After cranking out several Main Event Mafia and Aces and 8s themed columns earlier this month and last month, I wanted to take a moment this weekend to publish something completely different for your reading pleasure. I hope you enjoy this column and have some great advice for me and your fellow readers in the comments below. Now, on with the show!
I’m a wrestling fan. And I’m not quiet about the fact that I take a very practical approach towards being a mark for the entertainment aspect of this business. There’s something about the storylines behind professional wrestling that I find intriguing. I’m not sure what it is, really. Its been over 20 years since I thought this stuff was “real” (and yes, I understand the athleticism is real). And its been about a dozen years since WCW and ECW both closed and I realized that no matter what I wanted as a wrestling fan, the number one promotion in the world didn’t have to give a damn about my point of view. That disregard for what the fans want really manifested itself when a certain Billion Dollar Princess’ husband kept getting the rub over any number of superstars – even while the fans booed him (and not the “good” boos… the “this is boring and predictable” boos).
After not watching wrestling for a while in the mid-2000s, I crossed the line and started watching TNA and their weird six-sided ring. The action that took place in the ring and the storylines that were displayed were some pretty entertaining stuff! And so I became a fan of a true alternative to WWE and Stamford’s forced view of what professional wrestling should be for a guy in his mid-to-late 20s (at the time). Side note – as a WWE stockholder I’m glad that their view of professional wrestling is profitable because they make me a lot of money; end side note. Times have obviously changed in TNA and iMPACT Wrestling is different today than what it was back when I first started watching back in 2006, but I’m still a fan of their product. I might not be as fanatical as I may have been back in 2010 when this site launched, but I still try to watch the shows each week even if I “watch” by just listening to it in the background and I keep a steady eye on the news coming out of the promotion (and thus operate this website).
And still, I find myself wanting something different to watch yet again. This is not to say that I dislike iMPACT Wrestling or any of its programming. On the contrary – I find their shows to be extremely entertaining and thoroughly encompassing of what I’d like to see in a weekly, episodic professional wrestling show. What I’m getting at here, though, is that it’s okay to branch out and find something new to watch from time to time.
As an avowed iMPACT Wrestling fan and a vocal supporter of the company, I thought that this desire would be an easy one to fill. If I wanted something more than what I was seeing on iMPACT Wrestling, then I could just go to Ohio Valley Wrestling and watch the next generation of TNA stars rising through the ranks! Brilliant! I knew that performers like Crimson, Taeler Hendrix, and Jessie Godderz are (were?) mainstays of OVW. Plus, I knew that there were some other performers like Sam Shaw and Rob Terry that floated around OVW honing their skills before getting the call to iMPACT Wrestling full-time. Watching OVW seemed like an ideal way to satisfy my desire to consume something different than what I was seeing each week on Spike TV.
And then I watched OVW and my immediate response was, “Oh boy…”
Let me say this about OVW before I offer some harsh criticisms: The fact that you can go online and watch the latest OVW show right from their website for free is pretty damn cool. Think about that for a moment – here is a company that produces an hour’s worth of television content each week and they give it away to the world. That’s remarkable. If you really sit and think about it, the fact that OVW (and iMPACT Wrestling, WWE, and any other number of promotions) are giving away content for free on the internet is amazing. But that’s not my focus here, so let’s move on.
One more positive/neutral comment about the OVW shows: These shows are taped in a very small soundstage/warehouse arena. Most folks would look at the show and immediately change the channel because the show looks like such a small-time, low rent event. Frankly, that’s the type of alternative that I’ve been looking for lately, so I’m fine with the set up of the show. It works for me and I don’t mind the environment that the show takes place in.
Now, let’s get on with the title of this column – The Sound of Failure.
Let me ask you this… have you ever watched OVW? If the answer is “No,” then I encourage you not to bother. No, it’s not the less-than-elite level of wrestling in the ring. In truth, that doesn’t bother me at all and I actually find it to be a compelling reason to watch. And no, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t watch the show because the production value isn’t what I’m used to on Thursday nights. And again – no, I’m not saying that you should avoid OVW because the arena looks like a renovated warehouse. None of that matters to this wrestling fan.
What does matter to this wrestling fan is the sound of the show.
The sound of a show is primarily dictated by the show’s announcers. Any fan of WWE’s Attitude Era knows that the Hall of Fame combination of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler had a great deal to do with getting the edgier version of professional wrestling over in the late 1990s. Similarly, anyone who was a diehard fan of the original ECW knows how important Joey Styles was to making the promotion a truly unique alternative to anything that you’d find from the bigger companies. Go back a few years and listen to the combinations of Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon or Bobby “The Brain” Heenan with Monsoon or flip to the Crockett Promotions and listen to Gordon Solie and you’ll immediately understand why he’s “The Dean” of professional wrestling announcers.
The sound of a professional wrestling show is critical to its success. The sound is what keeps a fan’s attention when the in-ring action is less than top tier. The sound is what captivates an audience and leads them along the path that the writers provide for the wrestlers to perform in the ring. The sound of a professional wrestling show is… everything.
OVW sounds like shit.
Go ahead and go over to their website and try to watch the first minute of episode #724 (click here to go to their website). Did you notice the high-pitched screeching laugh within the first 10 seconds? What about the horrendous over-reaction and similar-sounding screeches at the 15 second mark? There are some follow-up high-pitched screeches in the next few seconds, too. Did you make it to the 20 second mark where the guy with the high-pitched falsetto yells “Noooo?” Did you make it that far? I wanted to punch my laptop screen at this point in the show… and that was only 20 second into the episode.
Somewhere around the 37 second mark the “non-irritating” announcer yells something like “They did it!” Even that guy aggravated me because you can tell in his voice that there is nothing real there. He doesn’t have any raw, real emotion put into that call. This isn’t Jim Ross emotionally yelling, “Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!” It’s not even Gorilla Monsoon turning to Bobby Heenan to say, “Will you stop?” Hell, the OVW announcers don’t even have the emotion of Taz saying, “Let the pigeons loose!” or Jerry Lawler yelling, “Puppies!”
The OVW announcers are horrible. They sound terrible. They are emotionless and somehow enthusiastically pedantic. They’re unlistenable. And when a show sounds like shit, the show becomes unwatchable. Those announcers should be fired immediately. Announcing professional wrestling isn’t going to work for these guys as a career. Frankly, whoever hired them should be fired on the spot. They are failures at this aspect of the game and do not have the innate ability to improve. Period.
Lest you think I came to this harsh conclusion based on one minute of OVW programming, think again. I watched that entire show linked above and the announcers could not properly hype with real emotion, connect the fans to what was going on in the ring, or support the action in the ring during the dull spots. They were a total disaster. They embodied everything that sucks about professional wrestling announcers. They’re a miserable mix of Mike Adamle and Don West (in the later years) with a healthy dose of WWE’s forced verbiage (i.e. the way they force Michael Cole and the other announcers to use the nicknames and other wrestler “branding” that they’re trying to sell to the their audience).
For this wrestling fan, the most frustrating part of watching the show linked above is that there is some great action in the ring, but I’m so distracted by the piss poor announcing that I could not – and could never – enjoy watching the show. Now granted, I’ll admit that the older man in the announcing trio is somewhat passable. However, none of these three could be called up to the “big leagues” to even fill-in for a B-level show (if iMPACT Wrestling had a B-level show, that is).
I tried watching some other OVW shows on their website and I just kept hearing one thing – the sound of failure. Here’s hoping that in the big restructuring going on in TNA right now that someone takes a good, hard look at OVW and begins cleaning that house, too.