Michael Cole on Preparing for WrestleMania, Sting In WWE, RAW Being Three Hours, Paul Heyman, More
– Michael Cole recently spoke with Sports Illustrated to promote WWE’s WrestleMania 31. The full interview is available at this link. Below are highlights:
How he prepares for the biggest show of the year:
Cole: The funniest thing is I could not even tell you how many WrestleMania’s I have called. I do know my first one [attending] was WrestleMania 13 in Chicago. I did not call any match there but I was there as part of the company. From a preparation standpoint as a commentator, in an odd sort of way WrestleMania is one of the easiest shows of year to call because it is the culmination of everything. All of stories that we’ve been working on for months and months have been told. Now it is just two guys or four guys or four girls getting into the ring to finally settle their differences. So this is the one time of the year that I can actually sit down and call full matches. I know the background of the stories and I can actually get caught up in the moment. When you do Monday Night Raw and Thursday Night SmackDown every week, there is so much going on because we are an entertainment company. You have to deal with social media, storylines and all the different things the company is involved in. So a lot of times you don’t get to focus on the match as much as you would want to. But at WrestleMania, that’s what I get to do for four hours and it’s exciting.
How privy he will be to what’s going down at WrestleMania:
If I wanted to know, I could know everything. But I don’t want to know and especially at WrestleMania. A perfect example was last year with the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. When Undertaker’s streak was ended by Brock, oh, my God, I was as shocked as the people sitting at the stadium that night inside the [New Orleans] Superdome. I had know no idea in a million years that was going to happen, and that was the reaction you got out of our call hopefully. I was expecting The Undertaker to kick out and I did one of my normal “One, two…” and I was expecting to say kick out and all of a sudden it was three. I looked at John and he looked at me and I mouthed to him off-air, “Is it over?” His eyes were big and wide and I said to myself: “Okay, the streak is over.” I want those moments to happen.
One of my favorite WrestleMania matches to call was the first time Rock and John Cena met in Miami [at Wrestlemania XXVIII]. I didn’t know what would happen and it was such a great year-long build. It makes that moment so much better. At the end of the day, just like anyone else who calls any sport, we are fans of the product and we want to be as intrigued as everybody else.
Who is in his ear during RAW:
So this is the fun part of my job. People think I sit down in a chair and I look at the ring and say, “Okay there are two guys fighting and this is what they are doing” and call the match. That is, and I swear to God, so far from the truth. I sit down and in my headset when I am calling Monday Night Raw for three hours, I have my executive producer, I hear my audio technician, I hear whoever is producing us backstage whether it is [WWE Chairman and CEO] Mr. [Vince] McMahon or Triple H or whoever it may be at the time. I also have two guys I have to listen to that I am working with so we can have a conversation on the air. So at any given time I have my voice, the two guys at ring side, audio, the executive producer and whoever is producing that night. So I sometimes have six voices in my head at once while we are on the air on live television. While that is going on, someone might say that the number one trend in the world on Twitter is this and we have to hit on it. Meanwhile, don’t forget to tell people why Paige is doing this to Nikki Bella. Then John may be telling me a joke and Booker T might be laughing and I have to keep all this going and keep the train on the tracks. I am a traffic cop.
How hard it is to do three hours of RAW:
When 11:15 p.m. ET rolls around, people have said to all of us, “You guys look like zombies. And it’s true. It is mentally exhausting. And it is physically exhausting, too. I sweat through my suit sometimes. When I am done, I get in my car to drive to the next town and I completely zone out for two or three hours. But it is also rewarding every week. I love it.
His weekly schedule:
Say we have a pay-per-view on Sunday. We do the event on Sunday and then drive to the next town overnight so we can be there for Raw. We might get in at 3 AM and we start at 10 AM that day and then go to 11 o’clock that night. Then we get in the car again and drive to the next town and do it all over again for SmackDown. We tape that on Tuesdays. Then, two weeks out of month come Wednesday morning, I am on a 5 a.m. flight from whatever town we are in to work out of our performance center in Florida to work with the kids down there. Then I’ll fly home Saturday and leave again Sunday. That could be a typical week for me.
What he considers the greatest match he’s called:
I have done a lot of thinking about this the last couple weeks as we get ready for WrestleMania. I think the number one match for me professionally and personally was Eddie Guerrero and Brock Lesnar in 2004. Eddie had gone through a lot in his career and I was very close to Eddie. That night was a really special moment for me. I’d also pick the Mick Foley call the night he won the championship [in 1999] during the Monday Night Wars. Was it a great call? I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination but what made that call special to me was the emotion in my voice. That was a special moment. Mick and I have been real close over the years because of our connection to Bruce Springsteen. We are both huge Springsteen fans and we both know Springsteen’s guitarist, Nils Lofgren. That’s sort has been our bond, and Mick gave me for my birthday one year a harmonica that Springsteen had used in a concert. Rock-John Cena I is up there too. That was one of my all-time favorite calls. And in retrospect, I would put last year’s Lesnar-Undertaker match because of the historical significance and the surprise factor.
Sting in WWE:
He’s a great guy, number one. Number two, I thought I would ever have the opportunity to do that. In my career I have called matches of some of the greatest guys of all time and Sting is one of those guys that I don’t think any of us who have been all WWE all the time ever thought we’d have the opportunity to say, “Oh, my God, it’s Sting.”
To be able to call him and Hunter (Triple H) at WrestleMania is going to be an absolute thrill.
He is an absolute genius. Paul Heyman, a lot of people don’t know this, used to be the head writer on SmackDown when I was cutting my chops as a wrestling announcer. He taught me so much about this business. If it weren’t for Paul, I probably would not be in the position I am in. He is a genius.