Joey Styles is known to many as the voice of ECW, and he is still widely considered to be one of the best commentators in the history of the business.
For those who are too young to be familiar with Joey Styles, he was the main announcer for ECW and eventually became one of the top announcers in WWE once the company brought him back.
The WWE Network will feature thousands of hours of memorable matches and moments, and many of those will be complemented by the commentary of Joey Styles due to his obvious enthusiasm and love for the business.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Joey recently, and he was extremely generous with his time, allowing us to cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from the WWE Network to his time in ECW to his opinions on current WWE talent.
Bleacher Report: His Thoughts on the WWE Network:
Joey Styles: WWE Network is obviously, in my opinion, the biggest thing ever to happen to the pro wrestling/sports entertainment industry. And it's also revolutionary in terms of the television industry, specifically that the television has just become an appliance.
And you can watch video content on the appliance, not just through a cable or satellite provider, but through streaming video that is provided over the Internet, and WWE Network will be able to be seen on your TV using a game console, smart TVs, Smart DVD players, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku Boxes. You can watch it on your desktop, your laptop, your tablet, your mobile phone. It's amazing.
There's a reason these devices are called over-the-top, because content producers like WWE are not only going through the boxes on top of cable boxes, but we are literally leapfrogging over cable and satellite providers to reach our fans.
B/R: How he feels this will impact the wrestling business as a whole:
JS: I think it will help a lot of the legends who are out there doing appearances and wrestling to get more exposure once again on a 24/7 network and have their greatest work out there for those fans to see. For those lapsed fans who are coming back or for younger fans who didn't know who they were. They will be doing more appearances and those who still wrestle will be doing more of that.
I think it's great. This has been said by Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart and Steve Austin. It's great that all of their work will now live forever. Long after they and we are all gone, WWE Network will live on, and anyone who has worked for WWE will have their work live on, and that is amazing. That is a huge concept that cannot be overstated.
B/R: What makes the WWE Network worth buying?
JS: The big appeal will be being able to see all 12 live PPVs for only $9.99 a month, starting with WrestleMania XXX. That's just amazing. That's a value I'm not sure any WWE or wrestling fan can turn down. In addition to that, there are also the live pre- and postgame shows for Raw and SmackDown that are going to be a lot of fun.
Plus you have these original programs like Monday Night Wars, Legends House, Countdown, WrestleMania Rewind. And on top of that, 400-plus PPVs. That's every PPV that has ever occurred from WWE, WCW and ECW. The 12 live PPVs alone more than give any fan their $10 dollars a month worth.
B/R: What is the first thing he is going to watch on the WWE Network?
JS: The first thing I am going to go watch is Legends House. In WWE digital media we are preparing second-screen programming for all of these new shows, so we get advanced screeners of shows like WrestleMania Rewind, Countdown and Monday Night Wars.
And for me, being as old as I am, I lived through the Monday Night Wars. I saw all the WrestleManias. Countdown is interesting because fans are voting on WWE.com. But Legends House I have gone out of my way not to watch in advance because I think it's going to be so wild that I want to see it when everyone else does so I can react to it at the same time our fans are going to react to it, and I'm going to do so on Twitter (@JoeyStyles) because I'll probably live tweet during the shows.
I don't know what to expect. Howard Finkel, who works with me in WWE digital media, was in that house for a month, and his lips are sealed. He has not given away anything. You would think he was working for the NSA and somehow avoided Edward Snowden. Fink is not giving anything away, and I can't wait to see what happens when you watch those personalities in the house.
B/R: On whether or not he would ever be on a show like Legends House:
JS: (Laughs) My roommates would kill me. I would not be a good fit for that. I am very neat and organized, bordering on OCD, and I like my quiet time. It would make for bad TV when I suddenly just disappear and nobody would be able to explain where I went in Episode 3.
B/R: What can we expect from the Raw and SmackDown pre- and post shows?
JS: It is very similar to the pre-shows we do for PPVs in that there is going to be interviews as well as legends and Hall of Famers who will weigh in, but it's a lot more fast paced and there are a lot of talents involved, and it's going to be a nice way to get excited for the show ahead, and it's going to be a great way for fans to get more once Raw or SmackDown goes off the air.
