by Jeremy Hartley
I am quite sure, that a great majority of the readers of this column find no joy in being sick in bed for a few days. Of course, when one needs rest, and relaxation, not many things can be accomplished. This is where the wrestling video tapes, and all their little imperfections play a major roll in passing time, and adding that all important background noise when we should really be sleeping.
I don't quite know what gave me the idea to do this, but I decided to listen specifically to the many announcing teams on the tapes. After all. Wrestling commentators and color-commentators provide yours truly with what is happening during the course of a wrestling match. I thought it might be fun to rate some of the announcers and analysts, and give you a blind wrestling fan's perspective on those who call the action.
It is probably best to begin this by giving you my definition of what an ideal announcing team should be. It is the job of the play-by-play man to call the action. He should give the fans who are watching a match the correct name of a move, damage done to the opponent, ETC. After all of these steps are met, the color commentator, or analyst adds insight and reasons for why things are taking place.
It is without a doubt that the overall worst commentator has got to be Vince McMahon. I can't tell you how many wrestling events and telecasts I have walked away from, not feeling satisfied with my knowledge of what just took place. To often McMahon will describe a move, no matter what it is as, "unbelieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeviable!, "OOOOOOOOO my! What a move!, and other such descriptions. He seems to forget the fact that he is calling a wrestling match. A point could be made that McMahon is only doing what the television audience wants him to do. After all. That is what the screen is for. Right? Wrong! Whenever McMahon works with a partner, too much emphasis is placed on the argument that goes on between the two partners. When McMahon broadcasted with Jesse the Body Ventura, it was Jesse who provided the fans with the action as well as expert analysis. Now when McMahon works along side of Jerry Lawler, virtually no attention is being payed to the match at all by either man.
I have heard that many people never cared for Gorilla Monsoon's brand of announcing, but I must disagree. Unlike McMahon, Monsoon stuck to the match. His view was hardly clouded by such things as whether the men in the ring were fan favorites or not. Granted, his long pathetic feud with Bobby Heenan made his announcing suffer a little, but he never lost the ability to call a good match.
Before I get into my discussion of the best/worst announcers, let me say a few things regarding today's current crop of action callers. The Monday Nitro broadcast team has made significant improvements since its' debut a few years ago. What once was the farce of wrestling announcing teams, has now evolved into one of the most respected in the business. Tony Schevoni is no slouch when it comes to calling the blow-by-blow action. Larry Zibisco will be a wonderful analyst, but he first needs the experience with the mic to polish his delivery. Most importantly, two overlooked, and I think two of the most efficient commentators, Bobby Heenan, and Mike Tenay, are finally getting their chance to shine in the spotlight.
Below I have compiled a list of announcers whom I consider to be the master commentators. If I failed to include one of your favorite announcers, it is probably because it is a lack of exposure that announcer receives in the national spotlight. It is not possible to rate, and view each announcer completely and accurately, since many are never presented for our critique on a national level. So Just who are these Master commentators anyway?
1. I think the overall best play-by-play man in the business is Jim Ross. I am not talking about the Jim Ross that has been relegated to doing WWF hotline interviews, and Vince McMahon's lackey on Raw programs.. There is no question that Ross is just a shadow of what he once was. When Jim was in his prime in the NWA and UWF, he gave the observing fans a complete account of what was going on in the ring. He didn't spend his time reminding everybody that they were watching the Clash of Champions on the Superstation! Jim could make you feel like you were right there in the ring, and provide the perfect blend of expert play-by-play and excitement.
2. Ok Gordon Solie fans, your man is ranked number two in my book. However, putting Solie as number two is like comparing chocolate ice cream to peanut butter ice cream. They both are favorites of mine. So fear not. If Gordon Solie had not made his mark on Professional Wrestling, we would never have been given the tools to even measure the announcing teams as we are doing today. When Mr. Solie calls a match, he combines his wealth of experience and timing, with the student approach to each individual wrestling hold and move. Solie is no glitz. No glamour. But one hardly misses any of those things while listening to Mr. Solie's selfless account of a wrestling match.
3. Lance Russel of Memphis fame is also good at his craft. He takes his time during a match. He seems to saver the action, and his deep southern voice invites the fans to linger a while longer and watch the matches. Lance never insults the intelligence of the wrestling fan, and at his age, he has seen it all in the ring.
4. My overall best color commentator is overlooked by many of the fans. Say what you will about Terry Funk's tactics in the ring, but I think you will admit that he knows his stuff. The man has enormous insight into wrestling, and he is articulate in his delivery. Funk only lasted in announcing for about a year, but that was because he still had five good years of wrestling left in him. Now that the old man has finally decided to hang-em-up, he should really consider a job as a ringside analyst.
5. What would the world of wrestling be like without the flamboyant Jesse Ventura. A case could be made that Ventura has been the best analyst that this sport has ever seen. He calls things as he sees them, most of the time. He is able to add keen insight to the matches he works. However, what cheapens him somewhat is his interaction with his announcing colleagues. Sometimes Ventura distorted the view of a match, only to argue with the play-by-play man.
It is important to note here that all of the above mentioned announcers were and are truly at the top of their field. I have tried to not let personal biases stand in the way, and concentrate on facts as best I could. Depending on your own personal preferences, childhood memories, and other such life shaping events, your opinion may differ. If you really stop and think about it, I think you will begin to realize how important the wrestling announcer is when we consider the overall production of a wrestling program. It is like they say about an official in sports. The less you notice him, the better job he is doing.
And with that, the eye on wrestling is closed until next time.
Note, any questions, comments, criticisms, ETC. can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy communicating with you, the fans of this great sport, and I do read every email sent to me.
Jeremy Hartley is a regular contributor to Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
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