Pushing a Pansy: The Evolution of Michael Cole.
We all have had people in our lives that we have seen hazed and picked on; whether it be in school, on a team, or perhaps even in the workplace. Michael Cole has been “that guy” in WWE for the last 14 years; often the brunt of jokes and embarrassment from his peers. The thing about guys who get picked on a lot in a group setting is that one of two things generally ends up happening to them:
1) The hazing continues until the hazee is run out of the group, or until he comes back and shoots everyone.
2) The group eventually warms up to the hazee, eventually accepts them as one of their own, and will defend them at every turn.
I think Michael Cole hung on and endured long enough to inherit option number 2. Think about Cole’s early days tag-teaming with Kevin Kelly at the announce table as the up-and-comers of WWE broadcasting. Now think about all the years of torment those two went through via Vince McMahon, The Rock, and pretty well everyone else in WWE. No one would’ve blamed them for taking option 1, as I believe Kevin Kelly did. But now, after long last, here we are; Cole might be eclipsing Vicki Guerrero for most heel heat on WWE TV (including the actual wrestlers), as he navigates through what is developing as one of the better WWE storylines in a long time. They didn’t choose a veteran wrestler or even a rising young talent to work with Hall of Famers Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, and Stone Cold Steve Austin; they chose… a scrawny little announcer?
It’s a brilliantly booked and well played-out storyline. Cole stays (generally) unbiased in his announcing duties until his man-crush, The Miz, comes out. He’s a part-time heel announcer. Then, not unlike the Incredible Hulk (minus the stature), he loses all control and proclaims himself the “Voice of the WWE”, verbally runs down long-time adversary (which may or may not have a grain of truth imbedded in it) Jim Ross at every opportunity. This angers Lawler, JR’s longtime broadcast partner, and their professional relationship breaks down; more so as Cole remarks about Jerry’s deceased mother, and costs Lawler the WWE title in a championship match he had waited his whole career for, against Cole’s BFF, The Miz. All of a sudden, Austin decides he’s going to referee the final showdown between Lawler and Cole, and we have ourselves a mid-card Wrestlemania match featuring the invested interests of 3 Hall of Famers and that little, scrawny, pencil-neck geek announcer, Michael Cole. Yes, the same Michael Cole that has been assaulted by Steve Austin, hazed by JBL, vomited on by Booker T, had his sexuality questioned by The Rock, and has been verbally abused by Vince McMahon through the headset for the better part of a decade, now has a Wrestlemania moment coming his way.
Even though I’ve categorized it as “weathering the storm”, it still doesn’t totally add up. Jim Ross, who’s been around more than twice as long, and has arguably taken his share of abuse too (ie: Mr. McMahon Kiss My Ass Club Member), still draws the short end of the stick when he comes out and has to put up with Cole’s berating, and even a Jack Swagger ankle-lock. I don’t get why it seems to be Vince’s way to punish those who work hard for him and stay in it for the long haul, other than the simple fall-back on bad guys getting huge heat from embarrassing those the people like. And then I see Cole gaining confidence on the microphone, running his mouth, making fun of JR, parading around like he owns the place, wearing nice suits…. that voice, that dialogue….and then I start to realize that with every broadcast, Michael Cole is morphing into…. Mr. McMahon.
The explanation for Cole’s push is something that’s not likely to come out until someone writes about it in their non-WWE published memoirs, but I can only speculate that he has become Vince’s little buddy either by taking so much abuse over the years that McMahon finally felt sorry for him, or else Cole had a stand-up-for-himself moment that impressed Vince. That is the positive scenario. The other side of the coin is that Cole might be in for one of the biggest embarrassments of his career/life at Wrestlemania.
At this point we can only guess at Mania’s outcome, but it will likely either be the end of Cole’s push if he loses to Lawler, in which case, he’ll have to leave the Raw announce team as him and Lawler couldn’t possibly co-exist any longer; and depending on how The Miz fares, that alliance may fade to black as well. If they both are successful though, we could be in for a lot more Cole & Miz. Whatever happens, I think it’s been fun to see what Michael Cole is characteristically capable of. No matter how he got himself to where he has, he’s done an undeniably good job with what he’s been given.
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