Perhaps no other sport or form of entertainment is more reliant on commentary than professional wrestling. The commentator is our voice, our lifeline to the action. They guide us through the match, covering all angles and elevating the storyline. Matches have always been about the story leading up the match, and the story told inside the ring. Working the knee, using heel tactics, technical wrestling, and risk taking can all be easily missed by the casual fan.
The problem is that this is being missed by the casual announcers we have today. I’ve never heard such a bland dose of commentary in all my wrestling years. Give me authenticity, give me excitement, give me passion! The current crew tends to humourlessly chit chat over the action and plug products. It’s obviously not their decision to shill websites and apps, but more can be done in between these unofficial commercials.
We judge the current product so harshly because we’ve seen it done so much better in the past (even by the current regime). Gordon Solie’s calm voice brought legitimacy and a prize-fight feel to everything he was a part of. Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan were your bickering friends throughout the night, Joey Styles was a one-man-show and still one of the true greats, and what more can be said about Jim Ross?
Is it that hard to find broadcast professionals who love the business? Broadcasters from other sports have been brought in with very mixed results. Wrestling is like no other sport. It has its own language and must be taken seriously. Imposters will be rejected.
If even the current commentary team was better years before then perhaps it’s the WWE’s micro-managing that’s at fault (although TNA is no prize either). Whatever the problem is, we need it fixed.
So without further ado, here are the top 15 worst wrestling announcers of all time.
15. (Modern) Jerry Lawler
Lawler’s style was always a little cheesy but very effective for years. His run with JR is remembered fondly by many as the voice(s) of a generation.
Perhaps the switch from his more cartoonish heel persona has been a difficult transition. Color men have always worked better as heels, but the WWE seems to be going with three vanilla voices over the past few years instead.
Lawler himself sounds bored with the job and I wouldn’t blame him. He’s been doing it for over 20 years and the product has seen its ups and downs.
Whatever you do, you should do it until you’re done, and it sounds like he’s done.
14. Booker T
Kevin Owens nailed it when he tweeted:
“Jinder Mahal enters the Rumble: Booker T goes ‘here we go!’… What the F— are you talking about?!?!? Here we go what? It’s Jinder Mahal!”
This moment encapsulates Booker’s style perfectly. He brings a lot of energy but it’s mostly random and misplaced. Like Tony Schiavone telling you that Disco Inferno versus Alex Wright will be the greatest match in the history of the sport, it diminishes the effect of anything else they might say.
There was a Booker T drinking game going around a few years ago that will most likely put you in a hospital if attempted. Taking a shot anytime you hear a Bookerism like: ‘Right HERE’, ‘Right THERE’, ‘SHUCKY DUCKY QUACK QUACK’ etc. will have you passed out long before the main event. (credit to JasonRivera.com for the game)
13. Art Donovan
Art Donovan’s 1994 King of the Ring commentary is comedy gold and one of my favorite wrestling moments. But technically, he was a terrible wresting commentator.
It only worked because 1994 was an awful year for wrestling full of unintentionally funny moments. When the match is Mabel versus IRS, you need to find a source of entertainment outside of the ring, and Donovan provided plenty of great lines that night. His ignorance of the product would seem downright disrespectful during prosperous times, but for one night in ’94, I was glad to have him.
Gorilla Monsoon was on his way out as lead commentator and was noticeably irritated by Donovan’s presence, but Randy Savage was the great equalizer. Savage had always been lightning quick on the mic and a fantastic improviser. He smoothed out the rough edges when Donovan strayed too far. Savage remains criminally underrated as a broadcaster.
Not technically great, but one of my favorites.
It’s always a good idea for a wrestler to try their hand at broadcasting. You can only take bumps for so long before an alternate career starts sounding pretty good. Plus, they’ve already devoted their life to the sport so it makes sense to utilize that knowledge and passion. Most struggle with the job however, as it’s much more difficult than it looks. Even those with serious promo skills find that it’s an entirely different beast.
Lita wasn’t awful but it wasn’t a great fit. She put in a solid effort but it sounded like she was hosting a public access show covering an elementary school PTA meeting.
Lita didn’t need to the job anyway and went on to rock the mic with her band The Luchagors.
11. (TNA) Mike Tenay
I always liked Tenay in WCW as a color man. He brought a wealth of wrestling knowledge and could call every move in that older realistic style WCW used to have.
But as the lead commentator in TNA is a different story. He now has to provide a much more dramatic play-by-play performance that frankly sounds a bit forced. They also have had him act out a few dramatic moments, which is far from his wheelhouse.
I thought TNA was going to bring wrestling back to TV and provide an alternative to the WWE’s soap-opera product. But instead they got sucked into the late-WCW trap and are just another watered down WWE.
Tenay could still be great with the right lead man, but for now he’s on our list.
10. Mike Adamle
Adamle is another guy I appreciate for his humor, both unintentional and planned.
There’s a great video of him speaking with a fan before the show and admitting “You can’t do this overnight, if you’ve never seen this before, it’s not like football, it’s not like baseball, you’re not allowed to call the action, you have to tell a story.”
Wrestling is unlike any other sport and having broadcast experience can help, but it seems like nothing can prepare you for this wild and wacky sport we love.
Adamle gave us many memorable quotes such as:
‘His name is Jeff Harvey’
‘alongside the Tazz’
‘yomama yomama..Jamaican me crazy’
‘John Cena suffered a severely herniated disc in his necks’ (alllll of his neck)
‘the botinion of Batista’
Adamle wasn’t ready for a commentary job but he was pretty entertaining as the GM and backstage personality. They embraced his quirks and it added levity to a long show.
