Since Wrestlemania, WWE Monday Night RAW and WWE Friday Night SmackDown went under a revamp on the commentary desks. Before Wrestlemania, the RAW announce team consisted of Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and Samoa Joe. But they were replaced by Adnan Virk taking over as the lead announcer whilst Corey Graves moved from SmackDown to RAW replacing Samoa Joe.
Sadly, Samoa Joe was released from his contract along with Tom Phillips. Phillips had worked his way up over the last 9 years starting as a backstage interviewer on the WWE app. You could continue to watch RAW whilst it was on a commercial break, you would continue to watch on the app before it became the WWE Network. Phillips made his way to the lead announcer on Monday Nights, a leading example for anyone who in WWE is looking to progress up the announcing ladder.
With Corey Graves on RAW, the empty seat alongside Michael Cole on SmackDown was filled by NFL legend Pat McAfee. McAfee has shown his charisma and energy on SmackDown and has fit in well with Cole. He seems to be the best colour commentator to come around since Corey Graves made his debut years earlier. But only a month later we have witnessed a change of announcer again on RAW with Virk being replaced by Jimmy Smith.
The problem with WWE announcers and why we have seen so many changes in the last couple of months and even more in recent years is the fact that WWE doesn’t employ announcers with wrestling experience. They hire sports announcers and put them straight in on their weekly television shows.
WWE look at sports announcers to come across and be the voice of their flagship shows. But one problem for announcers/commentators is that they are used to freedom, the ability to speak about what they are seeing, with their own opinion, using their voice, personality and insight to deliver the story of their game. But, in WWE, One man plays a big part and wants the story of the action portrayed in a certain way, Vince McMahon.
The Chairman of the Board only wants the story told one way and that’s his. Announcers constantly have the owner in their ear, telling them points they need to make, making sure they don’t forget plugs for upcoming shows and products on top of calling the match. It’s a tough job, especially for someone who is a free-thinking announcer calling the action as they see it. It’s not the same in WWE, WWE announcers act as storytellers, not action announcers like in UFC or NFL. WWE promotes itself as sports entertainment but weirdly actively tries to be full sports orientated commentary
Whilst Tom Phillips showed that you can work your way up through NXT-UK and NXT to WWE flagship shows, it still isn’t enough for WWE to keep him as the lead announcer though.
A wrestler signing with WWE would have to spend time in the Performance Center and most likely a stint on NXT learning their craft and doing things the WWE way. There should be a system for announcers to be able to do the same. As many negative reviews Michael Cole gets at times, there is a reason he has been the voice of WWE for the last two decades. He spent time learning his craft until he was given his opportunity and now has the task of training the new announcers as they come in. WWE should apply the philosophy of an announcing training school in its Performance Center so it can groom people into becoming the announcers they desire.
You only have to look at AEW and their announcing team to see the difference. AEW still tell stories through the announcers but it’s with announcers with wrestling experience. They are creating a new wave of announcers using wrestlers who have recently retired with signings such as Mark Henry and Paul Wight to create the next wave of announcers.
I don’t blame announcers who come and don’t succeed. But when you have a talent like Tom Phillips and you let him go, it’s a tough ask to replace him with nobody waiting in the wings to take over. Management obviously doesn’t feel Vic Joseph is ready, even though he did a great job on RAW and continues to do an excellent job on NXT.
The commentary desk in WWE looks set to be a revolving door with the system in place at present. Likely, we will never see one announcer be the voice of WWE for a long period of time again once Michael Cole retires.
All pics courtesy of WWE