Best Wrestling Commentators of all Time

by | Aug 18, 2023 | Wrestling | 0 comments

Wrestling is more than just a sport; it’s a theatrical spectacle where every slam, every cheer, and every dramatic pause is narrated by the voices behind the microphone. The commentators and presenters are the unsung heroes, weaving the fabric of the story that unfolds in the ring. In the world of wrestling, where giants clash and rivalries are born, the role of commentators has evolved from mere broadcasting to an art form. They are the storytellers, the critics, and the pulse of the action. From the legendary voices that have shaped wrestling history to the criticized decisions that sparked controversies, the landscape of wrestling commentary is as diverse as it is compelling. Dive into the world of the 30 best wrestling commentators and presenters, and explore the voices that have defined sports entertainment.

Current Best Wrestling Commentators (Top 10)

Excalibur (AEW):

  • Knowledge: Excalibur’s encyclopedic knowledge of wrestling history and techniques allows him to explain complex moves with ease. He often references past matches and rivalries, providing context that enriches the viewing experience.
  • Energy: His energetic delivery and enthusiasm make every match feel like a main event. His voice rises and falls with the action, capturing the drama and excitement of each moment.
  • Storytelling: He weaves intricate narratives into his commentary, connecting wrestlers’ pasts, present actions, and future implications, creating a cohesive and engaging story.

Pat McAfee (WWE):

  • Untapped Energy: McAfee’s energy is contagious. He reacts to every move as if he’s a fan in the crowd, bringing a genuine excitement that resonates with viewers.
  • Fan Connection: His relatable and down-to-earth style helps fans at home feel the thrill of being at the event.
  • Chemistry with Co-Commentators: His playful banter with Michael Cole adds a dynamic and entertaining layer to the commentary, making it feel like a conversation between friends.

Michael Cole (WWE):

  • Consistency: Cole’s unwavering professionalism and consistent delivery have made him a reliable voice in WWE for over two decades.
  • Storytelling: He masterfully narrates the action, seamlessly weaving in ongoing storylines, character motivations, and historical context.
  • Iconic Phrases: His catchphrases, like “Vintage Orton” or “It’s boss time,” have become synonymous with specific wrestlers, adding a unique touch to his commentary.

Vic Joseph (NXT):

  • Calm Presence: Joseph’s calm demeanor provides a steady guide through the chaotic world of NXT. He never gets lost in the action, maintaining a clear and focused delivery.
  • Versatility: He adapts to different wrestling styles, whether it’s a technical wrestling match or a high-flying spectacle, providing insightful commentary that complements the action.
  • Knowledge: His deep understanding of wrestling dynamics, including the psychology and strategy behind each move, adds depth and sophistication to his commentary.

Tony Schiavone (AEW):

  • Emotional Connection: Schiavone’s ability to convey emotion through his voice draws audiences into the match. Whether it’s excitement, tension, or sorrow, he makes fans feel what he feels.
  • Nostalgia: His return to wrestling commentary has rekindled memories for long-time fans, reminding them of classic WCW moments.
  • Storytelling: His rich narration, filled with historical references and personal insights, enhances the story of each match, making it more engaging and memorable.

Corey Graves (WWE):

  • Analytical Approach: Graves breaks down the technical aspects of wrestling, explaining the strategy and mechanics behind each move. His insights provide a deeper understanding of what’s happening in the ring.
  • Heel Persona: His ability to play the antagonist adds tension and conflict to the commentary, creating a more engaging dynamic between the commentators.
  • Potential: When focused on analysis and storytelling, he showcases his potential to be among the best, providing a unique and insightful perspective.

Jim Ross (AEW):

  • Experience: JR’s decades of experience bring wisdom and authenticity to AEW’s products. He’s seen it all and shares that knowledge with the audience.
  • Emotional Connection: His heartfelt and passionate delivery adds a human touch to the commentary, making every moment feel significant.
  • Critical Eye: His willingness to call out flaws and mistakes adds a realness to the commentary, showing that he’s not just a cheerleader but a critical observer.

Byron Saxton (WWE):

  • Energy: Saxton’s lively and energetic commentary adds a youthful exuberance to the matches. He reacts with genuine excitement, making the action feel more thrilling.
  • Dynamic Interaction: His playful back-and-forth with Corey Graves creates an engaging and entertaining dynamic that adds character to the commentary team.
  • Big Match Calls: His ability to rise to the occasion during big matches, delivering passionate and memorable calls, showcases his talent and connection to the product.

