WWE’s commentary team has seen some major changes over the last two months. Right after WrestleMania 37, Adnan Virk was named as the new lead play-by-play announcer for Raw. As part of those changes, Samoa Joe was released and Tom Phillips was demoted to 205 Live.
Virk only lasted seven weeks on the job before he was then replaced by Jimmy Smith. Phillips was suddenly fired, because apparently nobody is safe from WWE’s wide-sweeping budget cuts these days. Phillips lasted with the company for almost a full decade.
In an appearance on Sports Media with Richard Deitsch, Tom Hannifan (ditching his WWE moniker of Tom Phillips) explained that he was definitely surprised to learn of his WWE release:
“I can honestly say I was surprised. Adnan Virk was somebody that I had known, not to date him in anyway, but he had a run on SportsCenter when I was in college and then 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, etc.
I was like, well this guy did SportsCenter, which is just one-way traffic. And then he did college football halftime shows. So it was like, yeah, this guy’s probably got the skill set to do this. So I was definitely surprised. But at the same time to hear it was the name of somebody like Adnan Virk, I was like okay, I get it.”
Virk’s past work made quite an impression on Hannifan, so he was also surprised to see that Adnan was bounced from the Raw commentary chair in less than two months:
“I was [surprised], 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, ‘cause that’s what his experience was. So 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 want to call it, where he is so talented. He’s gonna do just fine. I don’t need to say that, he knows that.”
Hannifan mentioned there is unfortunately a stigma about broadcasting for WWE compared to real sports, but he is hopeful about what the future holds in his career:
“Hopeful, comfortable, optimistic...I think there is still that stigma. I experienced it for nine years talking to people outside the business.”
“I’m able to be an asset because of what WWE taught me. So now I’m excited to go out and prove that. I know college football intimately...Big E would attest that I am a college football or just football junkie. Whether it be my Eagles in the NFL, I’m the guy who watches the XFL, the CFL, the AAF, Arena Football at one point. That’s me. So I feel very confident in my abilities to learn. But at the same time man, like I have no delusions...I need to get in some place and learn. I need to start at the bottom and work my way up. And I have no issue with that. That’s something I want to do.”