Quick note from RD: As always, a humongoid thank you to my good friend Bill Brown for hooking me up with this footage.
Growing up in Cincinnati, I was a huge Reds fan. It was the 1970’s, and at that point, pretty much no one else could touch a team that contained certified legends such as Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, and Tony Perez among many others. As the 70’s came to a close, players departed, and so did the Reds’ stranglehold over baseball.
To this day, though, I still follow the Reds religiously. Oddly, when I think of the Reds these days, I no longer think of individual players, but I think of their long-time announcer, Marty Brennaman. To me, Marty IS the Reds, and that’s why I continue to follow them in-spite of their recent ineptitude.
Isn’t that strange? I am a Reds fan more for their ANNOUNCER than the product they put on the field. And it’s not just baseball – in many ways, I consider Colts radio announcer Bob Lamey just as much a part of the team as Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, or Dwight Freeney. In fact, when I watch the Colts on TV, I mute the TV audio and listen to the radio.
To make a story that’s getting way too long a bit shorter – announcers can make a huge impact on whatever is being presented.
Using this logic, when you step back and think about it, there are few things that make an impact on a wrestling promotion like its announcers. While the wrestlers themselves sell the tickets, it is an announcer’s role to get the story over. And, of course, it’s much easier to keep announcers for a long period of time than wrestlers, who get injured, retire, or simply lose fans’ interests.
Consider this, then: if you are fortunate enough to employ an announcer who is as beloved as much as all but your very top workers, you’d probably want to keep them on as long as humanly possible, right? After all, even if the product in the ring or in the storyline is lacking, it is conceivable that your announcer has built up a loyalty that will keep fans coming back while you rectify the shortcomings of your product.
Vince McMahon and WWE were in such a position – they had Jim Ross, a man the fans loved and respected, and, given the fact that he had an affliction known as Bell’s Palsy and yet fought that sickness to become arguably the best commentator wrestling had seen in the past twenty years, a true, 100% babyface. It didn’t hurt that he’d been fired several times, replaced by far inferior announcers, and would naturally always come back to a hero’s reception.
It wasn’t just WWE fans that loved the guy. WWE wrestlers always wanted JR to be the man calling their matches. Both Mick Foley and Steve Austin wrote in their books of how Ross made every match seem important, and how his call elevated their performance in the eyes of the fans.
Despite all this, despite that fans and wrestlers alike loved him, those in charge of WWE felt it was time for a change in the announce booth.
Jim Ross was out; Jonathan Coachman was in.
I have a hard time even WRITING that with a straight face. But those within Titan Tower felt that this would, in fact, cure the company’s woes!
A bit of backstory here. The theory, according to those in charge of things, was that Jim Ross was giving off the wrong image for the company. For you see, he had a southern drawl and was getting old and his affliction made him an eyesore.
Now you may ask why anyone actually needed to look at him since he was never, really, on screen, and for that I have no answer. I also have no answer why his twang was now an issue after having having called countless matches that made countless millions for the company. Whatever the reason, it was decided that Ross had to go.
And to be fair, it wasn’t actually Coachman Vince was looking to as a replacement. It was this man:
WHO? (No, not Jim Neidhart)
Unless you’re a Mixed Martial Arts fan, you’re wondering just who the hell that guy is. That would be UFC announcer Mike Goldberg. Despite having zero-nada-zilch wrestling experience, he was offered anywhere from $350,000 to $500,000 a year, depending on whom you want to believe, to become the lead announcer for Raw. (Maybe Vince thought he was getting BILL Goldberg.) Actually, the idea was not only would he be a suitable replacement for Ross (and I remind you here, he had NO PRO WRESTLING EXPERIENCE), it would also stick it to UFC, which was debuting on Spike TV, WWE’s former network home.
Alas, McMahon hadn’t counted on one thing – the fact that people who knew about WWE would clue Goldberg in on just what he was getting himself into. After hearing horror stories, Goldberg decided to forgo all the cash and WWE was right back where they started: with that hideous old Okie calling the action.
And that just wouldn’t do.
Thus, the stage was set. Raw had made its return to the USA Network, and on the very first show, the entire McMahon clan had gotten pummelled by Steve Austin. This, of course, infuriated McMahon, and he decided that someone should be fired immediately. You might think that someone would be the guy that did said pummelling, but nonsensically Steve Austin was not fired. No, McMahon had another target in mind: the fans. Sure enough, he proceeded to fire all of us with a “You’re FIRED” so phlegm-laden it would make Mr. Brell green with envy.
(I would presume that means that we were all on WWE payroll for years, not unlike when Lanny Poffo was in WCW, never wrestled a match, and yet was still paid hundreds of thousands of dollars every twelve months. Maybe my check got lost in the mail.)
Sadly, he didn’t call us all “Jock Asses”
Following this outburst, he decided that he wasn’t done yet, and demanded that the Raw announce team come to the ring. He blathered on for a bit, and demanded they each apologize or lose their jobs. Coach went first, apologized, and then explained that he was an idiot and he owed everything to Vince. Vince liked this explanation enough to let him off the hook. Remember that, fellow Crappers – if you’re ever in trouble of losing your job, just plead total incompetence. Hey, it worked for Coach.
Next up was Jerry Lawler. He gave a truly heartfelt apology. Actually, he gave a horrible apology, but one that Vince accepted anyway. Don’t ask.
Up last was Good Ol’ JR. He apologized that Linda got stunned.
That wasn’t good enough.
So JR relented and he apologized outright.
That wasn’t good enough.
No, Vince proclaimed, JR needed to apologize to Steph.
And he did.
But that wasn’t good enough either.
But then, just when things looked their most bleak…that crappy WrestleMania song hit and here came Linda, no doubt to save the day!
Except she kicked JR in the balls instead. Yes, this was a LINDA MCMAHON HEEL TURN.
But the sad saga of JR wasn’t over yet. There was one more chapter to be written, the eulogy so to speak. And what a eulogy it was going to be.
For you see, JR was about to undergo a colonoscopy, which he actually did in real life…but this time the doctor was going to be none other than Dr. Heiny and Nurse Slobberknockers!
Yessiree, we marks at home were thrust right into the operating room where Dr. Heiny (Vince) and Nurse Slobberknockers (an admittedly SMOKIN’ 42DD blonde) were about to enter JR’s anal cavity. JR, in this instance, of course, being nothing more than a black cowboy hat with a giant plastic fanny sticking out the other side. Using a plunger, a crowbar, and the jaws of life, Dr. Heiny was able to retrieve…
– A Bottle of JR’s BBQ Sauce
– A Football
– An Owl (?)
– A Hand (Because that worked so well with Mae Young)
– A Goldfish (??)
– An Oklahoma Football helmet
– A Stone Cold Slurpycup
– And last, but not least, this:
Yes, that would be JR’s head. You see, JR had his head up his ass. (Although, as Blade Braxton rightly pointed out, it was actually a Dick Cheney mask, so that would mean he had a Dick up his ass.)
Obviously, this was all set up as an angle for JR to return with Steve Austin and kick some ass. And sure enough, that appeared to be the case as Austin was scheduled to go against Coach in a match with JR’s return to Raw on the line. And then, after weeks of hype…the match never happened.
That’s because Vince actually wanted Austin to lose to Coach, and for Ross to not come back.
If you need to even ask how well that went over with Steve Austin behind the scenes, well, I guess all we need to say is that Austin hasn’t been back on Raw to this day.
Nor has Ross.
Nor have, I would wager, a healthy portion of (former) WWE fans.