So You Want To Be A Wrestling Announcer?

"THE" Reigning King of Wrestling Announcers

MICHAEL BUFFER OF VINCE MCMAHON'S WORLD WRESTLING ENTERTAINMENT (WWE).
MICHAEL BUFFER OF VINCE MCMAHON'S WORLD WRESTLING ENTERTAINMENT (WWE).

MORE FAMOUS WRESTLING ANNOUNCERS

THE LATE, AND TALENTED "GORILLA" MONSOON OF THE WWE.
THE LATE, AND TALENTED "GORILLA" MONSOON OF THE WWE.
JERRY "THE KING" LAWLER, WWE ANNOUNCER AND ONE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION WRESTLER.
JERRY "THE KING" LAWLER, WWE ANNOUNCER AND ONE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION WRESTLER.
JESSE "THE BODY" VENTURA, NAVY SEAL, ONE-TIME WRESTLER, ANNOUNCER, GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA, AND ACTOR.
JESSE "THE BODY" VENTURA, NAVY SEAL, ONE-TIME WRESTLER, ANNOUNCER, GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA, AND ACTOR.
"MEAN" GENE OKERLAND WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING AND WWE.
"MEAN" GENE OKERLAND WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING AND WWE.
VINCE MCMAHON, WORLD WRESTLING ENTERTAINMENT (WWE).
VINCE MCMAHON, WORLD WRESTLING ENTERTAINMENT (WWE).

So here "I" go

into a true story, a story filled with action, danger, and excitement of my first and last night as a wrestling announcer. All rolled into one night. I testify that the contents of this piece are true. And if not, I hope to lose my taste for black coffee.

I give the credit for my one (and only) night as a wrestling announcer to my sister-in-law, Michelle Mauldin, and her enterprising husband, Chris, both of Fulton, Mississippi, which is a real place. You can Google it and find out.

Michelle, my wife's baby sister, was a quick-study. She knew things about me that I had forgotten. You see, she was one of "those" little sisters who I had to pay-off to leave her sister, Pam, and I alone when I was at my best "making time" with my then-future wife. Michelle made enough off of me to start a savings account. That's all I need to say about this subject.

Sometimes, in later years, when Michelle was older, she and her girlfriends would come for a visit with Pam and me and it was always on a Saturday evening, the time I had saved for myself to sit back and enjoy World Championship Wrestling broadcast on my cable from The Omni, a lavish arena in Atlanta, Georgia. This two-hour production had it all. Bloodshed, fights, yelling, throwing chairs and loud threats to the camera. And that was only in the crowd that surrounded the wrestling ring. Good times.

I loved, well, loved with a passion to see the likes of Dusty Rhodes, "The American Dream," "Nature Boy," Ric Flair; Barry Windham; Jimmy Garvin; Arin and Olie Anderson, the "Minnesota Wrecking Crew," and others do battle in and out of the ring every Saturday evening. And whether or not wrestling is fake or real, "I" caught myself getting deeply-involved in this "sport" that was consuming our nation dating back to 1986. Now look at it in 2012. Massive. Lucrative. And is more-popular than any travelling ballet troupe to ever go through the south.

But, and now I am getting nostalgic, my favorite part of this, and all wrestling productions, was not as much the variety of wrestlers, but the announcers. Yep. The announcers who actually "sold" the show to the studio audience and the millions (including myself) who were watching by television. It never was hard for me to understand why these eloquently-spoken men with names that grace the Who's Who of Wrestling such as: Gordon Solie, Sterling Brewer, Vince McMahon, "Mean"Gene Okerland and my favorite, Tony Shiavone, who was a star-announcer with the W.C.W. (World Championship Wrestling, through the time that Ted Turner owed the operation) and worked with the W.W.E., (World Wrestling Entertainment), owned by Vince McMahon.

I loved these guys. The announcers. So much so that I would try to impersonate them, of course, when I was alone, just to make my coworkers laugh at my place of employment, The Hamilton Progress, a newspaper in Hamilton, Alabama, I worked for from 1984 until 1988. And the place where I met my best (male) pal, Les Walters, who is Hamilton's "wrestling guru," for he can name wrestlers' names, both current and vintage, their stats, various ring names and how many kids they have. Walters is just that good at keeping memories of "our" favorite area of entertainment, wrestling.

Then it happened. It was around 1997. I was working with Les at the Journal Record, the paper I had started with in 1975, and since the Progress was no more, he had taken the job as managing editor and brought me back into the business in 1990. And yes, the wrestling talk was on. I hate to sound corny, but it was like old times.

One Thursday evening, Michelle, remember her? She is my wife's baby sister. She and her husband, Chris, came to our house to make "me" a sure-fire way to make some extra cash. If you knew me then, all you had to do was mention the words: "sure-fire," and "make money," and I was yours for the taking. I loved to have money on me for various reasons. To take my wife and daughter out to eat or just have in-case I wanted something of my own like a hand-held plastic fan to blow cool breezes into my face in the summer to keep me cool when I was outside doing some weed-eating.

