The best and worst wrestling announcers
My esteemed colleagues Ray Frager and Peter Schmuck are by no means pro wrestling fans, but they did indirectly give me the idea for this blog entry. In Frager’s sports media blog, Medium Well (I don’t get the title, either), he wrote yesterday about a poll in The Sports Business Journal on people’s favorite sportscasters. And last night on The Steve Davis Show on WBAL radio, Schmuck and Davis discussed sports.aol.com's Worst Sports Announcer tournament.
As usual, my mind never strays too far from the squared circle, so the best and worst sportscasters topic got me to thinking about the best and worst wrestling announcers. Dividing the field into two categories – play-by-play men and color commentators – I have selected my three favorite and three least-favorite announcers in each. This is not meant to be a definitive list of the best and worst of all-time, just my personal opinion. There are plenty of wrestling announcers that I haven’t heard enough of to consider for the list.
With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s the play-by-play announcers portion of the list. I’ll post the color commentators portion tomorrow. I look forward to your comments and your own best and worst lists:
1. Jim Ross: With a vast knowledge of wrestling history as well as a passion for the business that comes across in his performances, Ross has set the standard for wrestling announcers for more than 20 years, whether he was working for WWE, WCW or Mid-South. Ross will always be remembered for being the voice of WWE during the biggest boom period in the history of the industry (the late 1990s to the early part of this decade), as his calls of matches involving Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, Triple H and others are as legendary as the matches themselves. Good wrestling matches tell a story, and no announcer conveys that story to viewers better than Ross.
2. Gordon Solie: Known as “The Dean of Wrestling Announcers” and the “Walter Cronkite of Wrestling,” the late Solie added legitimacy to an often-farcical form of entertainment with his serious and intelligent style. Solie was as much a part of the glory days of Georgia and Florida wrestling in the 1970s and ’80s as Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rich or any other wrestler.
3. Vince McMahon: I admit that this is a sentimental pick, as I grew up in the ’70s watching WWE (then known as WWWF and later WWF) on Saturday afternoons on ch. 45 with McMahon as the announcer. He didn’t always know the names of holds (“Oh, what a maneuver!”), but he brought an enthusiasm that added to the excitement of the matches. Every time a challenger got a near fall in a title match, McMahon would yell: “One, two, new champ … no, he didn’t get him!” Although McMahon will go down as one of the greatest heels of all time, he always favored the babyfaces as an announcer. The look of disgust on his face when interviewing a heel was priceless.
1. David Crockett: Because his family owned the promotion (Jim Crockett Promotions, which was later bought by Ted Turner and became WCW), Crockett got to play wrestling announcer. He was awful at it. Crockett didn’t have a great voice and he wasn’t smooth at all. Whenever something exciting happened in the ring, he would just start yelling, which was incredibly annoying. And while most wrestling play-by-play men favor the babyfaces, Crockett took it to another level. I remember one time when heel manager Jim Cornette was getting whipped with a belt, and Crockett, in his screechy voice, was yelling, “Whip him! Whip him like a dog!”
2. Jack Reynolds: He looked and sounded like a regional wrestling announcer from the early ’70s, which was fine when he was the voice of Cleveland wrestling. But Reynolds and his dull persona were woefully out of place when he joined WWE during the days of The Rock and Wrestling Connection. His color man in WWE was former wrestler Angelo Mosca, and they formed perhaps the worst announcing tandem in wrestling history.
3. Lee Marshall: Here’s my 1970s sitcom reference for the day: Marshall was the Ted Baxter of wrestling announcers. He had one of those deep “broadcaster voices,” but, unfortunately, his announcing was all style and no substance. His “Road Report” segments on WCW Monday Nitro were brutal.