A couple of weeks ago during the Raw telecast in Montreal, Michael Cole balled up his heel announcer character and tossed it in the trash when he emotionally explained that his broadcast partner, Jerry "The King" Lawler, had suffered a serious heart attack.
During those updates, he kept repeating that the heart attack was not part of the entertainment—it was real.
Since then, Cole has shown no reason why he should return to his buffoonish character. He called the Night of Champions pay-per-view right down the middle. He did what all good play-by-play guys should do—describe the action in the ring and feed good cues to his color commentator, John Bradshaw Layfield.
Cole also has called two Raw telecasts since Lawler's heart attack, and again, they have been good performances. He has provided insightful play-calling and even injected a mix of history and humor. Sure, the action he calls is scripted, but that does not mean you don't have to make it believable.
Wrestling gimmicks are like gallons of milk. They are good for a period of time, but they both have expiration dates and need to be eventually poured down the drain. Unfortunately, the WWE does not always open the bottle and smell the milk to see if it is bad. They just leave it on the shelf.
Such was the case with Michael Cole. From the moment a couple of years ago when he began shilling for The Miz, it was apparent that the WWE was going to experiment with having a play-by-play announcer who was biased toward the heels.
Remember, cheering the heels always seemed to be the role of the color commentator.
Heel play-by-play guys were not a new thing. WCW tried it many years ago by trying to turn Mike Tenay into "The Professor." WWE even tried it with Jonathan Coachman a few years ago.
You have to give the WWE an "A" for effort. After all, they wanted to make it look like Cole was stepping out of the shadow of longtime announcer Jim Ross in quite a controversial way.
And it started working.
Whenever Cole walked out to the broadcast booth, he got as much heat as the biggest heel on the program. His pompous "May I have your attention, please?" before reading the next email from the anonymous Raw general manager got under the audience's collective skin about as much as a Vickie Guerrero "Excuse me."
Yes, it worked. For a while. But then it started getting stupid. Really stupid.
Remember Michael Cole training for his Wrestlemania match? His ongoing feud with broadcast colleague Lawler? Who can forget the classic footage of Cole's face pressed against the glass of his protective booth?
Perhaps it should have ended after that. But the WWE continued to milk the gimmick. For example, during an appearance in London, Cole got "knighted" by a fake Queen Elizabeth II.
Even on the night of the heart attack, Cole and Lawler continued their back-and-forth schtick. But after it happened, everything changed—for the better.
The conspiracy theorists out there were probably thinking that this was just another swerve by the WWE to make us think one thing but do another. When it was announced that Lawler would appear on the 9/24 Raw via satellite, everyone was probably expecting Cole to start out playing nice but then begin to spit out some anti-Lawler sentiment.
It did not happen. Cole genuinely enjoyed talking to The King.
And listening to Cole was enjoyable again.
I never have been a fan of play-by-play announcers being part of a storyline. They have their role, and that is to call the action in the ring, not be a part of the action in the ring. Could you ever imagine Blackjack Mulligan piledriving Gordon Solie? Or Ric Flair challenging Bob Caudle to a main-event match?
Now, whether the change was planned ahead of time or whether it was sparked by the heart attack, we do not know. And it probably will take a little while longer before the WWE Universe completely backs Michael Cole.
But we probably can agree on one thing. It was time to pour that Michael Cole gimmick down the drain.
Now if we can only do something about "Excuse me."