In Honor of the Best, We Celebrate the Worst
After a career spanning almost four decades, Jim Ross announced his retirement this past week. He hadn't featured too heavily on WWE TV over the last few years, but his influence and legacy aren't up for question. His voice provided the analysis to so many of the iconic moments that meant websites such as this exist, the moments that made obsessives out of ordinary fans. His work when the industry was at its pinnacle, the Attitude Era, is quite simply without equal. Whether it was exclaiming that Mick Foley had been broken in half, that Steve Austin was stomping a mud hole and walking it dry, or any reference to the term 'slobber-knocker' ever, I imagine that when we think of wrestling we find Jim Ross sitting at the announce booth.
He wasn't just an commentator either. As Paul Heyman pointed out wonderfully in a recent interview, Ross' work as Head of Talent Relations led to one of the strongest rosters of talent in the history of professional wrestling. He has provided guidance and direction to many youngsters in the industry, and his influence in professional wrestling isn't confined to the announce booth.
Even so, it is as a commentator that we all know him best, and as a commentator we all admired his passion and his ability to make the wonderful out of the ordinary. I was planning on writing about Ryback this week, but JR's announcement changed my plans. There won't be a more apt time to produce a column such as this one. I'm loathe to do a second straight list column, but there isn't a better time than now so I hope you don't mind so much. So, in respect to the greatest wrestling commentator I've ever heard, here is a short list of those that I consider the worst to have ever called the action. Let's get into it.
Michael Cole gets a lot of stick these days. First he got stick for being bland and inoffensive. Then he turned heel and got stick for being massively irritating and, well, offensive. Now he's back to being a bland face, and the stick returns. Wrestling fans of my age however will remember that before Michael Cole, there was something far worse. There was another bland inoffensive guy at the table, a guy who makes Michael Cole look like, well, Jim Ross. That man was Sean Mooney.
There isn't an adjective negative enough to describe Mooney at the announce booth. He showed now and then in backstage skits that he could bring some humour to the table, but as soon as the bell rang and he had to sell the story to the viewer, boy did he suck. He did manage something unbelievable however, in that he somehow managed to sound engrossed yet entirely bored at the same time. He was eventually replaced by Todd Pettingill, a guy who was pretty awful himself yet managed to come across as a definite step up.
Lord Alfred Hayes
Jesus Christ. When I was a child, I would get my wrestling viewing almost entirely through the Coliseum Video series. Whilst I adored them, obviously, even six year old me knew that the guy with the English accent commentating was awful. That man was Lord Alfred Hayes.
Hayes was a very experienced wrestler and manager in his own right, and he had a strong English accent. The combination of these two should have led to a strong presence on commentary, much in the way that William Regal is today. There was nothing strong about Hayes however, nothing in the slightest. He seemed to have no idea about the product at all, no knowledge about even the simplest of moves, and his accent just came across as annoying.
At times he didn't seem to have any sort of alignment either. He would champion faces, talk at length about how cheats prosper, and everything else in between. He also had a strange tendency of getting hugely behind jobbers, in particular Kato of the Orient Express. He would seem shocked whenever Kato lost. Ridiculous.
I can say with all honesty that if a wrestling show was produced in my nightmares, Lord Alfred Hayes and Sean Mooney would be calling the action.
Has there really been anyone worse than this chump? He first appeared on WWE TV in January 2008 at the Royal Rumble as a host of sorts, and managed to call Jeff Hardy 'Jeff Harvey'. I know. He then moved to the commentary table on WWECW, and referred to Taz as, 'The Taz'. Admittedly, that second one is kinda awesome, but it's still an almighty mess up. The mistakes just came and came, and Adamle never seemed to have even the slightest cue about what was going on.
His delivery sounded forced, because it was. His knowledge of even the most basic elements of wrestling was severely lacking. Mike Adamle was audio bubonic plague, to say the least. He would then, for some reason, go on to become the Raw General Manager for a time, where continued to suck hugely in every single thing he did. In fact, sucking was pretty much his entire gimmick after a while. He sucked so much that he gave an on air apology for sucking. He sucked.
The Mike Adamle experiments didn't last very long at all. In fact, he didn't even survive a calendar year, debuting and leaving in 2008. It was still far too long.
'What a maneuver!'. Sure, it's hilarious now, but let's be brutally honest about it; Vince McMahon was a terrible commentator. The greatest heel character in the history of professional wrestling? I would say yes, without doubt. His work at the announce table was beyond corny however. He sounded almost ridiculously enthusiastic about what was going on in the ring. Too much so, in fact. The job of the commentators is surely to put over what is going on in the ring and who is doing. McMahon displayed so much enthusiasm that instead of thinking about what was going on in the ring, you just had to try and block him out.
He would do all of this in one of the strangest voices I've ever heard as well. In 2013, we're all more than familiar with how he sounds when he talks. That voice wasn't the voice we heard when he commentated however. Instead, he replaced his voice with a strange strained accent, one that sounded like he was almost running out of breath. It sounded like he was trying to cram as much as possible into his sentences before he lost his voice forever. I frequently wished he would.
But still, what a maneuver.
To be honest, this is all a little unfair. There are a whole tonne of voices that were broadcast to tell the story of the action in the ring that should never have been anywhere near the headset. The four mentioned above were terrible, but it's a difficult job I'm sure and they still provided some comedy, intended or not. McMahon was hilariously over the top, Alfred Hayes had his funny safari segments. I may be clutching at straws, but I'm picking some out nonetheless.
In fact, the worst commentating would often come from wrestlers sitting in at the booth. Dusty Rhodes springs to mind. His promos the vast majority of the time were completely indecipherable, so why was he ever put on commentary? The same can be said for Randy Savage and Booker T. Entertaining yes, but they all had voices that were made for the visual, as opposed to only audio.
Jim Ross has retired, and unlike every other wrestling retirement I think this is for good. Whenever you question how good he was, head to youtube and watch a match that featured the commentary of anyone mentioned above. You'll miss him, and I know I will.
That'll do for this week. Who do you think was the worst commentator to ever grace your hearing? Will anyone ever reach the quality highs that JR did? Does Archibald Peck turning up on Smackdown hint at WWE having something to do with Chikara's meltdown? Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below, or find me on twitter (@pingvinorkestra). I'm off to watch that Dusty Rhodes bicycle commentating again.