19 March 2015

Canned Commentary

Although the first half of the Wembley leg of the UK tour was a resounding success in the hearts and minds of TNA fans, it didn't escape the notice of many people that Taz's contributions to the commentary team were decidedly... off this past Friday.  For whatever reason, Josh Mathews was practically calling the show alone, accompanied by sporadic soundbites from his announcing partner Taz.

Whilst the net result was a fairly disjointed sounding two hours of commentary, it did give me reason to pause and reflect on just how valuable it is having the two of them sat calling the action together.

If you follow any wrestling website, or look through any of the comments on TNA videos, we are constantly being reminded that Impact is pretaped.  Despite these reminders, and the fact that Taz and Mathews are often shown sat in a studio in Nashville rather than at a booth at ringside, the pair do an excellent job of presenting the action as though it were live and they are watching it as it happens.  The shows may be pretaped, but TNA and all of the roster are very careful to maintain kayfabe on social media by commenting on the shows as and when they are aired.  The incorporation of the goings-on in Twitterland by the commentary team go a long way towards maintaining the illusion that the action is happening live rather than several weeks prior.  Mathews did a decent job of calling the action solo this week, but unfortunately the recorded soundbites from Taz put some cracks in the illusion of the shows being live.

Another aspect of the commentary that I sorely missed last week was the easy banter between both men. Granted some of the things that are said might be a little goofy at times, but ever since TNA's debut on Destination America the new team of Mathews and Taz have gelled well and have a strong chemistry together, which makes anything they say enjoyable.  An announce team with such a good rapport is difficult to find, and even harder to fake.  This chemistry just was not there last Friday due to both men commentating independently with little to no reference to what either one was saying.

In the days that followed, I did wonder whether the action I had watched at Wembley was as good as I remembered or whether it just seemed a lot better than other Impact shows in 2015 because I was sat amongst a live crowd.  However, given how well matches like Roode vs EY and EC3 vs Spud translated onto the small screen this past Friday, I am confident that Kurt Angle vs Bobby Lashley will be hailed as the MOTY candidate that a lot of people are touting.

It is not just hype.  Angle vs Lashley has been talked about as a dream match in the past, and it delivers. Despite taking place at the end of a four hour block of tapings, the energy from the crowd during this match was every bit as electric (perhaps more so) as the bloodbath between EC3 and Rockstar Spud.  The back and forth was intense, and I was in and out of my seat more times than a fat man at an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Honestly, I cannot sell it enough.

And therein lies the problem.

The commentary team is there to sell us the action, and a match of this calibre needs both Josh Mathews and Taz to be calling it together to do it justice.  I sincerely hope that whatever issues caused Taz to record his contributions separately last week have been resolved, because whilst it won't take anything away from the action between the ropes, it won't necessarily add a great deal either.

I believe Taz deserves a lot of credit for the way he has called Lashley's matches ever since his debut.  He always brings his own brand of technical expertise and ring awareness to the proceedings, and makes viewers appreciate just how good a wrestler Lashley has become.  If Taz is not calling the action live this Friday for Lashley's biggest match in TNA, it would be a travesty.

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