WWE has had questionable commentators since the dawn of television. Older fans will remember both Gorilla Monsoon and Vince McMahon polluting the airwaves in the 1980s. If it was not Gorilla or Vince, we were left with quasi heel announcer Lord Alfred Hayes. Listening to WWF television back in the day was very difficult.
There was a saving grace, however. The color commentators in the WWF were two of the best in the history of professional wrestling. Jesse Ventura and Bobby Heenan are legends that set the bar as to what a great heel announcer is. The awfulness of the lead commentators is forgotten thanks to the work of Ventura and Heenan.
Today’s commentators do not have the same luxury. For starters, they are all colored by the same “realistic” shades of grey that can prevent the audience from getting a feel for their personalities. Everyone remembers when Michael Cole turned heel, feuded with JR, and hated Daniel Bryan. Years later, he randomly turned face and cheered for Bryan at WrestleMania XXX. Recently, he has been singing the praises of heel Elias with no explanation. It’s hard to enjoy a sports commentator you don’t believe.
Cole gets a lot of flak, but it doesn’t get any better after him. Booker T is one of the worst color commentators in history. His entire fanbase consists of people who enjoy him ironically. Byron Saxton is not as bad fans say, but constantly seems like he’s in over his head. Jonathan Coachman can go from unbearable to nonexistent, while Tom Phillips is inoffensive at best.
The biggest beneficiary of today’s mediocre commentary is Corey Graves. He simply does not work well as part of a team. His idea of humor seems to be to bicker with his partners. Backlash is a great example as Graves did not even wait until the main show to begin arguing with the other commentators. This continued throughout the entire show since Graves commentated every match.
What Graves (and in his defense all WWE commentators) doesn’t seem to understand is that the constant bickering is distracting and pointless. The job of a commentator is to put over the match and occasionally interject humor. When Graves picks fights with the other announcers he is putting himself over, something someone who just calls matches should never do.
The bickering goes beyond the confines of the WWE. At the beginning of 2018, real life heat had supposedly developed between Graves and Booker after Graves apparently got Booker fired from his commentating position. The fact that exactly zero fans believed the hatred was real did not prevent the two from going on Booker’s podcast and bragging about how they had worked everyone. After David Bixenspan (who has covered pro wrestling and MMA for years) jokingly asked Graves on Twitter if he was working the dirtsheets, Graves responded in a patronizing manner.
Awww, did my friend and I make you feel silly? I’m sorry. You’re surely a wonderful “journalist” and an even better person.
Please keep spreading your “expertise” on a place you would kill to work but never could. https://t.co/tutxGsZqfb
— Rev. Graves (@WWEGraves) February 21, 2018
This has all covered up that Graves is a bad announcer. After the great Seth Rollins vs The Miz match at Backlash, Graves stated that the Intercontinental Title used to be known as the workhorse title and the Miz took it to a whole new level. Yes, the same Miz whose only good matches are the ones he is carried and who has more bad to mediocre matches than good-great ones. Even the staunchest Miz fan would never compare their man to Randy Savage, Bret Hart, or Shawn Michaels.
Graves constantly makes nonsensical comments. For example, at this year’s Elimination Chamber Matt Hardy faced Bray Wyatt in a match that had no crowd reaction. At one point in the match, Graves tried to explain the silence by stating Hardy fans realized when they had cheered earlier it had not helped. The crowd was not in stunned silence or unsure of what to think but collectively decided to be quiet to help Matt Hardy according to Graves.
Graves also suffers from being inconsistent. For months, Graves praised Miz’s use of the Miztourage to retain his IC title. (Along with being mediocre in ring, Miz rarely won his matches cleanly — hallmarks of every great worker.) When Big Cass attacked Daniel Bryan at Backlash, Graves called him a coward and questioned why he could not losing fairly.
Wrestling may be a pseudo sport, but fans still want stability from their commentators. The play by play person is the final step in making a match seem important by explaining characters, storylines, and the little nuances that may have been missed. There is nothing wrong with having a face or heel color commentator, but a tweener announcer is counterproductive.
There may be hope. Graves recently sent out a tweet people assumed meant he was unhappy with having to go against his personal beliefs when he worked the Greatest Royal Rumble. I like to think that maybe Graves meant he was tired of just towing the company line and maybe the passion he showed flashes of in NXT is still there and may return.
When money eclipses passion, is it still success?
— Rev. Graves (@WWEGraves) April 28, 2018
Corey Graves has a strong argument for being the best commentator on the main roster. But, as Jim Cornette might say, that’s like being the best dressed man in a homeless shelter.
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