WWE: Can Michael Cole Ever Be Turned Back into an Unbiased Announcer?

Tom Clark@tomclarkbrFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2012

Go ahead.  Admit it.  You’re a Cole miner.  Don’t play.

I know, it’s hard for a lot of you Michael Cole fans out there to be honest with the rest of us, but it’s time to come out of the dark that you’ve been hiding in, and embrace the light.

Strap on that headgear and break out the bright orange singlet, be ashamed no more.

Can’t take anymore, huh?  Yeah, I get you.

I suppose most of us are past the initial shock and awe stage of Cole’s emergence as the heel play-by-play announcer.  By now, we have all likely grown so accustomed to seeing it, that the surprise, and yes, even disgust, has begun to dissipate.

I have to admit, I was one of those fans who was none too happy at this change of pace for the man who has now become the voice of WWE.

It’s not that I was a huge supporter of Cole, on the contrary, I did not really have an opinion of him other than I thought he was doing a fairly good job of replacing Jim Ross on the air.  To be honest, most of the time, he was not even on my fan radar all that much in the first place.

For me, the primary job of the announcers, especially the play-by-play man, is to simply call the moves.  They provide some insight into the minds and motivations of those involved, put over the match, the workers involved, and the company itself.

They pull you into the moment, make you forget, if only for the duration of the match, that what you’re seeing is not really happening, that the outcome is indeed predetermined.  They play a part in helping us suspend our disbelief so we can become emotionally invested in what we’re watching, and truly enjoy the product.

Though Michael Cole had his own way of delivering that to fans, and admittedly was no J.R., I believed that he had come a long way, succeeding where others perhaps thought he would fail.

But, again, most of the time, he was not even on my radar.

So, when it became apparent that WWE was to beginning pushing Cole as a heel, and I was forced to acknowledge his existence, I was a little upset about it.  Why?

Because there was no need to do this in the first place.  Because announcers are to be heard, not seen, and by taking Cole and transforming him into a personality, WWE is insisting that we deal with him as something other than the main commentator for the company.

For no good reason.

But, the other part of me says that perhaps my rush to judgment on Cole’s heel turn was ill-advised, mostly due to the fact that WWE had to find a way to separate him from his predecessor.

Think about it.  Jim Ross, for reasons really only known to he and WWE management, was not so subtly being moved out of the spotlight, and into a more backstage role, in the company.  His place as the voice of WWE was apparently coming to an end, and it was time to turn to Michael Cole, a man who had been groomed for the transition for several years.

You’re Michael Cole.  How would you want to follow up a legend?

As a straight up heir apparent, a guy who just slides right into the spot, and takes over where Ross left off?  As if fans wouldn’t notice?  How much pressure is that?

Or, would you rather take a different approach, go the opposite direction, and put yourself out there for fans to see?  You’re already going to be compared to Ross because you’re following him, there will be fans who resent you for it, so why not use it?

Take it all in, and give it right back to them.  Suddenly, you’re no longer the guy who will never be Jim Ross, you’re Michael Cole, the guy who is making waves and ticking everyone off.

And, that is exactly what WWE did with Cole.  For better or worse, Cole is now his own man, a distinct personality, and able to stand on his own in the company.

So, yes, when taking all of that into consideration, I get it.  It makes sense.

But, here’s the thing.  Now that Cole has been firmly established as the annoying heel that he is, what happens if WWE creative decides to make a change, and go back the other way with his character?

Can it be done?  Would the company be able to put all of the work done to make him the most hated commentator in WWE history behind them, make fans forget it, and just return to business as usual at the announcer’s desk?

There may not be an easy answer to this one, mostly because Michael Cole is not a worker.  He cannot use the drama of a wrestling match, including an in-ring swerve at another wrestler’s expense, to make the turn.  

Anything that happens for Cole has to be set up in a spot, a backstage segment, an interruption of a match, in some sort of moment that fans would perhaps be able to call before it happens.

Plus, in many ways, the damage has been done.  Cole is supposed to be an impartial voice, a man with no stake in who wins or loses, and he has spent the past two years doing nothing but berating the baby faces, and celebrating the heels.  Any credibility he may have had is long since gone now, right?

As you begin chuckling quietly among yourselves, I assure you that the irony is not lost on me.  

After all, this is professional wrestling we’re talking about here, an entertainment business in which wrestlers and personalities change sides as the wind blows.  Superstars who are hated today, cursed for their actions and deceit, are loved tomorrow, for their heart and bravery.  We as fans are a fickle bunch, and the fact is, we have short-term memories.

So, it’s not impossible for Michael Cole to become an impartial commentator once again, and while he will likely not follow the typical route a wrestler would follow, he could still make the move and make it effectively.  And, fans may not even remember he turned heel to begin with.

A great example of this is WCW referee Nick Patrick.  

Like Cole, Patrick was an unbiased personality, a man who did his job, and was not the focus in any match he was involved in.  He was just a referee, nothing more, nothing less.

But, after he became the referee for the nWo, Nick Patrick became a heel character, a guy with a mean streak who had no problem helping Hollywood Hogan and his group of thugs to completely dominate every time he officiated one of their matches.

After his time in the group was over, Patrick was reinserted back into his regular position as match official, and soon, all was forgiven among the fans.  Patrick’s villainous ways were forgotten, and he returned to what he was before.  So, yes, it can be done.

Will Cole change his colors anytime soon?  Probably not.  WWE seems comfortable with him in the spot he’s currently in, and apparently see no need to change him.  But, if the time comes, I personally don’t believe that it would be all that much of an issue for them.  Cole has been with the company for a long time, and is likely willing to do whatever is good for business.

So, all you Cole miners out there, have no fear.  Your boy is here, and he’s here to stay, whether it’s as the professional, dedicated voice of WWE, or the cocky outspoken loudmouth who you just want to pitch off a roof.

Go ahead, take a Jack Swagger victory lap in the ring.  I won’t tell.


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