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Thursday, August 7, 2008
WWE with a Different Sound Behind the Mic

Jim Ross and Michael Cole switching shows on the WWE Draft Show.
Jim Ross.

Michael Cole.

It's like someone tying you to a chair and saying you're going to watch a tape of the 1985 Chicago Bears or the 1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I'm sure you would go with Ross (da Bears), who is a WWE Hall of Famer and my favorite wrestling announcer of all time.

Ross had been the voice of WWE Monday Night Raw for 13 years and now is a part of a program that I enjoy more -- Smackdown on CW. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon has tried to rid his organization of Ross by firing him several times and attempting to embarrass him on numerous occasions by putting him in brutal wrestling matches.

I've been a fan of Ross since the Universal Wrestling Federation/Mid South Wrestling days in 1986 when it was syndicated in Chicago on Saturday nights. Good ole J.R.'s enthusiasm is infectious. Ross speaks our language as wrestling fans. I remember in his prime, he had a ton of energy and a lot of volume. Ross, an Oklahoma native, knew then and still is aware of how to tell a story and announce through a fan's eyes.

I have enjoyed some of his broadcasting partners over the years as well. Whether it was Jerry "The King" Lawler, Michael Hayes, Bill Watts, Tony Schiavone, the late Gordon Solie, Jim Cornette, Paul Heyman, Bob Caudle, or anyone else, Ross has done an incredible job.

McMahon, without question, is trying to push Ross off of television. J.R. has written on his blog numerous times that he isn't respected or liked because of his thick southern accent. Ross has also stated that because he isn't a pretty face (Bell's Palsy) and management isn't desirous of him being on the main stage. I've read in various blogs that Ross wasn't informed that he was switching shows before Raw aired, and was purposely "drafted" to Smackdown to make a fool out of him so everyone would see his initial reaction.

Why would a wrestling company destroy the best play-by-play man in the history of wrestling? The answer: Vince McMahon. He does it for laughs. He does it to get a reaction. He does it because he has provided a country boy from Oklahoma everything he's ever wanted. He gave him a play-by-play gig. He gave him the VP of Talent Relations position. McMahon stepped down from his play-by-play position after three decades and gave the reigns to Ross, but found out that Ross was better than him at announcing.

Michael Cole started in wrestling as a backstage reporter and had been with Smackdown for 9 years. My opinion of Cole is that his play-by-play description is perfect for McMahon's "sports entertainment" era.

When he does a broadcast, it sounds overly scripted and he's locked in on his storylines, which leaves very little room for personality. Cole's style must make WWE Executive Producer Kevin Dunn proud. Cole has had to repeat whatever McMahon, Dunn or Ross has put in the headset for years. So I've never known Cole to have a signature style to his broadcasting that he hadn't ripped off from Ross. Like Ross, I believe that Cole has worked with several talented analysts like Lawler, Cornette, John Bradshaw Layfield and even Tazz, when he decided that speaking English would help the broadcast. That was also a good move for Cole.

Now Cole is in the spotlight as the voice of Raw. Raw consistently continues to be one of the highest rated programs on cable, so Cole now has huge shoes to fill.

As for Ross, he knows that he's seen his better days as a broadcaster. However, he still has the fire to call some great matches when the time arrives.

As of late, Ross and Cole do have something to get excited about as the WWE brand has started to change for the better.

I hope for Ross' sake, J.R. can leave on his own terms and not McMahon's. After all, without Ross, there's... Todd Grisham??! Uh-oh!