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Off The Ropes: WWE’s Michael Cole Deserves More Credit Than He Gets by Hab Rich

Watching WWE’s Monday Night Raw this past week, I saw a graphic that teased an upcoming match. This graphic was pretty standard, but with one additional piece of info. A sponsor. Then Michael Cole read the tease and added that particular match was sponsored by one of it’s advertisers.

Immediately, I was saddened and a little disgusted; like, how much more ad revenue can WWE squeeze into three hours of programming? I’ve seen WWE have many sponsors for many events, but never for a single match. After those feelings subsided, I began to feel sad for Michael Cole. Yes, you read right, Michael Cole, the “voice of WWE.”

I remarked on Twitter how sad it made me and got a response from a follower stating that Cole announcing period made him sad. Call me a bleeding heart if you want, but when you look a little closer, you’ll see that he really doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

Right off the bat, let’s start by examining how hard it is to follow a legend in any profession, let alone professional wrestling. If you’re old enough to remember Steve Young having that imaginary monkey lifted off his back on the sideline during Super Bowl XXIX, then you know just what I’m talking about. Having to follow a four time Super Bowl winning quarterback was no walk in the park for Young, I’m sure of it. The constant comparison and scrutiny would have driven the average quarterback insane. Keep that perspective in mind as we shift to Cole.

“Good Ole” Jim Ross, the white meat babyface from Norman, Oklahoma is largely regarded as the greatest announcer in the history of professional wrestling. His catchphrases and exclamatory calls are the stuff of legend. I dare you to name another sports announcer whose commentary audio gets routinely lifted and spliced with current video. You know exactly what I’m talking about, but if you don’t, then CLICK HERE. There’s no shortage of current sports videos featuring crash-and-burn moments with JR’s “Stop the damn match!” added to them (from WWE’s 1998 King of the Ring Pay-Per-View match featuring a Hell in the Cell match between The Undertaker and Mankind).

If that’s not a tough act to follow, then I don’t know what is. Just put yourself in Cole’s shoes for a half second and ask yourself if you could handle WWE commentary duties after a legend? It takes a tough person to do it, and I can’t exactly vouch for his toughness, but again ask yourself if you could take the constant hatred (for NOT being JR) heaped upon you by the millions….(don’t do it) of internet wrestling fans? Could you, under those circumstances be the ONE constant on WWE’s announce team? Be honest when you answer those questions.

If that’s not enough to drive you mad, just imagine having Vince McMahon in your ear every Monday night for three hours.

Vince McMahon.

The Boss.

Backstage.

On headset.

In your ear.

For three hours.

I’ll never confess to being scared of anything, but I gotta say, that sounds a little intimidating. Hell, it drove Mick Foley away from commentary and I know for certain he’s a lot tougher and thicker skinned than I am.

Michael Cole doesn’t flinch. Sure, his commentary style is on the dorky side, but he pulls it off…all with Vinny Mac in his earpiece. Do you want Vince in your ear berating you and calling you every name in the book for flubbing a line on a read or messing up a superstar’s name? Of course you don’t, but week in and week out, Cole does it.

I probably should have lead with the fact that I am far from a fan of Michael Cole. He’s effective and he’s good at what he does, I just don’t care for him like that. My eyes roll around in my head like slots when he calls the “Uso Crazy” from Jimmy and Jey. That doesn’t stop me from noticing and appreciating him for the job he’s done; when you throw in the longevity, it’s impossible to not give him credit.

I also applaud him for working through that absolutely gut-wrenching storyline with Jerry “The King” Lawler, where some genius thought it’d be a good idea to make Michael Cole a heel announcer. I think former heel wrestlers that venture into commentary make the best heel announcers. J.B.L as a heel announcer has great credibility in that role because he was a heel as an in-ring performer. That means I can believe him if and when he threatens to smack Michael Cole or Byron Saxton around.

Cole probably couldn’t intimidate a wet spaghetti noodle off of a fork but some space cadet made him the heel announcer. Shaking your head yet? If not, just try to recall that in his role, he ridiculed Daniel Bryan religiously for being a ‘dork.’ Let that marinate. As horrible as it all was (their WrestleMania 27 match included), he committed to it and still deserves some credit.

Earlier, I mentioned Cole being the constant on the announce team; think about the virtual laundry list of commentary partners he’s had to endure. He survived Booker T, folks. Give Cole his props! Currently, you can catch him carrying the whitest black man on the face of the planet in Byron Saxton (and if you even THINK about giving me any race flak….just don’t, ain’t nothing PC over here). How about Mike Adamle, remember him? Never been so close to thanking God for Michael Cole, have you? Probably not.

Back to the sponsors: I’m not sure the folks who complain about Cole the most have any clue about the many feeds, products and sponsors he has to get through on a Monday Night Raw. He has to plug paid sponsors; he has to plug WWE content as well. Don’t forget about social media; gotta promote the hashtag, remember? As great as JR is, I doubt he could have made some of his most legendary calls while saddled with the responsibility of having to plug WWE’s YouTube, Facebook, Twitter during the matches. Do we get sick of Cole telling us who or what’s trending on Twitter, heck yeah. Keep in mind though, it’s a necessary evil in terms of gauging audience participation through social media. Again, Cole pulls it off.

Is Michael Cole a Hall of Famer? Eh, I don’t really care about the WWE Hall of Fame to be honest. So why would I ask that question? Simple, because inevitably someone will read this column and point out to me (in a sort of ‘factually opinionated’ way) that he isn’t or will never be. There’s plenty of valid arguments on either side, I’m sure, but I just couldn’t care any less.

Taking all these things into consideration, are you ready? No, I said ARE YOU READY?!?!

To: Follow a legend in JR? Have Vince screaming in your ear? Have some goofball turn you heel? Plug the WWE Network every thirty minutes? Endure Byron Saxton (no, seriously….where did they find him and can they take him back there and leave him?)? If you answered in the affirmative, then you should fly up to Stamford. If you didn’t answer each of these questions with a hardy ‘yes,’ then rather reluctantly, you’ve given Michael Cole his proper due.

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