Sometimes the action in the ring is secondary to what you’re hearing from the announcers. The true sign of a really great pro wrestling announcer is that they can make a match look and sound better than it actually is. They get you invested in the match and the story behind it. They know just what to say and how to say it.
They could be funny, passionate, create great banter with their broadcast partner and most of all, tell you a great story. There’s a lot more to it than just calling out the moves and actions of the wrestlers.
If you’re a play-by-play commentator, you’re responsible for calling the action, describing a performer’s character and making sure the audience knows just what this match means. You may also have to brace yourself for someone going through your table.
The best colour commentators usually play the perfect foil for the play-by-play announcer. It’s always better when the colour man’s a heel, and the play-by-play announcer is the voice of reason. The colour commentators usually work best when they’re bombastic, sometimes obnoxious characters, shameless in their bias and irking their broadcast partner.
Here are the 10 best announcers to ever sit at the broadcast table.
10) Gorilla Monsoon
Gorilla Monsoon wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but his announcing style suited the era perfectly. In a time where it was all about flamboyancy and over-the-top theatrics, Gorilla’s booming voice and delivery matched the action well.
It helped that he was placed with some brilliant colour commentators such as Jesse Ventura and Bobby Heenan. Some argue that Heenan and Monsoon were the best announcing team in history, with their unbelievable chemistry and banter that was often more entertaining than the matches themselves.
Monsoon had many signature phrases such as, “history has been made!”, “it’s pandemonium!” or “this place has gone bananas!” and who could forget him snapping back at Heenan, “will you stop?”
Monsoon had everybody’s respect in the WWE locker room, particularly Vince McMahon, who, out of Monsoon’s loyalty to his father Vince McMahon Sr. gave him lifetime employment with the company.
Monsoon’s voice is synonymous with the Golden Era of wrestling and the original WrestleManias.
9) Paul Heyman
While fans had been used to J.R. and the King‘s argumentative but civil banter, Heyman and Ross really sold you on the fact that they hated each other. Heyman is amazing with a microphone in front of him, no matter what type. Any role involving him running his mouth is one for him.
His obnoxious style really generated tremendous heat as a colour commentator. His time on commentary was one of the only saving graces of the lacklustre Invasion storyline.
It felt like Heyman truly was being himself times 1,000. That’s always a working formula in wrestling and Heyman grasped his role beautifully in a short amount of time. Credit him for also doing a magnificent job at the greatest WrestleMania in history, WrestleMania X-Seven, particularly the Austin/Rock main event.
8) Michael Cole
Michael Cole‘s recent commentary, basically since being transferred from SmackDown to Raw, has dipped in many ways, but fans mustn’t forget all the great things he has done.
He did some great work filling in for J.R. at times during the Attitude Era and he really hit his stride when he became the full-time SmackDown commentator, calling the shows from 1999 to 2008.
Some of his greatest calls include Mick Foley‘s first championship win, doing as good a job as any could do filling in for J.R. and Eddie Guerrero’s championship win over Brock Lesnar in 2004. He also did an incredible job calling Daniel Bryan‘s two victories at WrestleMania this year.
Maybe if Cole wasn’t so busy being forced to plug the WWE App, useless tweets and celebrity guest hosts he could actually be allowed the chance to call stories in the ring.
7) Vince McMahon
“One, two and he got him!!! No…”
Such was a common line used by Vince McMahon trying to fool the audience into thinking the match was over. It was all in McMahon’s delivery when it came to his commentary. While he didn’t have quite the memorable lines of a Jim Ross or Monsoon, he had an extremely energetic enthusiasm for the product (it is his own, after all.)
Perhaps McMahon’s most notable piece of commentary came at WrestleMania XII in the IronMan match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. From HBK’s zip-line entrance to the epic conclusion of sudden death overtime to the concluding line, “The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels!”
6) Jesse Ventura
The trend of colour commentators playing the shameless heel all began with Jesse “The Body” Ventura. If not for Ventura’s success in the role, many guys like Lawler, JBL, CM Punk and Paul Heyman probably would’ve never been given the chance to relish in those roles.
