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... (Continues on next page)