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By Mike Johnson on 2019-07-29 16:19:00

On the one-year anniversary of his son’s passing, WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler took to the media to announce he had filed a lawsuit against Hardeman County, TN and Hardeman County Sheriff John Doolen, alleging that “numerous failures of the county and its employees" led to the death of former WWE star Brian “Christopher” Lawler aka Grandmaster Sexay.

Jerry Lawler is seeking $3 million in damages, plus additional compensatory damages if the court sees fit to award them.  He is also seeking a court order forcing Hardeman County to force immediate changes to prevent any additional suicides of prisoners in Hardeman County custody, noting, " the order should require "Hardeman County to correct their unconstitutional deficiencies so that no other family has to go through what this family has had to endure over the past year."

Brian Lawler was taken off life support on 7/29/18 at the age of 46, one day after he was found hanging in his cell in Bolivar, TN, where he had been incarcerated after being arrest for DUI several weeks before.

The lawsuit alleges the Hardeman County Sheriff’s Office “failed to provide Brian with any treatment for his drug and alcohol issues” during Lawler’s incarceration and “altogether failed to provide him with appropriate care after he was assaulted by another inmate” the day of Lawler’s death.   In the lawsuit, Jerry Lawler stated that the only reason he did not bail his son out was that he explained to the Sheriff Doolen that Brian needed help for addiction issues and was “promised” Brian would get the proper treatment for his personal issues.  Instead, Brian was never provided with any sort of treatment while incarcerated.  Jerry Lawler stated in the lawsuit  that he felt betrayed by Doolen over that broken promise.

Lawler is also claiming negligence on behalf of the correction officers who were supposed to be supervising Brian Lawler.  He is alleging that one officer saw Brian in the corner of his cell with a towel over his head, but instead of checking on the former WWE star, the officer ignored him, choosing to take garbage out instead.  When the officer returned, he saw Christopher in the same position and, with a co-worker, finally checked on him.   At that point, they became aware Christopher hung himself but even their attempts to rescue him were ill-prepared, as they used a pair of children’s scissors to attempt to cut him free.

Lawler alleged in the lawsuit that if the Hardeman County Sheriff’s office had been better prepared and had their staff immediately acted upon seeing Brian sitting in the corner with a towel over his face, Brian’s life may have been saved.

The Lawler family has long disputed the idea that Brian’s death was self-inflicted.  During an interview with WMC-TV several months ago, Jerry Lawler explained that while his family was told that Brian hung himself with his shoelaces, photos taken of Brian at the hospital show marks on the sides of his neck but not the front of his throat.  Lawler explained that the area that did not feature any marks that would be equal to the size of his son’s hand, which lead Lawler to believe Brian was trying to use his hand to try and “keep the pressure” off his throat.

"We've received literally countless calls, text messages from people, actual eyewitnesses, that were in the jail and saw things that happened on the actual day that Brian died that now has opened up a new can of worms," Lawler told WMC-TV in January. "It just doesn't seem like it was suicide."

Lawler said the same day his son allegedly took his life, they had spoken at 11 AM that morning and that his son, “talked perfectly normal, perfectly rational."   Later, Lawler's fiancée received a 2 PM phone call, informing them Brian had been in a fight with another inmate, even though he was supposed to have been kept away from other prisoners. 

Lawler stated that his son had requested medical attention as he was bleeding from the head but “apparently” did not receive it and several hours later, was found dead in his cell.  Lawler stated that the Sheriff had previously given him personal assurances that Brian would be OK while incarcerated. Lawler also alleged that twenty security cameras in the County Jail were not operating the day Brian died.

Lawler’s lawsuit alleges that Hardeman County officials declined Brian Lawler’s requests to be taken to a hospital to be treated for a wound over his eye and ignored his concerns that he may have suffered a concussion.  Instead, he was put into solitary confinement, where he was later found hanging.  The lawsuit also alleged that Brian was never evaluated for suicide risk and that the cell he was placed in featured “Large bolts protruding from the cell [that] could be used as an anchor for the shoe laces used in the hanging”

During a press conference this afternoon, Lawler’s attorney Jeffrey Rosenblum stated that was no reason bolts should ever be protruding in a solitary confinement cell and that there was no reason to let inmates enter cells with shoelaces they could use to hang from. Rosenblum also stated that Brian Lawler had been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and was on a number of medications for chronic pain and anxiety at the time of his death, adding to concern over the fact he was never properly evaluated before being placed in solitary.

