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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Byron Saxton sucks, but he ain't the problem

Had to show a few friends the YouTube video of Brock's path of destruction from Monday. It would be the 'call your friends and tell em to put on Raw RIGHT DAMN NOW' moment if people didn't just let their phones go to voicemail. Nerve of today's self-entitled generation. Anywho, Lesnar killing everything within a 40 foot radius was good shit, especially the commentary desk remaining on its side for the remainder of the night as a monument to Lesnar's primal anger. As far as visual gags go, that one made me guffaw each time they panned to the announcers.

Which reminds me, I cracked that Lesnar is technically still a heel, since he subjected all of us to two hours of Byron Saxton, without the benefit of post-production. It's his first live announcing on the main roster, on the show most heavily produced by McMahon via the magical headsets Mick Foley once wrote about.

Until Lawler was dispatched to the table around hour three to try to save a slowly-fading broadcast, Saxton brought as much energy to his duties as Bernie Lomax would have, only without the moderately-humorous benefit of two slackers propping him through various everyday activities. It's not as if Saxton's never done commentary before, but his noticeable badness was the talk of Twitter for the better part of 45 minutes until Lawler emerged to try and steer the jet out of the brush.

Why was Saxton bad? There were the 20 second pauses (maybe even longer) between sentences, the loud-as-a-hum platitudes he spoke, and the wooden delivery of pretty much anything he said. Had he been pricked repeatedly with needles as he spoke, at least the twangs and yelp-speak might've made him sound like Christopher Walken, which would've been somewhat interesting.

The likes of Tom Phillips, Jack Korpela, and Todd Grisham have brought flavorless, mechanical chatter to the commentary booth in recent years, and they often go unnoticed because they're all interchangeable. Their job is to occupy space on B and C-shows, putting forth the basic talking points of a storyline that has nothing to do with the Heath Slater vs. Sin Cara/Mason Ryan vs. Alex Riley/Yoshi Tatsu vs. Eric Escobar match taking place before them, Non-Raw announcers are generally voices occupying space, whereas the Raw announcers are nails in the ears of consumers. Only Raw gets the truly searing hard-sells, understandably. That's where the drop-off from Cole to Saxton rang so loud.

You wouldn't think there'd be a drop-off from Cole, but credit where it's due, he takes McMahon's endless instructions, the ones that squeeze any bit of humanity and likability out of the talking head, and verbally vomits them into a disjointed, but mostly acceptable, night of narration. It's a far cry from Jim Ross' on-point calls coupled with his dry musings, but as far as competence in spite of hindrance, Cole does fine. Consider the obstacles he faces.

You appreciate the bullshit Cole has to go through more when you realize how hindered Saxton was by the voices in his ear. Those long pauses between dull statements felt like an eternity, and it's not as though nothing was happening in the ring. He's called wrestling matches before. But this is a man, Byron Saxton, that is so not used to McMahon giving him instructions the length of an eight-person lunch order. No wonder we hate Cole and JBL so much: one takes instructions and tries to squeeze sense out of them with a pained, gun-to-my-head tone, and the other takes angry Vince's thoughts and growls them on loop, whether they make sense or not. In fact, JBL sounds like French Stewart being overtaken by The Big Giant Head on 3rd Rock from the Sun, becoming consumed by Vince to the point where he almost sprouts a pompadour. I know 2006 JBL on Smackdown was nothing like this.

So yes, Saxton was bad, but we can understand why. WWE, whether or not Vince and Kevin Dunn realize it, is a wrestling show. Just as we believe it doesn't need 30 writers to work, it also doesn't need such up-the-ass production on headset. They're professional announcers; they know the product. Let em do their jobs.

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