Former WWE announcer Jonathan Coachman has suggested that Corey Graves didn’t want to work with him in 2018, accusing him of a “complete lack of respect.”
Jonathan Coachman initially joined WWE in 1999, going on to work as an interviewer, announcer and presenter. In 2003, his on-screen role expanded as he became assistant to RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff. For the next five years, ‘The Coach’ would hold similar on-screen authority roles while sometimes still working as an announcer.
Coach returned the announce booth full-time in early 2008, before leaving the company when his contract expired later that year. After joining ESPN, Coachman made occasional appearances on WWE television before re-signing with the company in 2018. Coach initially returned to the RAW commentary booth but was later moved to the kick-off show for pay-per-views.
Speaking on Ad Free Shows, Jonathan Coachman recalled how his return to the WWE came about.
“I’ll tell you, this is one of the stories I wanted to get into. So when they called me to come back, I left ESPN. Part of the reason I left is because I wanted to do more golf. I’d been there for 10 years and I had done all the big shows that ESPN had, but yet, they wouldn’t give me the ball and run with it. So I was allowed to go back and do a couple things while I was at ESPN, and I started talking to the executives, and Michael Cole, like, ‘Man, we’d love to have you back. You can do this. Then we’ll let you do all this other stuff, because it helps us credibility wise.’ So they were okay with everything. This, I think, is one of the things that I just don’t get to this day about the way they operate at WWE, because it doesn’t have to be this way. They could do it a different way and have more positive results,”
Coach explained that he had a prior commitment with the Golf Channel which would affect his availability, something he says he made sure WWE were aware of.
“So what happened was, I already had a deal to be the voice of the World Long Drive Tour. I’d already signed it. Well, the one thing I’m not going to do is go back to somebody and say, ‘Well, I’ve already signed this contract, but now I’m backing out.’ That’s something that I’ve never done, and I never would do. It’s bad business if you do because guess what bridge you just burned? That one. That was on Golf Channel, and that was part of the reason why I left ESPN. Okay, so I had five Mondays that I had to miss. Again, they knew all of this. This is not something that I sprung on them one week.”
While fulfilling his obligation to the Golf Channel, Coach was replaced on RAW by David Otunga and Renee Paquette, then known as Renee Young. Coachman said that he felt bad for Paquette, being dropped into a difficult situation.
“So I could tell after I missed the first one, and whoever filled in, I can’t remember, and then Renee filled in. I actually felt bad for Renee, because I know how hard it is to do that. After the initial, ‘Oh, she’s awesome,’ then came the venom. That’s the one thing I wish wrestling fans just would let go sometimes, Damn, it’s just a TV show. It’s entertainment. It’s two hours and then you go back to your life. It’s not life or death. So when they go on social media and they crush these people, it just doesn’t make any sense to me. For somebody like me who has other avenues I can take it. I’m good,”
Expanding further, Coach lifted the lid on issues between himself and his then announce collegue Corey Graves. The former ESPN presenter said that Graves never wanted him there, adding that he felt he was shown a lack of respect.
“So I also believe this; I think at his core, I think Corey is a really good guy. I don’t think he ever wanted a three person booth. When I used to work with King and JR, we would actually work together and they would give me lines to say. You’ve seen some of the great stuff, like when Kane’s fire would hit and I would fall over backwards. We all worked on that. Corey just didn’t want to do that. He just didn’t want me there. You could tell by the things he would say. There was certainly a complete lack of respect for me being a veteran. For me having the time at ESPN. I certainly never walked in and said, ‘I’m taking this over. This is my space.’ I never did that. You could ask anybody. So every single week it just got more and more difficult to work with him and it was clear he wanted Renee because they’re very, very good friends.”
Coach went on to explain that he didn’t enjoy working as a commentator because he wasn’t allowed to reprise his ‘Heel Coach’ persona. He detailed how Vince McMahon attempted to protect his credibility with mainstream sports broadcasters, before highlighting the importance of crossover stars.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to be heel Coach. I wanted to bring that character back. Vince, again, this was him trying to take care of me, and this is where sometimes I wish they would just trust us a little bit more. Because of my time at ESPN, he wanted to protect that credibility and he felt like if I went back to talking trash, being a manager of somebody, they wouldn’t have the credibility on Monday Night Raw with me at the desk that I had and I would lose it from ESPN. None of the places that I work with, not even the PGA Tour, and you would think they’d be the most conservative — They don’t care if I do professional wrestling, because that bridge has already been crossed. I was the first one to do it.
The reason it was so important is so that others could do both. So you wouldn’t walk into a room and say, ‘I want to do wrestling and boxing or wrestling and basketball,’ and somebody would tell you no. That’s why it was so important at that time for me to stay in both. To stay doing golf, to stay doing sports, while I was also doing Monday Night Raw, it was very, very important, because now you see with the AEW’s coming in, you’ve got to have guys that crossover. Whether it’s somebody like me, whether it’s The Rock, or Cena or Batista. You have to have guys that are bigger than your audience so you bring in other people. That short-sightedness is affecting them to this day,”
Coachman revealed that his absences from the RAW announce desk eventually led to him being moved to the pay-per-view pre-shows. He explained that he was “ecstatic” at the news, commenting that while he worked less “the check didn’t change.”
“To be honest, I was ecstatic to go back to the pre show. That was awesome, because that’s where I thrive is being the host of a panel or being a character, not sitting on Monday Night Raw or Smackdown, when you’re just miserable because the people don’t want to work with you. I couldn’t make Corey want to work with me. Just couldn’t do it. So I was very happy. You know, people used to tweet at me, ‘You idiot, you got demoted.’ The check didn’t change, I had more fun, and I travelled only once a month instead of every single week. I see that as a win if you ask me.”
Jonathan Coachman later left WWE for a second time and has since said that he will never return to the company.
H/t to Fightful for the transcription.