By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Lance Russell was my favourite announcer in wrestling history.
There was no-one quite as good as Lance at being the moral compass on a show that, as Memphis often would, was falling down around the ears of the hosts. His neutrality extended so far, but he was always willing to voice his own opinions when it came to the nefarious acts of the regions heels. There was a warmth and genuineness about everything Russell brought to the commentary booth. Earlier today, I read people refer to him as a ‘Southern Fried Gordon Solie’, but for me, he was better than Solie. He may not have had the same level of gravitas, but that wasn’t required in Memphis. Memphis played to the beat of its own drum and Russell being anything other than what he was on television week after week would never have worked.
The inviting nature of Russell was what set him apart from many announcers. You felt like you were up close and personal with him and Dave Brown, almost like watching wrestling with a friend rather than somebody in the business. He would cheer the faces and bash the heels in exactly the same way that you would want to; you would often live your desires vicariously through Russell’s asides and remarks during commentary and interviews. He said what you wanted to say – he laughed at the jokes that made you laugh.
On a personal level, what made Russell the best ever announcer in my mind was his ability to engage me. I was born in London; I’d never seen Memphis properly until I was in my late 20s. I had no reason to care about what Russell offered or said when I decided to check out Memphis. But I cared. His commentary was timeless. It was a warm handshake and a smile, a welcome to the wild world that was about to engulf you. Even at the age of 29, 30, 31, I would watch Russell respond in ways that would make me feel like a young wrestling fan again. For the odd moment here and there, I would forget the harsh realities of life and just be in the moment – a wrestling fan. A fan of Memphis wrestling. A fan of Lance Russell.
RIP Lance Russell. You will be missed.