That’s a weird idea, isn’t it? In an era where there’s so much emphasis on making new stars and building up the next generation of talent, it would seem counterproductive to put the company’s most prestigious championship on a 62-year-old Hall of Famer who’s spent most of his WWE career at the announce position instead of the ring. Nevertheless, it should happen. Putting the title on Lawler gives WWE a chance to tell a story that’s not only compelling, but also inspiring and heart warming.
Despite being an announcer first, Lawler has always had a presence in the ring during his WWE career. Over the last 15 years or so that presence has increased and decreased depending on story lines, roster depth, and whether a young talent could benefit from working with him. Only recently have we seen him lock up with main eventers like the Miz and CM Punk. Lawler even challenged Miz for the WWE Championship on his 61st birthday in November 2010, then again at the Elimination Chamber pay per view the following February. And of course, his lengthy feud with Michael Cole made for some memorable and even emotional television, if not a fantastic pay per view match.
What this has all equated to is a gradual shift in the way fans have been trained to perceive Lawler. Three or four years ago, putting the title on Lawler would have been a cheap stunt to get some quick attention from old school wrestling fans. Now? You can certainly argue that it would still be a stunt, but it would also be the fruit bore from a seed planted and nourished over the course of several years. From a mark’s perspective, Lawler winning the title would still be a long shot, but it’s not nearly as far fetched as it was a few years ago.
Mind you, it can’t happen any time soon. CM Punk’s reign as WWE Champion needs to last through the year at the very least. My assumption is that he’s going to drop the belt to The Rock at the Royal Rumble, then we’ll see Cena take it at Wrestlemania. I’m thinking some time in the summer of 2014. Assuming Cena is still the all America hero at that point, you probably don’t want him to be the one Lawler beats. These days the King’s old school wrestling persona works best when it’s matched against a conceited, disrespectful villain who can cut scathing promos. That makes CM Punk the most likely candidate for the job, but we shouldn’t forget guys like Alberto Del Rio, the Miz or even Wade Barrett. Lawler could also be put into a multi-man title match, which would allow the creative team some leeway in terms of having him beat a current superstar.
But man, oh man…what a moment it would be. Fans have a much more personal connection with Jerry Lawler than they have with any other wrestler, because he spends most of his television time indirectly talking to them via the announce position. He’s been with us for so many amazing, memorable, funny, and even tragic moments. When Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Batista won their first WWE Championships, he was there with us. When Mick Foley flew off the cage, he was there with us. When we mourned the loss of Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, he was there with us. Consider how many times we’ve invited him into our homes over the years. We know him so personally that to see him with the WWE Championship would almost be like seeing a brother or an uncle win it.
Having Lawler hold the title would also give the image-conscious and kid-friendly WWE a nice inspirational human interest story to feed to the press. A 60-something-year-old wrestler wins the big title after over 40 years in the business? That’s PR gold, right there.
Lawler obviously wouldn’t be a long term champion. Give him a month with the title, at most. But it has to be the WWE Championship, or more accurately, whichever title is associated with Monday Night Raw. They can’t chicken out and make him the Smackdown champ. No disrespect to Smackdown. But if they’re going to do this, they have to go all out.
Clearly, Lawler isn’t a saint. He’s had his issues over the years, mostly with women. But can you honestly tell me that after all these years, and all he’s done for the business, that he doesn’t deserve it? Imagine the crowd reaction. Imagine Lawler’s reaction! Think of the raw emotion that it would emit from all parties involved. It could very well go down in history as one of the most touching moments in WWE history. Would it fit in with the company’s youth movement? No. Would it make for some interesting television and a great story? Absolutely.
Rob Siebert was the Associate Deputy Chief of Breaking News and Noteworthy Events for the website formerly known as The Wrestling Daily. These days he is part of the “brain trust” over at PrimaryIgnition.com.