WWE's commentary too often leaves dynamite fuses unlit.
Inconsistent energy, missed narrative opportunities and too much of a focus on one-liners are often hallmarks of the announce teams from Raw and SmackDown. Michael Cole, John "Bradshaw" Layfield and Jerry Lawler regularly underwhelm.
Great announcing can boost the power of a match and make it more emotionally powerful, but fans haven't seen that effect nearly enough as of late. As a result, many of the matches on TV weekly don't feel as special as they could.
As the announcers drift from the action, it inspires the audience to do the same.
WWE asks its announcers to talk Twitter trends, the WWE Network and a multitude of other things while there is action going on the ring. That means dramatic comebacks, surprising counters and near-misses are being glossed over.
Hall of Famer Jim Ross wrote about this in his blog:
When these men are encouraged to talk about matters that are unrelated to any significant to what I'm seeing on the screen it becomes a disconnect for me. If I am watching the TV and my eyes are processing what I am seeing but audibly I am hearing another story then which source of info do I process and retain?
The disconnect Ross speaks of here was on display during the July 21 match between Fandango and Zack Ryder.
Ryder ended up winning, which was his first singles victory on Raw since 2012. That could have been a far more thrilling moment, but instead Cole, Lawler and JBL discussed online dating and Summer Rae's Twitter habits.
Meanwhile, Fandango pounded Ryder in the head with right hands, slapped him in the mouth, and Ryder charged back with a comeback. The announce team didn't remark on any of that.
It felt too much like an everyday win thanks to this treatment.
Cole's "You got a victory on Raw, Zack" certainly won't go into the Hall of Fame of great calls. This was a fantastic chance to pull out a line like, "Mankind has achieved his dream and the dream of everyone else who has been told you can't do it,"which Cole himself delivered.
Ryder's win wasn't for the WWE title, but it should have felt more momentous with a monster losing streak finally ending.
Some of this has to be blamed on the directives the announce team is given. It's not as if they push Twitter and the WWE Network on their accord.
Beyond that, though, it sometimes feels as if Cole and company are not all that interested in what's happening in the ring.
On the July 29 Raw, that seemed to be the case during a six-man tag match between Dolph Ziggler and The Usos against The Miz and RybAxel. Ziggler burst into the ring near the end of the bout. The crowd roared as The Showoff flew around, sliding under the bottom rope to kick Curtis Axel.
Lawler noted Ziggler is like a house of fire, but without much emphasis. When Ziggler hit a ring-rattling DDT, Cole simply exclaimed, "Oh!"
The oddest part of the commentary here is the end, though, when the match turns its most chaotic.
Cole makes a Poseidon Adventure reference. It's bad enough he digs back 40 years for a pop culture reference, but he then spends the next few moments cracking up at himself. That forced him to miss opportunities to call a dive over the top rope and The Miz eliminating one of The Usos.
The match felt less significant than it should have because the play-by-play guy and his peers were more focused on his joke than a tag team victory unfolding.
There are too many subdued reactions to wins and losses and the moves themselves. One only has to go back to the Aug. 1 SmackDown, when Jack Swagger defeated Cesaro, to find an example.
Swagger clamped on his finishing hold, the ankle lock, and rather than play up the finality of that moment or the danger Cesaro was in then, Cole whiffed. He said, "Swagger grabbed the foot." That's simply not good enough.
That's like responding to a 450 splash by saying, "He made physical contact!"
Knowing this move is coming and Swagger is set to win, Cole and WWE staff have to come up with something that better captures a gladiator nailing his foe with his best weapon.
A recent match pitting Kofi Kingston against Alberto Del Rio suffered from Cole and JBL missing other chances to up a match's drama.
Kingston went for his signature move, Trouble in Paradise, and Del Rio ducked out of the way. Not a big enough deal was made of that. Del Rio essentially saved himself from defeat there, and Cole chalks it up calmly to the former world champ's veteran instincts.
Why not exclaim something more dramatic first? "Del Rio just avoided disaster" or "Kingston had victory in his palm, and just like that, it slipped away from him" would have better punctuated the moment.
Later Kingston knocked Del Rio onto the turnbuckle, smacking his family jewels in the process. Cole says only "Can he counter? And he does" with little enthusiasm.
Near-falls didn't result in gasps, and passion didn't drip off the screen as it should.
Ross was the king of letting his passion guide his commentary. Cole, Lawler and JBL are all talented and experienced voices. They just don't sound like they care as much as Ross did.
Take The Brothers of Destruction vs. The Dudley Boyz from 2001, for example. It's not a WrestleMania main event or even a battle on a pay-per-view, but Ross' focus and energy elevate it beyond just another match on TV.
He talked about Kane's injured elbow being the chink in his armor and notes "Undertaker's right hand looks pretty damn good to me."
Both of those lines worked to add depth to the action. The former speaks to Kane's weak spot and highlights The Dudley Boyz' strategy. The latter is a line rich with J.R.'s own personality and focuses on Undertaker's striking power even though some of his punches were too soft.
Most importantly, though, when The Dudley Boyz cheated their way to a win, Ross yelled, "No, no!" during the referee's three-count. Victory for the heel here meant a victory for treachery, an injustice live on-air.
Even without delivering one of his famous lines, Ross conveys that and how important winning and losing this clash is.
This is what commentary too often lacks right now. There are matches each week stellar announcing could boost, but are instead getting bogged down by the subpar kind.
Commentary is the soundtrack that can amplify the emotions of the images we see. WWE is repeatedly mailing that part of the performance in.
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