Any money awarded to Jerry Lawler will be put towards the care of Brian's son, according to Rosenblum.

While the official, announced cause of Brian Lawler's death is suicide by hanging, Jerry Lawler commented previously that “doesn't pass the smell test” and promised in 2018 that he was not going to stop pursuing the issue until he had answers.  Lawler also stated that Brian's fellow inmates have told him they don't think his death was suicide.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation into the death of Brian Lawler the same day he passed away.  The TBI concluded their investigation this past April.   "Our investigation has concluded and all findings have been turned over to District Attorney General Mark Davidson.  I will have to refer any questions to his office," TBI's Keli McAlister told inquires to Davidson's office have gone unanswered.

In January 2019, attorneys representing Jerry Lawler and the estate of his son Brian Lawler filed subpoenas months before the investigation ended, demanding the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and The Hardeman County Sheriff's Office provide them with information on the then-ongoing investigation into Brian's passing.  “We were tired of waiting. This family has waited for over six months for the Hardeman County Sheriff Department to provide them with detailed explanation and the documentation as to what happened to their son and we decided to take the into our own hands,” Attorney Jeff Rosenblum told Memphis ABC affiliate channel 24 at the time.

TBI's findings of the investigation into Brian Lawler’s death have yet to be made public.

Lawler was arrested for DUI in front of his home after having been pursued by police on 7/6/18.  According to a TMZ report at the time, authorities observed Christopher speeding and swerving around 1 AM.  They attempted to pull him over, but Lawler failed to stop.  He finally stopped and according to the police report, Christopher "reeked of booze" and had an open 12 ounce can in his car's center console.  Lawler remained incarcerated for several weeks until his passing on 7/29/19.

Although Lawler would become best known for his work in the WWF as part of his team with Scotty “Too Hotty” Taylor and their association with Rikishi Phatu during the Attitude Era, where their dancing mixed with Lawler’s charisma and Taylor’s ridiculous yet ridiculously over move the worm defined the act, he was born, literally, in the pro wrestling business.

The son of WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler, Brian Christopher grew up in a world where his father was one of the most well-known and (depending on the current storyline) one of the most popular or hated men in the city.  It’s impossible to understate the importance of the Memphis territory during that time period.  The city would literally shut down during the live broadcast on WMC-TV channel 5 every week.  Pro Wrestling, well before the city had any major sports teams, was the home team for Memphis.

It was only natural that Lawler would step into the pro wrestling business and began wrestling in the late 1980s, working under a mask to obscure his identity as he learned.  Eventually, and quickly, he began wrestling as Brian Christopher in order to hide his relationship to his father, which was never ever acknowledged at the time. 

With feuds developing weekly and live TV every Saturday before a big Mid-South Coliseum event on Mondays (the original Monday tradition well before there was a Monday Night Raw), Christopher quickly took to the business like a duck to water and was pushed accordingly, moving up the ladder in the USWA, first as a member of the New Kids tag team with Tony Williams, then working with then USWA Light Heavyweight Champion Danny Davis.

In pro wrestling, sons are often pushed well beyond their ability and often well before they are capable or ready to handle a big push.  That was never the case with Brian Christopher, who began to develop a great swagger and great aptitude for promos that was completely his own and unlike his father.  By 1992, Christopher had captured his first USWA Heavyweight Championship, defeating Tom Prichard in the Mid-South Coliseum.  Like his father before him, Christopher was the top guy in the territory, but earned it with his work.

From that point on until he was hired full-time by the WWF, Prichard was in the mix in the USWA, working with his father, Bill Dundee, Tommy Rich, Eddie Gilbert, The Moondogs, Jimmy Valiant, The Dirty White Boy, Dutch Mantel, Billy Joe Travis, Jeff Jarrett, The Harlem Knights (aka Men on A Mission), Rex King, Steve Doll, Buddy Landel, Doug Gilbert, PG-13 and many others.  In many cases, these were experienced veterans who were passing on their knowledge.  Some went to college, Brian Christopher went to the USWA and learned his craft from some of the best.

