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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Commenting on the Commentators
A Look At The WWE Announce Teams

August 4, 2003 - by Emer Prevost


Over the years, the WWE has given us some great announce teams. Instantly, teams like Bobby Heenan & Gorilla Monsoon, or Jesse Ventura & Gorilla Monsoon. Hell, you can even say that the short lived team of Tony Schiavone & Jesse Ventura was a good team. Pity that most of the current announce teams can't be put in that same category. I'm not saying they suck, but some of these pairs have to be broken up and given better people to work with.

Let's take "The Cat" Ernest Miller and Josh Mathews. Now, The Cat shouldn't be in a booth, he should be in the ring. The same can be said for Mathews. Both of these guys have a lot of skill. It befuddles me to see good talent wasted commentating a show that nobody watches. Maybe one of these two, if the WWE insists on them being at an announce booth, might find it right to put one of them (if not both of them) on RAW and replace JR and the King. I'll cover the RAW team in a bit.

Next, let's look at Tazz and Michael Cole. Cole is a great announcer, but he is still in need of some assistance. Michael Cole seems to only have two emotions, those being "watching paint dry" and "I just saw a guy's head explode and the body is still moving freely." But, Cole's skills have really improved since he first stepped up to a headset. Michael Cole, if he continues to work hard at the stick, can and will go places in the commentary department. Hell, if he continues to hone his skill, we may be talking about him in the same league as The Brain or Gorilla.

What am I saying? No one will ever be as good as Bobby or Gorilla. Ever. 'Nuff said.

Tazz, on the other hand, works wonders in the play-by-play department. He has Mike Tenay's knowledge of moves (makes sense, since Tazz is a technical wizard), but he actually has a personality. Tazz can easily tell us the name of a suplex or describe the damage of a submission hold and keep his color commentator persona intact. In fact, looking at the two main announce teams (the RAW team and the SmackDown! team), Tazz is the one that I have the least complaints about. To be honest, the only problem with him comes from Brock Lesnar.

You see, every time Lesnar comes out pretending to be the Ultimate Warrior (you know, running to the ring, looking constipated, hell, Lesnar looks like he wants to shake the crap out of the ring ropes every time he climbs into a ring), Tazz has to scream (in a Joey Styles fashion), 'Here comes the pain!!!'. To me, it feels like everyone's favorite Red Hook native just doesn't want to say this retarded catchphrase, but he has to in order to get his paycheck. But, this isn't all Tazz's fault. If you've read my columns in the past, you know as well as I do that most of the crap on WWE TV today comes from the writers, and I think that this stupid line came from one of them.

Now, some of you are probably wondering why I'm not tearing into Tazz for commentating rather than being in the ring. Well, he's paid his due to wrestling. He's been injured so many times that it isn't even funny, and has been wrestling for years. The Cat has to finish paying his dues, just like everyone else involved in that stupid 'Blood Runs Cold' angle. Ernest Miller still has what it takes to climb into that ring, and he shouldn't have to work a headset when he could be headlining the very show he works on (Miller could work on SmackDown!, but the odds are better of him going to Velocity to wrestle.

Now, let's take a look at the Heat announce team.

In my opinion, Al Snow is one of the best commentators in the WWE today. His wrestling experience (like Tazz's) has led to him calling the matches flawlessly. The funny thing is that Al is supposed to be the color commentator of the team, but he does both play-by-play and color with near perfection (just like Tazz). But, most people may not agree with this. The main reason is because Snow has to work harder to keep the show going because he is placed with the WWE's own commentating driftwood, Jonathan Coachman.

Yes, everyone. Like the rest of the wrestling world, I feel that The Coach is the worst commentator in the WWE since Rob Bartlett. Coach seems to have no real feeling for the sport at all. He doesn't call the matches, he just tries to hype the main event, nothing more. Why do we need an annoying putz shilling for the lackluster main event on RAW or on the next PPV and not doing much of anything else?

