AS I SEE IT 8/6: Thoughts on a famous son

Aug 6, 2018 - by Bob Magee

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Last week, most of us were talking about the 3 tragedies that hit wrestling. I wanted to focus on Brian Christopher Lawler, and something not being discussed around it.

As we all know, Lawler hung himself in a Memphis-area jail cell last weekend, and died the following day after he was kept on life support long enough for father Jerry to return from an appearance to say goodbye. Lawler was only 46 at the time of his death.

While I never met Lawler, he was known as pretty much being what you saw on TV, turned up to a factor of 10. The outgoing, fun-loving person on TV was pretty much the same one that they knew.

The fact that Jerry Lawler was his father was pretty much formally kayfabed, but was also the worst kept secret in professional wrestling…right up there behind wrestling TV birthday cakes always winding up in someone’s face.

But, no matter what he did from his days in Memphis carting around his belts in a “little red wagon”, it seemed that Lawler lived. Christopher said more than once that his personality came from defending the father’s honor and wrestling in general on the school playground.

His fame in Memphis over a long period of time, gave him a shot in WWF/E during the Attitude Era, with both Rikishi and Scotty 2 Hotty, including one tag team title as part of Too Cool.

But drug/alcohol use and addiction got in the way, as it did for too many, especially in those Wild West days within wrestling addiction there were demons. He was fired from WWE in 2001 after being found with drugs crossing the US/Canadian border.

Recently, Lawler had several run-ins with the law, starting this past February he was hospitalized after a brawl in an Indiana hotel room with former TNA wrestler Chase Stevens. Christopher suffered a fractured skull, a broken nose, broken orbital bone and had teeth knocked out.

Only two months ago, he was arrested with a friend for not having the funds to cover an $800 hotel tab at a Memphis Hampton Inn. Then, on July 7, Lawler was arrested for DUI, evading arrest and driving on a revoked license. An open container was found in his car’s front seat . He couldn’t make the $40,000 bail, and he had been placed in a private cell given his local fame.

Father Jerry didn’t bail him out, as he had done before…apparently in the hope that this might shock Brian into accepting the rehabilitation he and others were trying to arrange. But this decision tragically had a different result.

Many in and outside of wrestling have talked about Brian’s big heart, including a notable story from MCW Pro Wrestling promoter Dan McDevitt. McDevitt told a story from back in 2001, where Brian, “fresh off WWE TV…making several thousand dollars per booking:, gave McDevitt much of his payoff back after a bad crowd at a show show. McDevitt said “in 25 years in pro wrestling, he is the only star that has ever done that…He had his demons, but that’s how I remember him, how he treated me—as a good, kindhearted dude.”

But even with that big heart, Lawler couldn’t accept his addiction. He isn’t alone.

Here are some numbers from the National Institute on Mental Illness and from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older (6.2 % of this age group) had what they term Alcohol Use Disorder. This includes 9.8 million men (8.4 % of men in this age group) and 5.3 million women (4.2 % of women in this age group).

The National Institute on Mental Illness states 43.8 million, or 18.5% experiences mental illness in a given year, with 6.9% of adults in the US (6 million) had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

Brian’s alcohol and drug issues don’t seem to have been a Lawler family tendency, as Jerry Lawler is well known never to have drank alcohol or used drugs (and in his biography, Lawler said he doesn’t recall his parents drinking, either).

It’s certainly possible that Brian used drugs and alcohol, first recreationally, then to cope…perhaps with fame in general, or the challenge of having to succeed despite a famous father, or simply to cope with depression in general. But all those can easily be lumped under the category of mental health issues.

After all…as a society, we treat mental illness issues in an entirely different manner than we treat physical illness. If someone has a broken arm, they get it X-rayed and a cast put on it. If someone has cancer, they are treated with some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to try to save their life. If someone has an allergy, they take medication, or avoid the item they are allergic to as much as possible (or in some cases, avoid it completely). But no one thinks twice about it.

But if someone is dealing with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, they are told to “snap out of it”, to “grow a spine”, to “deal with it”. They’re told they are “selfish” or “don’t realize how good they have it”.

To repeat something I’ve said in this blog before if you are dealing with depression, bi-polar disorder, addition to drugs/alcohol, or other mental health issues, please understand YOU ARE NOT ALONE. As the numbers above show, you are FAR from alone.Please talk to someone and use the resources here, or find someone you trust to help you. You ARE worth helping.


* SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

* Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK
* Mental Health America (800) 969-6MHA (6642)/In crisis? Call: 1-800-273-TALK
* Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) – (800) 826 -3632
* National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)- 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
* Mental Health America (MHA) – (800) 969-6642
* Adolescent Crisis Intervention/Counseling Nineline 1-800-999-9999
* RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) 800-656-HOPE

Until next time…

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