In October 2005, Jim Ross was fired (kayfabe) as play-by-play commentator of RAW in a rather embarrassing way. After Stone Cold Steve Austin had stunned every member of the McMahon family the previous week, Jim Ross was the scapegoat. Vince and Stephanie McMahon put the blame on him and picked on him until Linda McMahon came to his aid. On television, Linda and JR had a great relationship. In a big swerve though, Linda fired JR and kicked him in the nuts.
This was really just done so JR could recover from colon surgery. However, this provided an opportunity for a new RAW commentator to get a shot at covering the flagship show of WWE…
On November 7th 2005, JR’s replacement was finally introduced. It was revealed that former ECW commentator Joey Styles would be the newest play-by-play commentator for Monday Night RAW. Joey was doing commentary for ECW One Night Stand but this was his first true stint as an announcer for WWE programming.
For Joey Styles, this was a completely new environment to ECW. Joey was mostly a solo commentator for ECW events and his world would change as he became the new voice of Monday Night RAW. However, Joey was doing a fine job adapting to this new sports entertainment environment. That was until Wrestlemania 22 came along… and Joey Styles was bumped from the show in favour of Jim Ross.
Joey was allowed to commentate on the Edge vs Mick Foley hardcore match, fulfilling his dream of one day calling a Wrestlemania match. Luckily for Joey, he was able to call probably the best match of the night. However, Joey’s dismissal from the rest of the show was very interesting as he would return to commentating on RAW the next night. He would also miss out on the opportunity to call RAW’s next PPV Backlash, with JR being selected once again.
Eventually, Joey Styles’ frustrations with the WWE dealings backstage eventually spilled out onto RAW. On the May 1st 2006 edition of RAW, the general managers of the show were the Spirit Squad. Kenny was booked to challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship. Joey was instructed by the Spirit Squad to show some spirit when Kenny wins the title, being forced to wear a cheerleader’s outfit if he didn’t do a good enough job.
Joey Styles returned to commentary as Jerry Lawler also urged Joey to show some spirit. Joey finally decided that he had enough, calling Jerry a hack and slapping him. Jerry pushed him over and Joey ran to the back. Jerry Lawler apologised and wanted Joey to come back out. Joey came back out and the speech he gave was nothing short of fantastic. Below is the full transcript of what was an incredible “worked shoot” promo cut live on WWE RAW by the voice of ECW…
- “You want to apologize? Like nothing happened. Like you didn’t knock me on my ass in front of millions of people worldwide, and I’m gonna come down there and work with you. I’m not coming back, and now thanks to the magic of live television I’m gonna show the whole world, why for seven years in ECW I was the unscripted, uncensored, loose cannon of commentary. Six months ago, WWE called me, I didn’t call this company because I was looking for a job. I didn’t need a job. WWE called me because they had humiliated and fired…again, Jim Ross. So I get JR’s spot, and from week one, week after week I’ve got an ongoing lecture about the differences in professional wrestling and sports entertainment. I’m not allowed to say ‘pro wrestling’, I’m not allowed to say ‘wrestler’. I have to say ‘sports entertainment’ and refer to the wrestlers as ‘superstars’. I’m told to deliberately ignore the moves and the holds during the matches so I can tell stories. Well ignoring the moves and the holds is damn insulting to the athletes, the ‘wrestlers’, not the entertainers who leave their families three hundred days a year to ply their craft in that ring. Here’s the best part, because I’m not a sports entertainment storyteller I get pulled from Wrestlemania, and the reason I’m given is, is because I don’t sound like Jim Ross who’s the guy they fired in the first place. That makes sense, right? So I swallow the bitter pill, I’m a company guy. I get bumped from Wrestlemania. Then I get bumped from Backlash? I’m not good enough to call Backlash!? In ECW, I called live pay-per-views on my own, solo, no colour commentators dragging me down. Wasn’t done before me, hasn’t been done since. But I’m not good enough to call Backlash because I’m not a sports entertainment storyteller. Well you know what? I am sick of sports entertainment. I am sick of male cheerleaders. I am sick of boogers and bathroom humour and semen and I am sick of our chairman. Who likes to talk about his own semen, he mocks God… he mocks God!!!!! And makes out with the divas all to feed his own insatiable ego. I am sick of sports entertainment, and most of all I am sick of you fans who actually buy into that crap! This sports entertainment circus! I never
needed this job, and I don’t want this job anymore.”
With this speech, he quit the WWE.
Joey was eventually brought back as part of the ECW revival beginning at ECW One Night Stand 2006 and he actually still works in WWE backstage today. However, this promo was nothing short of fantastic. Back then, the WWE was still very protective of the kayfabe of storylines. Therefore, shoot promos in WWE were very rare.
Wade Keller wrote about this for PWTorch at the time in 2006, saying:
“What stands out the most is that he was allowed to rip on the WWE product. For years, announcers have been discouraged from referring to in–ring athletes as “wrestlers” and instead refer to them as “superstars” dating back to the 1980s. That policy was inspired in part in a desire to distance themselves from pro wrestling’s tawdry image, but it was also an attempt at a self–fulfilling prophesy. Referring to the athletes as superstars elevated their image through their label as being more than “just fake wrestlers.” For Styles to be allowed to point it out, though, means WWE fans will be more tuned in to WWE’s usage of language in the future.”
The fans were never TRULY able to get much detail about the backstage dealings in WWE, unless you had access to the internet. Joey gave the fans an insight into how commentators were told to behave by the WWE. Of course, JR or Michael Cole were never going to tell the audience what Vince McMahon is shouting down their ear. However, Joey was in a position where he was able to let the fans into that world WITHOUT using terminology that was too insider for the majority of fans to get. This was not like Vince Russo, who used shoot terminology a lot during his time as a writer. This was enough so that the fans could get a rare taste of what happens backstage but it wasn’t too much that the fans wouldn’t understand. As an introduction to the backstage dealings at WWE, this was great.
I believe that this was probably one of the greatest shoot promos in wrestling history. It was not as ground-breaking as CM Punk’s infamous pipebomb and it wasn’t as scathing as Paul Heyman’s shoot on Vince McMahon was back in 2001. However, it was exactly the type of thing the revived ECW would need going forward. Joey had to make it clear that what he would eventually be apart of was nothing like RAW or SmackDown!
This was special because back then, the line between reality and fiction was never really shattered before in such a manner. Paul Heyman talked about the WWF’s presentation of sports entertainment before in his shoot promo but Joey properly exposed the lack of wrestling in the product. When Heyman cut his promo, there was still a lot of attention given to wrestling. When Styles cut his promo, RAW’s storylines at the time included a bunch of cheerleaders, Kane feuding with himself and Vince McMahon depicting himself as god. After all of these storylines, the fans realised just how much on the money Styles was. This worked… sublimely.