In a recent interview with The Press Box podcast, SmackDown announcer Michael Cole was asked to speak on his relationship with AEW announcer Jim Ross.
“Jim and I have had a rocky relationship over the years,” Cole admitted. “It’s grown to one of mutual respect. You know, Jim at the time, listen, the late 1990s in sports entertainment in general, were an awfully competitive time, not only in WWE, but obviously with WCW and ECW as well. People like Jim, and a lot of wrestlers, whether it be John Layfield or Booker T, or Shawn Michaels, or Steve Austin, these were old school guys. These were guys who were brought up in the territories. Jim Ross learned how to be a wrestling announcer. He started off as a referee and did some managing, of course, in the territories. So he fought and he clawed to get his spot in WWE to be at the top of the pinnacle the mountain.”
Cole believes Ross initially “felt a bit threatened” by his presence in WWE, mostly because Cole began his career as a TV news journalist and had little knowledge of the wrestling industry.
“Now you have this guy coming from the news and knows nothing about sports entertainment,” Cole said. “I think Jim felt a bit threatened at the time, and he shouldn’t have been. Jim was a greatest of all time. So there was a little bit of competition between us in the beginning. But it flattened out rather quickly, and Jim really helped me understand what it meant to be an announcer in WWE. The little things you had to do, the intangibles, to become a much better announcer, that’s what Jim helped me with.
“To me, Jim Ross is the greatest wrestling commentator of all time because Jim understood and was able to convey emotion. In order to be successful as an announcer in this business, you have to be able to feel the product. Since I didn’t come from the wrestling world, it took me years and years and years to understand how to feel WWE. When I was able to feel the product, it took me 10 years, that is when I think I was ready to make the next step in my career. Jim is the best ever when it comes to emotion. There’s no doubt about it. Even today, at his age, Jim is able to make you feel something that no one else can make you feel about a particular move or a spot or a story. Jim is so awesome at that. That is what I think I learned more from Jim than anything else is how to become so attached to this product that it oozes out of you when you talk about it.”
In late 1997, Michael Cole became one of the three announcers for the first hour of RAW, alongside Jim Ross and Kevin Kelly. Cole was permanently replaced by Jerry Lawler in mid-1998. In December 1998, Cole became the regular play-by-play announcer for RAW, subbing for Jim Ross when JR was ill with Bell’s palsy. He continued in this role until WrestleMania XV in March 1999. Reflecting on replacing JR in 1998, Cole felt he was “green and grass” and clearly not ready to be a play-by-play announcer.
“Jim Ross got sick with Bell’s Palsy back when I first started, so I got thrown into the mix for a few months,” Cole recalled. “That was so eye opening to me. I realized that holy cow, ‘I don’t know anything. I’m as green as grass in this business. I have no idea.’ I thought it was easy. You go out there and call moves. That’s not the case. I was thrown into the fire on Monday Night Raw, and it was really eye opening for me. But I also learned over those first few months what I needed to do to work on.
“Then when Smackdown debuted in 1999, they gave me the chance to do the job. I thought that I had matured a bit over those couple of years and took over as the voice of Smackdown. That really is where I was able to hone my skills because at the time Smackdown was not a live television show. We taped it. So we had the ability to go back into an edit room and spend hours upon hours during the week re-editing the show. More importantly for myself, I was able to change some of my commentary that I didn’t like the way it sounded or I needed it to sound differently.”
H/T to WrestlingNews.co for the transcription
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