I love pro-wrestling. It’s a guilty pleasure that I truly enjoy for a multitude of reasons. First it’s entertaining. The production value, the presentation and the action are all fun to watch, and seeing these larger than life guys and girls pulling off moves in the ring that I can only dream about is something to behold.
But one thing I’ve always wondered is what it would be like to broadcast a sport, which is largely pre-determined. Pro-wrestling is a scripted sport (spoiler alert), where the match outcomes are known by all the participants in advance, then they’re sent out to the ring to execute that plan. Don’t let that detract you from the show, because everything from bell to bell is very real in the athleticism and endurance these athletes showcase. Sure holds aren’t actually holds and wrestlers help each other with moves, but there’s no ‘fake’ way to land on a concrete floor, or go through a table.
Sportscaster, and long-time friend of the Life, Michael Hirn recently did a pro-wrestling broadcast in Ohio. He provided play-by-play for the promotion’s DVD broadcast of the show and was kind enough to share some insights into how he went about it.
In broad terms, what was the event and your broadcasting role for it?
The event was a local independent Pro Wrestling show for a promotion called WAR Wrestling based out of Lima, Ohio. My role in broadcasting was as the main play by play guy for our DVD and internet pay per view release of the annual Hall of Fame and Anniversary show event.
What prep and research did you do prior to the event?
My prep is not all that different from calling any other kind of sport to be honest. I try to find as much about all of the performers as I can and figure out what storyline they have been involved in and how that might work into their match that night. What really helps is that we do video of every event, so even if I was not able to make the last couple of the shows due to basketball or other commitments I can go back and watch to see what transpired leading into this show.
What information did you have about the card and matches prior to the event (winners/losers, spots, etc)?
I knew the card for the show itself with what titles were on the line, what stipulations were in place and who would be part of each one of the matches. Through my prep again I knew what everyone had done in previous shows and what their issues with other wrestlers might be going in to this show that I could discuss on commentary.
How did it differ from other sporting events like football or hockey where the outcome isn’t pre-determined?
When I first started calling pro wrestling about 8 years ago it was a whole different world from what I am used to with other sports because the pacing is different. I think sometimes maybe too much is made of the pre-determined aspect of it however because these guys are tremendous athletes who bust their tails to put on a top notch show similar to any other sports athletes. The one difference I had was learning to let it flow instead of calling it similar to say football where you’re always setting up for the next thing, there’s a difference in being more conversational about the storyline and letting the match breathe and tell its own story while you add on to it.
Did you approach the broadcast differently from a style standpoint (being more animated, etc)?
The hardest thing for me to learn how to call pro wrestling was to be myself but yet approach it from a character standpoint where I could be more animated or part of the match. My goal for every match is to use my words to help the for example 3 men in a singles match (the two combatants and the referee) tell their story the best I can. My main thing is just to be prepared and have as much info for whatever could happen but know not to push it all in just because I have it.
Advice to anyone looking into getting into pro-wrestling commentary either as a one-off or a career direction
Pretty much the best piece of advice is to be sure you love what you’re trying to do and always be prepared that nothing will ever go as simple as you planned it to or be as easy to do as you think it will be. I’m not saying I’ve made any impact on the industry of calling pro wrestling because I am just a small cog in the machine but I have a deep love of the sport and admiration of what the performers do and if I can help them in any small way tell their story I am thrilled to do it.
My thanks to Michael for answering some questions on a topic and a sport that not many people have a lot of experience in.