Remember When The Voice Of WWE Actually Had Something To Say?
Mick Foley and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin have both said having Jim Ross at commentary for many of their bigger matches made the moment feel even more special to them. Really good commentary can make a classic out of a really good match. Good commentary can also rescue a bad match. Ross proved the former during much of the Attitude Era, and the latter during his days working at WCW, as he was regularly the best part of many of their broadcasts. Why then is it that WWE has seemingly gone out of their way to use two of the worst broadcast teams in the history of the company to call their A and B shows, RAW and Smackdown?
This is certainly not designed to bury Michael Cole, despite the fact he’s currently on both announce teams. I actually like Cole just fine provided he’s concentrating on the match rather than trying to get himself over as a heel performer. During the stretch when WWE decided to force him into a role other than commentator, his work suffered. During that time did nothing to enhance the in-ring performances and was the voice of some of the worst commentating since Bruno Sammartino’s ill-fated attempts in the late 80’s. He was that bad. Now, with the focus off that ridiculous Jerry Lawler angle, Cole has gone back to being his tolerable self. While there’s nothing amazing or innovative about his work, at least he’s spending a little more time concentrating on what’s happening in the the ring. Of everyone on the current teams, he’s far and away the best of a really bad bunch.
There was a time when Jerry “The King” Lawler was a fantastic commentator. Before WWE stripped away his great heel persona and turned him into a boring, repetitive hack with stale one-liners, Lawler was one of the best at the job. His biting comments, snarky attitude towards announce team partners Vince McMahon and Jim Ross, and ability to push feuds with his gift of gab was the perfect complement to his more straight-laced counterparts. That Lawler, however seems like a lifetime ago, because the Jerry we’re now treated to on a weekly basis is a mere shell of his former, once entertaining self. Whether it’s someone constantly in his ear feeding him this mess he spews, or whether it’s Lawler himself, he’s now flat awful.
As bad as Lawler is on RAW, Josh Matthews is equally as uninteresting on Smackdown. He’s yet to exhibit any sort of personality whatsoever, his one memorable moment being a backstage beatdown at the hands of Brock Lesnar. He is, perhaps the most shining example of what WWE now requires of their commentators: Bland, vanilla, tame.
The odd thing about all this is WWE has a wealth of talent capable to bringing more to the announce table than what’s being currently offered. Jim Ross and William Regal are doing the NXT shows, and both do a predictably great job. If you’re not watching the NXT shows, you’re missing out on hearing them do what they’re both been doing their entire careers, and that’s be a huge benefit to the product. Matt Striker is another person who’s shown the ability to produce at the announce table. I’ve always enjoyed his work thanks in no small part to his vast knowledge of holds, and his ability to actually call matches, something no one is currently doing on either RAW or Smackdown. I’d even be interested in giving someone like Michael Hayes a shot behind the table, if for no other reason, to have a fresh voice every Monday or Friday. We’ve already heard all of Jerry Lawler’s bad jokes. so why not give us a chance to hear all of Hayes’?
Another option would be to look outside of the current WWE roster. This is where I deliver the name John Bradshaw Layfield and hope against hope that his return is already in the works. I thought his work with Michael Cole on Smackdown was fantastic, and him coming back to either program would immediately improve the overall feel of whichever show he worked.
WWE programming is regularly sound viewing. The roster is talented, the production value is top shelf, but the announcing is clearly subpar. Everyone likes to take to their Twitter accounts and complain about storylines, wrestlers, etc., but one area where a big change for the better could actually be made is at the announce table. Whether the change needed is replacing members of the teams, or little more than getting people like HHH and Vince out of the announcers ears, taking the reigns off a guy like Lawler and allowing them to be themselves, something should be done. The current announce teams simply aren’t cutting it.