Michael Cole says he doesn’t think Cena should turn heel

Apr 4, 2013 - by Steve Gerweck

Michael Cole recently spoke with Busted Open Radio about his rise in WWE, the Monday night wars and more. Check out the highlights:

On his start and his rise in WWE: “I got off on the wrong foot here in WWE for a bunch of different circumstances. Number one, I came from CBS News, so I came from outside the business. And this is back in 1997 where it’s still the ‘good ol boy’ network, where if you weren’t brought up and didn’t pay your dues in the wrestling industry you had no business being here. Jim Ross is a guy who dedicated 30 years of his life to this business. He started as a referee, building rings and morphed his way into becoming an announcer and he had paid his dues, as most of the guys had. So I came in in 1997 and I was first employee that was ever hired by the company that was an announcer. I came from CBS Radio. I had been a wrestling fan but I had never been involved in it in any aspect. So I come right out of the blue and start doing shows on WWE. So there was immediately a backlash from the true hardcore fan. ‘Who is this guy? How can he be talking about a product that I’ve watched for 25 years; I’ve never heard of him. He’s not from the business. He’s not from the industry.’ Then I wasn’t even able to get my feet wet and pay my dues here before Jim got sick with his bout of Bells Palsy. So when Jim got sick, all of a sudden, now I had been in the company for a year and they throw me now onto Monday Night Raw and PPVs and I was clueless. I had done sports before, so I knew how to go out and call action, but this business isn’t just about calling action. It’s about telling stories. It’s about understanding the psychology and that was all foreign to me. So for four or five months I’m trying to fill the shoes of this legend who had been sick and I was thrown into that spot so there was a horrible backlash at that point. Rightfully so because I wasn’t ready for that spot. I shouldn’t have been in it. And then third, Vince Russo at the time who was our writer decides that this is great, let’s make JR the bad guy; let’s make him the heel and have him attack Michael Cole’s character. It obviously turned out bad because I ended up being the bad guy because the perception was both within the storyline and in real life is that ‘here’s this young, punk kid coming out of the news world to replace the guy that I grew up with.’ It would be like some guy from a local news station stepping in to replace Walter Cronkite on the news. I had all these things against me and when JR came back fans were like, ‘thank god, this Cole guy sucks, he shouldn’t be here,’ and I stuck it out. I had seen so many things in my life covering news from wars and so many horrible things that I couldn’t let this stuff affect me. I had a wife and family and that’s who I loved and who I cared about and this other stuff was like, ‘whatever, I’m not going to let these people affect me,’ and I continued to move on and I went to do Smackdown and I did that show for 10 years, which was, to me, an incredible run, and finally in 2008 got drafted to Raw and the rest is history. I don’t have any regrets at all. I thought and I still think that I earned that role. People still to this day can’t stand me for replacing Jim Ross, and they think that JR and I have a terrible relationship because of the storylines that we’ve done, but we don’t. Jim and I are actually real close and we do have a great relationship and Jim’s been a great mentor to me and here we are today.”

On the Monday night wars: “There was a ton of pressure. I was in over my head, and I’ll be the first to admit that. I had been in warzones around the world and never felt the type of pressure that I felt in those few months leading up. Then I had to call Wrestlemania on top of it all, except for the main event, which we brought Jim back for, but it was an extraordinary amount of pressure which I wasn’t ready for. But I always try to look at things from a positive standpoint; that really prepared me for what was coming over the next few years here in WWE and really becoming the voice of Smackdown and becoming the solid guy on that show and moving on to Raw and where I am today.”