Jimmy Smith (WWE):

  • Learning Curve: Smith’s transition from MMA to WWE has been marked by rapid growth. His ability to adapt and learn the nuances of pro wrestling commentary shows his dedication and potential.
  • Timing: His understanding of when to speak and when to let the action breathe shows maturity and awareness that enhances the viewing experience.
  • Future Potential: His continuous improvement, coupled with his fresh perspective from the MMA world, indicates a promising future in WWE commentary.

Wade Barrett (NXT):

  • Energy and Comedy: Barrett’s lively commentary, sprinkled with humor and wit, adds entertainment value and a unique voice to NXT.
  • Wrestler’s Perspective: His experience as a former wrestler provides unique insights into the psychology, strategy, and physicality of the sport.
  • Unique Style: His distinct British accent and catchphrases like “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news” set him apart, making him a standout commentator in NXT.

Best Previous Wrestling Commentators (Top 5)

Influential Voices of the Past

Wrestling has been graced by many voices that have left an indelible mark on the industry. Here are five influential voices from the past that have shaped the world of wrestling commentary:

  • Gordon Solie: Known as a legendary voice in wrestling, Gordon Solie’s commentary in the 1980s is something that fans still reminisce about. His unique style and profound understanding of the sport made him a standout figure. His contribution to wrestling in the 1980s is unparalleled, and he’s often considered one of the first people to mention when discussing that era.
  • Bobby Heenan: “The Brain” Heenan was a master of quick wit and humor. His ability to play the heel commentator so well made him an unforgettable presence at the announcers’ table. His quotes are still cherished by fans, and his style is something that many have tried to emulate but never quite matched.
  • Joey Styles: The voice of the original ECW, Joey Styles was unique in that he often had to call the action all alone. His hard work was recognized as Best Television Announcer by Wrestling Observer from 1994 to 1996. ECW’s impact on the wrestling world would not have been the same without Styles’ distinctive commentary.
  • Jesse Ventura: “The Body” Ventura had a distinctive voice that made matches fun to watch. His genuine passion for the sport, even when it seemed like he might not care, made him a beloved commentator. His style also helped his political career, showcasing his versatility.
  • Gorilla Monsoon: A name synonymous with wrestling commentary, Gorilla Monsoon’s place in history is debated. Some remember him as a bad commentator, but his dynamic with Bobby Heenan and his ability to narrate the action made him a memorable figure in wrestling history.

These voices have not only entertained fans but have also shaped the way wrestling is presented and perceived. Their influence continues to be felt in modern wrestling, and their legacy is a testament to their talent and dedication.

Iconic Moments and Calls

The following are some iconic moments and calls from previous top commentators that have become part of wrestling folklore:

  • Jim Ross’ Call of Mankind’s Fall: Jim Ross’ shocked “Good God almighty!” when Mankind was thrown off the Hell in a Cell by The Undertaker is one of the most replayed calls in wrestling history.
  • Bobby Heenan’s Wit: Whether it was his quick one-liners or his banter with Gorilla Monsoon, Heenan’s wit was unmatched. His ability to turn any situation into a humorous moment made him a fan favorite.
  • Joey Styles’ Solo Commentary: Calling action all alone is a feat that few could achieve, but Joey Styles did it with flair in ECW. His unique style and ability to capture the essence of a match single-handedly are still admired.
  • Jesse Ventura’s Passionate Calls: Ventura’s passion for wrestling shone through in his commentary. His genuine excitement and distinctive voice made even the most mundane matches engaging.
  • Gordon Solie’s Timeless Narration: Solie’s commentary in old matches is a treasure for fans who want to relive the golden era of wrestling. His narration style and profound understanding of wrestling dynamics made him a timeless voice.

These moments and calls are more than just words; they are part of the rich tapestry of wrestling history. They have captured the emotions, the excitement, and the essence of wrestling in a way that continues to resonate with fans across generations.

Best Retired Wrestling Commentators (Top 5)

Legendary Voices

Lance Russell (Memphis/CWA/USWA and WCW)

  • Career Highlights: Known as the perfect voice for Memphis wrestling, Lance Russell was a calming presence amidst the chaos. He was versatile, able to keep up with every hold, and was an excellent interviewer. His ability to adapt and be funny made him an integral part of the wrestling scene.
  • Memorable Moments: His interaction with Ric Flair in the Memphis studio, where he went from politely dealing with Flair’s compliments to laughing at Jerry Lawler’s jokes, is a brilliant angle that showcases his skills.

