It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good suplex must be in want of another man to tell everyone at home the power of said suplex.
Sports rely on commentators to tell the story on the pitch, on the court, in the ring. They explain who the players are, the heated rivalry between teams, the action, the score and why we should care. Sports are generally watched by lovers of the sport as well as lovers of the team. When we watch our favourite team play our favourite sport, we know the numbers on the jerseys, we know the scoring system and we know the rules. The commentators are superfluous. If we are watching a game with new teams, the commentators can fill in the blanks. Their inclusion in the game is largely useless and used mostly to make the boring parts of the game more interesting.
Within sports entertainment, that is, wrestling, the commentators serve a strange purpose. They are rarely there to tell us the rules as the rules of wrestling generally change dependant on the storyline within the ring. Matches generally take place between two individuals, so it’s easy to tell the difference unless you’re a terrible racist and the action within the match is simple enough to understand because wrestling relies on pantomime to explain the story and the rhythm of a match. What do commentators add these days? Mostly they debate the ethics of the actions of the two people in the ring. They remind the audience of feuds and point out things that they may have missed.
Back in that great time in wrestling history known as the Attitude Era, the WWF/E had the best commentator known to man: Jumping Jim “JR” Ross. That man could have made paint drying sound exciting. He had such a firm ethical backbone that when a wrestler disgusted him, you were right there with him. You were disgusted too. When he was excited, you were on the edge of your seat. When Mick Foley jumped off that Hell in the Cell back in ’98. You were sure, by God, sure that man was dead.
Nowadays, though, commentators are there to shill out the advertisers, remind the audience to buy the product and to make statements that claim to be erudite but are actually banal. The amount of times I have heard Michael Cole turn to JBL and ask something absurd like, “You’ve been in the ring before. Does it hurt when you fall off the turnbuckle?” is insane. And most of the times, the reply is bleedingly obvious, so much so that the question would be better suited being unanswered, rhetorical or, even better, unasked.
NXT is an exception because the commentary there seems to be mostly play-by-play and the rare times it isn’t, at least it’s kayfabe-enjoyable. Renee Young was amazing at that, where she would talk about seeing a wrestler backstage and giving you an in depth look at them outside the ring.
Because everyone loves JR and the King’s commentary in the Attitude Era, they seem intent on recreating it but they are focussing on the wrong member of that team. No one gave a shit about the King’s commentary. It was shrill, perverse, rude and focussed on women’s breasts. JBL fills that in perfectly because the man is an unpleasant cunt at the best of times, but the other week when she screeched, “YOU STILL GOT IT!” to Jericho about a dozen times, I could have happily muted the TV. His constant, “WAH WAH WAH MAGGLE!” nonsense and bullying of Byron Saxton gets on my nerves. If he and Byron had some back-and-forth or storyline, I could understand it, but Byron says something like, “Wow, Dolph Ziggler is some athelete,” and JBL replies with, “YOU’RE DUMB.”
Fuck off, JBL.
In NXT, although it is vastly superior, it still has fast-talking, wise-cracking Corey Graves who looks and sounds like some hipster jerk from some shithole you’ve never heard of. Maybe that’s his character, I don’t know, he retired from wrestling way before I started watching NXT, and I understand that Tom Phillips needs someone to bounce things off, but surely they can agree on some things rather than Tom saying one thing and Graves disagreeing until he goes blue in the face.
I’ve seen wrestling live many times, both indie shows and big Fed shows. I have sat behind the commentators once and not had the experience improved because of it. For me, wrestling should be as good to watch if you are in the crowd or at home and in order for that to happen, the wrestlers must be able to explain the story of the match at all times rather than rely on the commentators to do that for them.