Jerry “The King” Lawler has once again been replaced as part of the WWE Raw commentary team. Dave Meltzer reported in the latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that Samoa Joe has permanently replaced Lawler. Lawler was called out for racially insensitive comments a few months back concerning Akira Tozawa.
Joe replaced Lawler the week after the incident to get the heat off of him, but Lawler returned shortly after. Jerry “The King” Lawler, who incomprehensibly returned to commentary Monday night on Raw, is facing backlash for a racially insensitive remark he made while calling a match between Akira Tozawa and Austin Theory.
Racially insensitive nicknames are nothing new for heel commentators in wrestling, which is clearly what Lawler is going for at his advanced age.
Of course, Lawler’s comments hearken back to WWE Hall of Fame wrestler, and legendary heel commentator, Jesse “the Body” Ventura, who famously coined the term “flying burrito” in reference to Tito Santana.
This past November, legendary wrestling manager Jim Cornette resigned from NWA Powerrr after refusing to apologize for reusing and old line about buckets of chicken and Ethiopia.
It’s unfair to dismiss Jerry Lawler as a racist after piecing together a series of tone-deaf comments. There are bigger fish to fry when it comes to that discussion, especially in an industry crawling with noted racists who operate guilt-free in private.
But Lawler’s seemingly irreplaceable presence on Raw ties into the vision of 74-year-old Chairman Vince McMahon, whose insistence on maintaining a middle-aged status quo at the top will continue to alienate young viewers and viewers of color.
Lawler’s presence on Raw alone is controversial in its own right. With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continuing to peak, and as the world looks to flatten the curve, elderly individuals and those with preexisting conditions are at the highest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Jerry Lawler is both.
CDC cautions “people who are 65 years or older” and “people who have serious heart conditions” to take added measures in staying safe during these times. These groups at the highest risk for severe illness from contracting COVID-19.
Lawler is 70 years old and notoriously suffered a heart attack on air in September of 2012. The idea that he is essential to WWE’s business at this time—let alone the idea that WWE is an essential business at the moment—is borderline insanity.
As Lawler continues to risk his health during a time where immunocompromised top star Roman Reigns has admirably chosen to self-quarantine, the wrestling legend is hardly being asked to do so against his will.
Lawler has championed avant garde conspiracy theories and philosophies against the coronavirus, often dismissing the global pandemic as a media creation.
“I just think that the media is blowing this thing—is creating this panic,” Lawler said during an appearance on “Cerrito Live” (h/t Wrestling Inc).
“You know you can’t find toilet paper anywhere. That’s the main thing the coronavirus causes you is to make you go to the bathroom a million times a day or something. Other than that, I still think I still feel like this is blown out of proportion and it’s a media created panic.”
“What are you gonna do if you get it? They say there’s no treatment for it, there’s no cure for it. What are you gonna do? I’m not gonna hold myself inside a room here and quarantine myself like an idiot for who knows how long.”
Jerry Lawler on “Cerrito Live”
When asked about traveling during the pandemic during the mid-March appearance, Lawler stated plainly:
“I know what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna fly and I’m gonna be at Raw on Monday night…you know why? Because I like to pick up my check every Monday for being at Raw every Monday night.”