Jerry Lawler

Jerry Lawler

By Mike Mooneyham

Dec. 1, 2002

The WWE, which has come under intense fire in recent months for a number of controversial storylines, drew more heat last week over remarks made by announcer Jerry “The King” Lawler during Monday night’s broadcast of Raw.

Lawler delivered the crass comments as part of an angle between Tough Enough 1 products Chris Nowinski and Maven (Maven Huffman), whose mother is battling bone marrow cancer.

“I watched every minute of Tough Enough and I have to agree with Christopher Nowinski,” said the Raw commentator. “Yeah, Maven’s mother had cancer, but man, did she ever milk it for everything it’s worth.” Lawler, however, reportedly didn’t watch the opening season of Tough Enough and was told to advance the Maven-Nowinski storyline with his controversial remarks. The comments not only offended many viewers, but also drew the ire of a number of WWE employees, some of whom with family members who are currently battling the disease.

[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]“Vince McMahon is the final line of defense, and to trivialize such a sensitive issue as part of a wrestling angle and to make light of a life-threatening disease is unforgivable. It’s incredibly classless,” said one source.

The angle, though, was just the latest in a number of controversial storylines the company has offered this year. Others, most notably the Anti-Americans’ mocking of 911, the HLA segments and the recent necrophilia angle, also raised a furor while failing to improve the ratings.

Maven, who apparently approved last week’s angle with Nowinski, discussed his mother’s disease in a recent interview with The Post and Courier.

“I’m not too big on Christmas,” said the 25-year-old Maven, whose biological parents were killed in an automobile accident on Christmas Day when he was only 2 years old. The winner of the WWE’s first Tough Enough contest on MTV was raised by his aunt, whom he calls “Mom,” and considers their relationship the impetus for everything he has accomplished.

“I tell people not to feel sorry for me, because I have the greatest mother in the world. I honestly couldn’t imagine life without her. She means that much to me. I honestly believe that when God takes something away, he gives something in return. I love my mom with all my heart.” Maven’s close connection with his mother was evident during the airing of Tough Enough 1, particularly during poignant scenes where he visited her in the hospital. At one point during the competition, he was ready to quit and return home to his mother, who had gone back into the hospital for three weeks.

“I was ready to leave,” he said. “I told her they let me come here and that they gave me a choice, and that I was going to leave. I felt at that time I could still walk away from it. But she wouldn’t let me do it. She could see the passion in what I wanted to do.”

Maven said he had been heartened in recent months by her improving condition.

“She can’t really go into remission,” he said, “but she has improved with a new experimental stem-cell procedure. It’s doing phenomenal. She has been chemotherapy-free for over a year now.”

Maven recently fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams when he bought a house in his native Virginia and moved his mother in with him.

“She used to hint that one day I would buy her a house when I made it big. She gave me everything I could possibly want when I was growing up. She worked two jobs so I could play college baseball and still have enough money to not have to work. I’ll never be done repaying her.”

- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s (Steve Williams) legal woes are apparently behind him after his court case Monday. Austin pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of assault in the domestic dispute case with wife Debra. Austin was given one year probation, fined a thousand dollars and has to perform 80 hours of community service. He also will have to attend a 24-week family violence counseling program, avoid any “harmful or injurious” contact with Debra and cannot consume any alcoholic beverages for the duration of the probation term (which could put a crimp in his post-match beer celebration, an integral part of his character).

The door now appears to be open for Austin to come back to the WWE. Jim Ross recently reported that he has spoken with Austin a number of times in recent weeks, and the airing of the Austin-Vince McMahon hospital skit on last week’s Raw could be a sign that Austin’s return is imminent. Austin most likely will re-emerge by the beginning of 2003 in order to build up a Wrestlemania program.

“I’ll talk to them (the WWE) about it,” Austin, 37, told the San Antonio Express-News last week. “I’m in good shape. I’ve been training every day. That’s pretty much all I do.”

