Back in WCW, there was a wrestler named Squire Dave Taylor. You might remember Taylor from his time with WWE, but it wouldn’t be shocking if you’ve never heard of him. He was a very talented wrestler who was never much of a star in America. While he spent most of his time as a tag wrestler in WCW, he did wrestle some singles matches on the lower level WCW TV shows.
At some point in the late 1990s, Taylor won some matches using a float over butterfly suplex called the Tea and Crumpets. It was a somewhat awkward looking move and he never beat anyone other than a jobber here or there with it, mainly because he rarely won any matches against bigger talent whatsoever.
Taylor wasn’t that bad.
Now, none of this seems like anything of note of course. Taylor never won a title in WCW and was never a real threat. However, when he was on a short winning streak using the Tea and Crumpets, the announcers started to talk about what a good finishing move that was and how, if he could get it on, no one in WCW was going to be able to get out of the thing, making Taylor a rather dangerous man.
Being about ten years old at the time, this got me to thinking about what they were saying. Could Taylor really beat someone like Sting or Hulk Hogan with that suplex? I mean…maybe, if he could get them into it. Sure it was a stretch but he was beating people with it at the moment so maybe he could….wait what am I saying?
That’s where the commentators were getting their jobs done. Just by hyping up something as simple as a float over suplex that was beating jobbers on a low level show, a fan was thinking about Taylor beating a top star. Of course that was never going to happen with someone of Taylor’s caliber, but what about a bigger name? Suppose they hyped up a midcard guy who was moving up the charts the same way? That might be worth something down the line and if you can get enough fans to buy it, you might be able to create a star in the meantime.
It’s not just WCW and it wasn’t just finishers. Around the same time, a monster named Kane had made his debut in the WWF. In a rather smart move, the company didn’t have him wrestle that many matches (he’s a monster and if you have him wrestle, he becomes a wrestler). Instead Kane would come out and beat people up, no matter who they were or whether they were good or bad. Commentary started chiming in that no one could stop Kane. Again, this got me thinking: could Steve Austin beat him? Shawn Michaels? Could even the Undertaker, his brother with all the powers and size do it?
That’s where commentary can sell you on something. They’ve never seen a monster like Kane and they have no idea who could actually stop him. The same thing was true back in the old days. Bruno Sammartino (or Hulk Hogan, or Steve Austin, or any long term top star) was the undisputed World Champion, but there was someone who kept winning and winning. Could this be the one to dethrone the champ? Well maybe, but you couldn’t imagine either of them actually losing. Wouldn’t you know it: they’re scheduled for a title match.
By planting those seeds in your head, commentary has made you want to see the match. Maybe you buy a ticket and go to the show or maybe you watch it from home, but they’ve sold you on something you want to see. Sure it might seem stupid and sound fake a lot of the time, but if they can sell you on one story, imagine how many other people they might have sold on the same story.
Renee Young is just kind of perfect.
At the same time though, commentators can’t sound fake with what they’re doing. Back to WCW again, consider the tales from the airport. This was a favorite of Bobby Heenan (and Kevin Nash at times): stories of fans coming up to them at the airport and asking them about this wrestler or this story.
Now, given that Heenan said this ALL THE TIME, it became a bit of a stretch to believe that there were this many huge WCW fans roaming airports waiting on the latest news. It was an attempt at trying something though and Heenan knew what he was doing with the concept, as simple as it was. The idea being simple yet believable is what makes it works.
Take a more modern example with Renee Young. You might not have been watching at the time but Young used to do commentary on the older episodes of “NXT” (and it turns out she was fantastic in the role). On the May 22, 2014 episode, Curt Hawkins came out for a match with Neville. Upon seeing Hawkins, Young said she knows him because they go to the same bagel shop.
That sounds like a nothing, somewhat joking line (and to be fair it is), but it’s something you can believe. Can you picture Young walking into a bagel shop and seeing Hawkins? Maybe, and if you can see that, you can see her actually doing something else she talks about. It adds an edge of realism to her commentary and that makes her easier to listen to. By building up a little trust in her, you might believer her when she says someone is a great wrestler or a particular story is interesting.
The one thing that ties all of these things together though is the announcers talking about what’s in front of them. It’s nothing short of maddening watching wrestling today and having commentary talk about EVERYTHING other than what’s going on in the ring at the moment. I understand the idea of hyping things up, but at times it’s a case of priorities.
The best ever.
It’s one thing to talk about a big main event when there’s a lull in the action, but to do it nonstop cuts into the effectiveness of the commentary. They’re no longer people watching a match and offering thoughts but rather salespeople who you hear while the match is on. Modern WWE is terrible at this and listening to the older commentary teams such as Gorilla Monsoon or Jesse Ventura treat any match as the most important thing in the world is just frustrating. Even modern NXT is great at paying attention and it really shows how far down the main roster commentary has gone.
Commentary is one of the most important things in wrestling and unfortunately it’s barely used for its most important purpose anymore. For some reason, wrestling commentary seems to think that everything other than the actual wrestling in front of them is what matters. Give it some time and even something as simple as Tea and Crumpets sounds important.
Remember to check out my website at kbwrestlingreviews.com, follow me on Twitter @kbreviews and pick up the Monday Nitro and Thunder Reviews Volume VI: July – December 1999 in e-book or paperback. Check out the information here:
And check out my Amazon author page with cheap wrestling books at: