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Michael Cole on his hearing loss, being a 'sports entertainment announcer,' past issues with Jim Ross, working with Pat McAfee



WWE announcer Michael Cole joined "The Press Box" podcast to promote WrestleMania and to talk about his former role at CBS News, his transition to announcing for WWE, the mechanics in calling matches, his relationships with former and current announcers and wrestlers, and more.

Here are some highlights from the interview.

Cole said he considers himself an actor for WWE:

"I always tell everyone when they ask me about working for WWE and sports entertainment that I am a fake broadcaster for a make believe sport, and I use a fake name. I mean all of that with the utmost respect. I'm not poking fun at the profession by saying that, but I try to use that analogy to explain to people what it's like to be a commentator in sports entertainment.”

“My real name is Sean Coulthard. I came from CBS News. I walked into sports entertainment as a fan not having any idea what I was getting myself into. I had to come up with a different name because at the time, Shawn Michaels was a major star in the company, and they didn't want to have two Shawns on the air. So I took my middle name and half my last name. So I have a name that doesn't belong to me, and I play a broadcaster on television.”

“It's really important that people understand that because yes, indeed, we do broadcast it and we are commentators, and it's very serious of what we do. But there are many, many points where we have to act. If we don't believe in certain storylines, or we don't believe in certain characters, we have to make the audience believe that we believe, so we are actors. In many ways, we're a scripted television show, so we have to do things the way that the writers and the boss want things done, and that's why I consider myself an actor more so than anything else.”

Cole explains what sports entertainment announcing is:

"We're not a wrestling company. WWE is an entertainment company. So the style that I utilize and the style that many people that work for me here in WWE utilize, is what I like to call sports entertainment announcing. A lot of people laugh at me about that. They'll make jokes about it. But what we do here is much different than what they may do in other companies, because many of those companies, and rightfully so, and proudly so, are professional wrestling organizations. We're a sports entertainment product.”

“I'm going to date myself here, but some people will understand this. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, there was a television show called Taxi. Taxi was based in a taxi garage in New York City. What made that show interesting, and the reason it was one of the number one shows on television is because people became emotionally invested in these characters. That's what sold the product. That's why people watched, not because they were cab drivers in a garage. They were emotionally invested in their characters.”

“It's the same thing with WWE. We just happen to use a wrestling ring as our focal point of where our conflicts are resolved. But in order for our business to be successful, you have to become emotionally invested in the characters and what we are selling. The majority of the people that watch our product, they enjoy wrestling of course, but they also get really into the soap opera style of what we do. There's a lot of other companies out there that do strictly wrestling, and that's cool. You're going to call a wrestling match much different than you're going to call a sports entertainment match. We focus a lot on stories. We're storytellers more than we're play by play guys or color analysts, and I think that's really where the difference lies."

Cole explaining how he went from backstage interviewer to 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. 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.”

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“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.”

“I learned more in that edit room over those couple of years than I did anywhere else. I always talk about Paul Heyman because Paul Heyman at the time was the main producer of Smackdown and the main writer of Smackdown. Paul Heyman used to keep Taz and I in that edit room some nights till five or six o'clock in the morning redoing line after line after line and explaining to us why the redo was so much better than the line that we delivered live and the psychology behind it. That's how I learned. So when I started doing live television, I was ready for it. Those years of that were invaluable."

Cole was asked to speak about his relationship he had with Jim Ross over the years:

"Jim and I have had a rocky relationship over the years. 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 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.”

“Now you have this guy coming from the news and knows nothing about sports entertainment. 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."

Cole talking about his hearing loss:

"Yeah, I need to hear myself when I broadcast, and it has to be loud. I think over 25 years of doing that, it's just deteriorated the hearing where I have these special molds that have been made for me that go into my ears, that I wear my headsets over, and it increases the volume of what I can hear during the show. So they're almost like hearing aids for ringside commentators."

Cole on working with Pat McAfee:

"He is the most energetic and enthusiastic person I've ever been around. He makes everyone around him better. He makes everybody around him want to enjoy the product.”

“Pat and I have developed an insane amount of chemistry. I hired Pat five years ago to do some panel work for NXT pre-shows, brought him on board last year, and knew he was going to be a huge hit. I was shocked that he actually wanted to come work for us and work with me. He's just an incredible guy to work with. He's a fan, and you can tell that he's a fan when you listen to him. He's just so over the top and so excited and so energetic. He's the classic extrovert, and I'm the classic introvert, and that's why it works so well together and we've become so extremely close."

If you use any portion of the quotes from this article please credit The Press Box with a h/t to for the transcription