Sunday was a sad day for professional wrestling fans, as the industry lost three recognizable performers in one day – WWE Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff, territorial standout Brickhouse Brown, and former WWE Tag Team Champion Brian Christopher Lawler. The latter’s death was particularly shocking to many, as Lawler, who was often billed under his first and middle name, was only 46-years-old at the time of his apparent suicide by hanging, and also a second-generation talent, being the son of WWE Hall of Famer and Memphis wrestling legend Jerry “The King” Lawler.
While many questions remain unanswered regarding Brian Christopher’s death, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter offered new details on what went on in the years that led up to the tragedy, including his father Jerry’s many efforts to help him turn his life around after repeated issues with substance abuse. According to WrestlingNews.co, which quoted Meltzer’s audio update on Sunday, the elder Lawler had “done everything possible” to help his son, but supposedly took the tough love approach by letting Brian stay in jail after he was charged with driving under the influence and evading police earlier this month.
“He was on $40,000 bond and Jerry has been doing stuff to get him out of things and just felt that he needed to learn and he wasn’t gonna get him out this time,” said Meltzer.
“Jerry is good with grief. He’s a unique person but still, could you imagine? You have a kid. Even if the kid goes wrong, you’re gonna always love the kid. He did what he thought was the right thing. He’s 46-years-old [and] he should have grown up a long time ago and you can’t keep bailing him out of his trouble. So sad. Brian couldn’t handle it in prison, I guess. Whatever it was, he hung himself today.”
Meltzer went on to compare Brian Christopher and Jerry Lawler’s situation to that of another wrestling legend, Fritz Von Erich, who lost all but one of his sons who joined him in the wrestling business to suicide or substance abuse-related issues. He noted that Brian was very much like Von Erich’s sons, in the sense that he wanted to live up to his father’s legacy, but had a hard time doing so.
Multiple reports on Sunday morning suggested that Brian Christopher Lawler, who was also known in WWE as Grandmaster Sexay, was hospitalized the night before after he had apparently hung himself in jail. He was later put on life support and was pronounced dead on Sunday afternoon at 4:40 p.m. ET, according to Ringside News.
Although Brian Christopher’s alleged substance abuse issues problems were well-documented since he was fired from the WWE in 2001 after authorities at the Canadian border found him in possession of methamphetamines and steroids, he wasn’t widely known to have any issues with depression or suicidal thoughts. Meltzer, however, said on Sunday that the former WWE Tag Team Champion attempted to take his own life “three or four years ago.”
“There was a suicide attempt before that not too many people know of. I didn’t even know [about it until] today.”
As further noted by Meltzer, Jerry Lawler made many attempts in recent years to get Brian Christopher a job in the WWE, with the only condition being that he remained drug-free for at least one year. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, according to Meltzer, as Brian would typically “get clean to a degree,” but never for as long as a year. WrestlingNews.co observed that this is similar to how the late Eddie Guerrero was in the years leading to his death in 2005, as Guerrero continued to consume pain pills despite successfully beating his alcohol addiction.
“One of his friends told me it was a couple of months and another friend told me that his version of clean was him on methadone and things like that. Which is not my version or probably your version of clean but I guess it’s the wrestler version of clean,” said Meltzer.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.