Review – Justin Roberts – Best Seat In The House: Your Backstage Pass Through My WWE Journey
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Off the top of most professional wrestling fans’ crafty craniums, one former World Wrestling Entertainment Ring Announcer named Justin Roberts was synonymous with sharp suits, short black hair and emphatic introductions. There was also that time he was choked with his own necktie by Daniel Bryan in the infamous 2010 Nexus debut angle that resulted in Bryan’s termination.
Roberts released a blog post not long after his termination that complained about WWE’s public image trickeries as they twisted stories around to come off as a kindhearted company whilst they simultaneously talked down to their own talent and overworked them with little time off and insane travel schedules.
The prime example of this was Connor “The Crusher” Michalek – a sick eight-year old boy Roberts noticed at ringside and helped bring joy with constant FaceTime conversations added with daily communication with his father Steve, who noted that his son had little time left.
WWE portrayed the relationship between Michalek and his favorite wrestler Bryan as close in video packages. The two had interacted a few times, but the close relationship was actually between Roberts and Michalek. We’ll get more into that later on, as we hoped for more details.
Also, just the idea of a ring announcer autobiography intrigued us. Roberts’ WWE tenure lasted from 2002 through 2014. In turn, he experienced various company “eras” and it was cool to finally get his full perspective.
“Best Seat In The House: Your Backstage Pass Through My WWE Journey,” published through Meyer & Meyer Sport earlier this year, was a straight-forward title and we got stories aplenty from the beginning about his Chicago upbringings with a pro wrestling obsession and persistence to try and get autographs and pictures with those ring warriors he idolized. An early lesson he stressed was that it wasn’t enough to settle. He worked for every opportunity he found and did all the legwork to get as much out of it as possible. The key was being friendly and polite.
Where the book interests us most were his stories of how he worked to get to WWE at any cost. He learned the business aspect from independent companies and utilized outside connections. After a few years of audition tapes and tryouts, he eventually found his way in and went from an occasional fill-in to being full-time on Raw, SmackDown and ECW. He too was a victim of John “Bradshaw” Layfield’s bully tactics in his time on the SmackDown roster from 2004-2005. Particularly on overseas tours, Roberts experienced mental abuse from many and was forced to “ride with the bad guys” all for their amusement. The haze incidents also extended to being physically put in Chris Benoit’s Crippler Crossface.
Roberts takes us along for the ride of WWE’s nonstop travel schedule through the years and we almost felt the jet lag ourselves. Things get borderline emotional once the subject covers his father’s death and especially Michalek’s. Even though he succeeded in his dream and announced at WrestleMania, he often never received directions or cues on when to speak, which was subject to criticism from Kevin Dunn/Vince McMahon themselves. His constant ideas to better the company were repeatedly ignored, which added to his frustration. The meteoric rise/downward point of his employment was the Michalek story, which saw WWE essentially remove his likeness from all aspects, instead replaced by the company themselves. We must state our disappointment that things like the necktie incident (noted to be 100% legit) and Benoit tragedy were glanced over, but it is what it is.
This’ll probably be the best pro wrestling ring announcer autobiography, maybe because it’s a category few and far between. Roberts is vivid in his imagery and even though he occasionally dwells on negativity, one can easily see his passion for the business and eagerness to “get things right.” WWE has a “company-first” mentality and he holds nothing back on how careless they can be in regards to travel and breaks. We were surprised to see a handful of grammatical/spelling errors that knock things down a few pegs, as well as a portion where a paragraph repeats itself on pg. 107. Sometimes we wonder if the publishing company read what they published.
All of that aside, it’s insightful and witty enough to belong on the shelf of any wrestling fan, or even anybody who looks to succeed in their careers or have even achieved it and moved on. Roberts tells us first-hand that it’s all about being polite, friendly and persistent. Roberts was known for being vocal on his social media accounts, despite WWE’s attempts to erase his existence on their shows. Now that he’s no longer under their demands, it seems he’s happier than ever.
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to work at WWE, this might be the closest you get without actually doing it. Ring announcers are primarily known for their voice and abilities to rev crowds up. Roberts was no different and his accounts won’t be ignored anymore.
Posted on June 30, 2017, in Misc, WWE and tagged Autobiographies, Best Seat In The House, Books, Connor "The Crusher" Michalek, JBL, Justin Roberts, Kevin Dunn, Pro Wrestling, Reviews, Steve Michalek, Vince McMahon, WrestleMania, WWE. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.