I have been watching RAW on Monday nights for as long as I can remember. I do not know when I started to venomously dislike Michael Cole's commentary, but it has come to the point where it is detracting enough from the in-ring product to make me sincerely and genuinely want to stop watching the WWE's flagship show.
One of the elements of being a pro wrestling fan is the suspense that well-crafted storylines generate. When combined with complete or even partial suspension of disbelief, a viewer can immerse himself or herself in the product. This is part of the magic of being a pro wrestling fan, and the thrill and excitement associated with legitimate surprise and unadulterated enjoyment of the programming can inspire lifelong devotion in fans.
On the opposite side of this positive spectrum is the potentially catastrophic effect that any element that contradicts the suspense and believability of the product can have. If a viewer no longer senses that there is a plausibly unexpected outcome, or if the suspension of disbelief requires acceptance of something so preposterous that it offends his/her sensibilities, the lustre of the entertainment experience may be severely damaged, sometimes irretrievably.
It is this obscenely negative element that has dominated Michael Cole's announcing style. Where past commentators enhanced the product and applied effective announcing techniques from other sports to make wrestling viewing captivating, Cole has seemingly applied every unsavory element of television broadcast commentary to his repertoire.
Case in point: a viewer must suspend disbelief and genuinely accept that the outcome of a wrestling match is not predetermined. It is this suspense that carries an effective bout or feud and often represents the difference between a memorable match and one that is largely forgettable.
Cole shatters the illusion of unpredictability by continually employing the technique of foreshadowing the incorrect outcome in his commentary. This is embodied in comments such as "We're going to have a new champion" or "[wrestler] is going to win the match." While this author's disgust with this tactic is based on anecdotal versus empirical evidence, I cannot remember a prominent match where Michael Cole did not telegraph the outcome by using this reverse prediction method.
The aforementioned effect on suspense has been extremely detrimental to this author's enjoyment of the televised programming. A solution is not readily obvious. Using the mute button eliminates the ability to enjoy the sounds of the match, which constitute a valuable part of the viewing experience. On the other hand, there is the sinking feeling that accompanies hearing Cole give away the outcome at some point when a near-fall takes place.
Aside from this most egregious aspect of his ineffectiveness, the role of bitter heel announcer has grown stale and weary. Where Cole's predecessors such as Jesse Ventura and Bobby Heenan played this role with a tongue-in-cheek charm, Cole comes across as a one-dimensional buffoon. His animosity towards Daniel Bryan and Zack Ryder, for example, seemingly serves no justifiable purpose besides a feeble attempt to draw cheap heat towards these performers and paint them in a sympathetic light as victims of Cole's tirades.
His feuds with Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross have seen Cole resort to childish and outlandish behavior which completely undermines his reputation as a broadcast journalist. Although he cites his journalistic credibility given his reputable service as a war correspondent, the Michael Cole heel announcer character serves as an anachronism in broadcasting.
Could such one-sided and cruelly vindictive commentary continue in any other televised sport? Certainly not. And while some may argue that pro wrestling is entertainment and not constrained by traditional sports broadcasting boundaries, it is in fact the ability of the commentators to provide a vocal backdrop of credible competition that has made past wrestling broadcast teams so iconic.
This author completely understands that Michael Cole is likely being forced to deviate from the generally accepted commentating norms. It is therefore incumbent on WWE Creative or Vince McMahon himself to reposition Michael Cole as a genuine commentator, and leave the color commentary to Booker T or Jerry Lawler. Cole's role should be that of an impartial and objective announcer, who simply announces what he is seeing. This must include the absence of verbal prognostication mid-match.
Other authors on B/R have written articles citing declining ratings on RAW. In the event Michael Cole continues to detract from this author's experience, the program can most certainly count on at least one less viewer.