WWE fans may not have known it, but over the past few weeks, they’ve been watching Joey Styles’ audition to become the full-time voice of Monday Night RAW – a job Styles has dreamed about for years. WWE management obviously liked what they saw, as this past Friday, the former voice of ECW had his dreams come true when he signed on to be RAW’s new play-by-play man.
WWE.com: Congratulations of the new contract, Joey. Now that you’re the official voice of RAW, what’s going through your head? Take us through your emotions right now.
Joey Styles: For the people who don’t know, this job is the culmination of my lifelong dream. I decided I wanted to be in the wrestling business after seeing a WWE match on TV in my bedroom when I was 13 years old. When I was in school pursuing broadcasting, I wasn’t one of those aspiring sportscasters that dreamed of calling the Super Bowl. I wasn’t one of the aspiring newscasters that wanted to moderate a presidential debate. Calling WWE matches, specifically WrestleMania, was all I ever dreamed of for 20 years. I never dreamed bigger than this, so I feel like I am truly blessed that God and WWE has given me this opportunity. My wife said she always knew this would happen, even when I thought my wrestling career was over. So I feel truly blessed. I’m so thrilled and so happy. I’m going to make the best of this. I’m going to work very hard both in front of and behind the WWE cameras, and I hope the fans are happy with my work.
WWE.com: Tell us about the specifics of the deal.
Styles: I signed a five-year contract. And I hope it’s the first of many five-year contracts, quite frankly. I asked Kevin Dunn, Executive Vice President of Television Production for WWE, if he wanted to sign me for 10-15 years, but he couldn’t do that. So I hope this is the first of many five-year contracts.
WWE.com: When did you first get the idea that being the play-by-play man for RAW could turn into a full-time job for you?
Styles: About five weeks ago out of nowhere, WWE asked me if I would want to host RAW for a few weeks. I told them sure. From there, they told me that this would be an audition. They wanted to see what I could do in a WWE setting. They knew what I could do in ECW, and wanted to see what I could do with RAW. They told me that they also wanted me to announce a little bit differently, and see how I would react to them producing him. Additionally, they wanted to see how I fit in with the corporate environment and the people backstage. So to be honest, while it was a tryout to see if I could announce RAW, it was also a tryout for me to see if I could fit in and acclimate to the WWE environment because it was a life-changing decision for me to leave my full-time advertising career to go work for WWE.
WWE.com: So is it safe to assume you gave your two-weeks notice to your employer in advertising?
Styles: On Friday, I got the signed contract faxed back to me at 4:20, and as the office was closing at 4:30, I gave my employer notice. I told them that I would be willing to stay on until the end of the month, which is the end of the year, actually. Obviously, I’d be out Mondays and the mornings on Tuesdays, though. I told them that I wanted to be very involved in transitioning my accounts and all of my hot prospects to the next sales person, even if it means going to meetings to the client or prospect to help close them. I always want to leave any employer on the best of terms. They were thrilled for me. How could you not be thrilled for anybody who gets this opportunity? But they were also sad to see me go.
WWE.com: Tell us a little bit about your history with WWE. This wasn’t your first audition with the company, was it?
Styles: WWE and I have a bit of a history, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad history, though. Long story short – I worked for ECW from 1993 through the company’s demise in January 2001. I did have the opportunity to come in and audition for WWE back in 1995. I politely told them no thank you because at that time, it would have meant giving up my full-time job – I was working for News Corporation, which owns FOX. And I just wasn’t ready for that kind of change in my life. So I politely declined.
Then in 2001 when ECW stopped operations in January, believe it or not, I was in conversations with Eric Bischoff about coming to work for WCW, which he was about to buy with the help of Brian Bedol, who was the gentleman that founded and built the Classic Sports Network and sold it to ESPN. It then became known as ESPN Classic. So I was going to be working for the newly-owned Eric Bischoff WCW. Then out of nowhere in March 2001, word came down that WWE was actually buying WCW because Time Warner decided they no longer wanted wrestling on their networks.
At that point, WWE was really the sole survivor of the wrestling world. I did speak with Kevin Dunn in late May 2001. I came in and did an audition. I was later offered a position, but we couldn’t come to terms on a full-time position. So I asked if I could work with the company on a part-time basis because I was still living five minutes from WWE Headquarters in Stamford at the time, which is my hometown. But at the time, WWE didn’t want any part-timers. So I just assumed my wrestling career was over. I went on to do very sporadic appearances. I only did events that involved wrestling legends or hall of famers. Other than that, I really didn’t want to do anything with wrestling. The only reason I did those was because I am such a fan of the legends that built this business.
Then after WWE bought the ECW assets, there was word that the company was going to do an ECW pay-per-view. To be honest, I never expected to get a phone call from WWE to participate in it. I understand that it was Paul Heyman that was actually pushing for me, and I thank him for that. I also thank him for giving me my break in this business and teaching me how to call wrestling matches in the beginning. Anyway, Kevin Dunn called me and it didn’t take very long for us to reach an agreement for me to call One Night Stand. Once that was over, I figured that was it. I signed a deal to be a part-timer, which basically meant I was the voice of ECW. That job entailed calling ECW pay-per-views once a year, hosting ECW DVDs and doing sporadic work for WWE 24/7.
