WWE’s Adnan Virk Experiment Is Already Over
3:41 PM EDT on May 25, 2021
WWE announced today that it and Raw announcer Adnan Virk would be parting ways after just seven episodes at the announcing table that constantly needs repairs, mercifully bringing a quick end to a curious idea that ended up being an unmitigated flop.
After this year's Wrestlemania, Virk was brought in on a reported multi-year deal by the company as part of a larger shake-up of its announcing teams on multiple TV shows. With apparently little training but a few months of watching the product, he was installed as the lead play-by-play man on Monday Night Raw. The general thinking was that Virk, who works for MLB Network and DAZN and used to be on ESPN until his leaking got him fired in 2019, was meant to bring an air of real-sports legitimacy to the long-running wrestling show. Just a month-and-a-half later, though, he says he's leaving because the grind was too much.
I don't think Virk is being untruthful in his tweet, but it was also extremely clear from the beginning of his short time on Raw that he wasn't at all cut out for the role. For non-wrestling fans: Imagine that the new Sunday Night Football announcer didn't know basic terms like "audible" or "fair catch" or even "extra point," and responded to each with some utterance along the lines of "Wow, what a football play," and you'll get a general sense of what listening to Virk was like. Perhaps most infamously, over multiple weeks he kept trying to use the term "Viking Express" in matches involving the Viking Raiders, but just generally he lacked the vocabulary to properly describe in-ring action. In the slightly more recent bits I've watched from Raw, it felt like Virk had become very aware of his shortcomings and allowed his partners at the table to do all the heavy lifting of storytelling, but that's not what you want from a guy ostensibly on the play-by-play.
This little clip from his third episode, on April 26, is to me the essence of just how overmatched Virk was in this gig. In the span of 30 seconds, Virk says "Oh!" three times. He doesn't know what a powerslam is, calling it "an unbelievable move." ("Move" was the word he leaned on for almost anything a wrestler does in the ring.) And then, when Randy Orton—who's probably the closest thing to a household name that WWE has these days—hits his iconic finisher, the RKO, Virk just goes "What a shot!," clearly doesn't know what to call it, and lets his color commentator clean up the mess.
One thing to keep in mind is that Monday Night Raw is three freaking hours long, every single week. It's barely possible to even consume the show in its entirety as a viewer, let alone talk through it all intelligently as an announcer. In that sense, Virk was failed by WWE, who made the mistake outlined in that classic Mitch Hedberg joke by asking a baseball guy if he could call scripted fights.
And while Virk stood out for his lack of experience and total unfamiliarity with WWE's terminology, it's not like he was uniquely bad in a field of excellent play-by-play guys. WWE has for far too long churned out nothing but generic, replaceable voices to describe its matches. That you can't tell one from the other is by design—these guys are given lists of banned words and get trained in the house style just like the wrestlers do, and the result is that they lose any individuality they might have once possessed. (Jim Ross maintaining a recognizable brand outside of WWE's domain is likely seen by the company as a bad thing it wants to avoid in the future.) It adds up to give the impression that the PBP voices in the company are so frightened of saying the wrong thing and getting yelled at by Vince McMahon that they can never come up with anything more than inane canned and approved phrases that make them sound like video game announcers.
So this is ultimately a good move for Virk, who now has time to focus on work he's qualified for and where he's allowed to be himself. Unfortunately, this is probably just a lateral move for WWE, because there's no reason to have faith that they'll bring in anyone special as his replacement. This one will be hard to top, though: