It’s not often that you see talk about the announce team or the announcer’s desk in general. While people do reminisce about past commentary duos such as Bobby Heenan–Gorilla Monsoon or even Jim Ross–Jerry Lawler, the commentary team is never really given the appreciation they deserve.
While WWE prefers keeping it that way, especially since the show isn’t about them, they still are a very integral part of WWE programming and have always been so for the past few decades. Being the voice of a show is no easy task. Not only do you have to constantly deal with Vince McMahon in your ear, but you have to be careful about everything you say and go in a flow that appeases people backstage.
It’s the responsibility of the commentators to tell a good story and to inform fans and keep them in the loop about everything. Over the past decade, WWE’s programming has been formulated as such that commentators have to be aware of people who are tuning in for the first time and they constantly give recaps and tell the stories that need to be told.
And to do all of that exceedingly well is a whole different task, especially in today’s environment. The RAW commentary team had gained quite some criticism for being rather “robotic” and “formulaic”, even though it was no real fault of their own. The Michael Cole–Corey Graves–Renee Young trio was a well-liked trio, but each received criticism individually and collectively.
On the other hand with SmackDown, there was no such thing and no such criticism. The Corey Graves-Tom Phillips–Byron Saxton trio worked perfectly and in its time, was the best commentary team combination in the company. Perhaps it helped that all three have been so acquainted with each other since NXT, but their chemistry translated very well on screen, with even Corey Graves not coming off too strong like he does many times on RAW.
On SmackDown, the trio really did play their role to perfection and helped bring the best out of each other. Even Byron Saxton, who was often called the weakest commentator in WWE, had improved leaps and bounds and managed to quietly earn the respect of the WWE Universe. From becoming a very formulaic announcer, he integrated personality and passion into his work while also not constantly making it about himself.
The fact that all three of them were so natural together translated well on screen and even helped contribute to the great SmackDown product over the last few years, whether people like to admit it or not. Unfortunately, the trio’s pairing will come to an end after SmackDown moves to FOX, as Michael Cole will replace Tom Phillips as the lead while Phillips will likely take Byron Saxton’s spot.
The positive of it is that Corey Graves won’t be overexposed on both shows, but it’s going to be sad to see the commentary team without Saxton. He had really grown into the role and when listening to them call a match, it felt like three casual friends calling it – which translated very well.
There were several incredible yet subtle moments where Tom Phillips and Corey Graves would absolutely lose it after a joke, forcing Byron Saxton to call the match himself. Even then, he would acknowledge the fact that he was doing it without actually taking away what fans were seeing on the screen – the match in the ring.
Ultimately, all pairings have to come to an end and for Byron Saxton, his incredible run on SmackDown Live as a commentator has come to a conclusion. Perhaps his best moments as a commentator was during the entire KofiMania period and his WrestleMania call of Kingston’s title win still gives chills down the spine.
All three members were integral to helping each other and even when they were poking fun at one another, they showed a more natural side of themselves that came off very well on television. Hopefully, we see the trio reunite down the line once more.