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WWE Commentary Needs A Makeover

Regal MicEnough is enough and it’s time for a change was a famous catchphrase for Owen Hart. I think wrestling fans have reached that point with WWE commentary. The threesome of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and JBL has become stale for a great many WWE fans. The truth is the WWE have better options under employment right now.

I think being realistic about this, the chances Cole is replaced are slim and the options to replace him in the “alleged” play-by-play roll are unlikely. I say alleged because so little of the action in the ring is talked about these days. It is important people understand the differences between the roles of play-by-play and color commentators. They are vastly different. The color roles traditionally have been filled by ex/current wrestlers or managers. The last ex-wrestler to be a commentator was the late “Gorilla” Monsoon who was used back in the 1980’s. It is a role that is best suited for someone with a television background that is a knowledgeable wrestling fan. Jim Ross being has become the standard of that for a generation of fans.

Tom Phillips is likely the long term successor to Michael Cole when you look at who is currently employed. If the WWE wanted to bring back a Jonathan Coachman from ESPN he would be a fit but probably not likely to be interested.  Phillips is rapidly improving, but is no where near ready to succeed Cole. So love him or hate him Cole is likely to be around for the foreseeable future.

Where the opportunity for change is available on commentary are in the positions held by Lawler and JBL. Lawler has grown to become stale and his real life health scare having a heart attack live on the air in Montreal should have set off alarm bells to the future of the position.  Obviously, after Lawler returned there has been a period of good will and just happiness that the man was alive and able to do his job. He is a legend in this business and a WWE Hall of Famer, more for his wrestling work outside of WWE, but his work on commentary in it as well. Still prior to that health scare his work was slipping and it has only gotten worse since his return.

JBL was brought in during the time Lawler was recovering from that heart attack and at first was a welcome breath of fresh air. Since that time he has got to be more of a cartoon character in his commentary. He also seems much more concerned to bust jokes on his good pals Cole and Lawler than to be concerned with what is going on at times. JBL is a legit smart guy and has worked in television in the much more serious world of business reporting. I just don’t have much love for his antics and the level of seriousness he brings to his role with WWE.

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I am not a man here just to complain and not offer a solution. Something we as fans can be guilty of is to complain but not offer solutions. I have two such solutions and they are already on the WWE payroll.

William Regal was for me above all the performances in the ring at NXT “Takeover” the all-star of the show. He did a textbook job of what I feel a wrestling announcer’s duty is to do. He put over all the various talents and had his comedic moments. In addition at various points in the match described both holds and situations as they occurred and the impact on the possible outcome. That in a nutshell is what you are out there to do and he did it exceptionally.

Also at “Takeover” was Paul Heyman and he worked on the pre and post shows with Renee Young.  Young in her own right has been just a smashing success since leaving a job at The Score here in Canada which is no longer around but was the home for WWE programming in Canada. So much so, that Young given her sports background has had interest allegedly from ESPN. Back to Mr. Heyman though and he of course arrived in WWE after his company ECW went out of business to replace Jerry Lawler, who had left the company over a dispute with his than wife being fired from the company. Heyman fit into the chair well as he and Jim Ross worked together for a time in the old WCW. He was truly brilliant at the role and called with Ross what many consider the best Wrestlemania of all time Wrestlemania 17.

Even with Heyman as an active advocate for his clients there is no reason he could not slide into a commentary chair. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan did just that for years pairing with Monsoon making one of the most beloved teams in the history of the company.

So it is not like the company is devoid of options. You have heard a lot of people distressed with the creative elements for many of the new NXT stars debuting in WWE. I am making a statement that beyond that a portion of the blame has to lie at the commentary table and Cole, Lawler and JBL.

In one night on NXT Takeover I would submit to you that Regal made Sami Zayn, Tyler Breeze, Charlotte Flair and Adrian Neville all seem like bigger deals than any of the recent debuts on Raw or Smackdown have been made to be. Let’s compare apples to apples and the work Regal did promoting Adam Rose compare to what they have done on Raw and Smackdown. It is not even a question of who does the better job.

WWE needs to seriously consider having a look at Regal and or Heyman as new options on the broadcast team. Commentary is such a vital component to a superstar having a legit chance at success. It is important that all the hard work that Paul Levesque (Triple H) and everyone at NXT have done is not wasted by the time it reaches Raw. They owe every one of those kids an honest chance at making it and when commentary is not doing its job they are not given that. Not to mention all the current talent residing on the WWE roster being given a better chance at success.

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About James Borbath

James has covered the NBA and Toronto Raptors for 6 years for various publications as well as his own website. A native of Hamilton, Ontario where he attended the first ever Royal Rumble, James is a life long wrestling fan and has decided to trade to slams of a different kind in pro wrestling. He hopes his transition will be more successful than Dennis Rodman or Karl Malone. Among his talents is a better than average Randy Savage impression. Follow him on Twitter @condoonthemoon

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