On a recent episode of the AEW Unrestricted podcast, Aubrey Edwads and Tony Schiavone sat down with ring announcer Justin Roberts. Roberts has been with AEW since the beginning, and he discussed how his involvement with AEW came together.
“I did All In, and after All In, everybody was like, ‘Stay tuned stay tuned,'” Roberts recalled. “I’m like, ‘What do you mean? What’s going on?’ I had no idea what was to come, and then shortly after that, I heard from Brandi [Rhodes]. And she was asking a bunch of questions. ‘Are you under contract? Do you have anything going on?’ I was talking to Brandi quite a bit, and then she was eventually the one that was like, ‘Okay, let’s talk.’ And she told me, and it was so exciting, but at the same time, I couldn’t tell anyone.
“I didn’t talk about it with anyone, and then once rumors started coming out, that would be my way, because friends were like, ‘Hey, did you hear what they said about this or what they said about that?’ So just hearing people talk about the rumors that were public, that was my way of kind of talking about it without talking about it.”
Roberts then recalled ring announcing for the first ever AEW event, Double or Nothing. He revealed his reaction to the event and what his emotions were throughout the night.
“That was amazing. There were so many months where I was looking forward to that show because we had all this anticipation of the company building, and then we announced the company and then we had to wait till May to this event,” Roberts noted.” When we got to Vegas, it was like, finally, this is what we’ve been waiting for. This is the beginning of something new, something huge, and to be in that building, sold out, with an amazing crowd, with you (Schiavone) sitting in the front row. In fact, when I announced The Young Bucks match, I’ll never forget coming out of the ring and thinking that felt really good.
“Got out of the ring, walked back to my seat and as I walked back, you mouthed something to me. You’re like, ‘That was awesome.’ It was just like, ‘Whoa, Tony Schiavone just complimented me, this is awesome!’ Double or Nothing was amazing. It was the first time that we were working with this new team. That too was something. Before the show started, this is a brand new team. You don’t know how things are gonna flow. I had an idea of everything going on in the night, but there were still some things that were left in the air, and I didn’t know how it was going to go over.
“And you’re stressing, just working with the new team. It can be stressful because you don’t know how everybody operates. I see Keith Mitchell, who’s executive producer, legend, been around forever. He’s done everything. Keith Mitchell says (Roberts does an impression of Mitchell), ‘Hey man, just go out there and have fun. Take your time and have fun.’ And as soon as he said that, everything just went [sigh of relief] okay, and that was it. There was no pressure. He’s the guy who’s in my ear, and he’s not yelling at me. He’s not mean. He’s just, ‘Take your time,’ and that was it.”
Roberts has spoken in the past about the restrictions of being a WWE ring announcer. He revealed how much creative freedom and how much direction he gets as a ring announcer in AEW.
“If there’s a scale of creative freedom, and there’s a one and a 10, I guess I’m at 100,” Roberts expressed. “Since day one, it’s just one of those things where I’ve never been handed a script, or I’ve never been told what to say on anything starting from the first show when, I believe, we had a guest singer for the national anthem. Even with that, I’m like, I don’t have anything on who they are or whatever.
“So I just came up with something and sent it around to a couple people, and they’re like, ‘Sure.’ And from then on, that kind of set the tone like, oh, I’m just on my own for everything. I have an idea of the format of the show, and I go through that and I plug in my stuff the nerdy ring announcing stuff. ‘Are we going to have a pause here to maybe say what type of match it is, and then the rules and kind of set the tone for it before we go into the entrances, or are we just going into the entrances, and I’ll just make my stuff over that, and kind of make it quick and just get through that just to get to the introductions?’ I look at the format of each show, and then figure out how to plug my stuff in and I have total creative freedom on it.
“If there’s ever a question about anything, I’ll go to the appropriate person, but I don’t have anybody speaking my nerdy language for me. They just leave it up to me because they know, and believe me, I micro-analyze the hell out of everything that I say. There’s a reason for everything. I try to make it as easy to get to the audience in seven seconds or whatever it might be so everybody can understand.”
Roberts has been a ring announcer for nearly 15 years. He talked about who was his inspiration growing up.
“‘Howard was the man. I love Howard Finkel,” Roberts said. “That was the booming voice that I heard in my childhood, and Howard was my guy. Of course, later on, I got to work with him and become friends with him, and he was the inspiration there.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.