Former WWE announcer Tom Phillips joined Sports Media with Richard Deitsch to talk about his tenure at WWE. Phillips had been the lead announcer on RAW until he was replaced by Adnan Virk just a month ago. He revealed he was surprised by this, until he saw it was Virk was replaced him.
“I can honestly say I was surprised,” Phillips said. “Adnan Virk was somebody that I had known, not to date him in anyway, but he had a run on SportsCenter when I was in college and then right out of college. So I watched him for years, so when I hear that Adnan Virk is coming in to be the lead announcer for Monday Night RAW, I was like ‘whoa. That is a shift.’ But at the same time I was like ‘man I have all the respect in the world for this guys ability in terms of what the job of RAW and Smackdown requires, what everybody refers to commonly in play by play as ‘traffic.’ Getting from graphics to b-roll to an interview, ect.
“I was like ‘well this guy did SportsCenter, which is just one traffic. And then he did College Football halftime shows. So it was like ‘yeah, this guy probably has the skillset to do this.’ So I was definitely surprised, but at the same time to hear it was the name of somebody like Adnan Virk I was like ‘okay. I get it.'”
Phillips was similarly surprised when Virk parted ways with WWE only a month after joining them. Ultimately he believes Virk will be just fine due to his talent and his other commitments in the sports world.
“I was, to be very honest,” Phillips said when asked if Virk’s departure shocked him. “Because I’ve seen so many different people come and go at different levels of the announce team, at different spots of the announce team. I won’t speak to necessarily in terms of what he was going through, cause that’s what his experience was. I can’t really speak to that. But it was fast. But that being said, he has so many other things that he does in conventional sportscasting, conventional sports, whatever you want to call it, where he’s so talented at. He’s going to be fine. I don’t need to say that, he knows that.”
Phillips talked about making lifelong friendships while in WWE, notably bringing up all three members of the New Day. It’s because of that that he believes his work during the Kofi Kingston-Daniel Bryan match at WrestleMania 35, and everything leading up to the show, is the highlight of his WWE commentating career.
“I can genuinely say I’ve made some lifelong friends there,” Phillips said. “I’ll focus on the New Day. I can go on and on about a lot of people, but I can’t tell you how emotional it was at WrestleMania 35, Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Title from Daniel Bryan. It was extraordinarily emotional, because I felt that what Corey Graves and Byron Saxton and myself did in terms of calling the match and the storyline was very good. And I felt very confident about it. I think Byron Saxton had the call of his lifetime that night. And I was so emotional calling the match, and then especially after the fact when everything had sunk in.
“I’d gotten to know Big E, he’s one of my closest friends. He and I buzz each other about college football constantly. Xavier Woods and I knew each other from the very beginning at NXT, as I did with Big E. But Xavier and I got to work together, we’re both video game guys and just see eye to eye on a lot of stuff. And Woods, on top of that, has been one of my biggest supporters. I remember not long ago he pulled me aside and was very complimentary. It just means the world to you. And Kofi, who doesn’t know Kofi Kingston in the world of professional wrestling? Who doesn’t respect Kofi Kingston? And to see his journey and see it come out of nowhere like that? I was trying to keep it together on air. It was getting dusty out there in Met-Life Stadium. I’m like ‘alright, you got to keep it together.’ I put a lot of thought and effort into the entire storyline. And especially that call. That might be the most important thing to me that I had a chance to be a part of.”
Deitsch asked Phillips how he felt about transitioning from the wrestling world into a potential career in conventional sports broadcasting. Phillips knows there’s still a stigma for people in wrestling making the transition, but believes people like Renee Paquette have proven things have changed and he’s eager to work hard to show what he brings to the table.
“Hopeful, comfortable, optimistic,” Phillips said when asked about how he felt about his chances. “I think that all those people that you just mentioned have already kind of proven that it’s not the same as it used to be. I think there’s still that stigma. I experienced it for nine years, talking to people out side the business who were like ‘oh okay. Where’s your baseball, where’s your football, where’s your basketball, your hockey?’ And the truth about sports entertainment is that if you’re not all in, immersed in it 24/7, it isn’t going to work. And I can take a lot of pride in saying I was immersed for nine years. So now it’s a matter of I’m able to be an asset because of what WWE taught me.
“So now I’m excited to go out and prove that. I know college football intimately, because of my time. I can remember watching Lavar Arrington tackle Antwan Randle El when I think I was eight years old at Beavers Stadium. So I am a diehard college football fan. Big E would attest that I am a college football or just football junkie. Whether it be my Eagles in the NFL, I’m the guy who watches the XFL, the CFL, the AAF, Arena Football at one point. That’s me. So I feel very confident in my abilities to learn. But at the same time I have no delusions. I understand it’s like anything, I need to go somewhere and learn. I need to start from the bottom and work my way to the top. And I have no issue with that. That’s something I want to do.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Sports Media with Richard Deitsch and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription