No Chance – Why I Watch WWE On Mute

I rarely talk about TNA much in this column. While I try to watch both Raw and Smackdown every week, no matter how terrible some weeks may be, I don’t always get to Impact Wrestling. Four hours a week is already a lot of wrestling to get through (more if it’s a pay per view week) and so like ROH, NXT, and Superstars, I watch TNA when I can, but not always with the same weekly discipline as other shows. In an effort to get Impact into the weekly rotation, I have begun to make sure that the TV is always on during TNA. Even if I don’t have the time to sit and watch, even if I’m in a different room and can only hear the TV and not see it, I still have it on. And you know what? It works. Because for everything that WWE has over TNA, and there are many, many things, there is one thing in which TNA far outstrips their main competitor, the announcer’s table.

And it’s not that TNA has a team that is delivering lighting in a bottle, Emmy award worthy commentary week after week. No, they have what can be described as solidly ok commentary. But the announcer’s table situation over at WWE has reached such unprecedented lows, that hearing merely acceptable commentary is a shocking, unexpected surprise.

I don’t know where things began to go so wrong. Maybe it was the introduction of the anonymous Raw GM, or the accepting that audiences didn’t like Michael Cole, and his turning heel. But the biggest moment that set the snowball rolling was last year when Jerry Lawler was selected as the Miz’s first title defense opponent. At the time I thought that this was just a way to write Lawler out of the storyline for a few months because he was about to go on vacation or something. But no instead of Lawler getting injured in the ring, he lost the match thanks to interference by Michael Cole. What did this mean for WWE? What changes were going to happen to the commentary team? Well it turns out that no changes were going to happen. Instead the next week we had both announcers still at the table, only now they were more concerned with bickering with each other than talking about anything in the ring.

From there, things began to spiral out of control. Sure there were some highlights. Lawler somehow managed to pull of entertaining match after match with The Miz, even one on a Pay Per View, For a little while there we got to have CM Punk do commentary on Raw (seriously is there anything that man can’t do better than anybody else on the roster), and even the feud itself was entertaining during the lead into WrestleMania. Though the promos that lead into the next two Pay Per Views were so terrible we’ll have to call the whole thing a wash. In fact, the terrible parts far outweighed the good ones. We had the Cole Mine bit that went on for far, far to long. We had the Michael Cole challenge which was unbearable to say the least. And through it all we’ve had a complete breakdown in anything remotely resembling worthwhile commentary. Nowadays we’re lucky if the in ring action gets mentioned at all between the endless name calling and insults to each other from the announcers and the endless twitter pushing.

And it’s not just Raw that has suffered. The poor announcing has spread to Smackdown as well, with Booker T replacing Lawler as the “face” announcer. And now it as come full circle this week with the announcement that Booker T was going to have a title match against Cody Rhodes at TLC. Once again, an announcer is getting into the ring with the talent. If only this were a way to end this whole chapter of announcer involvement, but if the recent track record is any indication, this is just the uncovering of a new level.

So is there a solution? I’m sure there is. In fact I’m sure there’s many possible solutions that all of you armchair bookers could come up with that would fix this announcer’s table no problem. But here’s mine. The heel commentator doesn’t work. I’m not saying that one of the commentators shouldn’t have heelish tendencies. One can champion honor and fair play while the other feels that “it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.” But the way it is right now, Cole is blindly supporting every heel on the roster while condemning face characters for doing the exact same thing. Lawler and Booker T are just as bad. Something that is a “clever strategy” when Cena or Randy Orton do it, suddenly become “vile and underhanded” when done by Dolph Ziggler. This not only makes all of the announcers inconsistent characters (often with in the same broadcast) but it turns them into nothing more than signs that say “cheer this guy” and “boo this guy.”

The additional problem of a full-blown heel announcer is the fact that it means you have a heel talking throughout the entire show. When a heel wrestler talks in the ring, he is greeted with a chorus of boos from the audience, something for the viewer at home to agree with. But when Cole talks, the live audience doesn’t hear him and thus he continues for me to listen to with only Lawler’s pitiful attempts at name calling to interrupt him.

But the biggest problem of all is that one of the biggest marks of being a heel is to always remind everybody how wonderful you are. To bill yourself as greater than anyone else to ever step into a ring, and to, for as long as you have a mic, to make sure the entire event is all about you. Cole fulfills this requirement with flying colors but this flies in the face of everything that a commentator should be. Every week I hear that Cole is trending on twitter. Ever week I hear that Cole is a professional journalist doing his job. Ever week I hear that Cole is an award winner. The only problem is while I’m hearing all of this, there’s a whole lot of stuff going on in the ring that nobody is talking about.

Somewhat related thought: You can bemoan the loss of blood and violence. You can say that the pandering toward kids has oversimplified storylines. You can say that the PG era has unfortunately created an environment for a character like the Super Cena one to thrive for far to long. My biggest casualty of the PG rating is the language. Nothing undercuts the hatred and dislike that Michael Cole is trying to convey like the fact that the worst thing he can think to call a person is “goofball.”

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