Originally published at Tom Phillips was surprised he was replaced on WWE Raw
Tom Hannifan started his career with WWE almost a decade ago under the name “Tom Phillips” and he commentated for Raw, SmackDown, NXT, NXT UK and 205 Live throughout his years there. Hannifan is no longer with WWE after being let go from the company one month after he was replaced as lead commentator of Monday Night Raw.
In his first post-WWE interview, Hannifan chatted with Richard Deitsch on the Sports Media podcast. Tom admitted that he was surprised when he found out he was being replaced by Adnan Virk. Hannifan was aware of Adnan’s past credentials so he understood why the move was made.
I can honestly say I was surprised. Adnan Virk was somebody that I had known — not to date him in any way but he had a run on SportsCenter when I was in college and just right out of college so I watched him for years so when I hear, ‘Hey, Adnan Virk’s coming in to be the lead announcer for Monday Night Raw,’ I was like, ‘Whoa. That is a shift.’ But at the same time I was like, ‘Man, I have all the respect in the world for this guy’s ability’ in terms of what the job of Raw and SmackDown requires, what everybody refers to commonly in play-by-play as traffic, getting from graphics to B-roll to an interview etcetera. I was like, ‘Well, this guy did SportsCenter which is just one-way traffic’ and then he did college football halftime shows so I was like, ‘Yeah, this guy’s probably got the skillset to do this.’ So I was definitely surprised, but at the same time, to hear the name of somebody like Adnan Virk, I was like, ‘Okay, I get it.’
Virk and WWE ‘mutually agreed’ to part ways one month after he started with the company. Virk began his stint on the Raw after WrestleMania 37. Hannifan said he was also surprised to see how quickly Adnan was removed from his position but feels Virk will have no trouble finding success post-WWE.
I was , to be very honest, because I’ve seen so many different people come and go at different levels of the announce team and different spots on the announce team so, I won’t speak to necessarily in terms of what he was going through because that’s what his experience was. I can’t really speak to that but, it was fast but that being said, he has so many other things that he does in conventional sportscasting, conventional sports, whatever you wanna call it, where he is so talented and he’s gonna do just fine. So I don’t need to say that, he knows that.
Tom was asked what is the toughest thing about being a broadcaster for WWE. For him, it was that he came into the job not knowing the ins and outs of professional wrestling. Tom was able to have a support system around him that helped get him up to speed and be a guide of sorts.
The toughest thing about WWE is that if you’re coming in and there’s plenty of people who come in and don’t know professional wrestling inside out and backwards, you gotta get up to speed quickly and you find the right people that have your back and will support you and teach. I have so many people like that but it took years for me to get comfortable with it and that’s how intricate the product is.
Amongst the broadcast team, there is a competitiveness there. Hannifan said he felt competition between himself and people who were not even in the play-by-play position because he could see how good they were.
He added that with that competitiveness, there is also a comradery between the broadcast team and he felt they all had each other’s backs.
I think it depends on what your relationships are like. There were definitely times where I felt competition with other play-by-play announcers that we had over the years. There was definitely a time I felt competition with people who weren’t even at my position because I could see how good they were and I was like, ‘Yeah, I gotta up my game because if they’re doing x and I’m doing y, it’s not elevating the product so I wanna make sure I’m at that level’ but, I can honestly say man, when I was there, the camaraderie amongst the announce team was fantastic. It always felt like you were in that proverbial foxhole with somebody who had your back and that wasn’t just the announce team, that was the entire crew, production team. I have literally hundreds of people that I could thank for propping me up over the years but the competition was — I always found it to be really healthy. I always wanted to be as good as the person sitting next to me and that was — sometimes it’s all tasks, so I always really enjoyed it because it doesn’t do you any good if it’s just like, ‘Okay, good show, go home, see you next time.’ So I was trying to get better every week.
Jimmy Smith is the new lead announcer for Raw and is paired with Byron Saxton and Corey Graves. Smith spoke about his Raw commentary debut on Busted Open Radio and to read transcripts from that interview, click here.
If the quotes in this article are used, please credit Sports Media with Richard Deitsch with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.