AEW play-by-play commentator Excalibur joined Aubrey Edwards and Tony Schiavone on AEW Unrestricted talking about the beginnings of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and his start at AEW. Excalibur was one of the founders of PWG serving multiple roles including wrestler and broadcaster.
Excalibur was inspired by wrestlers like Gran Hamada, Ultimo Dragon and Jushin "Thunder" Liger to become a masked wrestler. Excalibur has continued to wear his mask even after he retired from his in-ring career, which caused some confusion for audiences not familiar with him. He talked about why he continues to wear his mask.
"Yeah, I mean Excalibur is the only thing I've ever been in professional wrestling, even though it was on a very very low level. To this day, people still don't understand why I wear the mask," Excalibur said. "It's the only is the only persona I've ever done in professional wrestling, and for me, there is kind of that separation. When I put on the mask, this is wrestling. When I take off the mask this is everything else in my life."
Before AEW, The Elite organized All In assembling a broadcast team that included Excalibur, Don Callis and Ian Riccaboni. Excalibur talked about getting the call for the show, and how the Young Bucks recruited him to AEW.
"Well, the impetus for this was All In in September 2018, and The Bucks were putting together the show along with Cody and Kenny. They asked me to be a part of the announce team, and that was the first time that I had ever done anything on PPV. I've done live stream stuff, but you know like that that level of something. It was the first time I'd ever worked with Don Callis and Ian Riccaboni, and meeting that afternoon, sitting down and calling a show together, I think we did really well," Excalibur said. "After the show was over, Matt Jackson came up to me and he said 'hey, we've got something in the works, just keep your your ears open. We'll be in touch,' and I said, 'yeah, OK. Sure.' I had no idea what was really happening. I saw them about a month or so later, and they were like, 'hey, things are are happening. We're really working on something here, just keep an open mind.' Then January 1, 2019, the big announcement on Being The Elite. AEW is formed, and I said, 'oh wow, this is actually happening, and it seems to be happening in a very big way.' They asked me to do the ticket on sale press conference in Las Vegas and February, and they said, 'hey, how would you feel about announcing the show?' I said, 'I'd love it,' and they said, 'how would you feel about announcing the show with Jim Ross?' And I said, 'you're absolutely out of your minds. That will never happen in a million years,' and they said, 'yes, this is the team.' And so I said, 'yes, I'd love to do that.' Along with Alex Marvez, they flew us to Atlanta, and we did some some chemistry tests with JR."
Similar to how some fans were confused as to why Excalibur wears a mask, Excalibur talked about how Jim Ross was also perplexed when they first met. Excalibur also went through the test run that he went through with Ross and Alex Marvez that would go on to establish the commentary style that AEW runs to this day.
"At first, he was very skeptical. He saw me in the mask, and he said, 'what the hell is this? Why are you doing this? You know the announcers job is to put over the product in the ring and not themselves?' And I said, 'JR, I know, and I hope that I can earn your trust. I hope you could see the job that I do is all about promoting the in-ring product,' and he said, 'well, we'll see.' So we called a few hours of matches that were on tape. Initially, he said, 'I'm going to do lead play-by-play. Excalibur, you do analysis. Marvez, you do, color like statistics,' and he said, 'OK.' Then slowly, after we'd done a couple matches, things started shifting to me going into the more play-by-play role, JR doing some color and Marvez doing the analysis or statistics. Depending on the type of match, we would kind of shift rolls back and forth, and I think that's ultimately the the formula that we've adopted for AEW is that on certain types of matches that are more traditional style pro wrestling, JR takes the lead, and on matches that are more fast-paced, I guess 2010's or in this case, 2020's professional wrestling style, I'll take the lead on that," Excalibur said on AEW's commentary style. "It's not something that, Tony, you can attest to this, that we've ever discussed. It's just something that that's kind of happened organically."
Schiavone talked about how JR has told fans on social media that he lets Excalibur do play-by-play because he's good at it. That led Excalibur to remember what JR had told him after Fight For The Fallen.
"It was after Fight For The Fallen in Jacksonville last July, JR paid a very big compliment to me, which I was very surprised by," Excalibur said. "It's still very memorable. He said, 'you know, I like working with you because it's a night off for me.'"
Excalibur has returned to commentary on the recent AEW shows after Cody Rhodes, Chris Jericho and other wrestlers had to step in during the long-run of tapings. Excalibur talked about the difficulties of doing a broadcast in an empty arena and how his tendency to talk a lot has helped.
"It's tough because there's so many times where as broadcasters we'll lay out for the swell of the crowd. Without that, it's a lot of silence, and that's a little tough because it requires a shift in your instincts," Excalibur admitted. "When you hear the crowd starting to get ready to erupt, you want to lay out. You want to let them be heard, but without that there you, you kind of have to fill that space. There's a time and place for silences, but I think we end up speaking more on these empty arena shows than we would on an average Dynamite broadcast. For the past few years at Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, I've called things by myself, and I have nobody to play off of. One of the things that that JR has chided me on is that, 'we don't get paid by the word kid.' In these empty arena matches, I think having my more verbose tendencies of speaking more does kind of help because then you can kind of fill in what would be silence."
Schiavone and Edwards have noted in the past about how AEW President and CEO Tony Khan is not in their ears most of the time, something that JR has criticized WWE for. Schiavone talked about what Khan has been telling the broadcasters during these empty arena shows on the few occasions that he is in their ear.
"One thing about Tony Khan, as you know Excalibur, although he can be in our ear and has been in our ear at times, he's not one to over coach us or overdrive us," Schiavone revealed about Khan "He let's us do our thing thing, which certainly we all appreciate, but I found out during the last couple of weeks during the empty arena matches, he kind of stay on me, coaches me and tells us, 'we have no fans. You're going to have talk a lot more.' So he lets us know that. So yeah, it's a change."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.