Jim Ross (Tri-State Wrestling, Mid-South Wrestling/UWF, WCW, WWE, and SMW)

  • Career Highlights: Jim Ross’s passionate and knowledgeable commentary has made him one of the best announcers in the business. His flair for the dramatic and ability to put over wrestlers, matches, and angles is unparalleled.
  • Memorable Moments: One of his favorite moments was during UWF when he called an angle involving Bill Watts and Eddie Gilbert. His call took a great angle and elevated it to another level.

Kent Walton (ITV World of Sport)

  • Career Highlights: The voice of British wrestling for decades, Kent Walton’s quiet and serious style was perfect for the technical nature of British wrestling. His frustration with cheating and his ability to get over the psychology of holds made him a unique voice.
  • Memorable Moments: His call of a match between “Judo” Al Hayes and Steve Veidor, where he perfectly conveyed his frustration with cheating, stands out.

Bob Caudle (Jim Crockett Promotions/WCW)

  • Career Highlights: Bob Caudle’s grandfatherly style made him a beloved figure. His ability to get caught up in the excitement of a match without losing his composure made him a great announcer.
  • Memorable Moments: His call of the Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine match at the inaugural Starrcade in 1983 added enjoyment to the match.

Gordon Solie (Championship Wrestling from Florida and Many Others)

  • Career Highlights: Once considered the greatest announcer in wrestling history, Gordon Solie’s serious delivery and ability to describe exactly what holds did to the body made him a legend.
  • Memorable Moments: His call of Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk in an “I quit” match at Clash of the Champions: New York Knockout, where he set the tone with “Five letters. Two words. ‘I quit,'” is unforgettable.

Retirement Stories and Contributions

  • Lance Russell: His retirement left a void in Memphis wrestling, but his legacy as a calming voice and versatile announcer continues to be celebrated.
  • Jim Ross: Even after retiring, Ross’s passionate commentary continues to inspire new generations of announcers.
  • Kent Walton: His retirement marked the end of an era in British wrestling, but his unique style remains influential.
  • Bob Caudle: His retirement was felt by fans who appreciated his genuine and grandfatherly approach to calling matches.
  • Gordon Solie: Solie’s retirement marked the end of a career that set the standard for serious and knowledgeable wrestling commentary.

Worst Wrestling Commentators (Top 5)

Criticized Commentators

1. Mark Madden

Mark Madden’s commentary during WCW 2000 was a disaster. He embraced the Russo philosophy of worked-shoots, clumsily using insider terms that trivialized the action and killed the suspension of disbelief. His approach was so misguided that he became one of the few people WCW fired, and rightfully so.

2. Michael Cole

Michael Cole’s tenure as a commentator has been marked by a severe lack of wrestling knowledge and a tendency to talk over matches. His use of phrases like “Vintage Cena!” has become infamous, and his distractions from plugging WWE products have led to a lackluster performance. The current state of wrestling broadcasting with Cole at the helm has been deemed pathetic by fans.

3. Rob Bartlett

Rob Bartlett’s stint as a commentator on WWE Raw was short-lived and painful. An outsider to the business, Bartlett’s lack of support from McMahon and Heenan made his inexperience glaringly obvious. His strange choice to join the WWE commentary team ended in failure.

4. Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Pepe the dog

Steve “Mongo” McMichael’s commentary was marked by unprofessionalism and a lack of understanding of the wrestling business. His debut on Nitro was filled with lame gags, and his commentary style was widely criticized. Even his appearance with Pepe the dog couldn’t save his reputation.

5. Jack Reynolds

Jack Reynolds brought an old-school territory feel to the WWE during the mid-80s Rock ‘n Wrestling Era. However, his outdated slang and cringeworthy remarks, such as referring to “Orientals” during a house show taping in Toronto, made him a controversial figure. His style was deemed more suitable for a pre-cable era, and his commentary was not well-received.

Controversial Moments and Calls

1. Modern Jerry Lawler

Jerry Lawler’s modern commentary style has been criticized as cheesy and ineffective. His transition from a cartoonish heel persona has been difficult, and he has sounded bored with the job. His work with JR is remembered fondly, but his recent performance has been lackluster.

2. Booker T

Booker T’s commentary is known for its randomness and misplaced energy. His style has been compared to Tony Schiavone’s exaggerated claims, diminishing the effect of anything else they might say. A drinking game based on Booker’s catchphrases like “Right HERE” and “SHUCKY DUCKY QUACK QUACK” became a humorous critique of his style.

3. Art Donovan

Art Donovan’s 1994 King of the Ring commentary is remembered as comedy gold, but technically, he was a terrible wrestling commentator. His ignorance of the product was seen as disrespectful, but his great lines provided entertainment during a low point in wrestling history.

4. Lita

Lita’s attempt at broadcasting was not a great fit. Though she put in a solid effort, her commentary was likened to hosting a public access show covering an elementary school PTA meeting. Her transition from wrestling to broadcasting was not successful.

5. Dusty Rhodes

Dusty Rhodes, a wrestling legend, surprisingly did not translate well into the broadcast booth. His star was too bright to be hidden behind a booth, and his commentary did not live up to his reputation as one of the best promo men in history.

Best and Worst Decisions and Controversies (Top 5)

Best Decisions in Commentary

Wrestling commentary has seen its share of brilliant decisions that have shaped the industry. Here are some of the best:

  • Celebrity Involvement: Involving celebrities like Bad Bunny at WrestleMania has often been a successful strategy. Despite initial criticism, Bad Bunny’s performance was well-received, and many fans want to see him return for another match. 
  • Pushing International Stars: The rise of Japanese wrestlers like Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura in WWE was a bright spot, showing a move towards inclusivity and recognizing international talent.
  • The Attitude Era: The birth of the Mr. McMahon persona and the kick-starting of the Attitude Era was a defining moment in wrestling history.
  • WrestleMania Streak: Undertaker’s fabled WrestleMania streak became a significant tradition in wrestling, adding to the mystique and legacy of one of the industry’s most dominant wrestlers.
  • Rivalries: The rivalry between Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin was one of the best of all time, creating unforgettable moments and boosting WWE’s popularity.

Worst Decisions and Controversies

Wrestling has also been marred by some controversial decisions and moments. Here’s an analysis of the top 5:

The Montreal Screwjob: One of the most infamous incidents in wrestling history, the Montreal Screwjob occurred at the 1997 Survivor Series. Bret Hart, who was the WWE Champion, was set to face Shawn Michaels. Hart was leaving WWE for WCW but didn’t want to lose the title in his home country of Canada. Vince McMahon, fearing Hart might leave with the title, orchestrated a real-life double-cross during the match. Referee Earl Hebner called for the bell while Michaels had Hart in his own finishing move, the Sharpshooter, even though Hart didn’t tap out. This shattered Bret Hart’s professional relationship with WWE and Vince McMahon and left a lasting scar on the wrestling industry. 

Questionable Booking Decisions: Lawrence Taylor beating Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania 11 left a sour taste with fans, as a non-wrestler defeating a seasoned professional seemed unrealistic. Similarly, Vince McMahon winning the Royal Rumble in 1999 was a shocking decision that many fans felt undermined the integrity of the competition.

Racial Undertones: The rivalry between Triple H and Booker T was marred by racial undertones, with Triple H using tactics to demoralize Booker T that many considered racially insensitive. The match itself was seen as a complete burial of Booker T’s character, and the storyline is still criticized today.

Tasteless Storylines: The Vince & Shane McMahon versus Shawn Michaels & God storyline was considered tasteless and tone-deaf. The portrayal of God as a tag team partner and the subsequent mockery of religious beliefs was met with backlash from fans and religious groups alike.

Missed Opportunities: The losses of Shinsuke Nakamura & Asuka at WrestleMania 34 quelled their main event pushes. Both were fan favorites and had significant momentum, but their losses were seen as a strange choice and a missed opportunity to elevate new stars.

These decisions and controversies have shaped the wrestling industry in various ways, leaving lasting impacts and lessons for future generations. They serve as a reminder of the fine line between entertainment and ethics, and the importance of responsible storytelling in the world of professional wrestling.

The world of wrestling commentary is filled with vibrant voices, unforgettable moments, and decisions that have shaped the industry. From the legendary commentators who have left an indelible mark to the criticized figures who stirred controversy, the landscape is as diverse as it is intriguing. The best decisions have propelled wrestling to new heights, while the worst have sparked debates and lessons learned. Through the exploration of these various facets, we gain insights into the art of wrestling commentary, its impact on sports entertainment, and the legacy it continues to build. The voices behind the microphone are as vital as the action in the ring, narrating the drama, emotion, and excitement that make wrestling a unique spectacle.

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