Wrestling announcer Tony Schiavone reflects on being the voice of your childhood

"I was shocked to find that there were people out there that wanted to hear me again. I hear it all the time: 'You’re the voice of my childhood.' I’m flattered. I never expected that."

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Tony Schiavone
Schiavone’s favorite match was the night Bill Goldberg beat Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the 1998 world title.

Photograph by Ben Rollins

My wife and I have lived in the same house in East Cobb for 31 years now, since Turner Broadcasting offered me a job with World Championship Wrestling. When I first started, we taped the TBS shows at Center Stage. Then, we would tape the syndicated shows in Gainesville, at the Georgia Mountains Center, and at the Cobb County Civic Center. We stayed in the area until we got really big in the mid-’90s and started moving all around.

Obviously, the more successful you are, the more fun you have in your business. My biggest memory from that time was at the Georgia Dome, where we had Bill Goldberg beat Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the world title on Monday Nitro in 1998. Goldberg was such a phenomenon, plus he was a former Georgia Bulldog. It was one of our largest crowds ever. I’ve always said this, and I still believe this today: The great matches that you call, you cease to be an announcer. You become a fan of the work. That night, I became a fan.

Then, of course, things started to change. Ratings and attendance went down. As things got worse for the company, it really ceased to be a good place to work. It was a grind, and there were a lot of political maneuverings backstage. Then, WCW was sold to WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment] and closed up shop in March 2001. I had seen the end coming: At two o’clock that day, I had an interview with WSB Radio. I got hired to do sports. Eventually, I did work with the Hawks, the Braves, Georgia football and basketball. I did play-by-play for the Gwinnett Braves for 11 years. For 18 months, in 2016 and ’17, after WSB didn’t renew my contract, I worked at a Starbucks in Roswell. They have good benefits. I did everything—made drinks, mopped floors, worked the drive-thru. I was just one of the girls on the morning shift. It was a great experience.

After WCW folded, I went cold turkey on wrestling. I didn’t watch it. I did a taping for another company in Nashville, in 2003, but that was it. I just didn’t want to do it again. I was burnt out on the business. I told myself I was done.

Eventually, Conrad Thompson, a podcast host, got in touch with me about doing a show talking about the good old days in WCW. We started that in 2017. Looking back on the past, it wasn’t so miserable. Time heals all. And people started listening—I was shocked to find that there were people out there that wanted to hear me again. I hear it all the time: You’re the voice of my childhood. I’m flattered. I never expected that.

It springboarded me back into wrestling. I did some work for Major League Wrestling. Now, I’m with All Elite Wrestling, which began in 2019 and of course airs on TNT—back to Turner. I’m working with Cody Rhodes, whose father, Dusty, I worked with for many years in WCW. I get to work again with veterans like Sting and Jim Ross, who is by far the best wrestling announcer ever. I had gotten to thinking about how announcers help the wrestlers seem bigger than life. I thought, if I can help these kids and their careers in wrestling move forward, maybe there is a place for me. It makes me feel young, which is not a bad thing to feel at my age. The young talent is so wonderful. They’re hungry, they’re good kids, they’re so respectful. All of them have watched me in the past and appreciated my work. Even if they didn’t, they tell me they do.

I saw someone write that I’m on the AEW announcing team because I make people remember their childhood and feel warm and good about wrestling again. When I read that, I realized what my niche was. I’m so fortunate, I really am. I’m having the time of my life.

This article appears in our May 2021 issue.

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