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For The Record 5.10.09: Smackdown’s Announce Team

May 10, 2009 | Posted by Kristopher Rodriguez

The Jim Ross/Todd Grisham team is a product of chaos. Since late 2007, all three brands have experienced a reshuffling of commentators.

Modifications

At Armageddon 2007, JBL attacked Chris Jericho and shortly thereafter returned to the ring. The Coach replaced JBL in the broadcast booth and joined Michael Cole to form a terribly disjointed commentary duo. Fortunately, Mick Foley replaced The Coach at Backlash and tried his hand at commentary.

Meanwhile, on April 15 of last year, ECW commentator Joey Styles was replaced by Mike Adamle. The new tongue-twisted, aloof play-by-play commentator was often criticized and would not remain at that position for long.

The 2008 WWE Draft truly “shook things up.” Long-time Raw commentator Jim Ross swapped roles with long-time Smackdown commentator Michael Cole. And at the drop of a hat, WWE had drastically altered the voices of the “rival” brands.

In the month following the WWE Draft, Mike Adamle was placed on Raw as the show’s General Manager. As a result, Todd Grisham was quickly penciled in as Adamle’s replacement on ECW.

As if that wasn’t enough, there were still more changes to come. Mick Foley ended his brief commentary tenure on Smackdown just prior to Summerslam. That created a domino effect. Taz returned to Smackdown after a two year absence and Matt Striker was seated alongside Todd Grisham on ECW.

The teams remained relatively stable until last month. Taz left WWE two days prior to Wrestlemania. His departure affected two brands, as Todd Grisham became Smackdown’s play-by-play commentator while Josh Matthews took over the reigns as ECW’s play-by-play man.

Hopefully we won’t see any more changes made to Raw, Smackdown, and ECW’s broadcast teams. It’s good for audiences to be able to associate distinct voices with distinct shows.

Michael Cole seems to be growing into his role as the flagship show’s top voice. Cole knows when to keep calm, when to elevate his voice, and when to shut up. His partner, Jerry Lawler, continues to be a solid contributor to Raw. He’s not only a legendary figure, he’s also WWE’s most credible color commentator.

On the ECW side, Matt Striker is an entertaining contributor to the brand’s overall product. He’s an intelligent commentator. He’s the more articulate, less annoying version of “Professor” Mike Tenay. Josh Matthews is still adjusting to his new role. In time, I believe he will produce quality work. However, my guess is that he’ll always be a tier below Cole and Grisham as a broadcasting talent.

Over on Smackdown

Ross and Grisham are doing great work on WWE’s blue brand. Both are skilled in their own unique ways.

Grisham is the sort of broadcaster that keeps things light. He is good at engaging color commentators in conversation and employing the use of subtle humor when the opportunity presents itself. And though the Slammy Awards are fixed, I’m still guessing that WWE’s decision to name Grisham and Striker as 2008’s Announce Team of the Year was based at least partly on merit.

Jim Ross seems to be more relaxed in his role as color commentator. In his new job, he’s no longer responsible for moderating conversations and calling every hold. He now has the freedom to offer analysis. And considering the fact that Ross used to be WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent Relations, Ross is more than qualified to critique and compliment the performances of Smackdown wrestlers.

Since the time Ross was moved from his Raw position, other commentators have stepped up to the plate. Michael Cole is now the voice of WWE’s highest rated show. The placement of Cole on Raw is a smart long-term decision for WWE. Todd Grisham has also been given a big break as a WWE announcer. He gets to work on Friday Night Smackdown and hone his craft alongside Jim Ross, the patriarch of play-by-play.

There is an understated tone of respect between Ross and Grisham. While Grisham is witty and articulate, he always shows deference to his veteran colleague. Ross, for his part, legitimizes Grisham as a commentator by treating him as an equal. But all in all, Grisham and Ross sound like they’re having fun. And as the mark of true professionals, they know when to rib each other and when to pull back.

Ross and Grisham produce high quality work. Hopefully they’ll be given years, rather than months, to develop as WWE’s premier announce team.

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Kristopher Rodriguez
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