Few things can destroy a wrestling program as completely as a terrible commentary team. Even if all of the in ring action is thrilling, the superstars bring their A-Game on the microphone, and the arena crowd goes home happy, if the commentary fails to properly sell the show to the much larger crowd at home, all of those great elements will be deflated to the home audience. It seems like WWE commentary has plenty of problems these days, most notably micromanagement from Vince McMahon, but the reality is these issues have been systematic of WWE commentary teams since the McMahon family have been filming their product.
Bad play-by-play announcers typically don’t have enthusiasm for wrestling or simply don’t know what they’re talking about. Bad color commentators are a different story, especially considering the role is usually filled by a past success in the ring, which means they probably have some sort of charisma or microphone presence in one way or another. Unfortunately, that presence doesn’t always necessarily translate to the announce desk and quite a few fantastic pro wrestlers have moved on to terrible careers calling the action. To find out who the absolute worst were, keep reading our list of 15 great WWE superstars who were terrible on commentary.
15 Vince McMahon
It would be impossible to overstate the importance of Vince McMahon in regards to sports entertainment history, although he and his family do their best to prove that wrong. Regardless of whether or not the McMahon’s are completely fair about the totality of wrestling history, the fact remains Vince played a massive role in it, both as the owner of WWE and as an in-ring performer. The one role Vince has proven less than great in is actually the same role he started in, that being lead announcer. Vince made his WWE debut as the host of All-Star Wrestling, followed by regular stints as the host of Championship Wrestling, Monday Night Raw, and WWE Pay-Per-Views. Vince kept announcing even as he took the reigns of WWE from his father, despite the fact he never really improved in the role. For as much as Vince understands the business aspect of wrestling, he never got all the move names down and his histrionic style made it hard to take him seriously during tense moments. Vince nonetheless remained the lead announcer of most WWE programming until the late ‘90s, when he stepped away from the booth for good.
14 Shane McMahon
Vince McMahon’s son Shane seemed poised to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, so it made sense one of his first recurring roles in WWE was that of an announcer, just like his old man. Shane’s real debut came as a referee, followed by a few years as an unnamed official, and yet it was his time on Sunday Night Heat that gave the WWE Universe the first glimpses of the real Shane-O-Mac. Shane was the original color commentator on the show alongside Jim Cornette and while the result was vastly different from when Vince attempted commentary, Shane had plenty of issues of his own. It’s good for an announcer to be excited, but they need to be excited about the right things at the right time or else it feels like they’re insincerely overhyping everything like a sycophantic yes man. Shane screamed over every match and yelled with glee about every minor thing, diluting his credibility and explaining why he has stayed far away from the booth ever since.
13 The Honky Tonk Man
Based on longevity, The Honky Tonk Man is indeed the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, as he has long claimed. Outside of that claim, Honky enjoyed a long career in WWE, WCW, and the independent scene based on his strong personality, which can easily whip a crowd into a frenzy to see him get his comeuppance to this day. Therein lies the problem with Honky Tonk on commentary, in that he didn’t know how to tone down the obnoxiousness and thus fans were begging for him to shut up and take a beating within the first few minutes. Honky didn’t do much commentary as a result, only showing up on a few episodes of Monday Night Raw and Superstars. If nothing else, Honky was good at getting other heels over as threats early on in their careers, albeit at the expense of his fellow broadcasters being able to actually call the match.
12 Mick Foley
It made perfect sense when Mick Foley was chosen as the color commentator for ECW One Night Stand in 2005. Few superstars represent the hardcore spirit like the former Cactus Jack and he did a decent enough job that night showing his enthusiasm towards paying tribute to his fellow ECW alumni. Foley’s stint on commentary wasn’t meant to last, though, as evidenced by his brief stint as the co-host of Friday Night SmackDown in 2008. Foley is the one person on this list we’re sure agrees with us too, as he would later claim Vince McMahon’s micromanagement destroyed any fun he was having in the role, causing him to greatly underperform as a result. Foley has long been famous for his incredible promos, the best of which were entirely written by himself, so he probably expected a little bit of leeway in the announce booth. It makes sense Vince’s constant bickering would get to him, although that doesn’t entirely excuse a job poorly done.
