Former NFL star and podcaster Pat McAfee has been a part of the WWE brand in varying capacities over the years, but last Friday began his potentially long-lasting tenure as the official color commentator on WWE SmackDown. McAfee sat (and stood) alongside longtime commentator Michael Cole all night in the first installment post-WrestleMania 37, and helped to unwind and add depth to all the drama that unfolded following the two-night pay-per-view event.
The fan buzz surrounding Pat McAfee's performance was largely positive on the Internet, though the new full-time color commentator apparently didn't feel the same way about his own efforts. McAfee discussed his highly anticipated debut on The Pat McAfee Show and pointed out some of his observations after the big night.
I do not think I was anywhere near where I can get to as a commentator for professional wrestling. I used a lot of words a couple times over and over. I was scared to have too much bass in my voice because I didn’t want people to think I was trying to dominate the call or anything like that. But sometimes I sounded a little bit too soft. The standing, I thought, the natural instinct is for me to stand when something happened. I guess a lot of people did enjoy that, I appreciate that because that was potentially something that could get me into some shit. A lot of people would say you need to stay [seated] so, the clip of us coming back to the shot of me standing and [Michael Cole] sitting, and me kinda being caught in a situation where I’m like, well I don’t know if I should stand or sit right now. That was one of those, kind of ad-libbed moments that pop up, it was incredible. I had a blast, I think I stunk, but I have a chance to get better. I enjoyed it, and I’m very thankful to all the people at the WWE.
As someone who already hears himself talk day in and out for a living, it's natural that Pat McAfee would be a little harsher on himself than the general WWE Smackdown audience and his own fandom would be. He was correct, however, that fans appreciated the infectious energy he brought and the fact that he stood during big moments in the ring. That's how you tell a fan from a faux.
As far as why something like standing during a match could get Pat McAfee in trouble, there are a couple of reasons why his hyped-up reaction could be frowned upon by top brass. It may be something as simple as it distracting the audience from what's happening in the ring, and possibly making them think McAfee is about to get involved in some way. Or maybe it has to do with camera angles and not being able to catch each of the commentators' faces on screen together. Commentators don't move too often during matches unless there's a chance the table they're behind may have a wrestler come crashing through it.
There's also a gray area in Pat McAfee's status in the WWE Universe. Wrestling fans may remember he transitioned from light commentary and analysis on NXT to an actual wrestler who feuded with Adam Cole. Of course, WWE is a performance sport where not everything that happens is fully planned from start to finish. So if a known heel wrestler takes McAfee's standing as a challenge and calls him out on it, McAfee would be on the spot and he could potentially do something impulsive and unplanned that derails a current storyline. Worst-case scenarios, to be sure, but still.
Though the WWE Smackdown appearance was Pat McAfee's debut as its full-time commentator, he had filled in on the program once before. McAfee was called in last minute to guest commentate an episode of Smackdown in 2019 when many WWE staff members were delayed during travels to Saudi Arabia following the Crown Jewel event. Obviously, the performance had a positive impact on Vince McMahon, as McAfee is now in the role for the foreseeable future.
WWE Smackdown airs on Fox on Fridays at 8:00 p.m. ET. For more on Pat McAfee, read up on the minor beef he got in with ex WWE superstar and current AEW mastermind Cody Rhodes about wanting a job.