SteelChair Mag Weigh-In: Our Favourite Wrestlers-Turned-Announcers

The Drama King has brought his pipes to 205 Live, but not to the ring itself. Former NXT Tag Team Champion Aiden English hasn’t been in a televised match since October 2018, so I’m guessing when Drake Maverick and co. came calling, offering him a new home behind the Cruiserweight’s announcer’s desk, he must have been thrilled at the opportunity. English is far from the first wrestler to turn their hand on commentary, it’s a natural development to go from participating to commenting on it, it happens in any sport. For me, the moment I was hooked on PWG might have been the first time Chuck Taylor called Adam Cole a “fat piece of s**t”.

In tribute to English’s new career move, we here at SteelChair Mag thought we’d tell you about our personal favourites.

Ray Rougeau / WWF & WWE (Steph)

Most of you may have heard about Ray Rougeau while watching a WWE PPV and finding out the face of foreign announcers. The fact is Ray Rougeau was one-half of The Fabulous Rougeaus, with his brother Jacques, in the late 80s. When he decided to retire in 1992, Ray Rougeau quickly became the “French” voice of WWE for generations of Quebeckers and French, replacing another wrestling French legend, Edouard Carpentier. His duo with comedian Jean Brassard has always been the perfect match between 1994 and 1999, and since 2017 on WWE Network. Every French-language wrestling fan who’s in his 30s or 40s can thank Ray Rougeau for the passion he has always been able to share with them. As one of these French fans, I’ll never thank him enough…

Rocky Romero / NJPW (John)

When people ask about wrestlers pulling commentator duty there is one name that comes to my mind, Rocky Romero. The Roppongi mastermind has his hand in wrestling, managing, rapping merchandising and now offers insightful if sometimes biased inputs into matches. He has become a highlight for the English commentary team and even suffers for his art in defending his Chaos squad mates. No one will forget the time he was locked in the Paradise Lock by SANADA and stuck on the floor for several minutes. At least SANADA left his headset on. Romero deserves props for trying to be a unique voice in the commentary world and always being willing to stick his neck out to support his faction. He’s grown in confidence and has really found his voice. Hopefully, he eventually becomes a permanent commentary staple when he eventually slows down as he has a knack for it.

Bobby “The Brain” Heenan / WWF (Scott)

“I’m a legend in this sport, if you don’t believe me, ask me”. This remains a true statement to this day. Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan defined the lines between the good and bad characters in the world of wrestling like nobody else before, or after him. His effortless retorts and zingy one-liners meshed superbly with Gorilla Monsoon’s incredible vocals, and they were the commentary dream team of my childhood. Finishing with my absolute favourite Heenan quote of all time, “You listen to me, you’ll go to the top! You don’t listen to me, you’re never heard from again!”

Excalibur / PWG & All In & NJPW (Bradley)

One of the founders of Pro Wrestling Guerilla and long-term lead announcer for PWG shows, Excalibur retired from in-ring competition back in 2007. Most notably as a commentator he was recently part of the All In announce team. It was this appearance at the sold-out Sears Centre in September last year that really helped him get his foot in the door and make a name for himself amongst a wider wrestling audience. This lead to further commentary spots in early December, where he was partnered with Kevin Kelly to call the last three nights of New Japan’s World Tag League. 2019 could be an exciting year for Excalibur where a potential place amongst the announce team for All Elite Wrestling could really propel his career as a commentator.

Corey Graves / WWE (Elliot)

There’s a reason why Corey Graves is the only member of WWE commentary team to pull double-duty on RAW and Smackdown Live – he’s just that good. Since his move to the announce table in 2014, the ‘Divine Quiff’ has gone from strength to strength, proving to be a great heel foil against whoever may be next to him, whether it’s Jonathan Coachman, Booker T, Byron Saxton or Renee Young. Charismatic, collected and never one to mince his words, Graves has also found himself playing roles in prominent storylines, namely the revealing of Jason Jordan as Kurt Angle’s son and the turning of Big Cass on Enzo Amore. It seems that he can turn his hand to anything mic-related, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take on further responsibilities this year either.

Aiden English / WWE (Tom)

Just a few months ago, Aiden English was part of arguably the most over act in WWE, as the musical hype man of Rusev Day. It’s fair to say his star fell somewhat after the fallout of that group, but he has now hopped behind the microphone as one of the commentary team on 205 Live. This is a great fit for English, who has always been a more compelling talker than he is in the ring. He’s a verbose performer with in-ring experience, which means he’s already ticking a lot of boxes on the road to being a top wrestling announcer.

Nigel McGuiness / WWE (Humza)

When wrestlers make the transition to a commentary role, it can be a great move not only for their careers but also for fans watching at home. Hearing Nigel McGuinness explain how hard a part of the ring is or how tough a particular superstar is, forces you to believe what he is saying because of his experiences in the ring. You can compare it to when UFC fighters provide commentary for fights and tell you what’s right and wrong with a fighters approach. The overall viewing experience is enhanced as it brings out the sports side of sports entertainment.
Much of what made Nigel great in the ring is exactly what makes him a fantastic voice in WWE. His wrestling style was very believable, featuring a lot of submissions and chain wrestling. Similarly, he brings that realism to his commentary by highlighting strategies superstars need to employ to win and providing us with great insight into various submission holds. His focus lies on what happens in the ring, and his natural charisma ensures that you listen intently. He is a real gem for WWE, and arguably the best commentator in wrestling right now.

Booker T / WWE (John)

When it comes to thinking of memorable RAW commentators, it’s hard not to think of Booker T. He was a staple of the show and even now, after being replaced, is still present on KickOff panels. The man had plenty of knowledge to share during RAW and he would often provide these insights during matches and had a nice banter with his co-commentators. Sure he had some flubs and could sometimes say some odd things but you could never criticise him for being boring. He was incredibly unique in how he approached things and his in-ring credentials could often lend credence to what he said. Sure it’s funny to think of some of the more eccentric things he’s said but let’s also remember that a lot of the time he was much better to listen to than some of the other wrestlers who have tried to wear the headset.

Don Callis / All In, Impact Wrestling & NJPW (Steph)

If you’re watching Impact Wrestling every week, his pink shirts and glasses may have hurt your eyes. But when it comes to action, Don Callis, Executive Vice-President of the company and colour announcer of Impact, is a mastermind. Two days before Homecoming, Callis was in Japan commenting NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 13. The commentary of Kevin Kelly and Callis has been a contributing factor to the success of NJPW World.
Last year, he was also a part of the All In announcing team. The man we used to know as The Jackal in WWF and Cyrus the Virus in ECW has worked his way through commentary during his whole career. Callis is opinionated, passionate, able to shut up Josh Mathews in a nanosecond. He loves to talk about his good friends and the wrestlers he loves in the company. Whatever the promotion he’s working with, Don Callis is definitely one of the finest colour commentators in the business today.

All pics and screencaps courtesy of WWE, NJPW, Impact Wrestling, ROH, and Excalibur Twitter account.

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