The Royal Rumble and The Elimination Chamber have come and gone, and now fans are getting a clearer image of what the WrestleMania 29 card will look like. At the top of that card resides Rock vs Cena, a repeat of last year’s mega-match. Sure, CM Punk could be added into the mix, if another top opponent doesn’t appear for him, but as of right now, fans can expect a straight-up rematch between two of the industry’s top players in the last two decades.
Some may be bored with Rock vs Cena 2, but personally, I’m not. Cena is an underrated talent in the ring, and last year’s match with the Rock was better than either of the two matches Rock has had with CM Punk this year. That may have a lot to do with over-booked endings, but let’s call a spade a spade - Cena is a better opponent for the Rock than CM Punk is. I, for one, am looking forward to that big-fight feel the two will surely have when they go face to face in the ring, waiting for the bell to be rung.
Still, Rock vs Cena 2 has to have a different feel than Rock vs Cena 1 out of necessity. A retread won’t further Cena or the WWE. This time around, instead of rooting for The Rock to show Cena how a real top draw speaks and acts, the WWE needs to focus on getting fans to cheer for Cena. That might seem like an impossible task, with The Rock being so likable, and the WWE unwilling to turn him heel, but surprisingly, I personally beginning to prefer John Cena. And I owe it all to the terrible commentary practices of Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler.
Before I get into why I find Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler so offensive, let me start by saying that I consider both men capable of being great at their jobs. Jim Ross may be the best play by play guy in the history of professional wrestling, and I’ll always have a soft spot for Vince McMahon yelling “What a maneuver!!”, but Michael Cole is right up there when commentating from a neutral stance. And outside of Bobby Heenan, Jerry Lawler is my favorite color commentator... when acting as a heel. Both men, obviously, have had to adjust how they commentate based on the whims of Vince McMahon and WWE storylines.
Ok, super long intro finished, here is why Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler are sucking the likability of The Rock away: they chuckle and snort at every joke The Rock makes at his opponents expense. Last week in Nashville, Tennessee, they laughed along with Rock’s story about buying a car from a drug addict when he was a teenager. In the past, they’ve laughed at every punchline The Rock has made during a Rock Concert, or any other promo. Each time, their laughs feel more insincere than the last.
I don’t need to be told The Rock is funny, I can decide that on my own. Sometimes I find him hilarious, and sometimes I shake my head at his juvenile homophobic innuendos. Despite finding him occasionally offensive, I still like the guy, because he’s entertaining. As an adult, I can form my own complex opinions about the guy, without reverting to black-and-white morals.
Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler laughing along with The Rock insults my, and everyone else’s, intelligence. By having Cole and Lawler act as a living laugh track, the WWE is saying “you may be too stupid to know that this is a joke, so we’ll make it clearer for you”. It’s the same reason why I don’t like sitcoms like Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother. If something is truly funny, I don’t need to be told so. I’ll take a little Parks and Recreation, The New Girl, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia thank you very much.
Moreover, even when I find what The Rock is saying humorous, if Cole and Lawler are laughing away like hyenas in the background, suddenly I find it less so. Remember when you were a kid, and you really liked something new and cool that your generation could identify with? And then adults came in and made it their own, and suddenly you didn’t care for it anymore? That’s what Cole and Lawler are doing to The Rock.
As part of his character, Michael Cole has been a royal jackass for the past few years. He’s no longer a heel, but he isn’t a respected figure like Jim Ross was either. Why would his approval of The Rock’s jokes and promos appeal to me? Jerry Lawler, a man who has been castrated since turning face a decade ago, is half the commentator he once was. Many times, it feels as if he doesn’t know, or just doesn’t care for, the entire product going into a major pay per view. Again I ask, why should his approval of the Rock’s jokes and promos appeal to me?
When preparing for this rant, I wanted to come up with some solutions for the WWE to eliminate this problem. But the thing is, there’s only one necessary solution, and it’s so simple that it’s stupid: when the wrestlers are performing promos, turn off the microphones of anyone else unnecessary to the segment itself. The attention should ALWAYS be on the wrestlers themselves, and NEVER on outside factors like commentators. Commentators are there to lay out the story during matches, and that’s all. Anything more, like interrupting during important promos, is unprofessional. Isn’t the entire point of professional wrestling to appear convincing and real? Real sports have professional commentators.
Perhaps the point I’m trying to make is already moot. As the build up for Rock vs Cena 2 officially begins tonight, the WWE could, and should, be preparing for a different kind of feud than before. This one shouldn’t be based on jokes and teardowns. And if that’s the case, then hopefully we won’t have to dread listening to Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler suck the fun out of The Rock’s promos. Still, I find the practice of leaving commentator mics on during promos disturbing. Going forward, I hope the WWE discontinues the practice with ANY superstar, not just The Rock. This isn’t the 80’s, WWE needs to respect the intelligence of its fans. We know what professional wrestling is, but we don’t need to be told how to feel towards or react to anything. Most importantly, if you build better stories, you won't need to rely on such lazy storytelling techniques.
Thoughts and opinions? Share them with me!
Written by Thomas Avb Briggs