Over the past few years many fans have complained that the worst part of watching WWE programming is listening to the commentary team. They reminiscence of the days where Jim Ross, Gorilla Monsoon, and Bobby Heenan's voices reigned, but are sadly disappointed from week to week with the current team. We may now have new insight into why commentary has changed so drastically in the past few years, and why it is a shell of its former self.
On July 7th, an interesting document was released on the Squared Circle, which is the subreddit for pro wrestling, that details WWE’s rules for commentators. The alleged leaked document is eight pages long, and seems to be a basic job description for the WWE announce team.
The validity of this leaked document has been questioned, as it is not on official WWE letterhead. It follows a simple bullet point format, and is sprinkled with notes from WWE executives that are initialed and dated. While it is true that this document could be fake, the rules and dates line up perfectly with the introduction of the PG era.
If the document is in fact real, then fans are in store for some behind the curtain access. While scripts for WWE television shows have been leaked in the past, they are far and few between, and only provide insight into one show. The release of a document like this outlines what is to be expected from the commentary team at all times, which provides an unprecedented level of knowledge for fans.
So if you want to know all the juicy details of rules that were included in the leak, but don’t feel like reading through eight pages of bullet points you are in the right place. We are going to list the top 15 most interesting revelations that we have learned from this document. If you see something that we may have missed be sure to tell us in the comments below.
15 Sports Entertainment is Dead
As per a note from “Big”, otherwise known as Vince McMahon, the phrase “sports entertainment died on October 16th, 2008. The phrase has been a mainstay in professional wrestling, bridging the gap between athleticism and showmanship.
14 Cover Ups For Match Calling
While not all things in a match are supposed to be mentioned (we will get into that later), one action that is to be addressed by commentary, is when conversations are being held in the ring.
13 Time Lines Give Credence To Document
While the leaked document is new to fans, it seems that this particular version of the commentary rules is actually quite old. The timeline that we can confirm based upon actual dates listed on the documents are from March of 2008 until May of 2010.
12 Notes From Officials
While we don’t know who wrote most of the document, we do know that specific notes were placed in it by high ranking WWE officials. Specifically there are six notes directly from Vince McMahon, two from Stephanie McMahon, two from producer Kasama Bhasathiti, and one from producer Kevin Dunn.
11 No More Dirt Sheets
In what was a brief comment by Vince McMahon, it was instated that commentators are prohibited from reading dirt sheets. before we go any further let’s dissect the actual words used by the Chairman:
“Tell them to STOP reading the dirt sheets. Announcers need to understand what makes a match a good match”.
10 Only Call Signature Moves
Near the end of the document under the heading of “Tell Stories”, there is a paragraph discussing how the announce team should be calling action. It turns out that WWE encourages their commentators not to call every move. Instead management would rather have commentators call only “high spots and three counts”.
In recent years this style of commentary has become increasingly prevalent, with a disconnect happening between the action in the ring, and the voices of the match.
9 No Talking...No Problem
There are times when the commentary team just doesn’t speak, and now we know why; according to WWE management:
“Nobody likes someone talking in a movie theater. We make movies. It is not necessary to fill in every moment with verbiage.”
8 Don't Scream!
Some of the most memorable calls we as fans can remember are when Jim Ross so passionately yelled a spot or a finish. Heck, even Vince McMahon was about as animated as an announcer could be. However, it seems today's announcers are ordered to keep their voices in a relatively tame tone, safe for the climax of a match.
"There is nothing more annoying than to listen to an Announcer scream at you for over an hour... DON'T EQUATE SCREAMING WITH EXCITEMENT"
While it is true that we don't want to hear screaming throughout the action, commentary has seemed dull in recent years and there are times where we could use a little more animation.
7 No Superlatives
Commentators have been asked not to assign superlatives to Superstars, as well as matches. Specifically in regards to Superstars, commentators are supposed to keep observations “believable and plausible” steering clear of calling anyone the “greatest of all time”.
6 Talk Using Sound bites
Announcers are encouraged to speak in sound bites when calling a match. The general idea of speaking in soundbites is so that editors can have better clips of audio to use while putting together video packages. Think of the great video promos of the past, and how it seems that the audio was cut in perfectly from commentary.
5 Hatred is Banned
While many words have been banned by WWE, one of the most interesting words on the list is “hatred”. According to the leaked documents themselves, the commentators number one priority is to get talent over, which is good, but ineffective without certain terms.
How can fans (another banned word) truly love a babyface, if we are not allowed to hate his adversary? The announce team can't build up an effective feud (another banned word) without mentioning the hate in their relationship.
4 Speaking of Banned Words...
The WWE sure has a long list of banned words and phrases which include:
“Belt, strap, the business, our industry, feud, war, performance, performer, choreograph, house show, backstage, pro wrestling, international, short (title shot), acrobatics, interesting, DQ, talent, me, heel, baby face, blown up, shoot, rib, mark, U.S., fans, hospital, faction,choke, on sale, the title is on the line”.
Let's break this list down a bit. Some of the words and phrases on this list do in fact make sense, such as wrestling insider terms like babyface, mark, shoot, etc... Some however make no sense at all, for example the banning of the word hospital. Why would the WWE actually have a problem using the word hospital to describe where a Superstar goes to get treatment?
3 Hypocritical Beliefs
In the previous entry we listed a ton of words that are banned, but ironically enough, many of these terms have been used on air by commentators and talent since 2008 . In recent years WWE, and more specifically Triple H have made a catchphrase using the phrase “best for business”. Now is this a phrase that is exempt because it doesn’t have the word “the” in front of the word “business”? Or is this allowed because Triple H has loosened the handcuffs for the on-air verbiage?
2 Lots of Rules
With eight pages of rules, the announce team has a lot of guidelines to adhere to throughout a broadcast. WWE has gone through a ton of commentators through the past decade, and this laundry list of regulations could be the reason why.
WWE Legend Mick Foley has gone on record as stating that he hated doing commentary for the company in 2008. The now public list of rules, mixed with Vince McMahon's voice always in headphones proved to be much for Foley, and likely all other commentators who didn’t last long in the position.
1 WWE Has Good Intentions
While the rules are ridiculously long, drawn out, and excessive, it appears that WWE actually means well by them.
I know what you are thinking right now, but honestly most of this leaked document are explanations of the most effective way to get talent over. Announcers are encouraged to do individual research on Superstars, and bring their own unique perspective to the booth. In theory this would allow audiences to hear three unique perspectives on the same person, creating a deeper investment in their character.
Whether or not you agree with their method of getting talent over is up to you, but it is undeniable that this set of rules is intended to make WWE Superstars look better. WWE should at least get some points for that...right?
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