Mauro Ranallo is Getting Over on SmackDown


AS I SEE IT: Mauro Ranallo is Getting Over on SmackDown
Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Well, how does it feel to have a nationally-televised wrestling show with play-by-play done by a grown-up? Yes, I know Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino have already been doing Ring of Honor, but Ring of Honor is still not truly nationally televised yet, and won’t be until COMET is picked up by more cable and satellite providers through stations that already air there airing them as a digital substation.

After two weeks, that’s what it seems like when you turn on Smackdown and listen to Mauro Ranallo doing play-by-play for Smackdown on USA Network. It seems that WWE is prepared (so far, anyhow) to allow Mauro Ranallo “to do the commentary as Mauro Ranallo” as he indicated would be the case before he started.

In a way, I couldn’t imagine them changing him for one reason. Ranallo is continuing as a sports announcer with SHO boxing (including the Deontay Wilder-Artur Szpilka title fight) and GLORY kickboxing. He couldn’t afford to give up credibility by becoming a Michael Cole clone one one hand, and being a sports announcer on the other.

WWE nearly hired another combat sports announcer to change the perception of their on air product once before. In 2005, UFC voice Mike Goldberg was offered a contract to be the new voice of RAW and/or Smackdown. Further, Goldberg was also offered six figures to no-show a UFC PPV event prior to a surprise start on Monday Night RAW. Despite leaks on wrestling media that it was a done deal, Goldberg refused the WWE contract and re-signed with UFC, where he is to this day.

Online and social media reviews of Ranallo are universally positive. The simple step of Ranallo calling moves by their actual proper names, not done much on-air by WWE since the departure of Jim Ross, has been welcomed. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a nationally-televised wrestling show with play-by-play done by a sports announcer who works to get wrestlers and the action over… sounds better. This, as opposed to the constant and unending babbling about the WWE Network and the “WWE universe”, while ignoring what’s going on in the ring that we hear on RAW.

I never understood WWE’s reluctance to call moves by their names. If an announcer gets over a move as special, s/he gets over the wrestler. If an announcer gets over the wrestler, s/he gets over the action. If an announcer gets over the action, people are more inclined to watch the show/PPV, and the ads appearing on it. Seems easy enough to me.

One minor bone to pick, Mauro: Royal Rumble (and other PPVs) are NOT only available on the WWE Network. It’s available on PPV, via In Demand, which is carried by (among others) NBC/Comcast’s cable division Xfinity. We know WWE wants announcers to push the WWE Network. That makes perfect sense. But making announcers say something that simply isn’t true isn’t going to help their credibility…not to mention the fact that WWE still makes money off of PPV buys, so it’s “bad for business”.

Three announcers are two much for the Smackdown booth, though. Mauro Ranallo and reborn heel announcer Jerry Lawler are enough to get over the action. Byron Saxton is a third wheel and seems to get in the way. Keep him on RAW…but Ranallo and Lawler are just fine as a pair.

So…who’s succeeding Mauro Ranallo on New Japan Pro Wrestling?

Friday, the MLW Radio podcast reported that Jim Ross had signed with AXS TV to replace Mauro Ranallo on NJPW World Pro Wrestling.

Jim Ross responded on Facebook and Twitter (carefully note the wording): Those saying that I have a new wrestling gig are jumping the gun as I have NO done deal w/ anyone.

I asked AXS TV, who responded later that day on Facebook in response to my question: Any confirmation on the rumor you’ve signed Jim Ross to fill the spot of Mauro Ranallo for New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV when Ranallo’s six weeks of pre taped shows are completed?

Their answer on Friday was: “Hey Bob! Stay tuned for the official announcement!”

As of Saturday, however, that reply and my post now seems to have been deleted. But it appears that something is in the works. Ross himself responded on Twitter to reporter Sean Radican when asked if he was DENYING he would announce New Japan on AXS: “Not exactly Sean. I simply don’t have a deal. It’s all TBD”.

Late Saturday, Ross himself posted the following on his JR’s BBQ blog:

“The bottom line is my camp and AXS TV have had talks over the last couple of months and there is a mutual interest to do business together but we have yet to finalize our agreement. As of Saturday morning, I was told that the “lawyers are reviewing the revised points on the contract.”

If we can all get on the same page, of which I am optimistic that we can, then we can get everything signed and move forward to another exciting chapter of my broadcasting career. To be able to get back in the game is something that excites me and to be able to call such a fundamentally sound, athletic presentation like NJPW motivates me.”

So it seems that the only thing is a matter of coming to a deal. If it does come to pass, it would certainly be welcome news to any wrestling fan.

Ross has knowledge of New Japan’s product, and was the English language announcer for last year’s Wrestle Kingdom 9 PPV….and he’s still watching it. Ross commented back on January 5: “I watched five hours of NJPW on @AXSTV Friday night upon arriving home from the Orange Bowl, @MauroRanallo and @JoshLBarnett do a stout job on the action packed one hour broadcasts. They stay with the action and push me to make an emotional investment which is missing in many pro wrestling broadcasts these days.”

Jim Ross has been the voice of professional wrestling for our generation since 1974, equalled only by Gordon Solie, with a history as a wrestling broadcaster that is second to none, with his play by play of Bill Watts’s Mid-South Wrestling/UWF, National Wrestling Alliance/WCW broadcasts and his 2 tours of duty in WWE.

I hope we get to hear him again soon.

Until next time…
Bob Magee