There’s a new announcer on Smackdown, and while he may be new to WWE viewers, Mauro Ranallo is hardly new to professional wrestling.
In fact, while it’s hard to believe, he was a heel manager in Al Tomko’s UWA promotion out of Vancouver when he was just 16 years old.
So it’s a bit of an understatement to say that Mauro Ranallo has come a long way from the babyfaces and fans calling him “Moron Renerdo.”
The 46-year-old Ranallo, originally from Abbotsford, British Columbia, graduating from WJ Mouat Secondary School, has a remarkable resume, particularly with his mixed martial arts commentary. He DJ’d locally and worked at CKO reading news in his early days, and took whatever opportunity he could to do announcing on local sports broadcasts.
But as far as pro wrestling goes, it all started for Ranallo with Tomko’s All-Star Wrestling, and his rag-tag collection of leftover wrestlers as the territories disappeared in favour of the ever-growing WWF and WCW.
“I’m the youngest manager in the history of professional wrestling,” Ranallo bragged to the local newspaper, The News in 1989. “They discovered me when I was 16. (I turned 17 soon after but I like 16 better).”
The paper described the youngster’s style: “Ranallo is Abbotsford’s mouth-that-roared. This 19-year-old has been blessed with a set of vocal chords Luciano Pavarotti would patent.”
He described his obsession with wrestling in the same story: “I’ve loved wrestling since I was four years old … I’ve felt like being an entertainer since I was a kid so now wrestling has given me a platform to live out my true fantasy. I was always picked on as a kid and wrestling has given me a chance to get everyone back, everyone who doubted me.”
Ranallo was loud and obnoxious as a manager, his booming voice and complex vocabulary carrying across Canada on the CTV network affiliates that carried Tomko’s UWA promotion, taped at the BCTV studios, and running smaller towns like Chilliwack and Cloverdale.
One of his charges was Mad Dog Rex, the late Neil Carr. After Carr’s passing, Ranallo talked about his earliest days: “I was bitten by the professional wrestling bug, I think, as quickly as I escaped my mother’s womb.”
After All-Star and Tomko threw in the towel in 1989, Ranallo continued in the media world, struggling with manic depression, a bipolar disorder. He had highs and lows, and has never been scared about sharing his story with people.
In the wrestling world, his next big break came as the lead announcer in the relaunched Stampede Wrestling in 1999, with Bad News Allen Coage as his crusty colour commentary.
From there, he moved onto commentary on Pride FC, followed by a gig as the lead voice on The Fight Network. His biggest profile came through Showtime and its Elite XC and Showtime Championship Boxing shows, and Strikeforce MMA.
He has proven very adaptable, calling kickboxing one night and New Japan Pro Wrestling the next. He even did commentary, alongside MMA legend Frank Shamrock, on an EA Sports MMA video game.
It was WWE announcer Michael Cole who reached out to Ranallo about coming on board, and a deal was struck where Ranallo will not only keep his real name as a WWE employee — a rarity — but he will keep many of his other outside gigs, like Showtime. (Though he had to surrender his commentary on New Japan’s English feed on AXS.)
“People have called me a pro wrestling announcer and I think at times they weren’t intending to be complimentary in calling me that,” Ranallo told Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports. “But I’d always thank them for that because at the end of the day, I am a pro wrestling announcer in terms of my passion and enthusiasm and telling stories. I love to paint word pictures with the incredible warriors who step into the ring or the cage with boxing, kick boxing and even the New Japan [wrestling show] with Josh Barnett I did. … Everyone knows my quirky sense of humor, my shtick, and I can be a ham as a performer. WWE said they want me to be who I am with a little tweaking.”
His Smackdown debut was taped Tuesday night in Laredo, Texas, and he sat at the announcing table alongside Byron Saxton and Jerry Lawler. It airs Wednesday night in Canada on Sportsnet 360 and on Thursday night in the U.S., on Smackdown’s new home, the USA Network.