In the world of professional wrestling, where scripted drama often takes center stage, it’s the unscripted and real-life moments that sometimes leave the most indelible marks on the collective memory of wrestling fans. One such poignant and heart-stopping event occurred on the September 10, 2012, episode of “WWE Raw” when the legendary Jerry Lawler, known to fans as “The King,” suffered a heart attack and collapsed at the commentary booth. Jim Ross, another iconic figure in the wrestling industry, found himself in an unexpected and emotionally charged role as he looked back on the harrowing events of that fateful night.
At the time, Jim Ross had transitioned into a different role within WWE, serving as an advisor and providing coaching to the company’s announcers at the WWE Performance Center.
This shift in responsibilities meant that he was not seated alongside his long-time broadcast partner, Jerry Lawler, when the unforeseeable tragedy unfolded on live television. Ross was thrust into the same position as any other wrestling fan, watching the show from the confines of his home. He vividly recalled the mixture of fear and anxiety that gripped him as he realized the gravity of the situation.
“I was scared to death,” Ross remembered his initial reaction to the shocking turn of events. “I remember so vividly Jan, my late wife, was just beside herself — she was trying to figure out if it was TV angle. I said, ‘I don’t think so, honey. I think this is the real deal.’ And it was the real deal, unfortunately. But fortunately, Jerry survived.”
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In the aftermath of Jerry Lawler’s hospitalization, as he embarked on his journey to recovery following the cardiac event, Jim Ross received an unexpected phone call. It was WWE Executive Kevin Dunn, and the call brought with it an unexpected twist: Ross was asked to step in as a substitute announcer for “WWE Raw,” the company’s flagship show.
This call was a surprise to Ross, coming at a time when he was deeply concerned about the well-being of his dear friend. Yet, he felt deeply honored to step up to the plate, taking on the responsibility of keeping Lawler’s seat warm during his absence from WWE.
The opportunity held special significance for Ross, as he reflected on the unique and emotional moment.
“Just for me to be able to sit in his chair ringside was really special,” he shared. “I think it was a good call, and I appreciated Kevin Dunn’s confidence in me. I was just excited that A, Jerry was still alive, and B, they were giving me the opportunity to sit in his spot.”
This heartwarming episode in the world of professional wrestling not only highlighted the unpredictability of the industry but also underscored the deep bonds of friendship and camaraderie that exist behind the scenes. It served as a poignant reminder to both fans and those within the wrestling community of the profound connection shared by those who dedicate their lives to this unique and captivating world of sports entertainment.
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The night that Jim Ross stepped into Jerry Lawler’s shoes served as a testament to the resilience and strength of those involved in professional wrestling, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. It showcased the industry’s ability to come together in times of adversity, ensuring that the show goes on even in the face of unforeseen challenges.