In some on-air broadcast categories in pro wrestling, I don't feel there is a great debate in terms of the best of all time. Ring announcing, it's Howard Finkel. Color commentary, I give the nod to Bobby Heenan.
As it pertains to play-by-play straight men, however, the conversation gets more interesting. While compiling my list, my top three didn't change, but No. 4 and 5 were tough to fill. There are specific reasons why I chose the order I did.
Eras certainly come into play here: in one era, play-by-play commentators would describe action and call holds, where in another era, a story was told and holds weren't necessarily focused on.
Here are my top 5 pro wrestling commentators in history.
Tony Schiavone was the voice of WCW, particularly during the Monday Night Wars. If you think of any major moment in WCW, especially title changes (Hogan vs. Goldberg on Nitro is an example), you can picture Tony’s high pitched and short exclamations.
An oft-forgotten point about Schiavone is also his longevity, enjoying a 15+ year broadcast career in pro wrestling.
Some critics might have called his style "over the top." Others might complain that he would lambaste the competition publicly during broadcasts (which he was surely told to do). Still, when allowed to freely call a match, he was on point.
Now hear me out: I’m talking about the Michael Cole who is calling a match without any villain character. If you listen to him call a match when his sole focus is calling a match, he does a terrific job, nobody can take that away from him.
Clearly, it’s often overshadowed by the fact that he portrays a deliberately annoying character that most people don’t like. Hell, I don't even like him when he is in that mode.
Take that away from the equation, and it's hard not to include Cole on any list similar to this one.
In the middle of my top 5 commentators in pro wrestling is Joey Styles. OH MY GOD!
Joey was the voice of the original ECW and credited as the first man to call a pro wrestling pay per view event solo. He may also be one of the best tweeters currently with WWE.
What I enjoyed most about Styles was his inflections and the crescendo his voice would build to as a match builds up to its most important moment. You just can't teach somebody a skill like that.
Oh, and of course, CAT FIGHT!
The man who originated the term “crimson mask,” and of course the famous line, “Five letters, two words, I quit.” Ah, the days where a suplex was a suplay, and The Dean reigned supreme.
Nobody pulled off the serious, sport-focused approach to pro wrestling commentary like Solie, who will go down as the absolute best and classiest presenter of that generation.
In my humble opinion, the best pro wrestling commentator to ever live was good ol’ JR, Jim Ross. Maybe some of you will think that comparing Solie and Ross is too difficult, and it's apples and oranges, particularly depending on the generation you grew up watching pro wrestling in.
To me, JR's combination of drama, story telling and JR-esque catchphrases made the perfect pro wrestling announcer. Now THAT’S a slobberknocker!
Pro Wrestling Optimist
Follow me on Twitter
Subscribe to my YouTube playlist featuring interviews with WWE Superstars past and present