Well, okay. Coach doesn't just shill the main event or PPV. He actually does try to call the matches. But, he is dismal at it. He sounds like he came in in the middle of the match and has no clue what the hell is going on. Mind you, he sounds like this for THE WHOLE DAMN MATCH!!! Who the hell can sound and act that clueless? I don't really think that the Coach has a gimmick of being a retard, do you?

But, the Coach isn't all bad. He is still able to do the backstage interviews. Even though he still sucks at it, it isn't as bad as when he has to commentate with someone with some competence, like Al Snow.

Since I just got finished with Coach, let's cover the other half of the current temporary RAW team.

What do you get when you have a wrestler with 33 years of experience step up and throw on a headset? You get the second worst announcer currently with the WWE, Jerry "The King" Lawler. I'm not saying that Lawler isn't good, but his on air character is sickening. All he does is gawk at the divas and shill for the bigger events (just like the Coach).

Now, I ask you, the intelligent reader, this: Can you have a good announce team with two guys shilling the main event/upcoming PPV and not even calling the match? The answer there is a big no. So, knowing this, why does the WWE want to replace JR with the Coach? That question puzzles even me. I can see JR being replaced because it's time for him to step down. I understand that. But, why the [censored] would you want to replace him with the Coach?!

Back to the King. You would expect 33 years of wrestling to mean something in the WWE when it comes to commentary. Jerry could do what Tazz and Al Snow do and use his experience to better enhance the viewers take on the match. Have we ever heard Lawler talk about how painful a piledriver is (which Jerry should know, since it was his finisher)? No. Has Lawler ever talked about the lasting effects of injuries? Hell no! The only thing Jerry is good for in the booth is ogling the babes and nothing more.

Overall, the announce team of The King and The Coach is disastrous at best. Neither man is entertaining enough to carry the show. Hell, JR has a tough enough time carrying Jerry on RAW and Al Snow has an even tougher time carrying The Coach on Heat. When the weak links of two different announce teams work together, it can only lead to failure. Plain and simple.

Well, now that we've covered the current temporary RAW announce team. Let's look at Good Ol' JR.

Again, I can't say that there is anything wrong with JR. But, his skills as a play-by-play man have diminished greatly since his bouts of Belle's Palsy. Once, we could understand everything Jim Ross said with perfect clarity, but now, everything is garbled and sometimes even slurred. For this reason, JR should have stepped down in 1998. Before I get any nasty mail, I'm not saying that he shouldn't be announcing because he's a palsy victim. No. I think that he shouldn't be putting on the headset again because we can't totally understand him. It's almost like having Vito Corleone (Brando's Vito, not De Niro's) in the booth every Monday. I'm a fan of "The Godfather", but not that big of a fan.


Another problem, and this might be a character "quirk", is that JR seems to get too excited too fast. If you look back at my comments on Michael Cole, you'll see what I mean (look for "I just saw a guy's head explode..."). This leads into him spouting one of his many tired catchphrases. The only positive side of JR not being on RAW lately is that I don't have to hear about slobberknockers or JR's weekly Triple H whine (you know, most cases end with JR calling Trips a son of a bitch) . But, most people would know about it if I said one word... Triplicate.

Yes, I'm talking about JR shouting one word or phrase up to four times (but, it's usually three, thus the term triplicate). The first memorable moment like this happened at WrestleMania XIV. That night, JR did it twice within five minutes (those being a chant of "Austin!", the other a chant of "Tyson!") after the main event.

But, in all honesty, with the only replacement option being The Coach, I will be the first to say that I want that tired old Okie on that headset. Without someone to actually do play-by-play, RAW would suck even more than it does now. If Vince and his crew (which JR is a part of) can't see this, then they will see as RAW's ratings drop because people can't stand Jonathan Coachman.

Overall, I have to say this much about the WWE announce teams of today... They're better than Vince McMahon was doing it. Yes, everyone, I feel that the commentating "skills" of the Coach surpass Vince's announcing "acumen", but not by much.

Don't worry. Tonight I looked at the current announcers. But, my Wayback Machine is primed and ready for my next article. In it, I'll look at the previous announcers in the WWF, as well as a look at a few WCW announcers, and maybe even the commentators of ECW. So, keep looking here for my next installment.

by Emer Prevost


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