Beloved WWE star’s shock death probe
THIS Friday afternoon in Tennessee, Brian Christopher Lawler, better known as WWE superstar Grandmaster Sexay, will be buried at the Memphis Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens.
Surrounded by family and friends, including his father and professional wrestling legend Jerry "The King" Lawler, Brian Christopher will be remembered as a man who brought joy to millions of WWE fans during his run alongside Scotty 2 Hotty in the tag team known as Too Cool.
Jerry Lawler was holding his son's hand when his life support was turned off at Regional One Health medical centre in Memphis three days ago. He was 46.
Brian Christopher, who dropped Lawler from his name in an attempt to forge a wrestling career outside the large shadow cast by his father, had been rushed to hospital after attempting suicide inside a jail cell.
It was the culmination of a tragic spiral that had seen him arrested twice in 2018 while also being beaten so badly by another former wrestler he needed surgery on his face.
But it's his death while being kept in isolation at Hardeman County Jail that has prompted outrage in the wrestling community and an investigation by authorities.
'KEPT IN SOLITARY FOR ALMOST A MONTH'
Brian Christopher was arrested for drink driving and evading arrest after police spotted him speeding and swerving in his car on July 7. Officers attempted to pull him over but he initially refused to stop and smelled of alcohol when he was eventually apprehended.
Twenty-three days later he was found unconscious in his prison cell, where officers performed CPR before taking him to hospital where he later died.
Former WWE star Sean "X-Pac" Waltman alleged Brian Christopher had been kept in solitary confinement in prison despite the relatively minor charges he was facing.
"I'm saddened beyond words by Brian's death," he wrote on Twitter. "He and I were close during our time in WWE together. I have many great memories of Brian both inside the ring and out. No one but the most dangerous criminals should be kept in solitary confinement for almost a month."
When his version of events was challenged - other reports suggested Brian Christopher had been isolated because of his notoriety - Waltman twice insisted he was in solitary confinement.
The Hardeman County Sheriff's Office said they had no indication the former wrestler was suicidal but the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into the death.
"At the request of 25th District Attorney-General Mark Davidson, TBI Special Agents are investigating the circumstances surrounding an incident involving an inmate at the Hardeman County Jail …" the TBI said in a statement. "The investigation remains active and ongoing."
Jerry Lawler told radio station FOX13 "there may be more to this than meets the eye" after being contacted by the TBI and told not to comment further until its investigation was complete.
'TOO COOL' FOR THE ATTITUDE ERA
Jerry Lawler is a wrestling legend, laying claim to more than 150 championships during his professional career in the 1970s and 80s before becoming an iconic colour commentator in the WWE. He had two sons with his first wife, Kay, both of whom became wrestlers.
Brian Christopher began his career in the United States Wrestling Association where he performed for a decade in various tag teams.
His first incarnation in the WWE was as a light heavyweight competitor but after failing to make an impact he was recast as the self-absorbed fun-loving Grandmaster Sexay alongside Scotty 2 Hotty in Too Cool.
What began as a confusing gimmick became an absolute sensation as wrestling fans delighted in the comedic duo's ability to steal the show.
Their fame only increased when they were joined by Samoan-American wrestler Rikishi, who would transform into a sumo-sized back-up dancer whenever he donned the zany sunglasses the trio made famous.
They appeared at WrestleMania XV and XVI and later defeated Edge and Christian to become Tag Team champions on an episode of Raw.
"Brian and I were different people outside of the ring," Scotty 2 Hotty, real name Scott Garland, wrote on Instagram after his friend's death. "We never travelled together, never roomed together, and never really hung out together. But EVERY single time that we went through that curtain, we made magic together. Magic that will never be replaced. We were TOO COOL."
DOWNWARD SPIRAL COULDN'T BE STOPPED
Too Cool began to lose heat when Rikishi began a feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin and it was all over when Brian Christopher had his contract terminated in 2001 after being caught in possession of illegal drugs while crossing the Canadian border.
According to local reports, small amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana were found in his possession and despite having one charge dropped and only copping a fine, he was released by WWE.
He continued to wrestle on the independent circuit and made sporadic appearances in the WWE up until 2014, but there were signs his life was unravelling when he was twice arrested in 2009 for disorderly conduct and public intoxication. He served a 30-day prison term later that year after failing to attend a treatment centre as part of his plea deal.
After several years away from the limelight he returned to the headlines in February, 2018, after being badly beaten by former Total Nonstop Action wrestler Chase Stevens in Indiana.
In June he was arrested when he couldn't cover the cost of an $800 hotel bill at the Hampton Inn in Memphis. A month later he was behind bars again and this time it ended in tragic circumstances which left the wrestling community in mourning.
"It is a terrible, tragic end for someone who was once such a captivating presence on television," wrote one scribe. "But for a generation, he will always be the Grandmaster Sexay of 2000 - dancing with Scotty and Rikishi, wearing silly glasses, and making people happy. And that's as good a legacy as anyone can have."