Whether you loved his commentary methods or not, Joey Styles was one of the most memorable personalities in the original ECW. He broke barriers, becoming the first commentator to call a PPV solo. His style shied away from traditional storytelling in favor of an in-ring focus. But when The Land of Extreme folded in 2001, many thought Styles was done with the business for good. That all changed in October 2005 when the WWE came calling.
The company had just fired Jim Ross and were looking for someone to replace him as the lead announcer for Raw. The New York native would remain in a commentary position for the Red brand and later the revitalized ECW until 2008, when he took a position running the company’s website, as Vice President of Digital Media Content.
A nearly 11 year relationship with WWE came to an end yesterday, when Pro Wrestling Sheet reported his release. So, in honor of the “loose cannon of commentary”, we take a look back at his most famous on air moment with the sports entertainment giant.
It was the May 1st 2006 edition of Raw and WWE needed a way to get Styles off of the flagship and onto the new ECW. How they did it was pretty interesting. The play by play man was first involved in a segment with the infamous Spirit Squad who were all over Raw at the time. Their leader, Kenny, was set to take on WWE champ John Cena in a title bout later that night. The Squad each criticized a clearly uncomfortable Styles for “not having enough spirit” in his commentary and warned that if he did not announce Kenny was the new WWE champ as they wanted, he would be forced to dress up as a cheerleader.
There was a man that represented ECW, through and through taking part in a segment that was everything ECW was not. None of the hokeyness, none of the lame characters. It was just pure in your face wrestling, that was what Styles was made to be involved in, not this.
It only got worse when the extreme commentator returned to ringside and to his broadcast partner Jerry “The King” Lawler, who was one of ECW’s most outspoken critics and a man whose style clashed with his partner’s throughout Style’s entire run. Styles was very much an in-ring focused announcer, while Jerry would do his darnedest to talk about anything else but the in-ring action, as entertaining as he was at times.
The King, like the Spirit Squad before him, egged on Styles laughing at him and imploring him to say that the new WWE champ would be Kenny. Styles begged just to sit down and call the match, but King wasn’t through. He wanted the diminutive announcer to show some “spirit.” Styles responded with a push, a bigger push, and then a slap in the face. That was reciprocated with a Jerry Lawler push to the ground. With that, the announcer took a mic and went up to the stage…
Sports Entertainment or Pro Wrestling?
Long before CM Punk’s “pipe bomb”, there was this. A promo that inspired debates and ideas never before in the consciousness of the casual fan. Styles asserted that he was “sick” of sports entertainment, he was a pro wrestling announcer. He touched on the very real battles he had with Vince Mcmahon on the differences between the two. He lambasted McMahon’s love for storytelling and how he tried to pass that on to Styles. To Styles, it was an insult to the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday to ignore the moves and holds.
Keep in mind, that this was 2006. Even though, we were fully into the internet age at that point, the fan base was not nearly as smart to the product as they are now. The promo confirmed what a lot of fans had already suspected, the banning of words like “wrestling” and the ignorance towards the moves, were direct orders handed down from above. It is something that hasn’t changed to this day, fans still beg for Michael Cole and others to focus on in-ring action instead of promoting Hulu or whatever else they do. This very promo put that idea and many others into the consciousness of the wrestling fan.
People heard this and thought “Yeah! It’s pro wrestling” or “call the moves, we don’t care about stories.” In essence, in one promo, Styles riled up the “smarks” long before CM Punk exposed the brass ring.