Mauro Ranallo on his WrestleMania role, his friendship with Michael Cole, whether calling pay-per-view events is in his immediate future, Jerry Lawler approaching Vince McMahon about being a heel color commentator

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On the process of signing with WWE and what it meant to him to sign with the company: It was remarkably easy, surprisingly so. I was contacted by Michael Cole who is the voice of WWE and looks after the on-air talent. He wanted to gauge my interest in possibly working with the WWE, and I was blown away. Anybody that knows me well knows that that has always been a lifelong dream. I’ve called all sports. I was a radio DJ, club DJ, talk show host, hockey, basketball, football; you name it, I’ve done it. Of course, calling combat sports, I do love it dearly. WWE in the back of my mind was always the dream job and most people don’t get their dream jobs. For some reason, I’ve been spoiled and I’ve gotten a few of mine, but at the same time the negotiations went very smoothly in talking with Triple H. The fact that they wanted me to be me and not be something that they wanted to create was a big thing. They do have a style in WWE that they have created there in the past few years, and that’s their prerogative. For me though, they wanted me to be a hybrid of Michael Cole and maybe Jim Ross where I am able to call the match in the style I call all my matches and use the unique passion and energy I bring to it. What you see is what I am. I have a lot of critics and that’s fine. I think it’s better to be polarizing than to be vanilla. I also think people can’t question the passion and sincerity that I bring because I truly am the luckiest guy in the world. I have the best seat in the house and seeing the greatest athlete’s matches and watching the greatest performers. For me it’s just been a blessing, and I can’t wait to continue to grow both as a play-by-play announcer but also as the new host of Inside MMA.

Whether there have been any talks regarding him calling WWE pay-per-views: Not at this point, and I thank you for that by the way [being a favorite announcer and providing a big fight feel]. I appreciate the fact that a lot of people have said that. To me it’s not about the big fight feel, it’s giving respect to each one of these competitors. I know you have to pick your spots and it can’t be all one gear. I’ve learned over the years to tone it down a little bit. I know to some I am always a little over the top, but that’s just who I am and I’d rather be that way than monotone or less than scintillating in my presentation. I would love to build a future with WWE. At the same time, I was hired to be the voice of Smackdown, and Michael Cole—who is the voice of the WWE and the guy that books the on-air talent—has told me they do have big plans for me and are invested in me and I am fully committed to them and appreciate everything that my other employers Showtime, Glory Kickboxing and Inside MMA have done in order to facilitate a relationship with WWE. I sometimes even miscalculate how big of a global force and cultural force WWE truly is. The fact that I now get messages from all over the world is mind blowing. I’m really in a place obviously that I never thought I would be in, but I do appreciate all the support from everyone and I also think all those who have helped me along the way. Of course I love to give back and mentors many people as I can. One last thing before I go guys, something I really try to convey in these interviews is I want to be where I am today without getting the proper help and support in dealing with mental health issues I had throughout my entire life. I continue to watch, read and discuss with disbelief over how many people we lose to mental health issues and from suicide because of the lack of resources and lack of information and the stigma that still surrounds mental health. I have proven I can be a fully functional human being who probably does more than the average person and at a high level. I think because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean you cannot reach your goals in your dreams with help and support. To anyone listening who is either in a situation in dealing with mental health issues or know someone that is or is one in four Americans that do suffer from it, please reach out. Talk, therapy, meditation, exercise, healthy eating and anything else that’ll help. We have to let our government officials know that they are failing our community when it comes to this very serious disease in our society.

Whether he knew Jerry Lawler would revert to playing a heel and how it has benefitted him so far: It is absolutely a blessing and a pleasure to be working with Jerry “The King” Lawler. Lawler and I think it was the perfect time for him to tweak his role and he wanted to do it. I know Vince was a fan of his work in that role. I think they wanted me to maintain my standing in combat sports. There has been a long-standing stigma between sports entertainment and combat sports. I have to tell you man, the majority of the WWE roster are big time combat sports fans and vice versa. There’s a huge crossover. For me the timing has never been better. For Jerry Lawler, he went to Vince said, “Obviously Mauro is the new guy, Byron is the good and nice guy, why not have me turn heel now?” The dynamic so far judging by the feedback is when the people of loved. I have to give credit to Michael Cole and his crew for what they have allowed us to do. I’m concentrating on the match and the wrestling action and the ring, Lawler is telling his story from his perspective and Byron is telling the story from another perspective. I think everyone was a sports entertainment fan gets what they want. That’s what I thrive to do with my team and we try to bring them a totally different dynamic than Monday night. I know a lot of people are quick to criticize the Monday night show in terms of the presentation and not realizing the amount of work it goes and put on a three-hour live telecast. Michael Cole not only has to play-by-play, but he has to be a traffic cop. The amount of features and promotional materials they have to deal with every week, but that’s a good thing. It shows the success of the company. I wonder myself if I was put into that position where I’m supposed to do everything else they want me to while still maintaining the call of the match, I don’t know how successful I would be at that right now. They have built me up to succeed, they brought me in to succeed and I’ve been warned prior by people that have had less than pleasant stays there. All I can say is that WWE and its entire machinery has been nothing but a joy to work with. I’m not just saying that because I’m paid to or that I’m a member of the company. I have criticized WWE in the past, but I am still a big fan of the product. We all want to see change, but at the end of the day we are playing in someone’s sandbox. There’s a reason there are 84,000 tickets sold for WrestleMania and that this genre of entertainment has lasted as long as it has. Vince McMahon is a billionaire for reason. It’s been an amazing ride, and it’s hard to believe that it’s just begun. It really is a dream come true.

On his role at WrestleMania and whether calling the show is his ultimate goal: 100 percent that would be my ultimate goal. I would like to address the rumors and I know Jerry Lawler has said there has been some talk about a split announce crew and I get that. It’s a seven-hour show. Michael Cole and I travel together and talk about that. Michael Cole wants it for me whether it’s this year or next year, and that’s really the truth. I think he has been my biggest supporter and mentor, and I think sometimes people were confused about that. I wouldn’t be in WWE without Michael Cole. I will be there with my two brothers and I’m looking forward to my first WrestleMania. I’ve told him I would do whatever they want in whatever capacity, but obviously at the same time respecting the pecking order. Michael Cole, JBL, Byron Saxton and King call the PPVs, and I am supportive of that. If they ask, I am willing and able to go. Whether it’s the kickoff match or any other match on the card, I would be ready to go. I look forward to having my own selfish WrestleMania moment as it were.


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