Let’s face facts and state the obvious plain and simple: Michael Cole is the new Mr. McMahon.
I started off crafting this commentary as something sugary sweet, ready for fast and easy consumption during the deluge of WrestleMania 27 related reading material that is sure to flood your inbox, Facebook page and Twitter feed.
However, the truth of the matter is that there is nothing sugary sweet about the Mr. McMahon character, and there should be no doubt in our minds that Michael Cole has inherited the unenviable task of carrying this cross for a new generation of WWE superstars and fans.
How is it that Michael Cole, a WWE commentator who was at one point a colleague of such memorable WWE commentators as Kevin Kelley and Todd Pettengill, has now become one of the most hated villains in the company? As mind-boggling as the question seems, the answer is very simple and integral to the WWE today.
To understand Cole’s ascent as the new Mr. McMahon, we have to take a look at the Mr. McMahon character.
The general consensus is that McMahon was born the night of the Montreal Screwjob at the WWE Survivor Series pay per view in 1997, the night Shawn Michaels defeated Bret Hart in a controversial ending to Hart’s last match in the WWE. While the events of that fateful night are still debated, what fans do know is that Hart was pissed off and spat in McMahon’s face on live television.
This public tiff between Hart and McMahon turned fans against McMahon and revealed him to be more to the company than just a color commentator.
Never one to back down from any type of publicity, McMahon the commentator morphed into Mr. McMahon, the owner of the WWE and a ruthless boss that exerted his perverse power at any given chance.
The Mr. McMahon character became important to the WWE and its fans for many reasons. First and foremost, while the character served as the preeminent heel in the company, he was also revered at times as a witty face that could exact proper justice on other heels.
The Mr. McMahon character became the boss that forced you to do demoralizing acts in front of your peers, designed to keep you trapped in a mindset of inferiority and enslavement to a callous and cruel system. The Mr. McMahon character was that rich, old miser who flaunted his power in front of those less fortunate just for kicks.
The character was even the guy who not only got to belittle his wife and children without reprimand, but also snagged the beautiful and buxom bombshells that trounced around in clothing that screamed “wardrobe malfunction commencing in t-minus 10 seconds…”
On the other hand, the Mr. McMahon character was also one that gave away $1 million dollars on live television, joined forces with his family to fight a common enemy and snagged the beautiful and buxom bombshells trouncing around in clothing that screamed “wardrobe malfunction commencing in t-minus 10 seconds…”
Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?
This is what made the character so important to fans all around the world; he was the heel that we despised and occasionally cheered.
Although far from being considered a tweener, the Mr. McMahon character was able to seamlessly move between these two worlds effortlessly. He did everything we despised, while every now and then saying something that we were all thinking but afraid to utter.
Cole’s character fits these criteria to a tee, and WrestleMania 27 is the prime opportunity to formally introduce a new Mr. McMahon character to the WWE Universe.
Recent times have seen the decline of the Mr. McMahon character, who has suffered tremendously from numerous setbacks. For example: Vince McMahon, Jr., the actual man that portrayed the Mr. McMahon character, has taken his fair share of bumps and bruises in the ring.
With old age creeping up on him faster than a Senate subcommittee hearing on steroids, it seems that he has done his fair share of on-air frolicking as Mr. McMahon. Not to mention the fact that the current PG era has placed a serious dent in the creative direction that allows a 65-year-old man show his bare butt on television.
The Mr. McMahon character suffers from the same fate as John Cena: he has literally crossed every top star’s path at least once.
There are very few money-making stars that the character hasn’t pissed off, sabotaged, or offered support to (financially or otherwise). With so few superstars to interact with, there’s literally nothing else left for Mr. McMahon to do or anyone to inflict discomfort upon.
The exact opposite holds true as well. With very few stars left to interact with, Mr. McMahon is unable to give his stamp of approval or back a given superstar. At this point a pat on the back from Mr. McMahon is as effective as a pat on the back from Barry Horowitz.
If you have any doubt in that statement, take a glimpse at the push given to “The Chosen One” Drew McIntyre.
We also cannot forget that Mr. McMahon has managed to survive so many inconceivable events that there’s not much else he can be involved in without someone wondering if he’s done it before.
