For the first time in nearly 10 years, Michael Cole is not the lead voice on Raw as he was moved to SmackDown when the blue brand moved to FOX. Vic Joseph has stepped up in Cole's place and is the lead play-by-play commentator for WWE's flagship show.
Joseph admits he had lots of help to get to where he's at now and he talked about those that have helped him reach this position when he joined the Not Sam Wrestling Podcast.
"People laugh when I say that Johnny Gargano is one of my best friends. The first day that I ever stepped into a wrestling show Johnny Gargano was there and he has been with me every step of the way; from my first show to him getting signed to WWE, to me coming right after him, to him already being in the Performance Center when I arrived," said Joseph.
Joseph's broadcasting background was in traditional, mainstream sports and he previously worked for the Cleveland Browns Radio Network. But he is a wrestling fan at heart although he had to learn the art of storytelling from fellow wrestlers.
"So, it's been wild, but yeah, I am a huge wrestling fan and I just started doing it that way; getting in the car with Johnny Gargano and go into a different promotion, meeting former WWE superstar Rhyno, who is as close to me as anyone. He told me to get in the car with him, he'll teach me, so on my off days I would fly myself back from wherever I was to meet up with him to get in the car with him, sometimes drive city to city to sleep on the hotel floor even in the car as a pilot. Mind you I am working for the NFL at the time and stuff like that but there's this guy out here just driving around. [Rhyno] saw that I was driven and that I wanted to do it and wanted to help," stated Joseph.
"First, it was Johnny, then it was Rhyno and then Tommy Dreamer. Tommy said, hey, I have this promotion that I am starting I want you to call the matches. He told me that the day of the first show in his kitchen and so that was where it began. He was teaching me this is why you need to do it. He was preparing me for the WWE as if he knew someday I would end up here. Mind you, I am still doing CBS Sports at the time, NBA Finals, World Series things like that while I am doing this; driving myself, flying myself, because I knew it was a great opportunity and I would have limited reps. People don't understand how important reps are in wrestling. It's not like we just sit down and just call something, it's not that mathematical."
Just like any other profession, Joseph needed practice and repetition for his role with WWE. But it didn't take long for him to rise up the ranks at the broadcast booth.
"Within four months I was on Main Event, a month later I was on 205 Live, six months to the day I signed and started I made my Raw PPV debut, Great Balls of Fire. That August I did SummerSlam and that was crazy to me because one of the first events I saw was SummerSlam 1996, Shawn Michaels versus Vader," recalled Joseph. "I then did Survivor Series and then I did the Royal Rumble and then within a year, I did WrestleMania."
In terms of fellow broadcasters, Joseph points to Tom Phillips as someone who greatly helped prepare him for this opportunity as Raw's play-by-play guy.
"I love when I get the tweets of my perfect announce team being Vic Joseph and Tom Phillips, and I always go we play the same roles. It caught people off guard, and again I think it was in a good way. When I was preparing and we bring up Tom Phillips, I wouldn't be as prepared now if not for Tom Phillips," revealed Joseph. "Tom spent countless hours with me at the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, molding me in what is right and what is wrong. I was able to put my own twist on it, but kudos to him for preparing me for the opportunity. It does sound a little different sitting in that chair because I remember Raw was like 'the show,' as my childhood. That defines my childhood is Monday Night Raw: Beer Baths, D-Generation X, Smell what The Rock is cooking, all of that."
Many fans were surprised when Joseph was chosen as the new voice of Raw, but he contends that he's just one of the many voices of Raw.
"I will say this that I have had friends and family say, 'oh my gosh you're the voice of Raw', and I'd say...I look at it like I am the lead commentator; all three of us are the voices. I also don't think that there is one single voice in WWE anymore because there are so many shows. There are so many things that we do like: WWE Super Showdown could be myself or Michael Cole, or it could be Tom Phillips. If there was a voice of WWE then I'd have to say that it is Michael Cole," stated Joseph. "I do think that these selections caught a few people off guard. I have gotten so many wonderful things on social media, so for those who have sent me stuff, thank you. But I think it caught people off guard in a good way. It's fresh."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Not Sam Wrestling with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.