Friday, November 28, 2008

The Three Wise Men of Wrestling Announcing

My good friend Sir James Guttman recently interviewed legendary announcer Lance Russell over at his World Wrestling Insanity site. The audio interview got me thinking about some of the all-time greats in wrestling announcing.

When I think about the greatest announcers in wrestling history, three names spring to mind-Jim Ross, Gordon Solie, and Lance Russell. These three gentlemen made it look so easy calling action in and out of the ring but as anyone who's watched the sport for any significant amount of time knows, it's a lot tougher than it looks.

What makes these guys so great by my estimation? The first is credibility. All three men could make the most incredible situation (and we all know how prone wrestling is to getting ridiculous-even in the old school days) believable. Lance Russell and Jim Ross have both had their work cut out for them whether it was Mr. Russell working in Memphis (can you say Frankenstein's Monster?) or Jim Ross calling the WWF and WWE (how about that fake Diesel and Razor Ramon?).

Second, all three gentlemen had an air of professionalism and respectability about them. While Jim Ross is prone to getting caught up in the action emotionally, it rarely seems fake. When Gordon Solie or Lance Russell lost their temper on air over an angle, it was something special as they were usually strictly business. All three men took pride in their craft and it came across in their announcing, adding to the suspension of disbelief that is so special to wrestling (and heaven knows Jim Ross has had to call some pretty ludicrous things in the WWE).

Finally, all three men know that calling match is about more than describing the action in the ring. I will be the first to admit that Lance Russell's announcing was usually short on the names of moves but he knew that his most important job was to establish the stories being told in the ring and the angles behind them (as did Jim Ross and Gordon Solie). During a shoot interview with Jim Cornette, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan wisely observed that the fans don't need play by play (as they're watching rather than listening to the match) as much as they need to know the stories in the ring. I couldn't agree more and the work of Solie, Ross, and Russell supports this (although Jim Ross and Gordon Solie were both thorough in learning the names of wrestling holds).

These three gentlemen are the cream of the crop. There are certainly other announcers in wrestling who deserve praise but no one in my opinion (with the possible exception of Joey Styles) was or is as good as any of wrestling's three wise men.

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