Mr. McMahon has: survived an inexplicable limousine explosion, been placed in a coma after being attacked by The Nexus, punted in the head by Randy Orton, constantly made Smackdown general manager Teddy Long’s life a living hell, suffered temporary paralysis after the RAW set fell on top of him, and my personal favorite, carried Hart through a forgettable WrestleMania match last year.
The death of the Mr. McMahon character happened that night when Hart defeated him at WrestleMania. The sins committed 14 years ago at Summerslam were now rectified and buried, and Mr. McMahon was no longer a viable threat to the WWE.
All seemed right with the WWE Universe, but this single event left a massive void that had to be filled. What other person in the company could elicit such an honest, hate-filled response from the fans while at the same time speaking to them in a manner that echoed their deepest, darkest guilty pleasures?
Enter Cole, whose prowess and success as an announcer can be summed up in two words: simply horrible.
As the Mr. McMahon character began to fade into obscurity, Cole’s notoriety began to slowly rise, causing an unrivaled hatred to fester in the souls of fans who begrudgingly put up with his tacky play-by-play commentating abilities.
Cole has always be a source of displeasure among WWE fans. His style of commentary never really sat well with fans, and he gained even more infamy after replacing Jim Ross as the voice of RAW when the legendary commentator was traded to Smackdown during the 2008 WWE Draft.
He was shoved down fans' throats, participated in “matches,” and even managed to win a Slammy for throwing up on Chris Jericho. Yes, that actually happened.
The second monumental moment in Cole’s rise was when he became the spokesperson of RAW’s general manager, who chose to remain anonymous and speak through e-mail messages after a string of guest hosts and general managers were attacked by superstars.
“And I quote…” became Cole’s signature catch phrase, which stuck in the fans’ craw almost as much as McMahon's famous line, “You’re fired!”
From this point on, Cole started to exhibit heel-like characteristics. He argued with his co-commentators more often, began to openly support the actions of some heel superstars and mocked the fans for sheepishly following certain faces.
The final, and perhaps the most obvious turn in his evolution, came when Cole was announced as a commentator for the new WWE show, WWE NXT.
Cole subtly slid into his heel persona by bashing the rookies, especially one Daniel Bryan—an independent wrestler signed by the WWE and adored by a segment of fans collectively known as the Internet Wrestling Community (the IWC).
Out of all the NXT rookies from the first season, Bryan received much of Cole’s ire simply because he did not fit the traditional design of what a WWE superstar looked like. Cole also began to heap loads of praise and adoration on Bryan’s pro mentor, The Miz, who was quickly ascending the main event ladder of success in his own right.
Cole’s unwarranted attacks on the beloved Bryan caused fans to dislike him even more than they already did, and an eventual confrontation between the two men sealed the deal in Cole’s rebirth as the new Mr. McMahon. From there, the rest has been historically beautiful.
Cole is now currently embroiled in a battle with legendary commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler, and will face him this upcoming Sunday night at WrestleMania 27.
Cole has been systematically built up and groomed to be this generation’s Mr. McMahon.
He started his career as a backstage announcer and worked his way up to a lackluster career commentating (just like Vince McMahon).
He was thrust into a very public and uncomfortable situation that involved Jim Ross, a beloved WWE figure (just like McMahon and Hart).
He became the voice of an authority figure, thus making him an authority figure in his own right of sorts (just like Vince McMahon became Mr. McMahon, the CEO of the WWE, as opposed to having presidents or commissioners play the role).
He threw his unwavering support behind The Miz, a hated heel, while antagonizing Bryan, a well-liked and innocent superstar (just like Mr. McMahon did with countless heel and face superstars).
Finally, he embraced his inner heel and just started to do things that irked superstars and fans alike, such as building “The Cole Mine” and disrespecting the Divas and their matches (just like Mr. McMahon created the “Kiss My Ass” Club and made Trish Stratus bark like a dog).
What more can be said to support this cause? Cole has now assumed one of the company’s most important heel roles, and he’s done so magnificently up to this point.
With our eyes now focused on this Sunday’s huge pay per view, we can rest assured that regardless of the outcome of his match with Jerry Lawler, fans are sure to see Cole rise like a phoenix from the ashes of Mr. McMahon’s character.
Whether we like it or not, Cole is the voice of the WWE, and he’s exactly what the company needs to create the next generation of future legends and icons.
“May I have your attention, please…”