WWF King of the Ring, 1994
Text by Harry Simon
We’ve all done it.
After enough cajoling, begging, and/or threatening, we’ve all finally managed to convince a friend or relative to plunk down on the couch with us and give this “wrestling” stuff a look-see. It’s a gift to them, from us. We want them to see our favorite wrestlers, matches, interviews, and angles. We hope to share that feeling when we jump out of our seats, kick the cat, and mark out like there is no tomorrow. We patiently answer every question, helping our companion gain a foothold in this wrestling called pro.
You know the spiel:
“Who’s that guy?”
But if, by chance, you’ve never experienced this type of interpersonal communication firsthand, the WWF decided to force it upon you one summer’s eve. The second King Of The Ring PPV took place in the Baltimore Arena on 6/16/94. In another grab for that elusive celebrity rub, Gorilla Monsoon and “Macho Man” Randy Savage were joined at the broadcast table by Baltimore’s own Art Donovan.
Some history on Art: He’s an NFL Hall-Of-Famer, best known as a defensive tackle for the Baltimore Colts. He enjoys a measure of celebrity in Baltimore, as something of a fun-loving personality.
Um, that’s about it, actually.
Why the WWF thought he was qualified to be a color commentator is anybody’s guess, but then again, this is the company that put Jim Ross out to pasture, while Todd Grisham still reports to the makeup chair every Monday afternoon.
Art didn’t know jumping jack crap about wrestling, but to be fair, wrestling apparently didn’t know him either. Scant seconds into the PPV, we were off to a great start as Gorilla screwed up Art’s name. Gorilla followed up by asking Art for his prediction to win the KOTR tournament. Art enthusiastically replied, “Ray-zer Ramon!” Now, I’m not saying that Art’s pick was (ahem) predetermined for him, but nearly six minutes into the first match of the PPV (Razor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow), Art not-so-suddenly recognized his man, and blurted out, “This is the guy dat I picked ta win! Razor!”
Folks, I could go on and on about how Art’s knowledge of the product was less-than-nil. I could belabor how his “Grampa Simpson” style of delivery piped up with some bit of nonsense just often enough to remind you he was there, while at the same time, chasing all other cohesive thoughts from your mind. I could raise the concern that his repeated inquiries of “Did dat really hurt ‘im?” didn’t do any favors for us on the suspension-of-disbelief front. Or I could just point to the below example that every time the camera showed Art, he just generally looked befuddled as hell.
But no. For me to do a running commentary on Art’s running commentary would dishonor the sheer magnitude of his contribution to wrestling history. Also, it would be way too abstract, like boxes in boxes full of boxes, or something. Instead, I’ll keep my notes to a minimum, and quite literally, let the man speak for himself.
Art (on Luna Vachon doing her psycho “Luna-Tick”
character at ringside): “What’s the girl over there screamin’ at?”
Art (empathetically selling the agony of his guy Razor in Bam’s torture rack): “Gorilla, is he dead?!”
Art (getting over Irwin R. Schyster’s character just in case there was anyone out there who didn’t comprehend its loftly concept): “Randy, is dis one a’ the wrestlers? He looks like a businessman!”
DISTURBING MOMENT ALERT:
Art (on Tatanka): “How much does dis fella weigh?”
Art (on Tatanka): “How much does dis fella
Art (calling Tatanka vs. Owen Hart): “Dese
guys need a helmet with a facemask!”
Art (anticipating the global ramifications from Tatanka’s loss): “Hey Randy, dere’s gonna be a lotta American Indians mad!”
Art (as intros began for Jeff Jarrett vs. 1-2-3
Kid): “They’re not as big as some of these other fellers, are they?”
Gorilla (during the intro for The 1-2-3 Kid):
“Oh, here he comes! Mr. Electricity himself! The very exciting 1-2-3 Kid!”
DISTURBING MOMENT ALERT:
Art (calling Bret vs. Diesel): “Dis is
like David and Goliat’!”
NOTE: By this point, you could actually hear
the seething disgust in the voices of Gorilla and Savage, as they openly mocked poor Art.
Art (calling a clothesline by IRS): “Dat was a heck of a forearm!”
Art (on Owen): “How much does dis fella weigh?”
Art (on Yokozuna): “How much does dis guy weigh?”
Art (on Mr. Fuji): “Hey, Randy, I can’t see! Da guy’s got da flag – Huh?”
(calling Lex Luger walking down to ringside during Yokozuna &
Crush vs. Headshrinkers): “Here comes Lex Luger! Boy, has
he got some scores to settle in this one!”
Savage (analyzing KOTR tourney results prior
to the Razor vs. Owen final): “I’ll tell you what, there we go! The Rocket Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon! Art Donovan,
I’ve gotta hand it to you!”
Gorilla (calling Owen vs. Razor): “Backslide,
but Razor not driving with those legs! Not hard to understand why. Both of these men have already wrestled two grueling matches
to reach this final round. Who’s got the best conditioning, Randy? Will that be one of the big features to tell us who
the winner’s going to be?”
Savage (angrily putting the pieces together after
Jim Neidhart screwed Razor to give Owen the KOTR win): “I got a theory! Call me crazy, call me nuts. But I’m just
thinking that Neidhart was out there in Bret’s corner, and possibly the only motive that he had, being in Bret’s
corner, was to make sure that the Hitman didn’t lose his title to Diesel. But he’s hoping that the Rocket will
beat the Hitman. I don’t know.”
Left for dead by his last ally, Art must have seen the handwriting on the wall. Art was uncharacteristically quiet for the last match of the night. Either that, or Vince finally found the right button to shut off Art’s mic. Just as well. The evening’s finale was a snoozer that saw Roddy Piper defeat Jerry Lawler in a match so dog-scaldingly boring, it could have been inducted even without Art’s presence. As Roddy’s bagpipes blared in victory, Gorilla signed off.
As it turned out, that was the end of Art Donovan’s short-lived career as a wrestling color commentator. Take it from someone who has done a little play-by-play/color commentary in his day; It ain’t as easy as it looks. Yes, my friends, there is indeed a lesson to be learned from that balmy night in Baltimore. Good commentary is a meticulous skill that takes years to learn and a lifetime to perfect. But bad commentary that is so horrible, it’s unintentionally hilarious? Now that’s an Art.
- Gorilla: “Hello, everyone, and welcome! I’m Gorilla Monsoon along with the ‘Macho Man’
Randy Savage –”
Harry Simon is a trivia-fueled wisenheimer who has been writing about pro wrestling off and on for 16 years and counting. Harry has written trivia pieces for both the Wrestling Observer and Live Audio Wrestling websites, and contributed a ton of research to his fellow Las Vegan Mike Tenay in preparation for the first NWA TNA PPV in 2002. Harry has also done play-by-play, color commentary, and ring announcing for indy promotions. Harry invented the Von Erich Match Rating System, which you can learn about HERE.
*All Pics and Logos created by Sean Carless
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