Wrestling announcers do not get enough credit (…and I know what I am talking about – trust me).
The play-by-play greats of all time (Lance Russell, Mike Tenay, Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, Joey Styles) made it look so easy. The best of the talent-turned-announcers brigade (Larry Zbysko, Bobby Heenan, Jesse Ventura, Taz, Jerry Lawler) also seamlessly transitioned from the ring to the table. But therein lies the problem. Talent, at least in the wrestling business, is quite the subjective term. A good wrestler will not make a good announcer any more than a good veterinarian will make a good farm animal. While the positions are inarguably related – the positions require two separate and distinct skill sets.
Take, for example, Michael Hayes.
An incredible talent on the promo mic (IMHO, in the top five of all time) and certainly serviceable in the ring. He transitioned to the announce table with ease. The UWF with Hayes and Jim Ross as co-hosts rivals the best announced shows of all time – they may be the BEST of all time actually. But…
He was, and always will be, talent.
Remember the joke about the rabbit that wants to cross the river but cannot make the jump or find a long enough limb or ride a tree branch to achieve the goal? An alligator swims up and tells the rabbit to jump on and he will take him across the water. The rabbit is skeptical because the alligator is known to eat rabbits. The alligator promises he will make it to the other side intact. The rabbit jumps on and, sure enough, he arrives alive on the other side. Suddenly the alligator grabs the rabbit in his jaws and just before being chewed to smithereens, the rabbit says, â<80><9c>Hey! What the hell?!â<80> The gator just says, â<80><9c>You knew I was an alligator when you jumped on.â<80> Dinner time.
Moving wrestlers into the announce position is fraught with trouble. Because, after all, they are wrestlers! They are cut from a different cloth. Doesnâ<80><99>t make them better or worse than anyone else – just different.
Michael Hayes finds himself at home for 60 days (with the possibility his future endeavors will be wished well) for embarrassing himself. With the assistance of some liquid courage, he compared his relative racial bona fides to that of Mark Henry. In the continuum of stupidity, drinking to excess with co-workers is a one, then saying something stupid is a two, saying something racially stupid is a three, to someone of the opposite race is a four, and knowing that someone could rip you in half like a sheet of construction paper is a five. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner everybody! Thank you for playing.
But, why are we surprised? We knew he was a wrestler when they hired him.
During the ill-fated 2001 Invasion angle in the WWE, I was humbled, not by the Iron Sheik, but to announce the main event on Raw with Arn Anderson. Arn Anderson is as good in the ring as anyone who has ever laced up the boots. On the mic, again, top five of all-time. But, as an announcer, untested. As we discussed how we would approach the announcing of that match, I assured Arn that, if he got stuck, just elbow me and I would be there. He gave me the same assurance. Off we went.
Of course the match, the now-legendary Booker T vs. Buff Bagwell catastrophe, was an abortion of biblical proportions. We did the best we could but there was no saving that thing. After the match as we were leaving the announce table, Arn put his arm around my shoulder. Literally pouring sweat, he said, â<80><9c>My God that was tough. I donâ<80><99>t know how you guys do it.â<80> There is no greater compliment. If one of the best promo guys in history, one of the most knowledgeable wrestlers ever when it comes to work and psychology, had that reaction after calling one match one time? I was on cloud nine.
Arn Anderson got it. He knew he was a wrestler when they hired him.
Announcing a wrestling match is no where close to the same job as working a match or cutting a promo. Would Ross, Russell, Styles be good wrestlers? Probably not. Would I be a good wrestler? Jesus, no! Just the same way a good wrestler or a good promo man would not necessarily make a good announcer. Just ask Steve McMichael, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, John Layfield, or Stevie Ray.
Mick Foley is the latest to make the move. Foley is a college man, obviously articulate and, needless to say, one of the all-timers in the ring and on the mic as wrestler. Based on his first appearance (Sunday at Backlash), I like his chances. Just bring him along slowly, do not ask him to do too much too soon (otherwise know as The Adamle Effect) and he has the potential to be, the POTENTIAL to be, another Ventura. But if it doesnâ<80><99>t work out, thereâ<80><99>s always Michael Hayes.
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