In the course of doing their job, they spend hours together on our screens describing and opinioning on the action taking place within the ring. That doesn’t, however, mean announcers get along away from the squared circle. Today we look at some of those behind the scenes rivalries.
I think we can all agree that a very big, important part of any televised wrestling program is the men and sometimes women who call the play by play action. The pro wrestling announcer is an extremely vital part of any broadcast. They along with fan reactions…are crucial to help tell a story inside the ring.
Some of the all time greats like the ‘Dean of Wrestling’ Gordon Solie, Bob Caudle, Ron Trongard and more recently with guys like Joey Styles can make an ordinary match or storyline…extraordinary. With every announce team, chemistry between the announcers helps build interest into the product we are watching. Announce teams with incredible on and off air chemistry made for legendary moments. Guys like Lance Russell and Dave Brown in Memphis, Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan in the WWF and Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler of the Attitude era in WWE have made some moments even more enjoyable to watch.
With that said, not every announcing team is a perfect fit together. As a matter of fact, some of the teams down right hated each other for various reasons. This piece will delve into those particular volatile relationships and why they deteriorated rather quickly.
Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan
This duo didn’t start off poorly, as a matter of fact…they were good friends at one point. The relationship between Schiavone and Heenan didn’t go sour until after Heenan was let go by World Championship Wrestling (WCW) Many people believe the tension started after the death of Bobby’s dear friend Gorilla Monsoon.
The belief was that Schiavone didn’t want Bobby Heenan to mention the death of Monsoon on WCW programming. According to Tony, that wasn’t the case at all. He claims that all he asked Bobby was if Eric Bischoff was aware what he was going to say on TV. The hostility between them occurred after Bobby Heenan was fired by WCW.
WCW producer Craig Leathers called Schiavone to inform him that Bobby was being let go and Leathers instructed Schiavone not to call or talk to Heenan because of a potential lawsuit that Heenan threatened to file against the company. Schiavone followed those orders and never called, wrote or communicated with the Brain in any way. That deeply hurt and insulted Heenan who felt betrayed by Schiavone. To Tony’s credit, however, he has taken full blame for the bad blood between the two of them and regrets never calling Heenan when he was fired.
Jesse Ventura and Jim Ross
In 1992, Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura was hired by WCW to be their lead color guy on all WCW broadcasts. Because Ventura worked with an agent, Ventura received a very lucrative deal to announce for the company. His paycheck became the talk backstage for WCW with many feeling jealous not just over the amount he made…but the lighter workload he had.
One of the main people behind the jealousy was none other than Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross. Ross felt slighted because he had to work more dates for a lot less. JR took that jealousy with him to the announcers table whenever he worked with Ventura. As Jesse Ventura explained, Ross would never frespond to any of the outrageous things Ventura would say on a telecast…making Ventura sound insignificant. The animosity grew and grew between the two announcers every week.
Bruno Sammartino and Vince McMahon
After a legendary wrestling career in the ring, Bruno Sammartino took his talents to the announcer’s desk alongside the WWF boss himself, Vincent Kennedy McMahon. The relationship between Sammartino and McMahon quickly eroded as Bruno would see many of the younger generation of WWF wrestlers get involved with drugs, alcohol and women.
The straight laced Sammartino grew frustrated with his boss and co announcer McMahon for continually turning a blind eye to the developments around him. It got so bad, that Sammartino refused to travel with the WWF’s wrestlers. He would only travel with road agent Chief Jay Strongbow who he trusted. Sammartino eventually quit the company and for years became one of Vince McMahon’s strongest outspoken adversaries.
Bobby Heenan and Jesse Ventura
Even though the two multi talented color commentators never really worked matches together…there was some subtle heat and jealousy between the two men. Ventura felt that Heenan was jealous of him because he was getting all the big WWF gigs and Heenan was getting all the scraps.
Bobby Heenan on the other hand felt that Jesse Ventura’s biggest downfall as an announcer was being obsessed with his hatred of everything Hulk Hogan and it cost him jobs in both WWF and WCW.
Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross
Here is another case of time heals all wounds. While JR and Schiavone have mutual respect for one another nowadays…back in the late 80’s…the two men fought each other for the right to be the lead play by play man of WCW. Ted Turner was in a cost cutting mode and the two announcers were auditioning to be THE voice of WCW. Schiavone was always a Jim Crockett Jr favorite, but when Crockett sold the company to Turner…he lost his biggest supporter. Jim Ross won that battle and Schiavone not wanting to be play second fiddle to Jim Ross, quit WCW and joined the WWF.
Mike Tenay and Tony Schiavone
I certainly don’t want to pile on Tony Schiavone in this piece, but here is yet another combination that had a falling out. ‘The Professor’ Mike Tenay and Schiavone worked well together for the first couple of years…but the two eventually had a falling out. Schiavone was such a company guy at the end of WCW’s run and took the fun out of broadcasting for Tenay.
Some would go on to say later that Schiavone didn’t interact much with his color commentators after awhile and when he would see one of them walking towards him in a hallway…Schiavone would allegedly turn around and walk away to avoid conversations.
Many of these announcing combinations will never be confused with the teams of Gordon Solie and Freddy Miller or Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Some people just don’t get along.