Proof of Austin’s continuing popularity came at a recent autograph session in Richmond, Va., that drew an estimated five thousand fans. Austin has since reconciled with his wife. The couple had lived apart briefly after Austin’s arrest, which stemmed from a 911 call Debra made to police after being assaulted.

“I don’t think anyone is perfect,” Austin told the News-Express. “And whether you call me ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, Steve Williams or whatever, I’m not perfect, either. I have good days and bad days.”

- Kudos go out to a number of WWE performers who performed here at the North Charleston Coliseum Monday night despite coming off a grueling tour of India. A sizable percentage of the Raw crew suffered from food poisoning and stomach problems during their stint in India. Among them were Rob Van Dam, William Regal, Lance Storm, Booker T, Bubba Ray Dudley and Steven Richards. Booker T was hospitalized and unable to make the Monday night show (Booker and Goldust were originally scheduled for the hilarious spot The Dudleys had with Chris Jericho and Christian).

“The poverty and filthy conditions of the country were unbelievable,” Storm wrote on his Web site. “People actually living in the streets in makeshift tents and shacks. We saw men, women and children going to the bathroom in the streets … It was the filthiest, most disgusting place I’ve ever been. The poverty level was unbelievable; you don’t realize how lucky you are until you are in a place like this. Watching little naked babies running around in the filth was depressing and hard to take. I could handle seeing the poverty, but seeing the kids hit too close to home for me. I found myself avoiding looking out the bus’s windows as we drove through the streets. In retrospect part of me is glad that I can say I’ve been to India and seen it, but never in a million years would I want to go back. Lebanon was the Garden of Eden compared to this place!”

Storm, who was told by the doctor there that he had suffered an amoebic infection from either the food or the water, said that he slept 16 hours on Saturday and still had a hard time finding the energy to get up and head to the airport for the 27-hour trip home. The crew, which had to get several shots and take malaria pills before heading over, logged 60 hours of travel in five days.

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- WWE officials reportedly were so pleased with Ernest “The Cat” Miller’s substitute announcing performance for Tazz on Smackdown last week that he may take over Michael Cole’s color spot on Velocity.

- Rumor has it that Hulk Hogan may return to the WWE on the Dec. 17 edition of Smackdown in Tampa.

- Eric Bischoff’s appointment of Sean Morely (the former Val Venis) as his “chief of staff” promises to provide some boring moments on upcoming Raw broadcasts. This looks too much like the Mike Sanders role during the dying days of WCW.

- The wives of The Undertaker and Kurt Angle both have given birth to baby girls.

- Sean Waltman, who was recently released by the NWA-TNA, shot back at the company in a press release he issued last week. His departure is being attributed to his dislike for NWA-TNA booker Vince Russo. “Vince Russo has no respect for wrestling or the importance of the matches themselves to the success of the product in general,” said the former X-Pac and Syxx-Pac. “He made not only himself, but also a comedic actor, WCW world champion, when he was in charge. Wrestling was my first love, it is the only thing I have ever wanted to be, and to do what he did is blasphemous to our industry. He might as well have spit in the faces of all who step in the ring.”

Waltman recently announced his engagement to Joanie “Chyna” Laurer.

- Billy Joe Travis, one of the top stars in Jerry Jarrett’s USWA promotion during the ‘80s, passed away Nov. 23 from an apparent heart attack. Travis, who was Jeff Jarrett’s first major tag-team partner as well as one of the first partners of Scott Steiner in 1988, died at his mother’s home in London, Ky.

- Sting (Steve Borden) made a successful return to the ring at a WWA show in Dublin, Ireland, last week when he teamed with Lex Luger to defeat Malice and Buff Bagwell.

- NBC’s Al Roker may need to brush up on his wrestling. He listed Jerry “The King” Lawler as Jerry “The Ring” Lawler as part of the WWE’s float in the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade. Others shown on the float included Vince McMahon, Triple H, Jim Ross, Victoria, Hurricane Helms, Jonathan Coachman, Lilian Garcia and Sgt. Slaughter.

- The ratings for last week’s Raw dropped to 3.4, down from the previous week’s 3.7.