Let us take you back to a time when Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart got along, steroids in wrestling were all over the news, and a ‘ WWE controversy ‘ took place outside the ring causing Jerry Lawler to be taken off television tapings for a short period of time.
I am currently in the midst of going through each of the 1993 Monday Night Raws and pay-per-views in chronological order. While often looked down upon as a low point in WWF history, 1993 and the New Generation, in particular, holds nostalgic value for me. This was a time when I was watching pro wrestling weekly as a kid and eating out of the palm of Vince McMahon’s hands. Four Doinks vs Bam Bam Bigelow, Bastion Booger, and The Headshrinkers at Survivor Series 1993? I ate that up. Lex Express versus the foreign evil big man, Yokozuna? I ate that up, too. How about Undertaker versus Giant Gonzalez or the semi-forgotten feud of Crush and Macho Man Randy Savage? You get the picture. I was oblivious to the questionable bookings due in part to WWF catering to a younger audience at the time.
Many fans don’t look back on 1993 through the same rose-colored glasses as I do, however. For good reason, the WWE Controversy was constant. 1993 was a strange time for Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation. Vince had been indicted in federal court after a two-year steroid controversy engulfed the promotion, and as a result, Vince had to temporarily cede control of the WWF over to his wife Linda. This was also a transitional period for the company as Hulkamania had run its course, with Hogan leaving the company in mid-’93. Ratings and storylines plummeted as Vince looked to build up new stars to take his place (see ‘The All-American’, Lex Luger).
While the WWF steroid scandal was playing out all over the news at the time, one particular WWE controversy occurred which somehow managed to go unnoticed, that being a statutory rape charge against Jerry Lawler.
The Jerry Lawler WWE Controversy
According to Wikipedia:
“In 1993, Lawler was indicted for raping and sodomizing a 15-year old girl, which caused him to miss Survivor Series 1993. The charges were later dropped after the girl admitted she fabricated some of the story.”
Before the case went to court, the girl admitted that she had made up part of her story, which was good enough for the charges to be dropped. Lawler soon later returned to WWF television with the matter never being brought up again.
According to Brian Lawler, Jerry’s son, the girl followed him to his hotel room. When the time came for it to go to court, the girl’s story fell apart because it was just a ploy of hers to make her boyfriend jealous. Once this information became known, all charges were dropped. (Thanks to reader Brandon Lewis for this sending in this information.)
How the WWE Controversy involving Jerry Lawler changed Survivor Series 1993
Before these charges were brought forward, Jerry Lawler was in a bitter feud with Bret Hart, taking shots at his parents and family whenever he could. The storyline was building up towards a payoff at the Survivor Series 1993 pay-pay-view through a traditional four versus four Survivor Series style matchup with The Hart Family (Bret and brothers Owen, Bruce, and Keith) versus Jerry Lawler and his three knights. The only problem was if you were watching at the time, Lawler was nowhere to be found on the day of the pay-per-view due to the charges being brought against him at the time. He was swiftly replaced by Shawn Michaels with no explanation given to the viewing audience. This led to the rather unusual pairing of Shawn Michaels with three masked knights, Barry Horowitz, Greg Valentine and Jeff Gaylord from the USWA. Now we all know what happened four years later in Montreal. In this matchup, however, in 1993, Bret had nothing but favorable things to say about Shawn and how he did a superb job stepping in as a last-minute replacement to Lawler.
In his highly recommended autobiography, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Bret Hart had this to say about the WWE Controversy, the match and how it played out behind-the-scenes:
“In mid-November , I heard that Vince finally had been indicted by the Feds. Then the WWF took another hit when Jerry Lawler was charged with having sex with an underaged girl. My entire Survivor Series match was centered around Lawler and his constant jabs at my family; without him, the match would mean nothing. Lawler was hastily edited out of the weekend TV show, with no explanation given to the fans, and Shawn was thrown in to replace him at Survivor Series.
On November 23, Smith, Bruce, Keith, Wayne, Ross, Georgia and my parents, all flew into LaGuardia. Vince had invited my brothers to have a brawl at the Survivor Series against three masked wrestlers and Lawler—now Shawn would be standing in his place—with Stu managing from the floor, and he thought it best that we have a rehearsal at the WWF’s TV studio in Stamford the day before the pay-per-view. I got the Harts, Shawn and The Knights (the one-time-only name they picked for the masked wrestlers) in the ring to explain how the match would go. Owen gave me a nudge to alert me that Bruce had pulled the biggest and greenest of the Knights aside and was giving him a script the size of Gone With the Wind, with Bruce presumably playing Rhett Butler. I told Bruce the spotlight needed to be on Owen because Survivor Series would be the beginning of Owen’s heel turn on me. After I explained what everybody’s role would be, Bruce went right back to designing the match around himself, and I had to reprimand him in front of everyone. Shawn muttered at him, “If my brother was World Champion and the best in the business, I think I’d quit fucking arguing with him and start listening to him!” There was nothing Bruce could say in response to that. He shut up, but I could tell the reprimand stuck in his craw.
That night at the Boston Garden I had a strange sense of melancholy as Keith, Bruce and Owen got dressed, while Stu sat with Killer Kowalski reminiscing about the old days. We wore Olympic-style singlets with no leggings, my brothers all in black and me, The Captain, in pink. Martha sat in the front row with the rest of the Hart family, holding Oje. Shawn did a superb job carrying the match, though in fairness everyone worked hard. The biggest pop of the night came when Shawn staggered past Stu on the floor and Stu drilled him with one of his big elbow smashes, which Shawn later told me he was honored to take.
Owen was highlighted throughout the match and eliminated two of The Knights, but midway through the match, as planned, he “inadvertently” collided with me on the apron and ended up being the only Hart brother eliminated. After throwing a tantrum he left the ring, only to come out afterward when we were all celebrating the victory to yank me down off the second rope and give me a hard push. I tried to reason with him that it didn’t matter because we’d won anyway, but he still acted furious.
Walking back to the dressing room with my brothers after that match was a magical moment. We all knew going in that we weren’t expected to have the best match on the card, we were just expected not to have the worst one either. The Hart boys had more than risen to the occasion, and I was proud of my brothers. Stu had a twinkle in his eye.”
Bret and Stu had every reason to be proud as this successfully started one of the most fondly looked upon feuds in WWE history: Bret vs Owen. This, of course, is a story for another time…