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The Heenan Position

Hi Scott,
Long-time something something. I'm watching Summerslam '92 and Heenan mentions that Bret is on the floor right by him. It started me wondering when the commentators moved - full-time, unless for some kind of special circumstances - to sitting ring-side instead of watching from the heavens as I seem to remember Heenan & Gorilla doing at least some times. I don't have every pre '92 PPV to check but I'm sure I'm thinking of PPVs, not Prime Time.
So, yeah, do you know when the announcers finally moved down to ring-side permanently? In WWF specifically.
Thanks,
Andrew

Wrestlemania VII was the first time I can recall them being down there on the floor.  Not that it mattered because Vince is all about watching the monitor and not the ring anyway.  

Comments

  1. In the 80's during the house show broadcasts they were announcing from ringside. During television tapings and PPV's they were higher up. I don't know when was the exact point when they switched to ringside for television and PPV's. Although the early RAW's were announced from ringside but that was more due to using smaller venues than some type of permanent change.

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  2. Aside from what you guys said, some of it just depended on the arena too -- most MSG shows during Bobby Heenan's tenure placed the announcers right next to the ring, but then you have shows there like Summer Slam 1988 where they were seated near the top of the arena. 

    On a side note, I don't know why but I love the shot of Jessie and Gorilla looking down at the ring at WrestleMania III, you really get a sense of the hugeness of the whole thing.

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  3. I actually prefer the idea of them watching from a commentary booth, rather than ring-side, can you imagine the commentators sat next to the ring in Boxing, or next to the pitch in Football, rugby, american football, etc?

    I just think it comes across as a more legitimate sporting experience.

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  4. Basketball TV announcers, generally, sit courtside. Although, if you watch local broadcasts, they will occasionally mention that the refs and/or coaches obstruct their view regularly. I can see why Vince would stick to the monitor as an announcer - it's probably actually pretty tough to see enough of the action to call a match well from ringside (insert joke about Vince calling matches well...).

    Wrestling also regularly incorporates announcers or wrestlers sitting at announce tables into angles and it works quite well as a plot device so I think it makes total sense, even if it practically doesn't always work well.

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  5. In a way isn't it better to only watch the monitor? If you're looking at the ring from the announce position you can't see what's happening on the other side (the entrance way) and it's very possible you'd be calling things that the people at home aren't seeing. (Or not calling things that the people at home ARE seeing...)

    I feel like they were still using the announce position at the entranceway up to at least 1992 when Bret won his first belt. Wasn't he standing there when he gave the "This is for all the people" speech? Or was that the weird island in the crowd that they'd have Okerlund do interviews from? 

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  6. Wow. That's a great pic. The big screen almost looks photoshopped in.

    Snakeskin jackets...yeesh...cocaine ruled. 

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  7. I personally prefer them to be away from the ringside area too.  I think it helps maintain the illusion that the announcers are not part of the show -- they are simply there to cover the action.  It's just the same way when you're doing a multiple camera production that you don't want to have a shot with another camera man -- it removes you from the moment a bit.  You shouldn't really be able to see the announcers while the match is going on, doing commentary while you are watching the match.

    I think it gives the production a more professional appearance a more professional and it allows them to have a dedicated area with it's own backdrop and such that is removed from the action, which varies the look of the production.  For the same reason, I don't really like when 95% of the interviews take place in the ring -- there should be a dedicated area backstage as well to give us a look at a different area once in awhile and also to get an impression of the size of the event.

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  8. Yeah I agree -- that is the whole idea in essence, you watch the show on the monitor so you know what you're talking about is what people are actually seeing.  The only issue with it is if you have a bad camera angle that misses something -- I recall Vince being really confused at the start of Summer Slam 1990 due to an angle that mostly missed Hercules hitting Shawn Michaels with the chain.  Vince redubbed the commentary to fix it for the Prime Time Wrestling re-airing of the match, which is actually the version on the WWE Anthology DVD of it too (but not the Coliseum Video version).

    As far as Bret winning the title -- I don't think the commentators were actually at the event for that as I recall -- the commentary was edited in in post production.

    That's one of my favorite kind of gaffes actually -- when Mooney and Hayes would redub the MSG shows for Prime Time that Gorilla and Bobby usually did.  You'd never see Mooney or Hayes at ringside, but then there would be a random shot of Gorilla and Bobby talking on headsets lol

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  9.  LOL yeah that is quite the jacket.  I love how hunched over Gorilla is haha.

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  10. Don't the commentators for boxing usually sit ringside? I swear they're right next to the judges (who really should be in the press box), at least on HBO shows anyway.

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  11. I remember people pitching a shit fit when JR & King got moved up towards the entrance ramp during the Bischoff years of RAW.  "THIS AIN'T NITRO@!"

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  12. Piper commentating from ringside during the Million Dollar Man/Virgil match was awsome.

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  13. Yeah that is a time when it is actually well-utilized.  You need that shot of Piper standing up cheering Virgil on, able to easily get into the ring if he wanted to, but choosing not to.  That really put Virgil over huge.

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  14. Christopher HirschAugust 30, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    I think sports announcers watch the monitors and not the field, court, rink as well.

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  15. If I'm not mistaken, wasn't that supposed to be the point? Or did they start doing that when the brand split officially began.

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  16. They did that on purpose to "Nitro" up Raw.

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  17. Kind of related, but if Raw was more like PTW, would you enjoy it more? I think I would.