B/R: Soon the interview moved more toward Joey's time in the business, how he got his foot in the door at ECW, and what it was that attracted him to the business in the first place.
He shared memories of the first time he saw wrestling on a 13-inch black-and-white television, which is also how I first began watching. Yes, kids, we had 13-inch black-and-white TVs back in the day that weighed more than some 40-inch flat screens. Of course, color TV existed, but as kids we were not spoiled with tablets, phones and computers like we are today.
B/R: As a fan, what sticks out as his favorite memory from pro wrestling?
JS: I remember watching the first WrestleMania on closed-circuit television here at Stamford High School. I remember sitting in the bleachers and seeing it on the big screen. I remember all the hype for Mr. T and my parents letting me stay up late the night before to watch Hulk Hogan and Mr. T on Saturday Night Live.
I remember going to get the tickets, and it was just fantastic. It was like being at a show. I had not yet been to a WWE event at that point, so my first event was seeing WrestleMania on closed circuit.
Then when I got home my local cable provider was carrying it on PPV because a few systems did, so I watched the replay on PPV at home. So I actually watched it twice that night, and even more times on the replays throughout the week. I probably watched the first WrestleMania five times that first week, and the fact that I then got to grow up and be a part of WrestleMania was a dream come true.
B/R: What is the first ECW PPV fans should watch if they have never seen an ECW show?
JS: The first thing I would start with, if you have never seen ECW before, I would start with ECW One Night Stand 2005, which was actually a WWE-produced PPV four years after ECW had ceased operations, but it included so many of the WWE Superstars who started in ECW.
It was the most star-studded ECW PPV ever because we were able to have access to all the great Superstars who went on to work for WWE. So you had The Dudleys, RVD, Lance Storm, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio and Steve Austin.
Mick Foley was my color commentator. And at that point Tommy Dreamer was also in WWE. And of course Paul Heyman himself, and the show perfectly recreated ECW. We used to run to that Hammerstein ballroom in NYC.
Tommy Dreamer oversaw the design of the show, so the 16 foot-by-16 foot ring with the steel cables was used, as opposed to the WWE ring which is 20 feet-by-20 feet with the traditional ropes that are stretched taut. And it really was like being in a time machine going back to the original ECW. And I think that's a good introduction to fans who don't know ECW. Because they'll realize that all these Superstars got their break in ECW before going on to WWE.
B/R: Isn't that the event where Eric Bischoff took just about every finisher from everyone in the company?
JS: Yeah, that was part of the storyline that Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman came nose to nose, and Eric Bischoff led the anti-ECW group of WWE Superstars. And Steve Austin instigated a fight between everybody, a fight that the ECW originals won. And Eric Bischoff was left alone, and it was a great way to end the show.
B/R: His thoughts on still being a fan of wrestling after being in the business for as long as he has:
JS: First and foremost, anyone who works on anything creatively in WWE is fan. So for me, that's everyone I work with on the first floor in digital media. So that's everyone who is creating video, writing articles.
You have to be a fan. You wouldn't apply to work here if you weren't a fan, and you have to be a fan to crank out as much content as we do on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis. You have to be a fan to work as many hours as we do. And I am working with the greatest group of people in the world. Some of them are 20 years younger than me, so it really forces me to be energetic.
B/R: As a fan, what was it that attracted him to wrestling in the first place?
JS: Honestly, I was just flipping through the channels, I think we had seven channels in New York, and I had a little 13-inch black-and-white TV in my bedroom, and I came across WWE. It happened to be the match where Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson won the tag team titles from The Wild Samoans, and I saw it and I was just hooked instantly.
First, you're looking at Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson, who were built like two Greek gods, but even more impressive were the two massive, frightening Samoans, and still the most colorful character on the screen was Captain Lou Albano, even in black and white.
B/R: How he got into wrestling as a career:
JS: I was such a huge fan that going through high school I actually wanted to be a WWE Superstar, but I realized that God didn't give me the physical attributes to make that happen, but I was also much more talented with my mind and my mouth than I was as an athlete.
I was an average-at-best athlete, but I was much better than average when it came to giving oral presentations, or hosting variety shows in my high school, and that's when I decided that I wanted to be an announcer.
