Monday, 10 June 2013

Jimmo's Angle Special: Interview: MC Hank McCoy

Unsung Heroes - The Ring Announcer/MC

When it comes to putting a wrestling show together I can imagine that it's not as easy as it looks compared to how good it actually looks, and how flowing and entertaining it may feel to the audience. I think there are many factors that make up, and add to, a good wrestling show.

I've been lucky enough at times to see behind-the-scenes of some wrestling shows and see how much time and effort goes into them. A big reason why I have been so privileged is because of a good friend of mine – Hank McCoy – who has announced for several promotions since starting out in 2010.

Hank McCoy announcing for AWW
Since his debut, Hank has gained in confidence and experience to become one of the most underrated talents contributing to British Wrestling. It is my intention in this interview to highlight a Ring Announcer's worth to a wrestling promotion, as well as Hank's very valid thoughts on the subject.

I caught up with him recently to go over his role as an MC/Ring Announcer and why he feels it's an important, but sometimes overlooked, part of the show.

Jimmo's Angle: Hi Hank, how long have you been Ring Announcing for? Which promotions have you worked for?
Hank: I've been regularly announcing for about 3 years, working mostly the South and Midlands areas of the England. Companies I've worked for include FWA, Pro EVW, AWW, DWA, and BAWA. I'm really enjoying being an announcer and hope to continue for a long while yet. Obviously I'd love to have a go at being an announcer for WWE or TNA, but in the UK I'd like to work some shows for PCW, Progress and 4FW. I'm also a decent heel manager, working James Mason's GSW and NBWA.

JA: How did you get into the role?
Hank: It's not that well known but my original plan was to be a wrestler, so like everyone I started my career in wrestling as a trainee with a local promotion. I can't really remember how the announcer gig came up - it was more a case of needing to fill in as an emergency but ended up staying. The intention was to still wrestle one day but it turned out that I was really good as an announcer. I enjoyed the wrestling training and continued to train with the boys for about two years until the promotion closed. I guess I was hard to replace and more use to the company as an announcer. I didn't really fancy starting again as a trainee elsewhere and already had established myself in the area as an announcer, so it continued as-is.

JA: What relevant training and experience did you go through before taking up Ring Announcing?
Hank: Before getting involved with pro wrestling I was a radio presenter for a few years. It's where I developed mic and presenting skills. It's also the reason how I know my way around the PA kit. When I started I was mentored by the promotion's existing announcer, Dragongate:UK's Larry La Rue. In addition to this I've taken acting classes to help with presenting skills.

JA: How important do you feel the role of Ring Announcer is?
Hank: Having a good announcer is very important. Unfortunately it's one of the things that a lot of promotions tend to overlook or put little effort into finding, but can make a huge difference to the show and the company running it. From experience I've found that quite often it's the first name to be dropped from the card if pre-sales are down, often being replaced by whoever is willing and able to do it for free. This actually does more harm than good.

JA: Why?
Hank: There's lots of reasons. Don't get me wrong, rarely do fans go home after a show and say to the people they're with "that was a really great announcer." But they will definitely say things like "that announcer really screwed up/looked a mess/sounded awful/talked too much." An announcer is the face and an official of the promotion they are working for. They need to look, sound and act as such. They are an extension and a public representative of the brand. If they screw up or look awful, it is a reflection upon the company that hired them, and actually can do more damage than hiring a really terrible wrestler. At least a bad wrestler can take a beating, finish the match and get out - after all, it's supposed to look like a fight. An announcer that can't hold an audience, is visibly nervous, or even gets the names wrong has nowhere to hide and worse still, will be back on again in 10 minutes for the next match. As a promoter, it makes sense then to spend a few minutes considering your options and booking a decent front of house team. (Good referees and effective managers are also generally under-appreciated).

JA: In your opinion, what factors make a good Ring Announcer?
Hank: A good ring announcer at very least should look and sound the part. They need to have a good commanding voice, but with a friendly demeanour, and be dressed accordingly. Shoes, shirt and jacket are minimum. Personally, I really dislike the "loose tie, unbuttoned collar" overly casual look.

Announcing isn't just reading out names. There's much much more to it. In this day and age of shiny floor shows such as X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent, audiences expect "hosts" and not just MCs. Really good ring announcers build on basic expectations by being charismatic performers and know exactly how to work the crowd, interact with them and build an energy. Everyone knows that shows are better with a hot audience so knowing how to warm them up and being able to force them through their inhibitions is vital. They can also bring back an audience's attention if a match happened to be a disaster. I've found being able to bump, sell and being expressive is really handy too. Being able to think on your feet and react to situations is vital, especially if you're wearing an ear-piece and things change. I was taught that you had to be like a swan - on the surface things look great and glide along nicely, but hidden under the surface you have to be paddling like crazy to stay afloat. This is so true!

The best announcers go even further still and taking advantage of the relationships they've built with the audience, use this influence to convince them to buy merchandise and come back to future shows. I always work the house during the intervals, constantly pushing backstage passes, in-ring photos and anything else that would help draw income into the company. Put simply, the best announcers not only pay for themselves, but bring in profit. This is why dropping a good announcer from a card when your pre-sales are down can help makes things worse - we could help claw back a profit either pushing merch sales, or using some effective crowd psychology, send people home on a high so they return with friends.

JA: Finally, have you taken anything from the likes of The Fink, Justin Roberts, Michael Buffer or other Ring Announcers?
Hank: The Fink is the best announcer ever in my opinion. You look up 'Ring Announcer' and you will see a picture of him. He looks and sounds the part. He's charismatic, likeable and really over with the audiences. He's one of the reasons why I wear a tux in the ring. Unlike Buffer, he's not just about the vocal skills - he got actively involved with the show, playing the character of a much-loved but pudgy, balding, dweeby guy; a perfect target for heels and a great heat opportunity. How many other announcers do you know that can be identified by nickname alone? Exactly.

JA: Thank you for your time today, Hank!

If you would like more information on Hank then please visit his Superkick Media page

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1 comment:

  1. Lee Bamber (Lee Canderton)16 June 2013 at 19:42

    Hank is pretty much spot on. I've been since 1985 (and was lucky enough to get on the telly in the Kent Walton days just before Greg Dyke pulled the plug on UK Wrestling in 1988).
    Mainly working for Brian Dixon's "All Star/Superslam".
    Wrestling has changed a lot since I started but a good MC, and for that matter a good ref, will help the show become a complete package and a good announcer will more than pay for his wages in merchandise sales he plugs.
    Thanks Hank and Jimmo for putting over our side of the story. The announcer is an important part of the show too.

    Best wishes - Lee Bamber