"Kenny, Chris and me would love for "you" to be our wrestling announcer in the matches we have scheduled for this Saturday night in Saltillo, Mississippi," Michelle said with that innocent look on her face. My wife's face was aglow with either contained laughter or pride that Michelle and Chris would even consider me to do such a task and with me having NO experience at announcing a wrestling match.

"What kind of money are we talking?" I asked, for this is the most-important question to be asked in any business negotiation.

"It all depends. If the crowd is big, you get a big amount of cash and if the crowd is small, I will see that you get "something" out of your work," she replied. Now understand that Michelle and Chris were working with a girlfriend of Michelle's and her husband who were true "bookers," people who make the wrestling matches for the public in various gymnasiums, civic centers, and arenas. Sometimes for a local charity and sometimes just to make some extra cash. This match I had agreed to be the ring announcer for was not for charity. But for Michelle, Chris, and their friends, the professional wrestling "bookers."


Ahhh, the place was almost-packed

at the biggest building in Saltillo, Mississippi, the Saltillo Civic Center, which was a huge sheet-metal building with a pretty-decent parking lot that was beginning to fill-up as my wife and I found a good parking spot. Oh, our daughter didn't make the trip. She had a date. I've always wondered if this was a premonition she had about her dad making a fool of himself, or just what it was. A date. Oh well. No time to dwell on the past.

About thirty-minutes before the scheduled matches began, my wife and I met with Michelle, Chris and their two good friends, the "bookers," I told you about for me to get the low-down on what my job was and how this thing of ring announcing worked. Boy was I embarrassed with Michelle said, "all you have to do is read the index card that is handed to you by the floor manager and give the wrestler a huge build-up to make him more appealing to the audience. You can do this, Kenny. You are a natural," Michelle explained. Wow, she called me a 'natural.' I never dreamed that I favored Robert Redford.

I was dressed "fit to kill," pardon the fitting-description, but I wanted to "look the part" with my black slacks, slick blue shirt and hair, (yes, I "had" hair at this time) slicked down to make the crowd think that I was a part of this wrestling operation.

Before I climbed into the ring, the floor manager asked me, "are you gonna be for the good guys or bad guys?" "Do what?" I replied very confused. She explained that "I" could verbally-engineer the crowd's emotions by either over-acting how much I liked the good or bad wrestlers. It was my choice. I thought it would be fun to pull for the villains. And when I answered this lady, the floor manager named, "Maggie," she yelled to someone behind the huge velvet curtains, "the ring guy is for the bad ones," and then a thunderous applause came from, I assume, the bad wrestlers behind the stage. I began to feel good about this gig. Confident. Easy as pie. I should have been doing this for a living. Such were the thoughts of a fool. Me.

The first match pitted a "bad" wrestler, The War Machine, a huge guy with arms like Oak trees against a good guy, Paul Steele. Man, did I over-act my appreciation for Steele, who I thought was evil. War Machine shouted as he entered the ring, "what are you doing to me?" I looked dumbfounded. He leaned over to me and whispered, "You supposed to be FOR me, not Steele. I'm the bad dude!" I acted like I was laughing at his joke to fool the crowd.

From that moment on, no matter what War Machine did, I asked the crowd to give him a standing-ovation. They didn't. They only filled the atmosphere in the Saltillo Civic Center with "boo's" "fool," and "go home, you idiot," talking to "me," not War Machine. I loved it. The anger. The tension and security of the ring. A security guard was posted at each side to keep troublemakers at bay. For that, I was thanking God in my heart every breath I took.

Folks, this was SERIOUS business

more serious that I had realized or been told by Michelle and Chris. No wonder the crowd was getting irritated even when I was the only one in the ring. They couldn't stand me. I thought that was the plan. It wasn't. Well not entirely, for I had erroneously called some local wrestlers by the wrong name--Jim instead of Bob and called one guy who went by "Jim Dandy," in the ring, "Jim Candy," and the bad wrestlers loved how I was embarrassing their opponents.

This went on for an hour and a half before War Machine lumbered to the side of the ring and motioned for me to lean over for me had something to say to me. "You need to come with me so you can call the rest of the matches in the back of the auditorium. You can sit with "Maggie," who arranges the cards for the matches and uh, well, the promoters think it best that YOU NOT BE IN THE RING," he said without telling me why. But he was too huge to argue with, so I obliged. And sat with this "Maggie," woman, who felt my rejection and said, "oh the crowd can still hear you from here, but you won't have to climb in and out of that ring."

I never knew just why the wrestling promoters made such a career-changing decision as to put me in the back with "Maggie," when my rightful place was in the ring. I can only live with the fact that I guess both good and bad wrestlers grew weary of my verbal blunders in calling out their names, weight, and hometowns. Yeah. That's it. They were actually "helping" me in my newly-found career of a wrestling announcer.

And if a wrestling announcer is paid according to his (or her) talent, the amount I was paid said it all. Very clearly. Without any debate.

$25.00.

