WWE has major changes on the horizon. NXT debuted on USA last week and as of next week will be going head-to-head with AEW on Wednesday nights. Smackdown is moving from USA to FS1, debuting on the latter next Friday. They've used these shifts as pegs to overhaul their announce team:
As part of WWE Premiere Week, new voices will be brought to the Raw, NXT and SmackDown broadcasts. Raw’s new announce team will include play-by-play from Vic Joseph with Dio Maddin and WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler serving as analysts; NXT play-by-play will be called by Mauro Ranallo with Beth Phoenix and Nigel McGuiness as analysts; and SmackDown will feature Michael Cole handling play-by-play, Corey Graves serving as analyst and Renee Young as a Special Contributor.
A few thoughts and observations:
1. I'm happy Jerry Lawler is back on Raw. This sentiment is a little polarizing amongst online wrestling fans, but I think King still has the sense of irony where he understands the fourth wall. A lot of WWE color commentators in recent years have not had this innate understanding, so it's not just the nostalgia of a legend being there for me it's that he grasps the job better than people who were hired to replace him.
2. Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton are out. The apparently former Smackdown play-by-play man and color commentator are absent from WWE's press release.
3. It is interesting that they are moving Michael Cole from Raw to Smackdown. Hopefully this fresh start will reinvigorate him. Renee Young also appears to be off the main commentary desk. Hopefully the "special contributor" wording signals a return to backstage interviews and other sketches where she excelled previously. Fox announced today, as we reported was likely back in June, that Young will host their new Backstage studio show on FS1. She should be phenomenal in that role; here are some more details on that show.
4. In case you were wondering, Vic Joseph is the 205 Live play-by-play guy; Dio Madden just joined the 205 Live color commentary team earlier this month. Madden had been on the fringe of the NXT wrestling roster since 2016. He played offensive tackle at UNC and was drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.