Ventura set the trend, making no effort to give fair commentary. He always found a way to justify a heel’s actions no matter how gutless, unethical and dastardly they were. Whether he was alongside McMahon or Gorilla, his comments shocked them and usually had them desperately pleading for some reason out of Ventura.
5) Jerry Lawler
It’s such a shame what Jerry Lawler‘s work has become compared to his earlier days in the booth.
Lawler’s style worked so much better as a heel, where he had a lot more freedom to say what he wanted. Many fans believe Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were the best team in history, with Ross being the consummate professional and Lawler playing the crooked heel.
Whether it was cheering on heels, gawking at the Divas or just shrieking his signature scream, the King was the most entertaining colour commentator of his era. His comments implied you weren’t supposed to like him, but he was too entertaining to hate.
As time went on, there also seemed to develop a sense of common respect between the King and J.R. even if they strayed to different sides. The King always had J.R.’s back, making him all the more endearing to fans.
4) Joey Styles
Oh my God!!!
There’s something to be said about an announcer who’s at the booth by himself, night after night and is still able to accomplish everything you’d need out of an announcing team. While Joey Styles didn’t work out for WWE when he got there, his work in ECW was masterful and he truly was the voice of the company.
Styles was the first announcer to call an entire pay-per-view on his own and he always handled it perfectly. His high-pitched shrieks usually matched the action in front of him and fans to this day will usually find themselves shouting “Oh my God!” whenever they see something vicious or high-risk in the ring.
3) Gordon Solie
You could call him the Vin Scully of professional wrestling. Some also say he’s the Walter Cronkite or Howard Cosell of wrestling.
He had an extremely long tenure spending four decades in wrestling and was the most recognizable voice over that period of time. Fans adored him. Jim Ross credits his style and inspiration for announcing to Solie.
He is referred to as the “Dean” of wrestling announcers. Solie had a more subdued, calculating approach in his commentary, when the norm was to go as up-tempo, lavish, bombastic and flamboyant as possible.
Solie was a true professional on the microphone, bringing a sense of realism to the product and he garnered respect for the industry.
2) Bobby Heenan
Watch any match in which Heenan is doing colour commentary. His commentary invariably outshines the match. Heenan just had a line for any situation, any move, any comment made by a play-by-play announcer. The camera could pan to any person or object and Heenan would have a funny, witty remark about it.
Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon had great chemistry due to their close friendship and Heenan’s unmatched wit. Heenan desperately defended all the actions of heels, particularly his allies, such as Ric Flair or Mr. Perfect.
Heenan is the best colour commentator of all time. He was the kind of guy who could carry a tv show by himself. He had a rare gift. Youtube any Bobby Heenan announcing clip and you’ll find yourself binge watching for hours.
1) Jim Ross
Jim Ross credits Gordon Solie to his success, but many fans are of the opinion Ross has surpassed him as the greatest announcer in the history of professional wrestling. He had Solie’s professionalism, knowledge and well-crafted storytelling, but also had unforgettable sound bites, unmatched passion for the action and the high octane commentary suitable for sports entertainment.
J.R. gave every moment its due justice. In fact, he could make any piece of action sound like the most epic sequence.
What made Ross great is that you truly felt his love for the business when he was doing commentary. He connected with fans in a way no one else ever could. He could make you laugh, get you pumped, and really could evoke any feeling he wanted out of you.
We remember his classic lines, always finding a way to capture the moment perfectly. We all remember his folksy expressions, as well as simply shouting the name of the winner several times; “Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!” There are countless memorable J.R. calls fans repeat to this day. Just look at all the videos that have come out with J.R.’s commentary plastered on non-wrestling moments.
However he was so much more than that. His storytelling is untouchable. He truly made you understand each character and he made every match sound important.
It’s not easy to get fans of a sport which is predetermined emotionally invested, but J.R. never failed to do so.
He’s in a class of his own. There’s not enough you could say about how amazing J.R.’s work was.