Michael Cole started with the WWE in 1997 as a backstage interviewer. It was quite the transition from his previous career as a journalist covering presidential campaigns, wars, and other national news stories where he worked under his real name, Michael Coulthard.
Cole assumed play-by-play responsibilities for the first time in 1999 as a substitute for Jim Ross, who was stricken with Bell’s palsy. When SmackDown debuted later that year, Michael became the voice of the blue brand alongside Tazz as JR was able to return to the booth on RAW. For the next 10 years, Cole would call every single episode of SmackDown except for two, partnering with the likes of Tazz, Jerry Lawler, JBL, Jonathan Coachman and Mick Foley.
Michael Cole returned to Monday nights as part of the WWE Draft in 2008 and has held that position ever since, while also occasionally calling SmackDown. Since the most recent brand extension, however, Cole has been exclusive to RAW while Mauro Ranallo has handled play-by-play duties on SmackDown Live. Michael works side-by-side with Byron Saxton and Corey Graves, and Ranallo’s partners include JBL, David Otunga, and Tom Phillips.
Jim Ross is widely considered one of the greatest play-by-play men in professional wrestling history, and likewise for the team of JR and Jerry Lawler. So when Michael Cole permanently took over for Ross, he had an uphill battle to climb from the start. But since Ross’ departure, Cole has been a fixture at the broadcast booth for a generation.
However, it appears that his time behind the microphone may be coming to an end sooner than most people had imagined. According to a report from Daily Wrestling News, Michael Cole is interested in transitioning from his current post as commentator to a role behind the scenes. This has sparked a lot of conversation backstage regarding his future with the WWE.
During his time with the company, Cole has worked as the managing editor of WWE.com, beginning in 2006 just as internet production was booming and the WWE was trying to keep up. Cole helped turn the website around, but he’s also taken on a greater responsibility as of late with some elements of WWE production. But perhaps his favorite role is that of mentor to some of the company’s younger announcers.
Cole recently completed work on the wildly successful United Kingdom tournament, where he called the action alongside Nigel McGuinness. McGuiness is one of the commentators Cole is working closely with and grooming for a larger role in the WWE.
There hasn’t been any official word on when Michael Cole may step away from the broadcast booth, but it’s certainly worth noting that there has been a lot more discussion about it recently. A potential replacement has also yet to be identified. However, while many people felt that with SmackDown adding Phillips as an unorthodox fourth member to their broadcast team, he was set to replace Ranallo. But perhaps, Phillips would slide into the lead play-by-play man on Tuesdays, while Mauro would get the bump to the flagship show.
Phillips, of course, is already the lead commentator for NXT broadcasts and Main Event. Adding to the speculation that Cole could be closer to the end is the fact that on Tuesday night it was announced that Lawler will return to the booth to call the Royal Rumble match. The King is set to join Michael Cole and Corey Graves. This is similar to when Jim Ross came back to call the “End of an Era” match between Triple H and the Undertaker at WrestleMania 28.
Would you welcome a change to the WWE broadcast booth, or do you feel Michael Cole is synonymous with Monday Night RAW and big WWE pay-per-views? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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