Wrestling announcing IS Serious Business

as serious as this guy showing off his "redneck blow-torch." It was that serious with me in the ring with a microphone in Saltillo, Mississippi.
as serious as this guy showing off his "redneck blow-torch." It was that serious with me in the ring with a microphone in Saltillo, Mississippi.

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Comments 19 comments

catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

Interesting story! At least you tried it and that's the fun part. It just made a great story and I think our failures in life are sometimes our best stories! Also funny, as usual.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Dearest Catgypsy . . .Saltillo, Mississippi will never be the same. I still get nightmares. And since then, can you believe that NOT ONE PERSON has called wanting me to announce again? Funny how life is. Have a great day, my dear friend.

Kenneth


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

Hahaha...just not your calling Kenneth! But what a success you are at writing!


Sueswan 4 years ago

Hi Kenneth,

Great hub my friend. There loss in my opinion.

Voted up and away!

Enjoy the weekend.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Thank YOU, DEAR Catgypsy, for that comment of support. I do love to write, but I also love to "anger" an unsuspecting crowd all in fun.

Have a great day.

Your Friend,

Kenneth


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Dear Sueswan . . ."A sincere thank you for . . . your warm comments, votes and being there for me when one of these off-the-wall hubs hits the 'net."

You are much-appreciated!

Kenneth


mosaicman profile image

mosaicman 4 years ago from Tampa Bay, Fl

Gorilla Monsoon in my opinion was the greatest announcer of all time. He along with Bobby the Brain Heenan and Jesse The Body Ventura made up the greatest wrestling announce team ever. Interesting story and hub.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Hello, mosaicman . . .I have to agree with you. Glad to know that someone other than myself, remembers legends like this.


AWAFlashback profile image

AWAFlashback 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Lawler said in his book that fans should try to listen to a wrestling show on mute...it's true, you need great announcers


mosaicman profile image

mosaicman 3 years ago from Tampa Bay, Fl

That's true. And better yet, try listening to a match with horrible commentators. It takes away from the action also.


AWAFlashback profile image

AWAFlashback 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I plan to do a Hub about AWA announcers Rod Trongard, Russ Francis and Lord James Blears....Worse than a mute watching.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Hi, AWAFlashback!

Thanks for the Lawler comment. Both Lawler and you are correct. Great wrestling dictates great, knowledgeable commentators. I recall a match years ago BEFORE color TV, imagine that, where "a" Mac York was "fighting" a no-name opponent, and the announcer didn't know the wrestling holds and finally, York just gave up and walked off the set to the crowd's delight. Poor announcer. Probably some stagehand the promoter promised $40 bucks and dressed him in a $5-dollar suit and told him to have at it.

Yep. That must have been it, for he, the no-talent announcer was never heard or seen again.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Hi, mosaicman and AWAFlashback . . .you are so right. A muted wrestling match might be a tad better without no talent announcers. And AWA announcers Rod Trongard, Russ Francis and Lord James Blears are what you say . . .or implied. Bad. I remember a PRO and I mean a PRO, Sterling Brewer in the old days of wrestling. Once he was threatened by then-clean wrestler, Jerry Lawler, Brewer's comeback was perfect: "try it, Lawler, and I will give you 22 licks around the head and body in rapid succession," and Lawler was so stunned by Brewer's remark, that he gave up and continued to wrestle.

Ahhh, good times. Good old days.


AWAFlashback profile image

AWAFlashback 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I never liked wrestling going from the territories to the WWF-dominated, but certain things did get a lot better. Announcing being one of them. Heenan, Monsson, McMahon, Ventura were so much better than some of the Territory guys. Kenneth, I was definitely implying that Trongard, Blears and Francis were bad. Sam Menacher is a guy that did the Bob Luce TV in Chicago and was awful. Marc Lowrance in Dallas was so bad it became good. No idea why but most people, including me, liked Lowrance. Mean Gene was an AWA guy and awesome. Great job in New York also. Interesting to listen to Bruno and Superstar Graham doing TV....pretty bad! Great Hub!


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Hi, AWAFlashback,

I apologize for being so slow in responding. Just life itself sometimes is a battle to be faced.

You are correct in all of your descritptive analogies of those guys. Mean Gene Okerland was, besides Buffer, my favorite.

Larry Zybyscko (can't name), was a terrific wrestler-turned-announcer in the old AWA and WCW. He has that theatrical tone to his voice that makes the viewers really want to see what he is talking about. And that smart alec persona is just his shtick. And it served him well.

1 . ..2 . ..3 and Im out. Thank you so much for the comment.


AWAFlashback profile image

AWAFlashback 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

What did you think of Bruno and Superstar Graham as announcers?


mosaicman profile image

mosaicman 3 years ago from Tampa Bay, Fl

Larry was very entertaining on the mike as a wrestler, it was natural for him when he went behind the booth.

Unfortunately, I do not remember Bruno and Superstar Billy Graham when they announced. I may have been too young or was not watching wrestling yet.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Bruno was great, but not as much for Graham. He had difficulty keeping the wrestler in him at bay and just be an announcer.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Mosiacman,

Graham was a great wrestler in his day, but then again, weren't they all.

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