Top 10 Wrestling Play-By-Play Announcers
On Wednesday, it was announced that WWE Hall of Fame announcer, Jim Ross, AKA ‘Good ‘Ol JR’ was retiring from World Wrestling Entertainment. While he’s been away from the microphone for a while, he has been working in recruitment for WWE along with other backstage roles. In the opinion of most wrestling fans, J.R. was the best of all time, and I certainly agree, but who were the top 10?
He was already one of the best by the time he came to WWE, thanks to his experience in Mid-South and WCW, but after beating his health issues, J.R. made the famed ‘Attitude Era’ great with his passionate calls of some of the biggest events of all time!
It’s a shame that most of the country never got to see Lance Russell behind the mic, because he could make a story pop! Not only was he good at getting the matches’ action across, but when a ‘bad guy’ went too far in his interview time, Lance was great at getting mad and telling him ‘That’s enough, we gotta go to a break.’ Evansville fans will remember as I do growing up in Louisville, ‘Tuesday/Wednesday Night at the Gardens/Colliseum…Be There!’
While Gorilla was a monster in the ring, he’ll ultimately be remembered more for his time on the headset. Through the 80’s and early 90’s Gorilla became the number one announcer for major events. Whether he was trying to compete with the flamboyant Jesse Ventura as his color man, or fending off a smarmy comment from Bobby Heenan with a ‘Will You Stop!’ Gorilla was great at making the wrestlers seem larger than life!
Solie did most of his best work before I was into wrestling, but he did have a brief comeback in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He may have been a little outdated by that time, but for an era when wrestling was seen as mostly, pure sport, Solie was an Al Michaels or Brent Musburger of his craft.
A lot of people give Michael Cole a hard time, but more often than not, you won’t notice Michael’s commentary, and that’s a good thing. When he’s not in his ‘bad guy’ character, Cole actually does a great job of telling the story, without drawing a lot of attention to himself. Remember, he learned from the best, Good Ol J.R.!
For about seven years, a small northeastern wrestling promotion was getting a buzz all over the country. It can be argued that ECW or Extreme Championship Wrestling invented the ideas that boosted all wrestling in the late 90’s. Through ECW’s entire run, only one man provided their play-by-play, and for most of the time, he did it solo, without the help of a color guy. Joey Styles’ commentary was as extreme and in-your-face as the wrestling itself, and when the big spots happened, you could count on a high pitched ‘OH MY GOD!’
Tony had a brief run in WWE toward the end of the 80’s, but is best known for his work in WCW on Monday Nitro during the Monday Night Wars. He’s the voice that dropped the phrase ‘That oughta put some butts in seats,’ sarcastically referring to WWE’s champion, Mick Foley. Though that seems to come back and haunt him, Tony’s work spanned several decades and he did great play-by-play in the TBS studio days, right on up to calling big matches in the Gerogia Dome at the height of wrestling’s popularity. He’s one guy, I wished was still around, and I’m surprised he never resurfaced over the years.
He was always third or fourth string in WCW, but he was better than that. He has also always been first string for 11 years in TNA, and I’m not sure he’s really good enough for that, but there is something to be said for Mike keeping that seat for so long. He certainly knows his stuff, and in WCW he was used for the international stars that came in, who Schiavone and Eric Bischoff had no intention of learning anything about.
Vince is the reason that wrestling is still around to this day, and up until the mid 90’s, no one knew he was in charge. He was just the TV announcer. He broadcasted alongside Jesse Ventura on Saturday Night’s Main Event, and he growled the openings to many shows and Pay-Per-Views. Maybe it was because he WAS the one in charge, his commentary was good, but never came off as good as some of his peers. Will he go down as one of the best ever…as Vince would say, ‘That remains to be seen…
Another relative unknown, but very good at getting over a good match. At his time in World Class in Dallas he was the stronger of their two main announcers. His counterpart, Mark Lowrance always seemed too uptight when calling matches, while Mercer had a more laid back tone, like Lance Russell had in Memphis.