Then for whatever reason, there was a change in the announcing on RAW, and I got another call from Kevin, which led to my audition.
WWE.com: What are your feelings on succeeding Jim Ross?
Styles: Jim Ross is the greatest play-by-play man there has ever been in professional wrestling. And if Jim Ross and WWE ever came to an agreement to bring him back to call RAW again, I would do the right thing and step aside and do something else for the company. Ideally, I would slide over and be the color man. To work with Jim Ross would be an honor. But my goal is to one day, meet the standard that Jim Ross has set for professional wrestling play-by-play.
WWE.com: How do you think you’ve been received so far by Jerry Lawler, Jonathan Coachman and the RAW Superstars?
Styles: Jonathan Coachman is and is not very much the person you see on TV – The Coach. When I say he is the person you see on TV, I mean he is cocky and he loves being a star. A lot of times he enjoys the fringe benefits that go along with being a star. He likes to go out to the hottest clubs and all that. But at the same time, The Coach seemed very uncomfortable doing play-by-play and was thrilled and welcomed me and really shepherded me through my audition.
I didn’t really know how I was going to be received because I know Jerry “The King” Lawler, who by the way is a legend in this business. Some fans don’t realize this, but Jerry Lawler is a two-time World Heavyweight Champion, and I don’t think he gets enough credit. He main evented sold-out arenas for years and years. He started in 1970, so he’s been doing it for a long time. But I didn’t know how I was going to be received by The King because I know he’s very close with J.R., but he never blamed me for anything that happened with J.R.
As for the locker room area, I didn’t know how I was going to be received there either, because I had heard that sometimes ECW talents weren’t received well for whatever reason. But for some reason, I was made to feel very welcome by everybody from Day One. And of course, I did the right thing and I was very respectful to everybody I met in the WWE locker room, including and especially the veterans, who deserve to be respected. For me, it was just a thrill and an honor to meet many of the veterans in the locker room. So I have no complaints whatsoever with my experience with WWE thus far. And of course, I have to mention the catering. Had I known the food was so good, I would have signed on back in 1995.
WWE.com: Have you received any compliments or criticism about your work from WWE management?
Styles: Basically, WWE wanted me to tone it down a bit. Remember, I was always used to working with no color man, or just one color man. And now I work with two color men, so I need to talk less. I also need to talk more in sound bytes, and I need to speak more quickly because, especially on RAW where the segments are four to 10 minutes long. ECW TV was much different where every one of the matches was two segments and 15 minutes long. On RAW, I really have to hit the point quickly. And also I have to save the over-the-top screaming that I used to do for very special occasions. I think I only did the “Oh my God!” once since I’ve been here, which was when a bawdy Ric Flair, who was bleeding all over my notes at the time, back-dropped Triple H on the announcers’ table at Survivor Series. So there will only be an “Oh my God!” when something of that magnitude occurs. There should have been one earlier when Kane and Big Show double chokeslammed Lance Cade on the RAW announce table, but apparently I ran so fast that I pulled the wire out of my headset. So nobody heard me scream it. But quite frankly, I’m honored to be getting feedback straight from Vince McMahon.
WWE.com: Tell us about commentating Survivor Series. There’s a lot of talk on the Internet about the “shoot” comments that were thrown back and forth between the RAW and SmackDown announce teams.
Styles: I would like to point out that I was pretty much left out of that fray, even when Tazz, who I have known for 10 years, and Michael Cole, who I hit it off with immediately, tried to drag me in. So as much as Tazz tried to suck me into that fray, I didn’t want to get sucked in. I was not going to shoot on Michael Cole and Tazz because I think they are excellent at what they do and I didn’t want to bad mouth them. As for the comments Cole and Tazz made towards The King and Coach, I don’t know if that had anything to do with their actual feelings towards them. Speaking to them afterwards, I got the impression that SmackDown needed to be respected the way that RAW is respected both inside and outside of WWE. And they just took it out on everybody. I, however, stayed out of the fray only because I refused to be dragged back into the mud when Tazz kept trying to pull me in.
When we got to the point where it was all five of us calling the Survivor Series Elimination Match, Michael Cole was assigned to do play-by-play. And I’m not a color man, so I basically only chimed in when I was upset when a RAW Superstar was eliminated or thrilled when a SmackDown Superstar was eliminated. But as far as getting in the middle of that, it wasn’t something I would have done anyway. Name calling is not my thing. There were certain points when some things were said and Michael Cole looked over at the table and just saw me just covering my face like “I can’t believe this is going on.” But I understand WWE management loved it.
I also had a blast calling the Trish Stratus vs. Melina match with Tazz. People don’t realize this, but the first time Tazz spoke on television was when he did color commentary with me in 1995 when he dropped the Tasmaniac character. That was 10 years ago and we have not been able to shut him up since. So you can blame Tazz on me.