Looking Back at Announcers in Wrestling and Looking at It Now

Those of you that read my work know my feelings about announcing in wrestling and especially with regard to my disliking of Michael Cole’s character. That and topped with my strong desire to see Jim Ross back at the announcer’s table where I feel he belongs.  But this article is not about my love and respect for Jim Ross and my deep hatred of Michael Cole and his butchering of the art of journalism.  I’m one of those that believes that play by play is essential to wrestling just as it is in professional sports.  I grew up as a Lakers fan listening to Chick Hearn doing commentary for the games and have seen guys like Marv Albert do it as well and some that I hated like Jeff Van Gundy simply because I think he’s a biased prick.  The same can be applied with the names that I’ve witnessed at the announcers table as I grew up watching wrestling.

When I first started watching WWE during its WWF days, I saw a younger Vince McMahon with Jesse Ventura on the Saturday shows while I saw Gorilla Monsoon with Bobby “the Brain” Heenan and sometimes with Tony Schiavone.  When I first started watching WCW during it’s NWA days, I was witnessed to Jim Ross and the Hardcore Legend himself Terry Funk.  Back then you had a heel announcer and a face announcer and that was common for wrestling at that time.  These days, like with the WWE, you have them trying to do the same thing but the only problem with that is that the heel announcers back then still did their job in selling the product and that has been one of my biggest problems with having Cole as a heel announcer is that he’s inconsistent as he jumps between calling matches and being the heel announcer. That and the fact that he doesn’t put anyone over while guys like Jesse Ventura and Bobby Heenan in their own way found a way to do that even with the guys that they didn’t favor.  The point being is that while the heel announcers had the job to dislike anybody who wasn’t a heel, they never forgot that they still had a product to sell the audience that were buying tickets and tuning in to watch it.

Before some of you question what I’m talking about, keep in mind that I’ve seen a long list of names that were at the announcers table.  I’ve seen names varying from Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Gordon Solie, Bobby Heenan, Jesse Ventura, Missy Hyatt, Paul Heyman/Paul E. Dangerously, Terry Funk, Jim Cornette, Vince McMahon, Gorilla Monsoon, Tony Schiavone, Roddy Piper, Curt Henning/Mr Perfect, Mike Tenay, Mark Madden, Josh Matthews, Tazz, Todd Grisham, Jonathan Coachman, Mike Adamle, and the list goes on and on.  Some are of course bigger than others and I’m pretty confident with which ones those ones are.  Some of these guys that were heel announcers or announcers in general didn’t stay that way.  Some of it was because the kind of energy that they generated couldn’t be contained forever at the announcer’s table.

Bobby Heenan outside of the announce table is one of the most infamous managers in wrestling and has managed many talents in his career including the late great Andre The Giant.  Paul E. Dangerously went from the announcer’s table and managed one of the best collections of wrestlers in the Dangerous Alliance which featured names such as Rick Rude, Bobby Eaton, Arn Anderson and Steve Austin. Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff both went from being face announcers to be the “despised boss” characters and ran with those for many years. If there’s one thing that I can say in the way Cole generates heat, it’s that it’s a waste of a heat magnet.  I admit that the guy knows how to get himself hated on, and sometimes it’s borderline desperation to the point where it’s just pathetic, but something like that can’t be contained at the announcer’s table.  The examples used with Paul Heyman, Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff should be proof of that in itself.

One of the biggest arguments and debates over the years has been whether or not wrestling is a sport.  The thing that was unique with the announcers was that it helped blur the line that separated it between sport and non-sport.  It served in maintaining the illusion of it be somewhat like a sport.  When you had the announcers calling the action in the ring, it seemed less like a job and seemed like they felt honored and privileged to be calling the action in the ring and made the viewing audience envious to where they wished they were there live to watch it.  When you’re doing what the WWE has been doing with guys like Michael Cole and the constant bickering back and forth between him and other announcers, it’s as if the announcers don’t give a damn about the very product they’re supposed to be selling. Thus, if they don’t give a damn about it, then why the hell should the rest of us?  A good percentage of those that are there in live attendance are those that have watched on TV and wanted to experience it live.  Now, they see what they do on TV and what they hear on TV and it’s like those fans are thinking “If this is what they’re going to give us live, then I’m paying the money for it.”

The keyword here in all this is “sell.”  The announcers sell the action in the ring and the guys that are delivering the action in the ring.  You have your champions and your good guys and bad guys and this is also part of the announcers job and what it should be in the first place.  These are the champions? Show the audience why they are. These guys are loved the crowd or these are hated by the crowd? Elaborate on it and show why they’re loved or hated. Get the viewing audience into the action going on in the show.  That’s the problem with what the WWE is doing with their announce team is that their team is so busy bickering with each other and taking away from the show that it’s become a distraction that leaves some of the viewing audience wondering which is the show and that if the show is the one at the ringside table, they don’t want to watch it. The announcers are supposed to be the voice that helps to tell the story in the ring and that is the only story that they should be telling because the story going on in the ring is the only one that the audience cares about in the first place.  In the case of the WWE, one of the first solutions to your problems is to find your voice again because the one they’re using isn’t working.

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