A polarizing choice perhaps but definitely a part of the current broadcasting problem. There doesn’t seem to be a clear plan for what he brings to the table. You would assume he’s the heel sympathizer but too often he flip flops on his ideals, casting a mixed message.
Being a heel still requires putting the match and competitors over, but too often JBL buries everything in the ring as well as what his colleagues are saying. JBL also breaks the number one rule of improv by constantly shutting down what his co-horts are saying. This kills any chance of banter or entertainment.
JBL, Lawler and Cole are obviously in a stale place and something needs to give.
8. Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes is a wrestling legend and one of the best promo men in history. He delivered sermons of incredible passion and authority and I still get chills listening to his great work. You’d think that would translate into the broadcast booth but it didn’t.
Perhaps it’s a different animal. A wrestler is supposed to get themselves over with their promo while a broadcaster has to remove themselves from the equation, focusing only on the match, story, and the competitors. Dusty spent decades as one of the best ring men and personalities around and I guess his star was too bright to be hidden behind a broadcast booth.
7. Tony Schiavone
Bobby Heenan called him a ‘pig’ and that’s good enough for me. He also added that Schiavone is not a good man, did not like wrestling and did not like wrestlers.
These might sound like the typical words of a bitter ex-wrestling personality but if you’ve seen him in interviews or read his book you’ll know that’s not the case. Heenan tells it like it is but is generally positive towards most of his wrestling past. Very few earned his ire, but Schiavone and Bischoff were two of them.
Earning the wrath of Heenan is enough to wind up on this list but Schiavone could have qualified all on his own.
For one, he obviously doesn’t know what a sidewalk slam is yet continually calls it in place of many other moves. He also had a habit of proclaiming almost every show as the greatest night in wrestling history.
Schiavone had potential and I liked him as the flabbergasted/disgusted face, but he usually took it too far to be likeable.
6. Craig DeGeorge
DeGeorge and Bobby Davis were together for a short while and can make a case for worst broadcast duo of all time, but DeGeorge is plenty terrible himself to make this list.
First off, he may have years of non-related broadcasting experience, but he certainly didn’t know a thing about wrestling. A backflip is not even specific to wrestling yet he somehow decided to call it a ‘back-body drop’.
DeGeorge stuck around for a while doing interviews as well which he was a little better suited for. He was professional enough to keep an interview moving forward as there’s far fewer backflips in an interview to call.
5. Jack Reynolds
Reynolds brought that old-school territory feel into the mid-80s Rock ‘n Wrestling Era boom of the WWE.
Old-school can be charming, but it can also be cringeworthy, like when Reynolds once remarked that “there are a lot of Orientals here” during a house show taping in Toronto.
He was the type of announcer that worked better before cable brought television to the entire country. McMahon would have enough lawsuits on his hand by the 90s and didn’t need his commentators offending any groups with outdated slang.
4. Steve Mongo McMichael and Pepe the dog
Mongo actually hit the WWE for a quick spell as a part of Lawrence Taylor’s NFL bodyguard squad leading up to WrestleMania XI. Once he had appeared on WWE television he was GURANTEED a job with WCW alongside John Tenta and Fred Ottman.
I kid you not, on his Nitro broadcasting debut he used the lame shock-handshake gag on Heenan and loudly proclaimed ‘don’t underestimate Mongo, Mr. Heenan’.
Sure thing Mongloid.
3. Rob Bartlett
Way back in the wacky early 90s standup comedy was white hot, comedy clubs were everywhere, and a guy like Rob Bartlett crossed paths with Vince McMahon.
McMahon was attending a charity event for the Special Olympics and Bartlett was performing. McMahon happened to be wearing a bright peach suit that night and it inspired 20 minutes of improvised insults from Bartlett. McMahon offered him the job and Bartlett was would start right on WWE Raw’s first episode.
It didn’t last too long as it was painfully obvious that Bartlett was an outsider to the business. He was also given very little on-air support from McMahon and Heenan.
Strange choice indeed.
2. Michael Cole
When the WWE tried to turn Jim Ross heel we should have known we were in trouble. Were they that tone deaf that they thought fans could ever boo good ol’ JR? This is a man that has received several standing ovations and is commonly regarded as the greatest wrestling broadcaster of all time. To turn him heel and try and force Cole down the fans throats was not going to work, yet they persisted. Cole eventually took over and it’s been brutal ever since.
He technically has the role of ‘play-by-play’ yet has a severe lack of actual wrestling knowledge. He also fails at sparking banter with his color men, often leaving them high and dry. He also ruined the word ‘vintage’ for everyone.
I find it totally disrespectful the way he talks over most matches and completely ignores what we all tuned in to watch. I know this is a different time and he’s fed lines through an earpiece while having to plug every WWE product imaginable. Perhaps all of this extra-curricular crap has him so distracted that he can’t possibly know what’s going on in the match and can only yell out ‘Vintage Cena!’ when a big moment grabs his attention.
Whatever it is, the current state of wrestling broadcasting is pathetic and needs to change ASAP.
1. Mark Madden
When you tally up everything that was awful about WCW 2000, this guy will find his way to the top (or bottom) of that list.
Madden loved the Russo philosophy of worked-shoots, but they handled it so clumsily that they ended up crapping all over the business.
He used insider terms to go along with Russo’s worked-shoot philosophy but it only served to trivialize the action and kill the suspension of disbelief that wrestling is founded upon.
WCW finally pulled their head out of their ass and he became one of the few people they fired and one of the only ones that actually deserved it.
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