Friday 20 April 2012

The King is Dead (Well, Not Dead...)

It's nothing short of astonishing that the youth-obsessed WWE hasn't replaced Jerry 'The King' Lawler as their lead colour commentator. He's ten years passed his best behind the announce desk and, thanks to the PG rating WWE currently adheres to, is incapable of playing to his strengths (which mainly consists of him talking about the fleshy parts of women forty years younger than him, so that's sort of a mixed blessing). Nowadays 'The King' appears disinterested in and ignorant of the product he is employed to promote. It's been years since he could effectively at elevating talent with his commentary, which is one of the key aspects of his job.
The trouble is that WWE has nobody to replace the decrepit Memphis legend. Their only other commentator of note is Booker T, who's heavily reliant on catchphrases and dangerously unpredictable. What's more, he's still learning his craft. It takes time to learn how to become a wrestling commentator. In truth Booker is decent enough for SmackDown, being a second string show, but he wouldn't cope with the increased pressure of RAW. It probably helps that he can usually be edited on SmackDown whilst RAW airs live.

He's smiling because he's still employed

William Regal has made a very good job of providing colour commentary on NXT and would actually be a better option than Booker for the Monday night gig: he's far less reliant on contrived catchphrases, has a sense of humour, knows how to use the role to elevate talent, and can actually call a wrestling match. Unfortunately I think his English accent and softly spoken approach would preclude him from consideration. It's simply not what WWE wants for the RAW broadcast team.

Matt Striker? No. He doesn’t understand exactly what WWE wants form the role, which is why he rarely makes it off of the purgatory of the company’s weekend shows.
WWE management have nobody to blame for this situation but themselves. If they treated their developmental programme seriously they would be preparing people for every role on WWE television. That includes backstage interviews, ring announcers, managers, and, yes, commentators as well as wrestlers. They do not currently place enough emphasis on training anybody but wrestlers in FCW and that needs to change.
The promotion is not without options though. There are several wrestlers on the main roster who talk well enough to warrant a chance at commentary on a show like Superstars on NXT. Christian, Wade Barrett and The Miz all have the right mix of verbal dexterity, experience and tenure to make ideal candidates for the role.

WWE should try these guys out for a month each to see if any of them are good enough to continue prepping with an eye to replacing 'The King' a year or so from now. WWE could even use a switch between one of these guys and Lawler to give the veteran the send-off he deserves: a feud over the RAW announcer spot would be a fitting end to his full-time run with the company and allow him to go out in a memorable match.

They could even look outside the company or at their developmental league for a new colour commentator. Steve Corino would be good in the role. If they could get him Paul Heyman would be ideal. Meanwhile FCW has Kassius Ohno (formerly Chris Hero) who could spice up the audible aspect of the WWE product.
Ultimately I suspect the company has plans to move CM Punk onto commentary when he's done with his in-ring career. He proved during his stint in late 2010 that he could excel in the role. He not only talked about the storylines he needed to but he got over the talent in the ring and still managed to slip in some in-jokes along the way. When he's ready he'll be superb in the role but (hopefully) that move is still far off. In the meantime WWE need to remove Lawler as soon as possible. He simply can't cut it anymore.

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