The Gold Standard:The Jeff Gorman Story

The gold standard, a monetary system where a country’s currency is directly link to the value of gold.

While the United States was taken off the gold standard, Fort Knox, officially known as the “United States Bullion Depository,” is the location of America’s largest supply of gold, or at least that’s the rumor. For years, speculation has swirled that the vault protected by concrete and steel might not have gold bars stacked to the ceiling as the government claims. Politicians wouldn’t lie, would they? Over the years, fiction has blended with reality as to what’s left of the original gold standard.

Thankfully, there’s another type of gold standard, the figurative standard of excellence, and in another instance of the line of reality blurred, professional wrestling was a vehicle for a top-notch pro to emerge within the field.

In the fall of 1985, viewers might’ve tuned into NBC with the expectation of Randy Quaid, Joan Cusack, and Robert Downey Jr. in a sketch for Saturday Night Live. Instead, they saw Saturday Night’s Main Event, the quarterly special that replaced SNL for the night, bringing sports entertainment more main stream exposure amid Vince McMahon’s national expansion when he formed a tag team with the newly-launched MTV the prior year to usher in the “Rock N’ Wrestling Connection” that propelled popularity in the 80s. On this particular night, top star Hulk Hogan, with “American Made” printed on his cut-off t-shirt and “Stars and Stripes Forever” blaring in the background, made his way to the ring. Of course, the WWF wanted to be contemporary for any of the new viewers that might stumble across the spectacle so Hogan was challenged by the villainous Nikolai Volkoff for a not-so-subtle nod to the cold war tensions of the era.

Of course, The Hulkster dropped the leg at the conclusion of the bout, and the referee counted three, declaring America the winner. The cold war was settled, at least for one night.

Among those to stumble across this international sports entertainment showdown was a young Ohio native, Jeff Gorman, who years later emerged as the gold standard of professional wrestling announcers of the independent scene.

“My dad took my brother and I to see Hogan defend the title against Randy Savage at the Richfield Coliseum in 1985. After that, I was hooked,” Jeff explained.

A graduate of Northwestern University, an establishment known for its journalism program, just outside of Chicago, Gorman remained a diehard fan, even as he pursued higher education, including when he was in attendance for one of the legendary Flair/Steamboat bouts at the Chi-town Rumble pay-per-view in 1989. After he completed his degree and was back home, he found work on staff at the Mansfield News Journal, where he noticed the city had its own independent wrestling organization, the American States Wrestling Alliance.

“I went to a show and gave one of my baseball tapes to the promoter, Kid Collins. He let me announce his next show on January 28, 1994, and I’ve been doing this ever since,” said Gorman.

A lifelong baseball fan with aspirations of calling games since the age of just six years old, Jeff achieved that goal during his time at the previously mentioned NorthWestern, where he called the Big Ten baseball tournament for radio broadcasts during his tenure there.

“After graduation, I would sit at the minor-league ballpark,announcing into my tape recorder.,” he remarked.

Those recordings of strikes and home runs opened the door to wrestling for him, a path that eventually zigzagged throughout the sports world and ultimately shaped a major part of his life.

Around the time that Jeff landed on the mic for Kid Collins, Norm Connors, widely regarded as the godfather of Pittsburgh independent wrestling, was set to start his career as a promoter, a 15-year stint that brought some of the biggest names through the iron city, a region known almost as much for its wrestling as the steel it once produced. Accordingly, Connors named his first project Steel City Wrestling, and later promoted International Wrestling Cartel cards for nearly a decade. When Norm needed an announcer, Jeff Gorman was already known as a standout voice in the tri-state area.

“I enjoyed a lot of great moments in my ten years of traveling from Ohio to Pittsburgh. Working for Steel City Wrestling, PWX and IWC, I got to work with some amazing wrestlers. It was especially satisfying to see AJ Styles and CM Punk go all the way to the WWE championship. I also worked for a lot of other promotions in Ohio and Pennsylvania, so I got to announce matches with everyone from El Hijo del Santo to Abdullah the Butcher to Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young,” Gorman explained.

“Jeff Gorman is incredibly important to Pittsburgh wrestling in the 1990s and 2000s and my own journey therein. He was the lead announcer when I discovered PWX TV in 1997, then migrated to Steel City Wrestling’s TV show in 1998. 4 years later, when I began attending shows live, he was the voice of the International Wrestling Cartel and, a year later when I started to get my foot in the door, he became a partner and mentor to me. I don’t know that I would have ever had the opportunity to grow and develop without the giving heart and open mind of Jeff to be able to roll with the punches so well in working with someone such as myself that had zero experience at that point. He was great to me, and always great to whatever product he was calling. He treated his job with a professionalism and sports-like approach that a lot of announcers and promotions now could learn from. He has a great heart, loves his family, and I’m thankful for the various ways I’ve been able to cross paths with him in my life,” commented Joe Dombrowski, who worked with Gorman in his early years before he went on to his own path as a successful commentator.

Over the nearly thirty years that Jeff Gorman has been a sports voice among the tri-state area, including stints on television for various organizations, his trademark was a voice that was informative, intelligent, and professional.

