Monday, April 23, 2012

Quality Commentators

As a fan of wrestling I have to listen to commentators for hours at a time and there are a lot more bad commentators than good ones. What made me start thinking about this was that I was watching UFC 145 and got to listen to Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan do commentary which to me is exactly the kind of commentary a fight should have, and the kind of thing that applies to MMA and wrestling equally.

Both men have a role that they play on commentary. Goldberg handles the backstories of the fighters, the fights, and what the fight means for the fighter. Rogan handles the details of the fighting which he is great at because he's a big fan of the sport, and used to be a fighter, albeit not for an extended time. Both of them can do both things, and you'll hear Goldberg comment on maneuvers or Rogan give commentary about the story of the fighters, but they stick to what they do best and give a great product. Goldberg also knows that Rogan, and the details of the fight have the higher priority over what he's talking about and cuts himself off, but does a great job of picking back up when the fight slows again. The most important part is that they work well together and probably have a good relationship outside of the job as well, although that is just speculation on my part.

The biggest difference from UFC's commentary to WWE's commentary is that they don't prioritize the in ring action unless it's the main event, and sometimes it only matters once they get to the PPV. So much of the commentary is about selling the product and not selling the action in the ring. What the WWE commentary needs more of is the Rogan aspect of commentary. A person who can call the action well, and explain why a wrestler is doing what they are doing to viewers. A portion of your viewer is going to understand, but there are always small things to point out that teach the viewer, and help to develop how smart the fighter is performing, something that can be used to play up the abilities of wrestlers who aren't as strong in the ring as others. They may not be great at a ton of things, but if you highlight the small things they do to make their moves more effective they seem like a better fighter.

As wrestling is centered more on entertainment than MMA is the sports they like to go with a heel/face dynamic with their announcers which is done to varying degrees of success from Bobby Heenan to Michael Cole. Heenan often used comedy to play down the faces, but mostly played up the actions of the heels to emphasize how smart their cheating is instead of how dumb the faces are which is what Cole does. Heenan, and Lawler when he was a heel, and not being sexist, were capable of acknowledging the smart things that the faces do, because they would appreciate the quality of the performer which Cole never does. I'm fine with wrestling commentary without the heel/face dynamic, but if WWE feels the need to use it the heel has to be talented, know wrestling, and be entertaining.

Currently WWE commentary often lessens the product that is being watched instead of enhancing the viewing experience. Michael Cole makes listening to the commentary unbearable, and Lawler isn't much better and I've taken to listening to music while watching wrestling instead of listening to commentary. Something I wouldn't think of doing over a UFC show. The commentators need to compliment the in ring action and not take the focus from it which is something the WWE could learn from UFC, or perhaps the WWF.

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