In 2012, a shocking incident took place on Monday night Raw with Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler suffering a heart attack.
Because of this, WWE needed someone to take his spot on the commentary team for the Night of Champions pay-per-view.
Enter, John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield.
Throughout the event, JBL seemed genuinely excited about being back with the WWE and that came through in his commentary.
Night of Champions 2012 featured some intriguing storylines, the main-event of which saw the recently turned heel and WWE Champion CM Punk defending his title against John Cena.
Whenever you put these two in the ring together, you know their match is going to tell a story and the two didn’t disappoint, fighting to a climactic draw.
JBL, the longest reigning WWE Champion in Smackdown history, called the match superbly, explaining why CM Punk was worthy of respect, but not necessarily playing the role of a heel commentator, suggesting reasons as to why Punk needed to show some respect of his own.
He did what a good commentator should do and that makes an undeniably big match feel like a legitimate main-event.
While Jerry Lawler was once an outstanding color commentator, by this stage he had been reduced to what we see him as today – a mouthpiece for WWE to get their corporate messages and prepared money-lines through.
JBL was a breath of fresh air and his commentary earned him a spot on Raw not long after that.
However, as the title suggests, this went downhill quickly.
The multi-dimensional, thought-provoking commentator that we saw at Night of Champions 2012 won’t be the same one commentating at Night of Champions 2015.
JBL has suffered a similar fate to his counterparts and has been reduced to a cartoon villain on commentary.
With the exception of anything anti-American, JBL almost exclusively favors heels, rarely questioning their motives and always finding excuses to justify their actions, leaving it to whoever is sitting on the opposite side of the commentary desk to provide the counter opinion.
On top of that, the constant bickering and arguing with lead commentator Michael Cole during matches is incredibly frustrating.
This is repeated match after match, week after week and month after month until the majority of wrestling fans are that disillusioned with the commentary, they simply mute it.
In no sport on the planet would you find a commentary team not calling a match for three straight minutes in order to argue about something, at best, vaguely relevant to what was happening in the ring, at least not on the consistent basis that happens within the WWE.
The current state of JBL’s commentary is most likely a product of those backstage wanting commentary to sound a certain way, a way that anyone over ten years of age strongly dislikes.
This seems plausible as the JBL we saw on his very first night on commentary was more than likely unrestricted and obviously hadn’t had years of corporate influence, coaching the way they want him to do his job, despite a brief commentary stint years beforehand on Smackdown.
Now, not just JBL, but WWE commentary in general has dissolved into a fictitious and artificial mess that has completely forgotten the roots of what they’re there to do, which is to call the action in the ring and sell the performance to the viewing audience, making the superstars look good.
The frustration comes from the fact that the talent is there.
Michael Cole in his early days on Smackdown, as well as showing a glimpse of what he can do during WWE’s Beast in the East special, was an outstanding commentator who genuinely added to matches while focusing on in-ring psychology and calling the action.
Corey Graves, Rich Brennan and formally Jason Albert do a wonderful job of giving us insight into storylines with Graves favoring heels and Albert or Byron Saxton favouring faces, (in an intelligent way) without neglecting in ring behaviors like Becky Lynch focusing on an arm during her offense to set up her finisher or Finn Balor and Adrian Neville’s battle to beat each other to the top rope for theirs. It’s in-ring psychology like that that adds to matches, something the main roster has pushed aside, in favor of the buffoonery that we see each and every week.
In the lead up to Wrestlemania 30, Triple H announced to us all that we were living in the Reality Era.
If we truly are, then the commentary needs to be dragged up into that era as soon as possible, otherwise the jadedness some fans feel towards the company is only going to grow.