Best Seat In The House by Justin Roberts

April 24, 2023

This is an unusual book in that it’s hard to criticize but also hard to recommend.

As a ring announcer’s biography, the natural comparison is to Gary Michael Capetta’s Bodyslams, which is largely a collection of fun stories about the weird world of pro wrestling. This is a more focused memoir about chasing a dream, finding it lacking and yet still celebrating the achievement.

The early parts of the book cover Roberts’ relentless and driven struggle to get a ring announcing job with WWE over the course of many years. His keen interest as an obsessed childhood fan will certainly raise a few smiles, particularly for anyone who has gone to great lengths to find a wrestler willing to talk to them.

From the point he achieves the job, the book is largely about its many shortcomings. It’s a combination of feeling unappreciated, suffering intense bullying (most significantly on overseas trips) and coping with the sheer lack of consistency by management, frequently falling foul of “rules” that change without logic, warning or explanation. The problem is that this is somewhat relentless. It’s no doubt an extremely fair representation of what it felt like to work for WWE, but it’s not particularly fun to read at such length.

Aside from the occasional diversion into more fun pranks involving Tommy Dreamer’s testicles and The Miz’s consumer rights, the only other event that gets extended coverage is Robert’s relationship with terminally ill fan Connor “The Crusher” Michalek. This is well pitched, expressing Roberts’ views on the way WWE chose to present and market Michaelek and his legacy without coming across as egotistical or bitter.

Indeed, for all the criticism there’s little bitterness in the book and Roberts repeatedly stresses his gratitude at having had the opportunity to work for the company. As noted, it’s hard to criticise somebody speaking their truth and backing up many of the “internet rumours” about the negativity behind the scenes in the company.

The first rule of reviewing is to cover what the creator was trying to achieve, not the product you wish had been made. However, while Roberts has the right to concentrate on whatever he chooses in his account, from the perspective of the reader it would have been interesting to get a little more insight into the experience of most likely watching more WWE matches close-up than anyone else over the course of a decade.

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