Friday 10 August 2012

Replacing Booker

I made fun of him. We all made fun of him. But now that he’s gone I miss him. I’m talking, of course, about Booker T.

Last week’s episode of SmackDown (which is recapped here) saw Booker promoted to the lofty position of General Manager. The storyline reasoning for this is that Vince McMahon, WWE’s top boss, wanted someone in the roll who had experience and the respect of the fans.

That’s fine storyline reasoning for the move, but it doesn’t make any sense to me for the only man with wrestling experience (Michael Cole’s tedious gimmick outings don’t count) on the blue brand’s commentary team to be shunted backstage. Making him General Manager allows him to keep appearing regularly on TV and even wrestle occasionally, but he was of more use to the show wearing a headset. His deliberately absurd catchphrases and flawed logic were often a highlight of the programme.

After last week’s show it’s clear that SmackDown needs a colour commentator. Josh Mathews is a very good broadcaster by WWE standards, but placing him alongside Michael Cole doesn’t allow him to shine. It also means there is nobody offering a wrestler’s perspective on the . Without Booker T to even things out there is too much Michael Cole. A replacement is needed.

It’s been suggested that John Bradshaw Layfield could return to WWE to resume his old position as SmackDown colour commentator. He was excellent in the role during 2006 and 2007, gradually learning how to elevate talent with heelish comments and forming a good on-screen rapport with Michael Cole.

That was then and this is now. While JBL’s verbal abilities would remain unchanged the same cannot necessarily be said of his relationship with Cole. Since Layfield left the announce desk Cole has become a heel. That would mean either JBL playing a face, which he could theoretically do by altering his gimmick so it’s more APA than JBL, or Cole being switched to a full-on babyface.

As I don’t think the latter would work (because he has been rammed down our throats as an obnoxious braggart for so long) the best route would be to have Layfield work as a face. That could affect his ability to work as a commentator because he’s used to being the bad guy when wearing a headset.

It’s not a guarantee that ‘The Wrestling God’ will be returning to WWE though. The guy is retired and living in the Bahamas, which would make going back on the road with WWE, even for just one working day a week, time consuming for him. WWE may have to look within its current talent pool to fill the Booker-shaped hole on SmackDown.

"Shucky ducky quack quack!" is just one of the Bookerisms we won'y be enjoying anymore

Either William Regal or Byron Saxton could be brought up from NXT to work alongside Cole and Mathews. Perhaps WWE could remove Cole all together and just have a two man unit with Mathews calling the action? Both Saxton and Regal are good enough to call a taped show and would provide the in-ring insight needed in a different style to Booker T. They’d work nicely alongside Mathews too.

I’ve suggested before (here, in fact) that either Wade Barrett or Christian could be tried out at the announce desk. The former Nexus boss has experience in the role from his time in FCW and could easily work as a commentator and still be a full time wrestler if his in-ring appearances were limited to RAW, leaving him free to sit at the announce desk on SmackDown.

‘Captain Charisma’ would be a better fit though. He’s one of WWE’s better talkers, knows how to work as either a face or a heel, and is closer to retirement than Barrett. While he still has many good years as an active performer left in him it would be better to limit his wrestling time than that of a rising star like Barrett.

They could surprise us and bring in rated promo guys Kevin Nash or Mick Foley. It’s not likely though: ‘The Hardcore Legend’ has worked as a broadcaster in WWE before but found the job so stressful that he quit and went to TNA for three years. The naturally more laid back ‘Big Sexy’ has never worked as a commentator for WWE but he’s got a gift for humour and I can imagine him working nicely alongside Cole. There’s a very real possibility of him phoning it in though.

Personally I’d like to see WWE give Road Dogg a try. He has been working backstage as a producer since last year so he’s available to the company and his appearances on web series Are You Serious? and RAW’s 1000th episode show that he hasn’t lost his touch on the microphone. The New Age Outlaw has worked with Josh Mathews before and as a natural babyface he would fill the gap left by Booker T nicely.

If it were up to me WWE would give Road Dogg a try and keep ‘The Instant Classic’ in mind as a backup choice. They should also be grooming new commentators in developmental, but I‘ve said this before. Perhaps the lack of Booker will spur them into action.

As long as they don’t give the job to Matt Striker we should be fine.

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