(CNN) — World Wrestling Entertainment announcer Jerry “The King” Lawler, a larger-than-life figure even within the flamboyant world of professional wrestling, suffered a heart attack and collapsed during a show Monday night, the show’s producers announced.
Lawler, 62, was given CPR in the locker room of the arena in Montreal before being taken to a hospital, co-host Michael Cole told viewers during a break in the televised program.
Lawler was in the emergency room and breathing on his own, but “this is an extremely serious situation. This is not part of tonight’s entertainment,” he said. “This is a real-life situation.”
Cole said the star was responding to tests and would be given a CT scan at the hospital, adding, “Jerry, my friend, my prayers are with you.”
“I’m shaken by the news of my friend Jerry Lawler’s medical emergency in Montreal. Hands shaking. Prayers for the King. I feel helpless,” WWE announcer Jim Ross said on Twitter.
Lawler made his name in wrestling in the 1970s, but he became famous beyond the wrestling world for a 1982 bout with comedian Andy Kaufman.
Kaufman, who had begun wrestling women during his nightclub act, accepted a challenge from Lawler, who accused him of demeaning the sport.
Kaufman trash-talked both the wrestler and the crowd in Memphis, Tennessee, before the match, and the 6-foot, 243-pound Lawler trounced the skinny comedian, who was hauled away in a stretcher.
A few weeks later, the pair appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman” and got into an argument that ended with Lawler slapping Kaufman, followed by Kaufman delivering a profanity-laced tirade and being chased off the set.
The wrestler gave as good as he got in trash-talking the comedian, letting loose with: “Andy Kaufman’s mom wanted a girl, his father wanted a boy, and they were both satisfied!”
Lawler lists the slapping of Kaufman on the Letterman show as the highlight of his career.
But like much of Kaufman’s shtick, the feud was an elaborate put-on.
“They’d be at the coliseum, supposedly trying to kill each other, and then I’d get off the 10 o’clock newscast and walk into the newsroom, and Jerry and Andy would be sitting in an edit booth discussing what had happened and where to go from there,” veteran Memphis wrestling announcer Dave Brown told CNN earlier this year.
Lawler was inducted into the Connecticut-based WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2007 and played himself in the 1999 Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon.”
A native of Memphis, with bright blue eyes and a baby face into his 60s, Lawler describes himself as loved in his hometown but hated in his wrestling federation, “where his arrogant, egotistical attitude got him into feuds with former WWF champ Bret Hart and federation head Vince McMahon.”
The WWF is the former name of the WWE.
He started wrestling in 1970 in Memphis, where he won multiple regional championships and the Mid-South Wrestling circuit.
He career had gone national by the mid-1970s, and he continued to wrestle for decades. In recent years, he has been known better as a commentator.
“We are hopeful Jerry makes a full recovery and returns to WWE in the near future. Our thoughts are with Jerry and his family,” the WWE said on its website.