Former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts was the centerpiece of an in-depth piece on WWE’s workings, published by Sports Illustrated. Roberts spoke to SI on a number of topics related to his time within the company, which spanned about 12 years. Shockingly, in October of 2014, Roberts and WWE parted ways.
Since his departure, Roberts has not been shy to speak his mind about the ways WWE does business. Again, in the interview with SI, Roberts was critical of WWE for some of its past workings.
Roberts spoke on how his final 18 months in WWE were difficult. He referenced the company’s use of writers who were out of touch with the product, and the company, as a whole, not loving pro wrestling anymore:
“Live events used to be really fun. It used to be myself, a production manager, and a road agent. We would make decisions and the shows would be great, but they became a lot more complicated in the last year-and-a-half. Writers who are so out of touch with wrestling fans and wrestling in general were making decisions, and it became really hard to show up to work knowing the product was suffering because of it.”
“The idea should always be to make it better for the fans. Freddie Prinze, Jr. was briefly on the creative team [from 2008-2009]. He was a long-time wrestling fan looking to change things for the better. But the company doesn’t want that. The kids on the writing team—who don’t go to live events—show up at TV and write wrestling, but don’t have the experience of sitting with the crowd three others nights a week, hearing the reactions, seeing what flops and what gets over. So many times we went off the air and the show was just awful, and I knew the fans knew that.”
“People ask why I talk bad about the company that put me on the radar. The best analogy is waiting to meet your hero, but then finally doing so and discovering they weren’t who you expected. WWE was my hero. I was made fun of as a kid for liking it while everyone else grew out of their phase. When I finally got there, I found out the company—who I expected to love pro wrestling more than I did—didn’t love pro wrestling any more, if they ever did to begin with. It was just something they built their shows around while trying to get slowly away from it.”
Continuing, Roberts mentioned some backstage politics within WWE. He noted that guys like Cesaro and Zack Ryder fell victim to the company not wanting them to become stars:
“The wrestlers work hard, but if the company doesn’t want you to get over, you won’t get over. Cesaro was ‘The King of Swing’ and was over, but they cut his legs off. That’s what they do when anything gets over that wasn’t their idea. Guys at NXT are allowed to get over and have cool gimmicks. But main roster guys are being told, ‘Don’t do this move again,’ and ‘Don’t say this again.’ There is so much potential there, but until Vince is ready to run with it, they just have to sit there and wait.”
“Hunter started squashing stuff that really started getting over. If you notice, it’s all about the future, and the future is NXT. But focusing on the future shouldn’t mean ignoring the present. Zack Ryder got over huge to the point to the point where the crowd was cheering for him at Madison Square Garden while The Rock was standing in the ring. Dolph Ziggler got over. Primo and Epico [now known as Los Matadores] are fantastic wrestlers, but they get lost in the shuffle. There is a glass ceiling, and anybody they don’t want to get over is squashed despite the fans strongly getting behind them. Daniel Bryan is a rare exception, despite the company fighting it over and over.”
Be sure to read the entire piece, here. Roberts also discussed his disappointment with the 2014 “Royal Rumble,” his relationship with CM Punk, potentially working for UFC, his upcoming book, and much more.
Extremely solid interview from Justin Roberts. His interview served as an advertisement for a book he is currently working on, and this interview is a good indication that it will be worth checking out.