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  18. I would think you've got to call it from the monitor since its for the people watching on tv. But I'm sure at this point I'm not the only who mutes the tv and listens to podcasts or xm radio to avoid cole and lawler while watching a ppv or raw.

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  19. They totally are.

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  20. I would think so as well, but when Al Michaels was on Bill Simmons' podcast some time ago, he remarked that one of his struggles in calling the NBA was that he had to learn as he went that when action was going on in the paint, that he had to watch the monitors.

    I think most sports announcers go back and forth--or watch the field during play or the monitor during stoppages or if the director points out something on the screen. Color analysts especially in football HAVE to watch the field--even a huge HD monitor isn't going to give you a full defensive alignment or whether or not Cornerback A held coverage.

    Of course the big difference is wrestling takes place--theoretically--in a confined space. The big team sports don't.

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  21. In what manner do you mean?  Do you mean the format? 

    It's interesting that the old PTW put almost as much emphasis on the characters of the commentators as it did the actual wrestling matches, with Bobby and Gorilla getting tons of isolated screen time.

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  22. it's funny how perception is everything.  I remember watching at the time in the 80s and thinking Primetime was can't miss TV because of all the "big" matches.  However year later, both reading results or watching on WWE 24/7, "big matches" were stuff like HillBilly Jim vs. Bad News Brown and they had some matches they showed ad nauseum like Frenchy Martin and Outback Jack and Young Stallions vs. Shadows.  I can't believe I never got upset with the same matchups being shown 5 or 6 times in a couple month period.

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  23.  I never got that camera shot thing, really. WWE wants you to believe you're watching some degree of a legitimate sporting event (while they're in the ring, anyway) so it seems weird to not be able to acknowledge that there are, in fact, cameras there filming it. I know it's not just wrestling that does that and it probably comes from typical TV production anal retentiveness, but it just doesn't seem like a big deal to me. It's not like when you're watching a sitcom where you're supposed to believe you're just a fly on the wall of these people's actual homes.

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  24. Yeah it's not exclusive to the WWE at all, just a general production principal, keep the focus on the performers and not the production.

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  25. Kind of off topic, but remember during WWECW when Styles and Taz would be ringside on the side facing the camera? I never understood that and found it distracting that you could see them staring at the monitors all the time. It reminded me of the Royal Rumble and Raw games for SNES, where you could see Vince and Lawler in the background. Lawler was constantly lifting his hands in the air like he was freaking out.

    Did WCW switch from sitting ringside when Nitro came around or before? I can remember Ross and Ventura sitting ringside back in 92/93 when I first started watching WCW. I don't remember much before that.

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  26. I'm curious as to why, as of the last time I noticed, they are still using the old, sd monitors. I'm so used to see them pulling those long, gray monitors off the announce table before they break it. Even ROH has flat screen HD monitors.

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  27.  That's a good question... as they've been HD for 4 years now, and the HD ones are probably cheaper than the giant SD ones they've been using for decades.

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  28. We should find a video of Virgil actually finding someone to buy his autographed photo at his merch booth and dub Piper's voice over it: "YEAAAAHHH... I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT VIRGE!!!! YEAAAAHHHH!!!"

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  29. We do TV game production at the company I work for... the general rule is to watch the monitor because you don't want to be describing something that is happening that might be out of camera range that the viewer can't see.  But, you also want to glance out on the field of play just in case there's something going on on the sidelines or away from the ball.  It's a balancing act... but monitor, in general, is the rule.

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  30. Those old TV tapings were great... most of the ones I went to, the announcers never even came out to do the intros... they just got the extended shot of the crowd cheering and the announcers green-screened it.
    I remember one taping I was at where Vince and Heenan went to the interview podium to do some stand-ups and then they went to the back... they didn't stay out anywhere and do commentary for all the matches.

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  31.  Yeah, I think it started with Raw... I remember, as Scott mentioned, that WM 7 had the announcers at ringside, but they were in a booth a WM 8. WM 9 they were back at ringside, but that was after the Raw era began... so I would say as a general rule that it started regularly with Raw.

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  32.  LOL!  I'm on it haha

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  33. They might be HD, a lot of professional video houses use small (9" - 13") HD CRT monitors (sometimes black and white even) for certain monitoring video feeds in certain circumstances.  A lot of professionals still prefer them to flat screen LCDs because they are easier to detect certain video errors on playback.

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  34. Hmmm yeah I think you may be right.  Tony and Bobby were ringside for most of the 1994 PPVs, although I can't recall if they were for the earlier PPVs in 1995.

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  35.  Yeah it is kind of neat looking back at how they edited those things together. 

    Occasionally they'd actually set Vince and company up at a table for certain in arena angles, but they utilized the green screen as much as possible to cut down on travel I'm assuming.  There is that one angle where Piper storms onto the set of the Funeral Parlor to spit on Flair's belt.  They are in front of a green screen there with Vince and then Piper walks off camera and then he pops out from behind the stage.

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  36. The Love-Matic Grandpa!August 30, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    Well, we were all trained to accept the TV product for what is was, and we didn't know any other way. The MNW changed all that, obviously.

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  37. My other favorite how Mean Gean would go, ok now let's let Bobby Heenan have it and chant "WEASEL!" for 30 seconds!

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  38.  haha, I'm surprised they never brought out cardboard cutouts of each to make it *really* ridiculous.

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