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Behind the Microphone with WWE's Matt Striker
Author: Gerry Strauss
February 18th 2013 - |
Look beyond your favorite gladiators in any wrestling ring or MMA Cage, and you are likely to see a host of familiar faces and voices, all doing their part to make your experience as a fan unforgettable. From calling the action to ringing the bell, these staples of your favorite sports & entertainment events hold special places in the hearts of their peers and their audience, and now their stories will be told. What is it like to be a professional announcer, referee or timekeeper? Each week, I'll have a conversation with a face you've undoubtedly seen or a voice you've probably heard, and we'll all find out together.
This time out, I had a chance to throw some questions to WWE mainstay Matt Striker, a true student of the game. As a broadcaster for many of the Northeast's busiest regional pro wrestling promotions, I had many opportunities to work under the same banner as Striker during his formative in-ring years. Like the rest of the world, I watched him go from "future sensation" to "WWE Superstar" to "manager extraordinaire" to "on-air jack of all trades", all with the same passion that made him a fan in the first place. Here's our convo:
GS: Matt, your knowledge of professional wrestling history is well documented. When and how did your love affair with pro wrestling begin?
Striker: It began with my father. I was seven years old and he asked me if I wanted to see someone fly. What seven year old would say no to that? We watched "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka. The next day, my father brought me three wrestling magazines: Inside Wrestling, The Wrestler and Pro Wrestling Illustrated. I think my dad also knew that this medium would foster reading. Either way, I was hooked.
Striker: I've always enjoyed bad guys. My first favorite was the Masked Superstar. Maybe it was the mask, or maybe it was the rivalry with Bob Backlund, but I always liked the Masked Superstar and, quizzically enough, all incarnations of the man under the mask. Maybe it was something about his in ring style?
Striker: I was very fortunate to visit with my grandparents often. They had cable. Cable meant TBS, and TBS meant Georgia and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. My father also used to look in the newspaper and TV Guide for other wrestling. UHF channels often showed Florida Wrestling very late at night during the week. My dad, bless his heart, let me stay up on weeknights to watch.
Striker: I think i was just brought up right. Whether it was my grandfather from my mother's side or my dad, I always had a strong work ethic on display around me. There is a pride in being able to say "I can fix that" in a house filled with women. I have four sisters and lived with my grandmother as well as two aunts & my mom at different stages of my childhood.
Striker: How and why? Hmm. I say divine intervention, but that's just me.
GS: Describe the mental & emotional challenges that came with redirecting your focus from being an in-ring superstar to a broadcaster?
I approached commentary with the same passion, creativity and motivation as I did for my in-ring experiences- sometimes too much, some would say. As long as I'm challenged- whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally- if I am challenged and I have passion, I'm all in.
Striker - One night, Bruce Pritchard told me that Id be needed the next day in Atlanta. This was strange because Bruce never really talked to me. I was a new guy and Bruce had been contributing to the business for years. I'd always known who he was and liked his work so it was kind of cool to me. I went to Atlanta and was told that I'd be tried out as a commentator.
Striker: I guess indirectly anyone I've ever listened to from Bob Caudle to Lance Russell to Coach John Heath. I'm sure I borrow and steal from everyone.
I learn things from all:
Jim Ross taught me about describing action… painting a picture with my words in order to foster an emotional investment.
Michael Cole taught me about telling stories and knowing my role. There are many different ways to tell a story I learned about telling the same story to different people in different ways so that everyone can understand, follow and enjoy the product.
Josh Matthews taught me to have fun and don't be afraid to try things. Josh gave me a great backboard to bounce things off of. People forget that he has been with WWE for over a decade. Josh and I were always aware of trends and were current, witty, young bright and edgy- or at least we tried to be.
Scott Stanford's NBC news experience was very valuable to me. Having a loose banter and solid structure can make for a very good "call" of a match.
As for JBL… people often ask me why I'm not on commentary and I always answer "because we have Bradshaw". Most references or observations that I would make, John has already made… whether it be old-school wrestling, politics, or pop culture, JBL's observations are keen and he has a much more valuable perspective than I do due to his career achievements.
Jerry "The King" Lawler taught me that less is more. React to what's on the screen. Natural instincts will always be better than forced emotion.
Joey Styles taught me to throw caution to the wind. Be a daredevil. Have faith in your skills and your passion for the product.
William Regal taught me the importance of sound. Certain words make certain sounds and we react differently to them. I'm not sure he knows that I've picked that up from him… then again, I watch that man like a hawk...
Im always learning new things about my commentary, especially since working with Tony Dawson. I am invigorated by his drive and passion. It's like dating a new person… you feel alive again.
Striker: I was against Twitter for a long time. I felt social media was trivial and self indulgent. Can't imagine why…I now love it!
It was Tommy Dreamer and HHH that encouraged me to try. In a meeting, HHH was talking about Twitter and he was very passionate about it and made some great points about how you can either grow or the world can pass you by- whether it be in wrestling, life, love etc. Once again, who am I to ignore blatant signs?
Dreamer encouraged me to use Twitter as a way to satisfy my passion and urge to commentate. Tommy also pointed out and echoed HHH's sentiment that Twitter and social media is the "now" -- and the same way that I desperately wanted to know how to tighten a turnbuckle or the fact that I can tell Precious from Sunshine - and if u get that reference, good for you - showed my passion for learning the industry and that Twitter was indeed part of the industry.
Honestly, a guy like me perhaps had no right being in this business, but I love it so much. I love the memories and the places that pro wrestling has taken me physically, as well as in my mind. None of this is lost on me and I want to see more and more people have this passion and I want to teach and tell anyone who will listen about everything I've absorbed. This is entertaining to me. The competition goes beyond physical and everyone enjoys being entertained....