“GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! THEY'VE KILLED HIM! AS GOD IS MY WITNESS HE IS BROKEN IN HALF!"
Note: This article pertains strictly to the WWE, the promotion I have followed for the longest duration, and have the most knowledge about.
With a few days remaining before we witness Hell In a Cell 2011, I cannot help but go back to King of the Ring 1998, and those unforgettable words courtesy of Jim Ross, which brings me to the subject of this article—the current state of commentary in the WWE.
At the outset, let me concede that I understand completely that commentary is not at all easy. It can get redundant and repetitive, you can be severely constrained in what you can/cannot say on the microphone, and at times, be forced to voice opinions other than your own to keep your job.
In the past, a few commentators, while working within these confines, have managed to perform admirably at their task, adding their unique flavor to the in-ring action and giving us all truly unforgettable moments.
It takes many attributes to make a good commentator. A deep understanding of the sport for one, and the ability to communicate your thoughts simultaneously with the events taking place, taking care to never overwhelm the in-ring action. In many aspects, commentary is to wrestling what a background score is to a movie. The purpose of a soundtrack is to enhance a mood, complement an action and ultimately, to evoke an emotional response. Imagine Inception minus Hans Zimmer and those French horns!
As a fan of pro-wrestling for over 15 years now, I have noticed, sadly, quite a sharp decline in commentating standards. As a fan, all I want is for those men behind that much-abused table (not the current SmackDown table of course – that mighty anti-RKO beast!) to have some genuine interest in the sport. If I try to think what has changed, a few things come to mind.
There is much less emphasis now on play-by-play commentary. When I first started watching WWE, I picked up the names of so many submission holds and moves in every match, and many versions and variations of each of them. Now, most of what I hear is “Oooh what a take-down!”, or a “Nice move there from John Cena!” in the middle of someone else’s match.
There is nothing wrong in getting technical and calling a match comprehensively. When you’re watching two men working themselves to a crisp on a weekly basis, it’s only right for viewers to at least know what the moves they are executing are called!
Chemistry between commentators adds a wonderful element to the "story-telling" aspect of a match. Many a time, we have seen them feed off one another, and while not going to the extent of completing one another’s sentences, it serves to liven up the conversation. Differences of opinion always make for fun listening, but of late, arguments between commentators have been so vociferous and completely unrelated to what is happening in the ring, that you find it difficult to concentrate on a bout and feel like stepping in to stop the drama behind that table.
Another fact that, I feel, has been hindering our commentators of late, is the fact that the WWE is expanding its horizons. As the unofficial spokesmen for the organization, commentators have no choice but to plug the various other activities the WWE is involved in. While this is just part of the job, I find it distracting to say the least and really annoying to be completely honest. While we’re watching a promo about a NOC match pitting our King of Kings against Punk, to be reminded again and again about "Inside Out" really kills the mood.
At the end of the day, what makes commentary truly great is passion. If we realize that as a commentator, you love what you’re doing and really give a damn, we’ll listen to what you have to say and respect you for it.
As the beginning of this article shows, words can immortalize you. Choose your words carefully, and use the chance you have to be remembered forever and for the right reasons.
Thanks a lot!