That's I why I chose to go to college at Hofstra University on Long Island, which was across from the Nassau Coliseum, and at the time Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine was published out of there, and my plan was to go to Hofstra and somehow get an internship at PWI, and that's exactly what happened, and I became an intern for Bill Apter and Craig Peters and Stu Sachs.
I got my first break through Bill Apter announcing on an Indy show in suburban New York. In fact, that night Tommy Dreamer wrestled The Tazmaniac. It was June of 1992, and now I've known those guys for over 20 years.
And then I met Paul Heyman when he came into the offices of PWI, and I showed him my tape and he gave me some critique, and upon graduating from college I contacted Paul and he told me to come down to the ECW arena in Philadelphia and the rest is history, which you can watch on the WWE Network starting Monday. How's that for a cheap plug?
B/R: That is a Mick Foley-level plug right there.
JS: Thank you very much.
B/R: Was there anyone from ECW that he was surprised never made it to the level they should have?
JS: I was surprised Taz didn't go on to have a better career in WWE because I thought he was just so great in ECW. He was so intimidating, Even at 5'8" and 248 pounds, especially in WWE as a hero who was fighting off villains who were much bigger than he was.
I think Sabu was finally given a chance to make some money in return for all the sacrifices he made in the wrestling industry, and unfortunately I think the fact that it didn't work out was his own doing.
B/R: How did it feel when WWE purchased ECW?
JS: When WWE purchased the assets to ECW in 2005 I had already been selling advertising because that was something I just kept doing, so it didn't really affect me personally, except knowing that WWE owned the video library meant that in some way, shape or form ECW was going to live on. I never expected there to be a WWE Network. I expected there to be maybe one home-video release.
B/R: Was there any hesitation when he was approached about coming back to the wrestling industry?
JS: There was quite a bit of hesitation in 2005 because my wife and I had decided to start a family in 2003 after it looked very definite that my career had ended in 2001 and I wouldn't be traveling anymore. I would be home to be there as a husband and a father.
So when the offer came in from WWE in 2005 we really had to weigh it. It was a good deal financially, but at the same time I didn't want to travel having such a young child, and I'm very lucky that I only traveled for five years, and for the last three years I have been back here in the office in Connecticut.
So I can still be a fan and I can still contribute to the company and put smiles on fans' faces with stories I write and edit and give interviews for WWE.com and WWE Magazine and an occasional appearance on any of these new shows. At the same time I can be a full-time husband and father, which is most important to me.
B/R: As the conversation went on, we moved on to the current stars of WWE. Joey shared his thoughts on today's announcers, top stars and who he feels are the next Superstars poised to break out and lead the company.
B/R: His thoughts on Michael Cole:
JS: I find Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler very entertaining. Poor Michael just has to sit there and get attacked by JBL week in and week out, and I give him all the credit in the world for doing it. Michael Cole isn't going anywhere anytime soon. He's young. He is, in my opinion, a future WWE Hall of Famer. Calling PPVs and Raw and SmackDown, and also coaching the younger announcers down in NXT. Michael is a prep fanatic. He's got a phonebook full of notes when he heads to the table every week.
B/R: Who does he think could be the next great WWE announcers?
JS: Who I think is good enough now, Renee Young has done some color commentary on NXT, which will be available on the WWE Network. And I think she is absolutely good enough to be doing color commentary on one of WWE's main shows like Raw, SmackDown, Superstars, Main Event.
She's very familiar with the product. She had a show in Canada on The Score, that aired Raw. She had a show called Aftermath, so she's very familiar with all the personalities; she's very familiar with WWE. She knows the names of all the holds, she's very fast on her feet, she's got a great sense of humor and she can hold her own with any of the guys.
I really do think Renee Young will be the first regular female color commentator in WWE history, and she deserves it.
B/R: His thoughts on Paul Heyman as a manager:
JS: Look at the post-ECW career Paul Heyman has had. In my opinion he is now the greatest manager in the history of our industry. And that's not because of what he did in AWA and WCW, which was very impressive, but it's because of all the WWE champions he's managed since then. ECW was such a great springboard for all of us, and I was honored to have that opportunity like so many other people.