In the early 1990s, Memphis was the last standing territory from the era before Vince McMahon took professional wrestling national.  The money sucked for many, but it was a place where you could go and work and learn seven days a week, doing a loop and appearing on TV while most of wrestling outside of WCW and WWF was evolving into random shots.  Memphis became known as a place that could create talent and a pretty good case could be made that Brian Christopher was the last standout talent to be developed there, because soon after his exit, it’s hard to pick that there was a next big name that came out of the territory.

Christopher’s WWF debut came quietly and as a major surprise for those who knew his work.  With no fanfare in the middle of a WWF house show at Madison Square Garden in September 1993, out came Brian Christopher before an audience that for the most part, had no idea who he was.  Unless you were trading tapes, you had probably never seen him before.  You may not have even known his name unless you were reading wrestling magazines.  Christopher came out and cut a standard heel promo and was then defeated by Jimmy Snuka, who had not been announced for the show either.  It was a standard match, historical only because it was Christopher’s first night not just in MSG, but in WWF.  He would later refer to it as the greatest night in his career.

Christopher wasn’t immediately signed and continued working in the USWA regularly until 1997, when he was signed by WWF as part of their planned Light Heavyweight division.  Really, the division was Christopher, Japanese star TAKA Michinoku and second-generation star Scott Putski.  He went all the way to the finals of the tournament, losing to Michinoku.  In the shadow of WCW’s great Cruiserweight division at the time, the WWF equivalent paled badly in comparison and never found its legs.   It was, however, the foot in the door.

Christopher was soon paired with long-time Northeastern independent wrestling journeyman Scott Taylor, who always had a reputation as a good in-ring worker and a great bumper, but never found the right character or mix that led to him being signed.  The Light Heavyweight division opened the door for him as well and eventually, he was put into a team with Christopher.  The two, who had wrestled before in Memphis became the effeminate tag team known as Too Much, playing up the idea that they were gay during a time period where that was easy heat for villains.

After that run finished off, they were taken off TV, rechristened Too Cool and became babyfaces.  WWF had gone from being kicked around by WCW and being seen as a company that was anything but cool to the hottest any wrestling company had ever been in the United States.  While names like Steve Austin and The Rock led the charge, a major part of the formula were so many great in-ring performers and acts underneath.  Too Cool quickly became part of that mix, especially once Taylor and Christopher were placed with Rikishi.

The long-time performer had wrestled as a member of the Samoan SWAT Team and the Headshrinkers over the years for different promotions and re-made himself with dyed blonde hair, an outfit that played up his derriere and his dancing.  The combination of this large Samoan man dancing and his Stinkface maneuver just clicked and brought the house down, especially after he was placed with Taylor and Christopher.

No matter whether they had lost a match, won a bout or were in the middle of a Royal Rumble together, if the three stopped, clasped their hands and put their heads down dramatically waiting for their music to begin, it never failed to bring down the house.  I can recall lots of house shows and even TV tapings I attended during that era where the reaction they received was dwarfed only by the top, top stars of the company.

Rechristened Grandmaster Sexay and Scotty Too Hotty, the team worked against everyone in the WWF at that point, culminating with a surprise win over Edge and Christian to become the WWF Tag Team Champions.  They were considered such an important part of the WWF tapestry by 2000 that when The Radicalz jumped from WCW, their first main event on Raw (which was and remains absolutely incredibly and extremely underrated) was a ten-man tag featuring the trio.  The run continued on until the decision was made to turn Rikishi, revealing in storyline that he had previously run Steve Austin over with a car (a stunt done to explain Austin leaving for neck surgery) with the idea he had done it for The Rock, giving Austin a big heel to come back and work with.

In 2001, Taylor was injured and needed time off for an ankle issue.  Unfortunately, that would soon be the end of Christopher’s WWF run.  He was flagged at the Canadian border bringing over what was described by his father at the time as “muscle enhancing” drugs that were legal in the United States at the time, but not Canada. over.  Christopher was charged with possessing illegal drugs.  While the charges were soon dismissed, WWE still opted to release him.

With Memphis wrestling long gone, Christopher worked independents, for the Asylum-era days of TNA and for the Andrew McManus World Wrestling All-Stars promotion.  Taylor and Rikishi were repackaged together and had their own run with the WWF Tag Team Championship.  While Lawler would return to what was now known as WWE in 2004, it never clicked, and he was dropped after appearing on less than a dozen shows.  He had long had a reputation for being abrasive at times and certainly, that never helped him.