11 Bruno Sammartino
The accomplishments of Bruno Sammartino could never be replicated in the modern era and, quite frankly, neither could his commentary style. Bruno’s unmatchable 11 years as WWE Champion was successful largely due to his personal charisma, which made him the consummate babyface through all phases of his career. It was this same quality that hurt him on commentary, however, as Bruno’s charisma came as the most straight-laced and upright wrestler imaginable. Therefore, Bruno didn’t want to talk bad about anybody and, as a former unstoppable wrestler, it was hard for him to seem particularly impressed by anybody except the top stars, who didn’t need his support in the first place. Bruno’s time on commentary was rumored to be part of a deal to get his son, David Sammartino, a significant push. Bruno left WWE when David turned out to be a bust, surprisingly bringing his poor commentary to the controversial UWF and even WCW Halloween Havoc 1992, before finally retiring from the wrestling industry altogether.
10 Booker T
Much like all aspects of his career, one thing Booker T’s commentary has going for it was that he at least wasn’t as bad as his brother, Stevie Ray, who only saves himself from this least by way of not being a great wrestler, either. Booker at least brought the goods in the ring, shining as one of the last true stars created by WCW and then carving a respectable career in WWE, winning countless tag and singles championships. Booker first attempted commentary during his brief 2009 stint in TNA, after which he returned to WWE as a regular member of the Friday Night SmackDown broadcast team. Booker has remained a part of the various WWE Network pre-shows ever since,and yet he's never quite learned the difference between putting himself over and putting talent over. Booker’s commentary is awash of bizarre catchphrases and self-promotion, and though a great amount of excitement is often included in the mix, it can occasionally be hard for fans to understand what the hell he’s excited about. Aw, shucky ducky.
9 Jerry Lawler
The commentary of Jerry “The King” Lawler has been such an integral part of WWE programming that this entry will no doubt generate some controversy. As a wrestler, Lawler is recognized as the most decorated superstar ever to work for WWE, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 168 championships on his resume. Lawler’s infamous mouth played a big role in the majority of his accomplishments and it wouldn’t be fair to pretend Lawler’s gift of gab hasn’t created some iconic and memorable moments since he’s transitioned to the announce booth. Lawler did so starting in 1992, when he was the co-host of Superstars, followed by his more famous position as the color commentator of Monday Night Raw starting in 1995. Lawler has always been a master of putting over heels and mocking babyfaces, but he isn’t without his many flaws, which could easily outweigh the positives. Lawler has not only degraded virtually every female superstar he’s seen, but he has also proven on many occasions he has no concept of what jokes are off limits, making it a questionable idea to give him a live microphone on a weekly basis.
8 John "Bradshaw" Layfield
His reputation as a backstage bully and the shock of his sudden entry into the main event scene notwithstanding, JBL very quickly proved he had been hiding years of potential when he suddenly won the WWE Championship in 2004. JBL went from a midcarder for life to a viable top superstar on the merits of his charisma and ability to play a rich douchebag, but his advanced age meant the sudden career resurgence wouldn’t last for long. JBL transitioned to the announce booth in 2006, starting with Friday Night SmackDown and later enjoying a stint on Raw, as well. JBL has been all over the place and yet he hasn’t fit in anywhere he went, relying on outdated references and proving his bully reputation is more than talk by constantly berating whoever his least experienced co-host may be. The longer JBL has been performing commentary, the more bitter he’s started to sound and chances are he won’t suddenly get better more than a decade into the job.
7 Larry Zbyszko
Most of Larry Zbyszko’s legacy is intrinsically linked to his mentor and trainer Bruno Sammartino, so it makes sense Zbyszko would follow Bruno’s path and take up a career in commentary once his day in the ring was over. After coming to fame in WWE and the AWA, Zbyszko transitioned to the announce booth in WCW, eventually turning into one of the staples of the Nitro broadcast team during the Monday Night Wars. We’re not going to deny that WCW fans loved Zbyszko, chanting his name so loudly it would occasionally disrupt the show, but that was the whole problem. Zbyszko was such a strong presence on commentary, attacking the nWo when everyone else in the company was getting destroyed by them that he seemed like a potential hero, at a point when he couldn’t possibly back it up in the ring anymore. When Zbyszko wasn’t talking about the nWo, he would mock the talent and put himself over, bringing question to whether or not he even cared about the storylines or if his real goal was self-promotion all along.
Few women have accomplished as much in WWE as Lita and the many young women emulating her to this day will prove that fact true for a long while to come. In her era, Lita was a one of a kind performer, bringing a high flying style to the WWE women’s division a full decade before Sasha Banks and Charlotte started doing moonsaults and suicide dives as regular parts of their repertoires. Adverse to her unique talents in the ring, Lita never quite exceled on the microphone, especially when she was a babyface. All that said, it’s hard to blame the company for giving her a chance on the Heat announce team in 2003, considering she had recently suffered a potentially career ending injury and was looking for a way to stay active during her recovery. Regrettably, she simply wasn’t that great in the role, treating it somewhat like a fun joke rather than putting over the matches she called in any way. Her relationship with co-host Jonathan Coachman didn’t help, as the two were arguably too playful, laughing off the action instead of making anyone look good.
