Commentary on the Commentators
I can’t imagine how tough it must be being a professional wrestling announcer, especially nowadays in the ‘Age of Social Media’.
The job of an announcer is to get all the required information out to their television audience in the most effectively entertaining way possible. It’s their job to make the talent look better and to make the angles more interesting.
There is a very long list of things that an announcer needs to get done during the duration of each show. They have to plug the upcoming Pay Per Views and sell each of the individual matches on that card, they have to sell live events, they have to sell merchandise, they have to get people to subscribe to the WWE Network and get the viewers to ‘like’ them on Facebook and ‘follow’ them on Twitter.
They have to make sure that they keep the viewers at home interested in what’s happening on their television screen, and as the majority of the WWEs audience is made up of the casual fan and not the ‘Internet wrestling smark’, it means that the casual fan is watching FOR the storylines and FOR the colourful characters.
So when we see a 13-minute match between two ‘wrasslers’ such as Kevin Owens and Cesaro, it’s the announcers job to keep that casual fan from switching over to something else because then that’s when the ratings could potentially drop, and I’ve said it in a previous entry, professional wrasslin’ does not draw--If it did, ‘Ring of Honor’ would be a billion dollar company, if it did, the territories would never of died out, its been said before, professional wrestling is a very nitch market and only appeals to that market.
(Authors Note - So why does WWE continue to put over their product as less of a television show and more of an athletic competitive sport when we all know its fake!? The reason Vince McMahon and the WWF was so successful was because he offered fans an alternative to pro wrasslin’. It was the WWFs colourful storylines and larger than life characters that drew people towards the product--Not the pro wrasslin’ matches, hence him coining the term ‘sports entertainment’. They wanted away from that pro wrasslin’ image, and as much as they try to sell WWE as an athletic competitive sport, the UFC demographic aren’t interested because “Wrestling is fake” – so stop insulting your audiences intelligence, give us back our TV show!!)
It’s the announcer’s job to prevent viewers from changing over as much as it is their job to make sure that the viewers tune in to next weeks show, because we as a television audience vicariously live through the announcers. That’s why Jim Ross was so damned good at what he does, because he has an incredible gift of being able to express exactly what the television audience felt at the right time.
When Mick Foley was thrown from the ‘Hell in a Cell’ it was Jim Ross’ words that sent shivers up my spine, “My God! It killed him!!’ -- It didn’t feel scripted like Michael Coles commentary, it was raw-REAL-emotion, and that is what is key to being a good announcer, capturing that real essence of emotion and feeding it to your audience, but you have to truly feel it. You have to believe in what you’re seeing and saying because if you don’t, then the television audience wont either.
Sometimes JR would say nothing, because JR understands that sometimes less is more. I’ll never forget the silence that came through our screens after the street fight between Cactus Jack and Triple H. It felt cold and you knew you had just witnessed something special.
What makes a good announcer is having an eye for talent, being able to see something in somebody and projecting that to your television audience to enhance their characters or to drive their storylines, this is why matches like ‘The Big Show’s are perfect for a first time announcer because he is able to really help compliment an announcer.
The likes of Gordon Solie and Jessie Ventura were very gifted in these aspects of announcing. They both had incredible ability to see what made a person stand out and then emphasize on that particular thing to get them over. Jim Ross was another who could do this, the way he would describe ‘The Undertaker’ would give us goosebumps.
It’s the job of an announcer to not just get the TV audience to tune into the following weeks broadcast, but to get the viewers to also watch all the other content that is produced. With WWE, they have to make sure that they sell all the upcoming shows that are available on the WWE Network as well as making sure viewers watch Smackdown and NXT and shows such as ‘Total Divas’ on E! and ‘Tough Enough’.
It can also potentially help the product more when an announcer also deals with the booking of the show, as they know exactly what is needed to get over and when to do it. This is why the likes of Vince McMahon and Jim Cornette were good announcers, because they were dabbling in the creative aspect of the product as well as commentary.
The world of professional wrestling has seen some of the best announcers of all time! Some honourable mentions are Marc Lowrance, Jerry ‘The king’ Lawler, Tony Schiavone, Bob Caudle, Lance Russell and the UK’s own Kent Walton.
When I look at todays product in regards to its announcing, I just see a cluster-f@$% of a mess. I see three people whom have absolutely no idea how to project real emotion in the way that JR did. I see no chemistry between the team of announcers in the way that Heenan and Monsoon had. I see three guys that don’t have a clue about how to get a struggling character or angle over, and it frustrates me because I cant enjoy the show because I have no connection with the commentary team.
Do you know what I also see!?--Three play-by-play announcers. Not one colour commentator!
Not one commentator to put over the heels in the way that Bobby Heenan did for Ric Flair at the ‘Royal Rumble’ in ’92. Not a colour commentator to put over the heels the way that Jerry Lawler used to for Vince and the corporation during the Attitude Era. It frustrates me, as when I was a kid what made me really hate a heel was when Jerry Lawler used to route for them to win! It made me want to see the heel get his butt kicked twice as hard just so I could hear Jerry Lawler squirm!
If I had to choose the perfect announcers team, out of all the talent that is around at the moment for the WWE flagship. I would choose on Play-by-play Matt Striker. The guy is a living, breathing wrestling encyclopaedia, and to work alongside him as his colour counterpart would be ‘Road Dogg’ Jessie James. I don’t think I even need to explain myself as to why I would choose him, but he would also help compliment the Paul ‘Triple H’ McMahon character that runs the show these days.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Like always—whether you agree or disagree, I thank you for your time.
I’ve been Jake Jesus, and Matt Striker and Road Dogg on commentary is what’s best for business.
Follow Jake on Twitter: @IamJakeJesus