From this point on, Lawler had a series of arrests and instances that stalled his work as a professional wrestler.  While he appeared on independent events and even internationally touring for the Hulkamania tour in Australia, he was never able to regularly return on a national level to WWE or any other promotion.    

Brian Christopher did make several returns to WWE TV, but they were more cameos than something that was expected to lead to a full-time return.  His father Jerry Lawler was given the first-ever Wrestlemania match of his career against fellow Raw announcer Michael Cole.  As part of that storyline, Christopher returned to WWE TV, claiming that his father didn’t care about him and that he was ashamed to be Jerry Lawler’s son.  It was a harsh, biting segment meant to put heat on Cole with Lawler comparing his son to actor Charlie Sheen, saying Christopher was a bigger screw-up.  While Paul Heyman and Jim Ross had alluded to Lawler being Christopher’s father on screen, it was really the first time that it was 100% acknowledged as fact by Jerry Lawler.

Christopher, as Grandmaster Sexay, also returned to reunite the Too Cool trio at the January 2014 “Old School” edition of Monday Night Raw, winning a match over 3MB designed to get a nostalgia pop.  As it turned out, it would be the last time the three appeared on national TV together. Christopher and Taylor would later reunite in WWE NXT, losing to then-NXT Tag Team Champions The Ascension as a mystery team with the veteran team coming in unannounced to put over the younger team and give them more credibility.  That would be Lawler’s final appearance under the WWE umbrella.

Christopher and Taylor appeared on some independent shows together in 2016, but that ended when Taylor was hired as a WWE Performance Center Coach.  In the Memphis area, he was always popping up at local events, but the brass ring of being back on TV, making the kind of money he was making during the Attitude Era, that window was closed and with his personal issues, there was no tangible way of getting it to open once more.

In more recent years, Christopher had several run-ins with the law.  He was arrested in June 2009 for public intoxication in Madison County, TN after he fell outside a convenience store at 3 AM one Friday morning, then entered the establishment.  When authorities arrived on the scene, Lawler became argumentative and threatened one of the responding officers.  He was given a plea deal that agreed he enter an in-patient program.  When he failed to do that, he was arrested again a month later.

While Christopher was still wrestling on the independent level, over the last year or so if his life, he was as known for what was going on outside of the ring as he was for performing inside it.    There were a lot of talk among those who had worked with him about personal issues and the hope that with his most recent arrest earlier this month, perhaps he would finally try to turn things around, especially given that help was right there for him via WWE if he asked for it.

In March 2018, Christopher was hospitalized following a fight with former TNA star Chase Stevens in a hotel room in Evansville, Indiana that led to Stevens being arrested for battery.  Reports at the time stated Christopher suffered a broken nose and even a fractured skull in the fight.

In June 2018 Lawler was arrested at a Memphis, TN Hampton Inn and charged with Theft Of Services for inability to pay the over $800 room charge that he and Terry Teague ran up during their stay.   Teague, who was also arrested on the same charge, had checked in with a company credit card.  When the Hampton Inn went to charge the card, there were insufficient funds to pay the bill.  Neither man had the funds to cover the bill, so they were arrested and charged with Theft of Services, $1000 or less.

Just a few weeks later, the DUI arrest took place.   There had been hope among Lawler’s friends that this time would be the last straw, where he would get his life back under control and turn things around personally, because things were obviously spiraling out of control for him personally.  Sadly, that was not the case, with his passing instead setting the stage for the lawsuit filed by his father this past Friday.

A statement issued by Sheriff Doolen at the time of Brian Lawler's passing reads as follows:


Mr. Lawler, a resident of Hardeman County, was arrested for third offense DUI, driving on a revoked driver's license and felony evading arrest.  Mr. Lawler's bond was set at $40.000.  He appeared before the Judge of the General Sessions Court at which time his family requested time to determine if they were going to hire a private attorney or wanted the public defender to represent Mr. Lawler.

Mr. Lawler, because of his notoriety, was placed in a cell by himself but as the Sheriff's Department had no indication he was suicidal, he was not on suicide watch.

When Mr. Lawler was discovered, he was given CPR and air lifted to the MED in Memphis.  The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was notified and requested to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr. Lawler.  

Any further information will be provided by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Neither Hardeman County nor Sheriff Doolen have responded to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

Lawler's lawsuit has already received mainstream news coverage from The New York Times and the Associated Press, so expect lots of attention for it in the coming days.


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