Hello everyone. Hope you’re having a good week. It seems like spring has finally spru,ng in Ohio. And with the new season comes many changes. One of the biggest things to change in the wrestling business this past week is Taz leaving Impact Wrestling. The three time ECW World Heavyweight Champion and the Dixie Carter owned company decided to part ways for a multitude of reasons after almost 6 years with the company.

(If you want to hear Taz talk about the situation, you can check out his podcast here. Or read a summary posted by PW Insider here.)

This departure led to Josh Mathews doing something that hasn’t been seen in a few years. One announcer calling a wrestling show on his own. And while I thought Josh Mathews did a decent job, you can definitely see that there were problems. And it wasn’t the announcer’s fault is just how the business works these days.

The amount of promotion of social media and other entities outside of in ring action that one has to do in the booth is astounding these days. Many ballyhoo the work of Joey Styles in the original ECW for being a one-man booth. But even things 2001 when Extreme Championship Wrestling closed its doors were much different than they are today. Social media impressions have become a major factor in what makes a promotion palatable to television partners and advertisers alike.

When wrestling commentary first started, it began during the age of radio. Much like it’s boxing counterpart the dulcet tones gave play-by-play making the fans feel like they were in the stadium/arena with the fighters. When television came on the scene giving visuals to the audio the transition from straight up play-by-play to color commentary began to take shape. Most of the legendary voices in the early days of wrestling were also very well known for other sports in the communities. The legendary Gordon Solie was an announcer for local stock-car races in the Florida area before getting in the wrestling business. Lance Russell and Dave Brown the legendary voices of Memphis wrestling for many years were well-known pillars of the local programming. This would happen all over the country with everyone getting their own regional bastions of professional wrestling.

As cable came into play in the late 70s and early 80s, a new role in professional wrestling was created the color commentator. As wrestling began to get more visual with improving TV sets and colors, it was less about what was going on in the ring and more about why. The role of the color commentator was to add a little bit more personality to the overall broadcast. Jesse Ventura is probably the pioneer of this role bringing his flamboyance from the ring to the booth during the expansion of the WWF in the 80s. This would lead every other promotion with their own pairings trying to imitate what had been done nationally. Pairings like Jim Ross and Paul Heyman along with Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan were some of the best at mixing both in ring action analysis with comedy to make even the shittiest match somewhat entertaining.

As the 80s morphed into the 90s, it really began to matter just as much who was behind the booth just as much as who was in the ring. There was a revolving door of announcers used in all the national companies. From infomercial pitchman to former athletes there are plenty tried out in the booth but only a few remained. Most notably of which, was Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, Joey Styles and Tony Schiavone.

Each of these names were voices for their respective programs and had their own unique style. But as the industry hit a high popularity it became less about calling me in ring action and more about explaining to the casual viewer story that was involved. A lot of modern fans resent the term “telling stories” but that’s what they do. Their job is to make you aware of the story going into the match if you’ve never seen one frame of footage. That job is not easy to do. As it turned into the new millennium, they were the voice of not just the in ring product but outside projects as well. Movies, commercials and other goodies made them just as famous as the in ring talent they talk about every week.

Social media would be added in the later years adding more wrinkles in how wrestling was presented. Jim Ross has said it himself he doesn’t think he’d be able to do his sports centric style in the modern era. And he’s right. A few weeks ago Michael Cole was taken off WWE commentary and the program kind of fell apart. Regardless of what you think about the modern voice of WWE, he does his job well at getting across what The Boss wants him to. The job of an announcer the 21st century is far removed from its early days. There’s so much to keep track of and to have knowledge of the product.

Hearing Josh Mathews call Impact by himself showed how hard that job is to do these days. I personally prefer that they would let the action breathe a little bit more allowing the audience to focus more on the in ring and pay more attention but that’s just me. I know putting on ads that and doing what they do for two hours sometimes three is not easy. That’s why I’ll never disparage any commentator regardless of mistakes. I know I’m in the minority but it’s easy to rail on someone for making a mistake when you don’t have all that pressure on you. It’s amazing to see how the role has evolved over the years. I’m interested to see who is the next classic commentary team down the line coming out of this era.

About The Author

Dan is host of Shooting from the Hip which you can hear every Sunday at 8pm EST, 7pm CST right here on PWpop.com.