On his favorite announcing combination/preferences: “From an ego standpoint, I take pride in the fact that I’m able to do all of it. We don’t get a chance to toot our own horns a lot but from an ego standpoint, and you have to have an ego to be in this business or any business. You have to have confidence. I take pride that I can do it all. One of the things that I’ve said about my career is that, love me or hate me, the one thing that I’ve been able to do that I don’t think anybody would take umbrage with is the fact that I have been able to work with anybody they’ve given me. When I was on Smackdown, I worked with Jerry Lawler, I worked with Tazz, I worked with Mick Foley, I worked with Jonathan Coachman, I worked with JBL, I worked with Paul Heyman, I’ve worked with JR, I’ve worked with Josh Matthews, I’ve worked with Todd Grisham, Matt Striker, I’ve worked with everybody and I’ve been able to pull it off. So I take pride in that. Three man booth over 2 man booth? It depends who I’m working with. I love the three man booth with Jerry and John. JBL and The King. Love it. Then I’m really able to be that straight on host and direct the traffic. John’s your heel, King’s your baby face and I’m able to be that guy that delivers the information which is the role that I cherish because I think I do that well. 2 man booth, I love working with King and I love working with John. So any combination of those right now is preferable to me. I think the 3 man booth works a little bit better on Smackdown than it does on Raw because Smackdown is a show where there’s not as much social media involvement, the matches are much longer. Raw you get three or four minute matches and social media so it’s a little easier to navigate a two man booth on Raw with all the stuff you have to get in as opposed to Smackdown. I think that out of all the partners I’ve worked with I think that Jerry Lawler and JBL, either together or separately, have been my favorites.”

On 3 Hour Raws: “I was actually excited initially and then when I sat through it for about two months I was like, ‘oh my god.’ The worst thing is, and it’s nothing to do with the guys in the ring, because they’re busting their humps every single time, it’s the energy level. It’s really, really difficult. Your mind really starts to wander. You get past 10 o’clock eastern time and your mind really starts to wander. So you’ve really go to focus on the task at hand. PPV’s are weird; to me a three hour PPV goes by like that because its just concentration, you’ve got two other guys working with you to help carry the load, I don’t know. For some reason the three hour Raw seems real long, but then other days, like last night in Washington DC for the go-home for Wrestlemania, that show flew by. I looked at my watch and it was quarter to eleven. I was like, ‘holy cow, where did the show go?’ Then there’s other days where it’s like 10:15 and you’re like, ‘oh my god, how do I stay awake? Get me another Red bull.’ Again, it’s nothing to do with what’s going on in the ring or anything it’s just mentally trying to stay focused and alert for that amount of time on live television. Smackdown is different. You can go out there and screw around and you make a mistake you can fix it if you have to. On Raw, you’ve got to watch everything you say. Its complete concentration. A lot of times the audience goes through peaks and valleys too throughout the show for three hours. The live crowd is up and down. So you have to try to get them going and get them up there. That’s your job as a commentator, make every match and every superstar and diva interesting. It’s difficult to do but it can be done. The thing about 3 hours is coming up with creative and different ways to say things, say different stories. How many times can we say The Rock’s going to be here tonight? Ten times you’re promoting it a show; you’ve got to try to come up with a different way to say it each time. There are a lot of things that go on that just a guy watching at home doesn’t realize. Tweaking ways you say things and trying to drive you guys in the right direction on certain characters and giving background on guys and there’s a lot of work that goes into this. Following Twitter, social media, oh my god that stuff is nonstop.”

On Cena’s having heat with the crowd: “I think there’s a reason for that. Rock’s fresh. He’s not here all the time. Even during this run he’s missed a few Raw’s then comes back then miss a few Raw’s, so Rock’s fresh. He’s different and he’s bringing in a ton of new faces to our product because he’s a movie star. Arguably the hottest movie star in the world right now. So he’s bringing in a ton of new faces. He’s fresh, people watch him, people think it’s cool that a movie star is our champion. John is there every day. He’s been there for a decade. He’s in the trenches every single day. He’s at every live event. He’s on television every single week. He’s at every single PPV. I think that there’s a familiarity there. I think that fans of our product who watch it religiously and don’t miss a show, follow the inside workings of this, I think that characters like John to guys like yourself can get stale. I think that’s what our fans vocalize. I don’t think its dislike for John Cena; I think they appreciate everything John does. John is the most wonderful human being on the planet. He’s one of these guys, I’ll preface this by saying he’s one of my closest friends in the business, but John has not changed in ten years here. John is one of these guys who has never changed who he is when he became famous. He’s the same guy that he was when he first walked in that door 10 years ago. He’s the same guy that’ll sit down in a lounge a chair and have a beer with you and put on some country music and shoot pool. He’s that way today just like he was 10 years ago. John does so much and you cannot overstate what John does not only for this company but for the charity organizations out there. When you grant over 300 wishes and being as busy and in demand as John Cena is, that says something about the man’s character. Granting 300 wishes, you’re not doing that for publicity. The Susan G Komen for the Cure, we did the breast cancer awareness for the first time last year, that was all John’s idea. John came to the company and said, ‘hey, listen, let’s do this.’ Next thing you know, we’ve got pink ropes and the pink ribbon all over the place and it was John’s idea. He felt passionately about that. So I don’t think the fans, unless they’re idiots, which I don’t think our fans are, some maybe, but I don’t think it’s a dislike of Cena personally. I don’t want to see [a heel turn] happen. I love John how he is from a character standpoint. He loves the adversity. The one thing about John is that John will start out getting booed out of the building, whether he’s in a match or a promo, I guarantee you by the end of the match the fans are going to be applauding him and standing on their feet for what he either said or what he did in the ring. No matter what happens Sunday at Wrestlemania, no matter what happens in that match with Rock, I guarantee you that there will be a show of respect for both Cena and Rock at the end of that match. They may boo Cena out of MetLife Stadium, which they probably will because it’s a New York crowd, but I guarantee you by the time that’s over there will be respect there.”

On his favorite calls and matches: “There were two that stand out. I’ve been doing this for so long, people always ask me, ‘what was your favorite match?’ ‘What do you think of this rivalry?’ I don’t remember. I don’t remember what happened two weeks ago sometimes on Raw that’s why I keep unbelievable notes in my iPad because I seriously don’t remember. We do so much programming, I call so many shows it’s hard to keep this stuff straight. But the one match that really stands out for me is the night, it was in February a number of years ago, I think it was No Way Out PPV, it was the night that Eddie won the WWE Championship from Brock and that call to me was my favorite, still to this day because I was real close with Eddie and I felt that that night when he won. This was really the crowning achievement for him. I lived through him with that. I called Mick Foley’s first championship match. I was sort of thrown into that because that’s when JR was sick so I really didn’t know what I was doing. I told Mick the other day that I wish that it happened like 5 years later so I could actually know what I was doing when I called it. Mick said, ‘hey, you did fine, it was wonderful.’ But the Eddie-Brock match was one. Undertaker-Shawn Michaels was a very emotional one. Shawn and I over the years had become really close. I can tell this story because Shawn and I talk about it all the time, we’ve actually talked about it on a DVD; I couldn’t stand him when I started in this company. I could not stand him for a number of reasons. But when he came back from his injury we got to know each other and got real close. We both live in Texas. We have a lot of the same interests; we hunt, we fish together. Actually, I’m the voice of his outdoor show, Macmillan River Adventures, on the Outdoor Channel. Calling that match to me was very emotional. The third match was last year’s Wrestlemania between Rock and Cena. It was fabulous, tremendous match to call. Probably thinking about it now, probably the best match I’ve ever called was the one a few weeks ago when Cena beat Punk to keep his opportunity to face Rock at Wrestlemania. It was like a three or four segment match on Monday Night Raw. It was incredible match and obviously when the guys have matches like that it makes our job easier. I very rarely at this point in my career go back and listen to a match that I called. I just don’t do it. I’ve got so much stuff going on that I just don’t have time. But I actually went back and listened to that match and I was very, very proud of that work. I had both Punk and Cena come to me and say, ‘listen that was fabulous.’ I think a lot of it has to do again with the fact that, remember how JR was Steve [Austin]’s guy and JR got really emotional because him and Steve were so close. I think a lot of that happens with John and I because I am close with John. It’s just like anything else, when you’re emotionally attached to something, you’re going to be a little more into than you normally would. Plus that match was fabulous anyway. That was probably the favorite match that I’ve ever called.”

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