Quick note from RD Reynolds: All of us here at WrestleCrap.com are saddened by Art Donovan’s passing. His family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers!
WWF King of the Ring, 1994
Text by Harry Simon
We’ve all done it.
After enough cajoling, begging, and/or threatening, we’ve all finally managed to convince a friend or relative to plunk down on the couch with us and give this “wrestling” stuff a look-see. It’s a gift to them, from us. We want them to see our favorite wrestlers, matches, interviews, and angles. We hope to share that feeling when we jump out of our seats, kick the cat, and mark out like there is no tomorrow. We patiently answer every question, helping our companion gain a foothold in this wrestling called pro.
You know the spiel:
“Who’s that guy?”
”Why are they fighting?”
“Does that really hurt?”
“What just happened?”
”Who’s that guy again?”
But if, by chance, you’ve never experienced this type of interpersonal communication firsthand, the WWF decided to force it upon you one summer’s eve. The second King Of The Ring PPV took place in the Baltimore Arena on 6/16/94. In another grab for that elusive celebrity rub, Gorilla Monsoon and “Macho Man” Randy Savage were joined at the broadcast table by Baltimore’s own Art Donovan.
Some history on Art: He’s an NFL Hall-Of-Famer, best known as a defensive tackle for the Baltimore Colts. He enjoys a measure of celebrity in Baltimore, as something of a fun-loving personality.
Um, that’s about it, actually.
Why the WWF thought he was qualified to be a color commentator is anybody’s guess, but then again, this is the company that put Jim Ross out to pasture, while Todd Grisham still reports to the makeup chair every Monday afternoon.
Art didn’t know jumping jack crap about wrestling, but to be fair, wrestling apparently didn’t know him either. Scant seconds into the PPV, we were off to a great start as Gorilla screwed up Art’s name. Gorilla followed up by asking Art for his prediction to win the KOTR tournament. Art enthusiastically replied, “Ray-zer Ramon!” Now, I’m not saying that Art’s pick was (ahem) predetermined for him, but nearly six minutes into the first match of the PPV (Razor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow), Art not-so-suddenly recognized his man, and blurted out, “This is the guy dat I picked ta win! Razor!”
Folks, I could go on and on about how Art’s knowledge of the product was less-than-nil. I could belabor how his “Grampa Simpson” style of delivery piped up with some bit of nonsense just often enough to remind you he was there, while at the same time, chasing all other cohesive thoughts from your mind. I could raise the concern that his repeated inquiries of “Did dat really hurt ‘im?” didn’t do any favors for us on the suspension-of-disbelief front. Or I could just point to the below example that every time the camera showed Art, he just generally looked befuddled as hell.
But no. For me to do a running commentary on Art’s running commentary would dishonor the sheer magnitude of his contribution to wrestling history. Also, it would be way too abstract, like boxes in boxes full of boxes, or something. Instead, I’ll keep my notes to a minimum, and quite literally, let the man speak for himself.
Art (on Luna Vachon doing her psycho “Luna-Tick” character at ringside): “What’s the girl over there screamin’ at?”
Gorilla: “Well, Art, she wants her man, Bam Bam Bigelow, to be victorious and move on to the semifinals.”
Art: “Oh, I see. Okay. Now I get it!”
NOTE: No, he didn’t.
Art (calling the action as Bam hit an enziguiri): “When you do dat kind of work-with-da-feet, can you hit ‘im?
Art (empathetically selling the agony of his guy Razor in Bam’s torture rack): “Gorilla, is he dead?!”
Art (getting over Irwin R. Schyster’s character just in case there was anyone out there who didn’t comprehend its loftly concept): “Randy, is dis one a’ the wrestlers? He looks like a businessman!”
DISTURBING MOMENT ALERT:
Art (referring to either IRS or Mabel): “Is dis the way he’s gonna wrestle? With his clothes on?”
Gorilla: “Oh, no. He takes all of that off, Art.”
Art: “Oh, I see. Good!”
Art (on Tatanka): “How much does dis fella weigh?”
Art (on Tatanka): “How much does dis fella weigh?”
NOTE: The above is not a typo. Art asked it twice. Well, actually a lot more than that/
Art (calling Tatanka vs. Owen Hart): “Dese guys need a helmet with a facemask!”
Savage: “Yeah, but they don’t have any equipment to back ‘em up there, Art Donovan! Good point!”
NOTE: No, it wasn’t. But God bless Macho for trying to help a brother out. Incidentally, this was the third match of the night, and Gorilla had already long since given up on Art and tried his best to ignore Art altogether for the remainder of the PPV.
Art (anticipating the global ramifications from Tatanka’s loss): “Hey Randy, dere’s gonna be a lotta American Indians mad!”
Art (as intros began for Jeff Jarrett vs. 1-2-3 Kid): “They’re not as big as some of these other fellers, are they?”
NOTE: Yeah, funny thing about that. Vince McMahon had his infamous steroid trial in 1994. While he was ultimately acquitted, Vince was still wary of public scrutiny, so he literally “downsized” his televised product in a subtle manner. The supermegahuge muscle monkeys went into hibernation while the spotlight shifted to smaller guys such as Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. What, and you thought it was just because they were the company’s two best workers of the decade? Ha! Anyway, you can just imagine how thrilled Vince must have been when Art pretty much pointed that out to America.