B/R: What is it about Daniel Bryan that allowed him to reach this level of popularity?
JS: I think Daniel Bryan performs with so much passion and so much fire, and is always fighting an uphill battle, and pretty much everybody in life can relate to that. Even if you're not fighting an uphill battle physically. It could be an uphill battle financially. We all have bills to pay and personal problems of one sort or another affect all of us.
We're always fighting, and Daniel Bryan is the one fighting the most battles and climbing the most hills. Every man and every woman and every kid who can relate to that. And he's just very likable. He's the David slaying Goliaths, and who doesn't want to cheer for somebody like that?
B/R: Who does Joey see as the next top guys in WWE?
JS: With Roman Reigns I think it was made very clear at the Royal Rumble match 2014 that he is being given the opportunity to be a top star. Antonio Cesaro has really broken through this past week, and I expect a great performance at The Elimination Chamber.
I think Bray Wyatt is very special, and everyone is looking forward to The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family this Sunday. But at some point it turns into six Superstars, all of whom I think will make an impact on what will be a phenomenal roster.
Seth Rollins is just a fantastic tactician who also connects when he speaks. Dean Ambrose can really be spell-binding with a microphone. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan haven't been given a chance to speak because they're with Bray Wyatt, but when that chance comes you're going to see just how good these guys are as well.
I think Dolph Ziggler is somebody else who, if given another opportunity, can also be a big star because win or lose, when he goes out there the fans react to him and chant his name, and that's usually a pretty good indication that there's a reason to give you a shot.
There's so much young talent now that I'm looking forward to seeing what our roster looks like in five years.
B/R: Who in NXT should people be on the lookout for?
JS: Sami Zayn, with the right character, can make an impact on the Raw or SmackDown roster. Obviously Emma hasn't really competed yet on the main roster, but she can really go. I've seen her have some great matches with Nattie Neidhart down in NXT.
B/R: How does he feel John Cena has done as WWE's top guy?
JS: I think John Cena has done a great job. The mixed reactions he gets from city to city varies, whether it's a TV taping vs. a live event. The fact of the matter is, as long as he's evoking a reaction it's fine by me. And I think a lot of the people who boo John Cena do it because they think it's the cool thing to do.
I think the percentage of the audience who boos John Cena do not necessarily not like John Cena, they just do it because they want to be part of the show and it's the cool thing to do.
People joke, and I've seen the term SuperCena thrown around online, but you know what? John Cena is Superman. His schedule is unbelievable, and not just the days he actually competes, but then all of the appearances he does for the company. He just granted his 400th wish to a terminally ill child, and John Cena doesn't have to do that.
I've been there for some of those, and John genuinely enjoys doing it because he realizes how important it is, and the fact that he has granted more wishes than anyone else has granted means more than being the top draw in this company, or making money. That is a super human being.
Let me tell you a story about John Cena. John was in Vegas promoting his new body-change program, and then he made sure that he flew from Vegas to Philadelphia because he was advertised in the dark match, the non-televised match after SmackDown had gone off the air.
And then afterwards he got right back on a plane and flew to Las Vegas for the announcement of the WWE Network the next day. I don't even know if he had time to shower. There is only one John Cena. It doesn't matter if he hasn't slept or he's tired. He always has such a great attitude, and if he's hurt or angry, you'll never know it, and that's just rare for anybody in any business.
B/R: Who does Joey Styles think is the greatest wrestler in the history of the business?
JS: Bottom line is I'm a business man at heart, so I'm going to go with Steve Austin because he drew the most money. Just like I feel that the Academy Award for best picture should go to the movie that made the greatest net revenue, even if it's Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
B/R: I want to thank Joey Styles once again for being so generous with his time and sharing his thoughts on such a wide variety of topics. He is a very busy man these days with everything going on in WWE, and it was great that he took the time out to talk wrestling with another fan like myself for as long as he did.
His love and passion for the business are still very evident after all the time he has spent in it, and that kind of passion is why he still holds a special place in the hearts of wrestling fans around the world.
All quotes in this article from Joey Styles were given first hand to the author for the purposes of this interview. Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor. Follow Joey Styles @JoeyStyles