The Smart Sports Report

The fading magic of wrestling commentary: Lost art or just a phase?


There are many entities that contribute to a spectacular wrestling experience for an audience.  While the dazzling in-ring performances by the wrestlers & the effort they must put into each show, understandably & deservedly,  get all the attention, there is an element that perhaps goes unnoticed, but has just a profound, subconscious command over our emotions during our experience.

That force is the beautiful magic of wrestling commentary.

As millions of TV audiences watch their favorite wrestlers battle it out in this male soap opera that is pro-wrestling, it is the team of wrestling commentators whose sole duty is to make that journey as real, as intense, and as entertaining as possible. It is their responsibility to get their viewers involved in the action;  acquaint them with feuds;  make them hate or love the characters;  get them all riled up to care about their show;  make even the dullest of slaps sound like the deafening thunder of Thor’s hammer!  Folks,  wrestling commentary is not just a skill, it is an art.

When the older generations of wrestling fans talk about the good old days of wrestling, inevitably, The Attitude Era comes up.  The mere thought of those edgy story-lines,  the fierce rivalries, those in-your-face characters & all that mind-boggling action is almost orgasmic to a wrestling fan.

But it is almost impossible to imagine that time without certain non-wrestling characters: the wrestling commentators. In fact, throughout the evolution of pro-wrestling in the TV world, which enabled it to become a larger, more popular product, commentary has played a major role in marketing it.

Who can forget the legendary pairing of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon on All Star Wrestling and All American Wrestling in the mid-80’s, or for the younger readers, the classic RAW commentators – Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jim Ross about a decade later?

They made you care about wrestling. It was not just a bland, mundane description of various holds and submissions;  it was a blockbuster brand of powerful, emotional, controversial commentary that made you think, that got you agitated, that got you talking to your TV sets as you witnessed the in-ring genius.

Don’t believe me? Try watching the entrance of The Undertaker, or the formation of the nWo, or the in-ring antics of any divas, or any Wrestlemania moment without a commentary.
You will find yourself missing out on something.

But that was then.

Today, one is forced to ask:  Is this art of wrestling commentary fading? Will it soon be a lost art, or is this just a phase?

Sure, legends like Heenan or JR will find no match. But somehow wrestling commentary today, one feels,  is just not the same anymore. It has lost its magic.

Even take The King, for example, on Monday Night RAW – the best wrestling show on Television. His eccentricity & naughty charm has made way for a more mature, boring, un-spirited scheme of verbal wordsmithery that no longer entertains anyone but Michael Cole. Perhaps, he can no longer jump up and down squealing “puppies” upon setting eyes on the Divas due to the PG era, or it may be down to his age, but still, there is a lot he can do that he doesn’t.  He has erased almost every bit of that heelish commentator soul within him and has become another corporate commentator.

Michael Cole, Lawler’s broadcast partner, has already received his share of criticism. I guess Jericho does not share his dictionary with Cole, otherwise he would not be addicted to saying “controlled frenzy” and “vintage” and “the longest running episodic…*yawn* I’m dozing off even writing it!

While Matt Stryker has somewhat reintroduced this heelish commentator gimmick, he has a lot of ground to cover.

The TNA pairing of Mike Tenay and Tazz have their moments, and appear more involved in it than their counterparts in the WWE, but to say they have that same magic of the commentators in the past would be delusional.

The truth is, wrestling commentators these days just don’t seem to care enough about the product. They seem to lack motivation, the spirit, the desire to entertain. They come off as boring or worse – forceful. Could one say they have taken the wrestling audience for granted? It is hard to find many, or any, great wrestling commentary moments these days.

There was a time and there were lines that almost gave you goosebumps! There were phrases which now have become classic in wrestling history. There was a vocable magic that was summoned the moment a commentator desired to. Now….there is none.

Is this just a transitional phase? Maybe time needs to be given to some of these young commentators to evolve their own styles and recapture our attention in their art. There is no denying that as wrestling grows in the TV world and looks to engage more, newer, younger audiences, these wrestling commentators – the real hosts of the show for the TV audiences – will play a pivotal role in making the show look compelling.

But do they have what it takes? Will we see a revival of that audible charm that was wrestling commentary once again?

Or is it down to the wrestling action itself? Does the in-ring action offer nothing to stimulate a more sterling commentary?

What do you think?

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4 responses

  1. ak127

    Move Matt Striker on Raw in exchange for Cole. Actually, get rid of Cole altogether as a commentator. He sucks. You know who I think should be doing commentary? Abraham Washinton! If it were up to me, Abe will join Todd Grisham on Smackdown, and Matt Striker can join Jim Ross on Raw. Those two knukleheads on ECW can stay there til the show goes bust.

    Oh, and good read btw Rocky. :P

    January 21, 2010 at 6:44 AM

    • rgetters

      Thanks Annie. :)

      I think they should bring back JBL as a heel commentator to SD and pair him with Cole. Their chemistry, or lack thereof, or whatever they had, was hilarious! Or maybe JBL and Lawler together on SD…that should be interesting. Two big egos, two loudmouths; although one would wonder whether King can handle play-by-play assuming JBL will handle the color commentary.

      Pairing JR with Stryker would be quite interesting, too. Or someone like Abe, or someone else who has good mic skills. But yeah, basically, they need a shake-up!

      January 21, 2010 at 8:51 AM

  2. Pair up Jim Ross and Matt Striker, that should be an interesting combo to listen to.

    ” I guess Jericho does not share his dictionary with Cole,”

    LOL, Hmmm I think when Jericho retires he can become the perfect heel commentator, using all those LONG words.

    Great read Rocky, yes commentary does make wrestling more exciting just not when it’s Cole yelling “Vintage” every two minutes.

    January 21, 2010 at 8:18 AM

    • rgetters

      Thanks Svyato. :)

      Yeah, JR and Matt could have a good chemistry. Matt actually has a lot of good qualities as a commentator; he is aware and smart and knows what funny is. I don’t think he’s getting a lot to play with, verbally, with Todd who is decent. With someone as talented as JR, he could. Plus, WWE should pay attention to nurturing not just their next generation of superstars, but also commentators, seeing as how they are so effective & significant.

      January 21, 2010 at 8:55 AM

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