5 Lord Alfred Hayes
WWE fans may not even realize Lord Alfred Hayes enjoyed a long career as a wrestler, considering he never once stepped into a McMahon owned ring. Hayes wrestled for decades in his native England, followed by Stateside stints in the NWA and AWA as both a top babyface and hated heel. On either side of the spectrum, Hayes heightened his posh British qualities to a degree that would make William Regal blush and continued to do so on commentary in a less successful manner. Half of the superstars on this list got here by putting themselves over too much, while Hayes’s problem was that he didn’t put anything over at all. His most repeated quirk was getting flustered and laughing off his confusion, which may have been endearing to some, but let’s face it—that’s just bad commentary. Hayes did have one niche, that being the co-host of Tuesday Night Titans, where he got to thrive in a more talk show setting. In the traditional sense, though, Lord Alfred’s commentary was quite awful, indeed.
4 The Miz
At the very least, the less than awesome commentary of The Miz has been relegated to the WWE c-show Main Event. In at least a few lamentable instances, however, Miz also brought his annoying and sycophantic attitude to Raw and SmackDown, as well. Granted, these instances weren’t quite as bad as the few times he brought his once-protégé Alex Riley along with him for the ride. The Miz was originally brought into WWE as the host of the Diva Search, so it makes sense he would make a move to the announce booth before long. It also isn’t surprising he wasn’t that great at it, though, since The Miz has proven repeatedly that like several others on this list, his greatest talent is making fans want to see him take a serious beating. In fairness, Miz may be one of the few to have realized this, typically turning into an affable smiling babyface every time he made his way to the booth. Unfortunately, Miz has little skill in this area, which is why his attempts were complete duds despite his better efforts.
3 Pat Patterson
Outside of the immediate McMahon family, Pat Patterson may well be the most important creative mind to work for WWE. Patterson enjoyed decades of success as an incredibly innovative wrestler prior to his long tenure as a writer too, making him one of the true legends in the sports entertainment industry. Included in Patterson’s legend is boundless charisma as both a heel and a babyface, albeit charisma marred slightly by a thick French Canadian accent that makes it hard for American fans to completely understand everything Patterson is saying. For some reason, WWE officials decided to overlook the accent when making Patterson one of the most regular color commentators of the early ‘80s, finding himself in the booth on Championship Wrestling and countless specials on the MSG Network. Great as Patterson was in the ring, he lacked enthusiasm on commentary and surprisingly had trouble calling the in-ring action in specific terms. One thing Patterson’s commentary career had going for it was that it was short, perhaps meaning he realized there were people better suited for the role than he.
2 Terry Funk
From the very beginning, the executive staff of ECW knew that the company couldn’t exist without the contributions of Terry Funk, so it must have felt like a miracle when ECW nabbed Funk as the color commentator for the first few episodes of Hardcore TV. Funk’s hardcore history notwithstanding, he also stands as one of the greatest talkers in wrestling history, with an ability to weave a story unlike any other performer. Surprisingly, these skills didn’t translate to the announce booth, although that could have been an issue systemic of early ECW in general. Funk’s co-hosts were Jay “Six Pack” Sulli and Stevie Wonderful, both of whom seemed clueless and overwhelmed by his presence, which probably went a long way in throwing Funk off his game. It would also be fair to point out Funk didn’t have that much to work with, calling the era of ECW dominated by The Super Destroyers, Don Muraco, and surfer Sandman, but he makes the list anyway considering just how palpable his lack of enthusiasm was.
1 "Superstar" Billy Graham
No one revolutionized what it meant to rock a microphone in the wrestling business like “Superstar” Billy Graham. There had been heels bordering on “cool” before, but Graham went full force into the idea of being a funny, likeable douchebag, still so vicious and despicable in the ring that fans would reject his jokes and treat him like the jerk he was. For whatever reason, this trailblazing microphone presence didn’t follow Graham into the announce booth, where he went once nagging injuries caught up with him and forced him out of the ring in the late ‘80s. Graham typically performed color commentary on WWE’s PRISM and MSG Network specials, with the arguable “highlight” of his announcing career occurring aside Gorilla Monsoon at the inaugural SummerSlam in 1988. Graham’s biggest issue was sounding sedated, showing none of his slick attitude and treating the in-ring proceedings like cookie cutter and uninteresting, presenting none of his usual flair. The weirdest part is that the self-aggrandizing Graham didn’t fall into the pitfall many others did and promote himself, instead committing a much worse sin: being boring.
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