During a phone interview with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin today promoting WWE '13 and Redneck Island on CMT, I asked "The Rattlesnake" for his thoughts on the controversial moment on Monday night's Raw involving Paul Heyman faking a heart attack (in case you missed it, detailed info can be found in my Raw recap here).
Austin, the most popular superstar from WWE's Attitude Era -- an Era that prided itself on pushing the envelope and creating controversial situations that would have fans talking -- had an interesting response:
"I believe in pushing the envelope in an aggressive fashion. But when a guy damn near dies at ringside, let it go. You look at all the contributions Jerry Lawler has made in this business: from a work standpoint, a promo standpoint and then as a broadcaster. I think that's pushing the envelope in the wrong direction. There's better ways to go get real heat than that."
Austin's opinion matches many fans who watched the segment. However, many of Austin's colleagues in WWE have a different viewpoint. I reached some for comment:
Chris Jericho (@iamjericho): I think it was pretty obvious, don't you? I kind of expected it. Punk's promo was awesome. It's wrestling so you knew it would end up as an angle sooner or later. I got the same complaints when I did the alcoholic angle (earlier this year with CM Punk). It would be like being mad at "Breaking Bad" because the dad was a drug addict or something. It's just a TV show, after all.
Gregory Shane "Hurricane" Helms (@shanehelmscom): I can see how it might bother some, but it didn't bother me. I almost severed my spinal cord and I wouldn't get offended at a neck injury angle. At the end of the day, it's a television show meant to entertain. And part of that entertainment is to invoke emotion, both good and bad. That segment was designed to make people hate CM Punk and Paul Heyman and it obviously worked. Medical issues are used weekly on "House" -- do people get offended at that? Hell, even Lawler poked fun of himself moments later when the ambulance arrived for the Ryback-Maddox segment. If that segment made you hate Punk, good, now maybe you'll cheer a little louder for Ryback or Cena at Survivor Series. It's basic storytelling. I was more offended at William Regal wearing Moolah's old ring gear. :-)
MVP (@the305MVP): I'm not opposed to it. It's WWE. If someone recreates a heart attack on a TV show or movie, no one's offended! King is ALIVE! If he died ...
Brian "Blue Meanie" Heffron (@theebluemeanie): Honestly, I didn't get to see it but I will say that heart attack angles are nothing new in wrestling, whether in front of the camera or in the locker room, where the promoter will fake one because he realizes he doesn't have enough money to pay the (wrestlers)! I'm sure Jerry (Lawler) didn't have a problem with it because he knows it would have an impact. I mean, Eddie Gilbert once hit him with a car for wrestling! So why not let Heyman mock his heart attack if he knows it will get heat for Punk since Punk is so over it's almost impossible for fans to hate him at this time? Assuming Jerry is fine with it, then I see no harm.
Lance Storm (@storm_wrestling): Thought it was poor. Both he and Punk are capable to get real heat, no need to sink so low. Also thought it was out of character for Punk so it hurt. Punk is about Best in World and himself. Why bother joking about heart attack it goes nowhere. Interuption was okay and in character. Fake heart attack was cheap and pointless
Armando Estrada (@RealArmandoHaha): Although I didn't see the segment yet, I read about it. This type of programming is on par with many things WWE has done in the past. Edge/Lita/Matt from 2005, Austin taking his ball and going home in 2002, even the Chavo/Rey feud exploiting Eddie's death in 2006. Vince has consistently incorporated real life into the storylines, no matter how real the situation. Heyman and Punk are both "over" performers that don't need to resort to that level to generate heat (they both have plenty). But if Vince asks you to do something, you do it. And if you're offended, you should change the channel, IMO.
UFC fighter Danny Downes (@dannyboydownes): Some may understandably find the Paul Heyman "heart attack" in poor taste, but compared to other professional wrestling stunts, it's not even on the radar. Remember the Triple H and Katie Vick incident? The WWE has made no secret that they are in the entertainment business. While the CM Punk worked shoot and the Jerry Lawler heart attack may have caused a suspension of disbelief, they are not the norm. Anyone upset at the Paul Heyman event should also be outraged at the producers of "All My Children" for promoting marital infidelity.
Current Smackdown commentator John "Bradshaw" Layfield experienced a similar angle during his time wrestling as JBL in a rivalry with the late Eddie Guerrero. He wrote about it in a recent Facebook blog.
"The JBL character wasn't working and Eddie and Chavo Sr. came up with the idea for the 'heart attack' of his mother on Mother's Day in his hometown of El Paso. I literally had a police escort out of town for my own safety that night, talk about heat.
"This angle with CM Punk and Heyman faking a heart attack last night, I loved it-this is something Eddie would have loved also. People get worked up, and it is their choice to be offended by whatever they choose. I thought it was awesome, I just wish JBL could have done it!"
There is also a large contingent of fans who felt the moment was a throwback to "the good ol' days." Goaltender for the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes and long-time pro wrestling fan Jason LaBarbera summed up those fans' thoughts when reached for comment:
"I thought it was great! Obviously people may find it a bit shocking, but I think that's what they were going for. Lawler obviously was OK with it. I loved it, though, because it was kind of old school. Hopefully with Linda (McMahon) done with (the Senate race) they can get over "PG" and get back to where wrestling angles should be."
What is your opinion? Comment below.