For a generation of wrestling enthusiasts, Justin Roberts’ golden voice was a gateway to their best loved matches. Having excited and inspired crowds around the world, Roberts’ was in London to meet and greet his fans as part of PSI’s inaugural London Wrestling Convention. Having spent time with this charming, witty and thoroughly decent man we were eager to ask him about his past, his future and his insight into the wrestling world. Read on..
What makes a good ring announcer?
A ring announcer should know not only the product, not only the talent but what sort of response a particular talent is going to get. If you can anticipate that reaction, you can announce him or her a certain way to maximise their response. You should enhance a performer’s introduction, give them the best build-up possible, know your audience and have a good relationship with them and be sincere in everything you’re delivering.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to announce or pronounce?
I never had an earpiece, or notecards, or a teleprompter, so everything had to be memorised. There were times where the rules to a match could require a full minute-long introduction with lots of weird wording. That would be the hardest announcement – lots of details to remember whilst you’re trying to a) remember your lines but b) be a good announcer too and announce them in a cool way. There were also some names where there wasn’t much to work with. When I first started at WWE, there were names like Kane and Edge – one syllable names. It wasn’t that they were difficult but there wasn’t much to work with. Even CM Punk, there’s not a lot to work with. So over the years I figured out how to stretch it out a little. I do remember telling Edge I wished his name was still Sexton Hardcastle because that would be a really cool name to announce!
What was the best rib [practical joke] you witnessed?
The best rib was probably on Kelly Kelly’s first trip overseas. We were on a two-storey plane and told her that there was a club upstairs. The poor kid – she was around 19 – put her make up on and got all ready and went upstairs only to find out there was no club.
What was your strangest fan interaction?
There’s a guy in Cardiff who for years dressed up as the Undertaker. I mean, he wasn’t just a guy that dressed up, he became the undertaker. Part one of the story is that Finlay used to pick kids out of the crowd, to come into the ring and run around with him and Hornswaggle. One night, he picked the maybe 6-foot Undertaker fan to come to the ring. So there’s Hornswaggle, Finlay a bunch of little kids and this guy dressed as the Undertaker running around the ring – I have a picture of it. Part two, was that I hadn’t seen him for a while. He’d disappeared and I wondered what had happened to him. So on our last trip to Cardiff as I was leaving I went over and took some pictures with the fans and there he was, dressed up in John Cena attire! The Undertaker super-fan had now “become” John Cena and that was mind-blowing, I couldn’t believe my eyes! Great guy, great fan, very passionate about wrestling – just funny to see the transformation!
NXT is a brand in of itself – who should we look out for..?
I know from what I saw when I was there that there’s a lot of good talent, a lot of hungry talent. So far as specifics, I know Rhyno, Tommy Dreamer and Zack Ryder have been working there and they’re three talents that have proven themselves in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
Who is legitimately the nicest person backstage?
That’s probably the most popular question I get and honestly, everyone’s really cool. You can’t name just one nice guy, there are so many good people. Wrestlers, referees – it’s hard to pick one, there’s a lot. Chances are that if you bump into one of the wrestlers, they’re likely to be great.
Daniel Bryan commented on the strangling incident recently that saw him temporarily fired, saying he was from an indie background and didn’t know the rules. How was it from your perspective?
At the end of that night, I didn’t think any rules had been broken or that anything was wrong and I thought everyone was happy. I didn’t know he was going to choke me – I don’t think he knew! It happened and everybody, literally everybody was happy with how everything went including myself. We didn’t know about the rule until after it was broken, I guess. They pulled my jacket off, my shirt off and the tie just got knotted up and didn’t come off – I actually still have that tie and the knot is still there!
Is the door open for your WWE return?
I’m happy with everything I did at WWE and I lived out my dream. I also lived out experiences I could never even dream of. I was a kid that grew up watching wrestling, playing with my Hasbro action figures. I went from that to working with those guys and even their kids. I was a fan at Monday Night Raw and who went to Wrestlemania 13 in Chicago and I announced Raw every week and numerous Wresltemania’s. The talent I was able to announce, the arenas all over the world and the events I was a part of were amazing and I can’t think of anything that I would want to do that I haven’t done there. In addition, I have been very open and honest about my feelings towards the company since I left. So I think it’s safe to say the doors are closed and I’m very much OK with that.
What’s next for you? TNA, GFW? A book we hear?
I went for over a decade, every single week, all-year round to a different city, state or country. Nearly every day. Being able to wake up in the morning and to just figure out what I want to do on that given day is really cool. I just feel really free right now and I’m enjoying it. As opportunities have arisen – I shot a TV show, I’m working on a book, I did a voiceover for a Powerade commercial – I’ve said cool, I’ll give it a shot. Until an opportunity arises that hits me and I think “that’s what I want to do right now”, I’m just sitting back and living life. Seeing my family, my friends and being able to go with the flow. When the right opportunity comes along and I know it’s what I want to do next, my heart will tell me and I’ll dive in.
Justin Roberts doesn’t do things by halves. We’ll continue to look out for his future endeavours and you can too by following him on @Justinroberts