“A good announcer helps the audience to enjoy and understand wrestling. When I’m calling a match, I’m having a great time, and I try to give the audience all the info they need. If I have a partner, I’m giving him or her the chance to do what they do best, whether it’s being a fountain of information or being an apologist for the heels. That hasn’t changed as we’ve moved into the digital age,” Gorman said of the fundamental rules to follow on the mic.

“Jeff Gorman was the first guy I ever saw at an indy wrestling show. His energetic ring announcing got my friends and I hyped for the event. His commentary is second to none. He mixes in moves and story as well as just about anyone. There’s a reason he’s a standard and aspiring commentators should shoot for,” said BC Steele, a twenty-year veteran of the Pittsburgh scene who is widely regarded as the best manager of the area.

After nearly nine years on the mic for an alphabet soup of leagues around the independent scene, Gorman landed a break with Ring Of Honor, a company still in its infancy at the time, but had reignited the wrestling scene after the slump caused by the closure of WCW and ECW, in 2002. He considers his stint under the ROH banner a form of validation of his skills as a major league announcer. He spent almost a decade, making road trips to events all around Ohio and the surrounding states most weekends to hone his craft so he knew ROH was a platform that gave its own level of recognition. Jeff was on the call for the famous Samoa Joe vs. Low Ki bout at that year’s Glory By Honor event, considered by many as one of the most hard-hitting matches in the United States in the history of the industry. Jeff also ring announced a pair of early ROH shows held in Pittsburgh, as well as one of the historic Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk world title matches that took place in Ohio. Since the company was still young, budget cuts prevented Jeff from landing a full-time spot in ROH, but helped open the door for yet another announcing gig in sports.

“My family moved across the street from Corey Fischer, who promoted MMA. I showed him my tape of ROH Scramble Madness, and he gave me a shot on his TV show, Fightfest. I learned the sport on the fly, and Corey also gave me the chance to announce the Moosin: God of Martial Arts pay-per-view in Boston,” Jeff said.

For that 2010 event, Gorman found himself sharing the desk with the legendary Bas Rutten, known for his tremendous skills in the ring and some iconic calls on commentary for Pride Fighting Championship events throughout the 2000s. Aside from calling Ohio pro wrestling shows in the past decade, Jeff expanded his resume to include other MMA events as well.

Still, he considers his biggest accomplishment, regardless of the countless pro wrestling TV shows he did or the mixed martial arts pay-per-view, to be his family. Jeff married Mrs. Gorman in 2002 and they had their daughter the following year, which prompted Jeff to cut down on his travels for wrestling, limiting himself to events that were close to home, but as was the recurring theme throughout his life, that decision provided yet another avenue for him, as he used his writing background to begin the process to write books.

“I am blessed to have a great wife and daughter. We have home-schooled our girl, and we are looking forward to seeing what she does next. My family has been with me at my wrestling shows, MMA fights and baseball games. I am doing my best to support them and help them chase their dreams like they have done for me,” he said.

“The best time to write a book when you have a book inside you, and it wants to get out. After a took a break from the road in 2004 to raise our daughter, I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget all of the crazy stories from my first decade as a wrestling announcer. That’s when I wrote This Side of the Mic. I wrote Wrestling Is Real while teaching a home school writing class. Both books are about chasing your dreams,” Jeff added.

As far as chasing dreams, Jeff had one left on his list. He announced pro wrestling that he was fascinated by the first time the larger-than-life spectacle beamed through his television screen the night he expected to find SNL, he announced cage fighting with the legendary Bas Rutten at the desk with him, but what about his first love, professional baseball? Talent, skill, and persistence wouldn’t be denied, as Jeff took the booth for the Lake County Captains, which is one of the Cleveland Indians’ minor-league teams, 23 years after his NorthWestern graduation, in 2015.

“Getting the chance to announce one wrestling show was a dream come true. Doing it for this long has been a privilege. Getting to Ring of Honor validated me as a major-league announcer. I would love to make it to the top as an announcer of wrestling, MMA and baseball. I’m not going to give up,” Gorman said enthusiastically.

Today, instead of making trips to wrestling shows, Jeff and his daughter tour colleges, as she plans to enroll in a university this fall. Still a writer at heart, Jeff works for the Courthouse News Service to cover cases around the country. He’s also licensed as a legal notary in the state of Ohio to process a variety of documents. Furthermore, his passion for baseball continues as he’s scheduled to take the booth for Lake Erie Crushers post-pandemic, as well as make his pro basketball debut as an announcer with the Burning River Buckets of the American Basketball Association later this year. If that wasn’t enough, he’s currently writing two books, “King of New York” and “King of Atlanta” based on the WWE and WCW respectively. And, yes, he’s still available for announcer gigs.

“My goal is to produce a set of pro wrestling history books that fans can collect and enjoy,” he said of his newest writing projects.

Despite celebrating his fiftieth birthday just a few months ago, Jeff remains as passionate, motivated, and as dedicated as ever. Over the course of nearly three decades Gorman has made his mark in pro wrestling, MMA, and baseball. He’s as busy as ever while he juggles his passion for sports with his dedication as a successful family man. So, how does Jeff remain such a fixture of sports announcing after almost thirty years?

Quite simply, his skills are as good as gold.

For more information about Jeff, you can follow him on Twitter @JeffDGorman

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta