Fans often ask me if Vince McMahon would scream at me in my headset during Raw.
Yes, but I never heard him.
When Vince would flip out, I simply turned his volume down so I didn’t hear him. Even when Vince wasn’t melting down like a toddler needing a nap, he wouldn’t add anything of value, would distract my train of thought and so I chose to ignore him. Once, he asked me if I heard his instructions. I apologized and said there must have been a technical problem.
Now, Jim Ross was an EXCELLENT producer. He would produce the announcers during live episodes of “Sunday Night Heat”. When my co-host would talk, JR would open my channel and remind me of a pertinent fact, interesting point-of-view or some other small soundbyte that I could comprehend and put into my own words.
JR would be doing this less than sixty minutes before he was to go on live pay-per-view himself and call nearly three hours of action. Not only was he prepared for his job but for mine too. He made me the announcer I am today and I am eternally grateful.
Some of the best experiences from my time in the WWE were before the event, as I would meet with the talent individually before calling their matches. “What were they hoping to accomplish?” and “What’s important to you for me to talk about?” were some of the most frequent questions I would ask. No one ever said to me, “I don’t know.” They all knew what they wanted to accomplish and what important points they wanted me to hit.
Vince Russo was also very good and giving me bullet points to hit. Love him or hate him, Vince Russo was extremely passionate about his production and had a point-of-view he wanted to get across.
I can honestly say the same thing happens when I ask questions of wrestlers in ROH. They all have important points-of-view for their match at hand. AJ Styles is one of the most thorough. So is Adam Cole. No surprise they are two of the best wrestlers in the world today.
I usually ask myself those same questions about purpose and importance before every show. When Steve Corino, Nigel McGuinness or Caprice Coleman are preparing, we review the meanings, the “how’s” and “why’s” of action and emotion. It’s one thing that sets Professional Wrestling apart from other sports. It’s the only thing we review. The rest will speak for itself in the ring.
Jim Ross was an excellent producer because he’s an excellent play-by-play man. The best in the last 30 years, Ross is on par with Gordon Solie and Lance Russell in my book of all-time greats. I thought Tony Schiavone was really terrific too in the heyday of Jim Crockett Promotions. He was saddled with David Crockett, usually, who was terrible but Schiavone pushed through. While he was burned out, in my opinion, in the dying days of WCW, Tony is vastly underrated.
To me, Vince McMahon was not a great announcer. He had enthusiasm and talent but he was distracted many times by either a myopic view of a specific talent or his burning desire to call all of the shots. Even when he was announcing Raw, he would produce and direct in between segments, driving Kevin Dunn and director Kerwin Silfies crazy.
But, it was his desire to produce instead of announce that led me to getting hired in 1996 and for that, I am thankful. I write this article on a plane, heading to Chicago for the wedding of Maria Kanellis and Michael Bennett. Without Vince wanting to make that change, I would never have met these two wonderful people. I wouldn’t have met the thousands of young men and women I have enjoyed getting to know over the last 18 years, if Vince didn’t want to change in 1996.
Why won’t Vince change now? He appears to be stuck in an almost rigid ideology and the WWE suffers. He changed in 1996 and then again in 1997 to usher in the Attitude Era with Vince Russo. The company is financially stable but the fanbase is desperate for change.
I stopped listening to Vince when he would flip out. Will there come a time when his company stops listening to him? The fans certainly have.
Thoughts? Share them with me on Twitter @RealKevinKelly