knew that I had a job to do and a duty to fulfill for the members of the WWE Universe, and that was to keep them informed of the health status of Jerry Lawler. I took that duty seriously. This was something that didn’t happen backstage, didn’t happen in the parking lot, it happened live on television to a man who is an icon to not only people in the wrestling business but also people in pop culture and entertainment worldwide. This was a major news story. And I don’t think I nor WWE should have handled it any other way. ( LATEST UPDATE ON JERRY LAWLER)
WWE.COM: Toward the end of the broadcast, you were able to give the WWE Universe some encouraging news: that Jerry’s condition had stabilized, that he was breathing on his own and that his heart was beating on its own. How relieved were you at that point?
COLE: That hour [from the incident to the conclusion of Raw] seemed like an eternity to me. In fact, Monday night seems like it was last year. That hour sitting at ringside alone, not knowing what was going on from a personal standpoint, it was agonizing. But the guys who gave me the information did so accurately, and there were times there when it didn’t look good. I was deathly afraid that I was going to have to deliver some really bad news. But when I got the news at 11 p.m. ET that Jerry’s heart was beating on its own and that he was breathing on his own, when I got that news I remember specifically I pumped my fist before they came to me on camera. I understood he had a huge road ahead of him, but that was the first good news we’d received in an hour.
It was amazing how that news came to us right as the show was going off the air, so we were able to leave Jerry’s family and friends and the WWE Universe watching with at least a glimmer of hope. And then obviously there was no sleep that night. We were constantly getting updates from the hospital and just really trying to determine how we were going to handle the situation the following day and heading into SmackDown.
It all came to a head on Wednesday night when I got that call from Jerry from his hospital room. That was probably the greatest phone call I’ve ever received in my entire life. He sounded like “The King.” He’s a slower-talking “King” because he’s in a lot of pain, but he’s “The King.”
But again, the big thing I want to let everybody know about is that he’s hanging in there, he’s fighting and he really understands and appreciates the millions and millions of people that have reached out to show their support for him and his family. He is completely humbled and broke down a couple of times when discussing the amount of love that has been flowing toward him. I think knowing that is just going to make his recovery stronger and better and faster. We all know Jerry, and we all know that this isn’t going to hold him down.
Jerry’s a consummate professional, a consummate gentleman. I don’t think there’s a person in the world who would have a poor word to say about this guy. Both he and I have shared our greatest professional moments together in WWE — the rivalry leading up to WrestleMania XXVII — that’s a bond that will never be taken away from us.
I think we both gained a tremendous amount of respect for one another over the years and he’s really become a brother to me. He’s someone I deeply love and to have that happen out there is a traumatic thing, but sometimes tragedy becomes enlightenment. And that’s the way I look at this because I feel so fulfilled tonight, and ecstatic and happy and all of those adjectives that you want to use to describe that I was able to talk to my friend on the telephone when, as early as Tuesday morning, I didn’t know if that was going to happen again.