Gorilla (during the intro for The 1-2-3 Kid): “Oh, here he comes! Mr. Electricity himself! The very exciting 1-2-3 Kid!”
Art: “Who’s this now, Randy?”
Savage: “Basically, he’s an underdog, Art Donovan. And I’ll tell ya, the fans love him like you can tell, right now!”
Art: “Who are we talking about? 1-2-3?”
Art: “He looks like a boxer!”
DISTURBING MOMENT ALERT:
Savage (calling Bret Hart vs. Diesel): “Shawn Michaels just, uh, said a couple of words over to us, Gorilla Monsoon!”
Gorilla: “Ah, very derogatory remarks about you, Randy!”
Savage: “That’s okay, he’s gotta worry about the Hitman, right now!”
Art: “He come after you, I’m liable ta get undressed and go out wid’ ‘im!”
Savage: “I appreciate that!”
Art: “I’ll be your ‘second!’ A-HA-HAHAHAHA!!”
Art (calling Bret vs. Diesel): “Dis is like David and Goliat’!”
Gorilla: “Well, David and Goliath, indeed! We know what happened in that story!”
Art: “Yeah! He hit ‘im wid’ a rock!”
NOTE: By this point, you could actually hear the seething disgust in the voices of Gorilla and Savage, as they openly mocked poor Art.
Art (calling an IRS bump): “That’s like missing the trap-block!”
Gorilla: “Well, you’d certainly know about that, Art!”
Savage: “Exactly like it, except completely different!”
Art (calling a clothesline by IRS): “Dat was a heck of a forearm!”
Art (on Owen): “How much does dis fella weigh?”
Art (on Yokozuna): “How much does dis guy weigh?”
Art (on Mr. Fuji): “Hey, Randy, I can’t see! Da guy’s got da flag – Huh?”
Gorilla (calling Lex Luger walking down to ringside during Yokozuna & Crush vs. Headshrinkers): “Here comes Lex Luger! Boy, has he got some scores to settle in this one!”
Savage: “Crush caused Lex Luger not to be in the King Of The Ring tournament, if you remember! He’s made in the USA and there was nothing keeping him from just being here and getting eye contact with Crush! Check it out!”
Gorilla (as Samu schoolboyed Crush for a nearfall): “Well, Crush responsible for Lex not being involved in the King Of The Ring! Look at this rollup! Almost got ‘im!”
Gorilla: “It was Crush’s interference that cost Lex a chance to being the King Of The Ring and Lex will never forget that!”
Art: “Who’s da fella wid’ da American flag?”
Gorilla: “Art Donovan, that is Lex Luger!”
Art: “Oh, okay.”
Savage (analyzing KOTR tourney results prior to the Razor vs. Owen final): “I’ll tell you what, there we go! The Rocket Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon! Art Donovan, I’ve gotta hand it to you!”
Art: “WHOOOOOOOOOOA, I’m right there!”
Savage: “Razor’s gone all the way to the finals! You might be the man to have picked the King Of The Ring!”
Art: “And then he’ll be…king? He’ll be crowned the king, right?”
Gorilla (calling Owen vs. Razor): “Backslide, but Razor not driving with those legs! Not hard to understand why. Both of these men have already wrestled two grueling matches to reach this final round. Who’s got the best conditioning, Randy? Will that be one of the big features to tell us who the winner’s going to be?”
Art (jumping in out of nowhere): “You know what I t’ink? I t’ink dat Razor’s gonna lose.”
Savage (angrily putting the pieces together after Jim Neidhart screwed Razor to give Owen the KOTR win): “I got a theory! Call me crazy, call me nuts. But I’m just thinking that Neidhart was out there in Bret’s corner, and possibly the only motive that he had, being in Bret’s corner, was to make sure that the Hitman didn’t lose his title to Diesel. But he’s hoping that the Rocket will beat the Hitman. I don’t know.”
Gorilla: “Ah, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Randy –”
Art (again with the interruption): “Lemme ask a question. Did you two guys act like dat? In the ring? When you were wrestling?”
Gorilla (ignoring Art and not missing a beat): “Do you think the Anvil is that smart, Randy? I don’t. I don’t.”
Savage (finally jumping on board the choo-choo bound for Ignore Art Donovanville): “Yeah, but the Rocket might be!”
Left for dead by his last ally, Art must have seen the handwriting on the wall. Art was uncharacteristically quiet for the last match of the night. Either that, or Vince finally found the right button to shut off Art’s mic. Just as well. The evening’s finale was a snoozer that saw Roddy Piper defeat Jerry Lawler in a match so dog-scaldingly boring, it could have been inducted even without Art’s presence. As Roddy’s bagpipes blared in victory, Gorilla signed off.
As it turned out, that was the end of Art Donovan’s short-lived career as a wrestling color commentator. Take it from someone who has done a little play-by-play/color commentary in his day; It ain’t as easy as it looks. Yes, my friends, there is indeed a lesson to be learned from that balmy night in Baltimore. Good commentary is a meticulous skill that takes years to learn and a lifetime to perfect. But bad commentary that is so horrible, it’s unintentionally hilarious?
Now that’s an Art.
ART DONOVAN’S CAREER STATS
Number of Pro Bowls played in: 5
Number of championships won with the Colts: 2
Approximate number of times he asked how much a wrestler weighed during KOTR 94: 4,970***