Rarely is this true, but it wasn’t fun to write this story.
Usually when an opportunity to write about professional wrestling is presented, it’s something to get excited about for me, but addressing this backstage heat between WWE Monday Night RAW announcers Booker T and Corey Graves feels more like Mom and Dad fighting than a juicy wrestling storyline.
Internet rumor and innuendo had suggested for months that the two had heat, but change at the commentary desk right after the Royal Rumble, and the public comments made by the two afterward have confirmed those stories.
WWE Hall of Famer and Houston native Booker T has long been a favorite of mine. He was one of the more athletically gifted and charismatic performers of his generation, he’s represented our hometown with passion, and his energy and enthusiasm for the business is something I’ve loved hearing on WWE broadcasts.
Corey Graves is immensely talented, a polished talker, entertaining, and someone I’ve called the best commentator in the business.
Graves will continue working on nearly every show WWE produces, Booker T will always land as his feet and get new opportunities with the resume previously mentioned, so they’ll be fine, but the TV audience unfortunately loses.
Before breaking down a few key questions about what happens going forward, here’s the audio of Booker T addressing the situation on his SportsRadio 610 show Heated Conversations:
Here’s the key quote:
If I got Corey Graves into a fisticuffs (sic), I would beat him down like he stole something. I would be whoopin’ his ass all day long. My thing is this, I’m a nice guy, until you get on my bad side. Corey Graves, I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s on my bad side right now, but he’s the reason that I’m not on Monday Night Raw right now. Lot of people in the company thought I was going to jump on him. I was gonna do something bad to him. I was gonna drag him. I was gonna take him out to the woodshed. I was gonna beat that man so bad that he was going to say ‘Please, please, just don’t beat me anymore.’ That’s how hot I was getting, that’s how close I was getting.
Booker T doesn’t mix words.
Shoot or Work?
With WrestleMania just around the corner, it’s not unfair to speculate if this feud is the setup for a story line leading into the biggest Pay-Per-View of the year, but I don’t think that’s the case.
Announcer matches have been done before—who could forget the “classic” match between Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler at WrestleMania 27—and Graves is a former NXT Tag Team Champion who can handle himself in the ring, but I can’t see it happening.
Graves was forced to retire from in-ring competition after suffering multiple concussions, and they’ve handled Daniel Bryan’s concussion situation conservatively over the last couple years, so I’d be surprised by WWE giving Graves medical clearance to compete at WrestleMania.
Few announcers are perfect, everyone will slip up from time to time, so it’s more about how those situations are handled than anything else and that dynamic could be the root of the heat between Booker T and Graves.
Even the two best announcers in the world will have awkward moments while they develop timing and chemistry with each other, so flubs and stepping over each other will happen, the difference between good announcers and the great ones are how they handle those situations.
Unfortunately, it’s seemed that Graves and veteran play-by-play man Michael Cole have been very eager to slam Booker T on air when he has made a mistake. Maybe that could be a work and just them playing to their character or story line, but the way they’ve joked about Booker T’s mistakes on air has been unprofessional at times.
Booker T is a Hall of Famer and that should come with a certain level of respect beyond just being their equal at the announcer table, so feeling disrespected by the on-air jokes by his colleagues isn’t unreasonable. At the very least their critiques should have been saved for an off-air meeting if they’ve been a shoot.
The role of the third announcer for WWE programming—through no fault of Booker T—just doesn’t work and the company’s broadcast plan should be rethought as I’ve discussed on my podcast, The Heel Turn.
WWE has cycled through announcers in the role for years from Jerry Lawler to JBL to David Otunga to Booker T, and regardless of the person in that seat, the role just doesn’t work and isn’t necessary.
The announce team should have the straight man as the play by play voice, and a heel commentator to antagonize him and sell the heel wrestlers.
Both roles on the broadcast are already filled with what I just described, so the third person tends to either have redundant material or take from the heat the heel commentator tries to achieve.
It also leads to more situations where announcers are talking over each other—which makes it hard for the audience to hear what they’re saying—and more back and forth arguments that take away from the calling of the actual match in the ring.