The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
April 25, 2023

Austin Romero - WWE's Mike Rome On Ring Announcing, Tattoos, Comics & Geekdom

Austin Romero - WWE's Mike Rome On Ring Announcing, Tattoos, Comics & Geekdom

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Austin Romero (@austinmromero) aka Mike Rome is a WWE ring announcer. He joins Chris Van Vliet in Hollywood, CA to talk about how he got hired by WWE, his approach to ring announcing, memorizing everyone's name, weight and hometown, working at Universal Studios before his WWE job, his love for comics, the meaning behind his tattoos, his favorite wrestler to announce and much more!


On auditioning for WWE:

“So, I used to work at Disney doing American Idol, which was Fremantle’s thing. And I hosted over there and I was a warm up host. And as that was going on, Greg, who was here before me, he had ended up getting a job, when Idle kind of like was closing down. His agent got him an audition for the WWE. And he was like super hush, hush about it, like super kayfabe, I can't talk about it, whatever. And then, you know, he got the job, and then he was posting all this stuff, and he kept hitting me up. He's like, dude, you'd be perfect here, you need to come here. And I'm like, well, I'm still over here, there's, you know, whatever. He goes through their hosting, like, you can do all this stuff. And I was like, okay, cool. So I think it was roughly 2015 at some points, I think it was like the beginning of 2015. I'd heard about that. And I'd gone through this process of showing up to tapings. I'm like, Hey, guys, it's me, and then you know, nothing. And then hey, guys, it's me, and then finally I got an audition. I was Greg’s guest, and he can like introduce me to people. And then he's like, you know, when something pops up, whatever. And I'm like, okay, cool, you know, whatever. He texts me, Hey, we got to taping today, I put my suit on and I run down there. I'm like, Hey, guys, what's up? How's it going?” 

On the WWE audition itself:

“I 100% do [remember it]. I remember it like it was yesterday. So when I finally got the phone call, it was a guy named Johnny Greco, who's a master of, he wears a lot of hats. He's been everywhere, he was working in [Vegas] for the Las Vegas Knights. Is that what it is, is that the hockey team? And then he's kind of been around, he puts together these programmes for in arena hosts. He's just just a great guy. And so he's in there, and we're doing this process and Greg's there. And you know, they had me ring announce something, they give me the stats ahead of time. [You have to memorize them?]. Yeah, they memorize them, you turn around, they give you a couple seconds, and then you do that. And then we did a whole thing where I was backstage. And because at the time in the PC, you know, like they're doing classes in there. So you're doing your audition when classes are in there and Triple H is working out inside the thing next door and he like walks in, I was like don't mess up. Like it's crazy. During that time, it was just kind of crazy because the PC was so small and it was whatever. So they grabbed Bull Dempsey at the time, and he came over and we did a backstage thing. And I was supposed to talk to him about his thing with Tyler Breeze and they're like, hey, you need to stall. And so they're telling me I need to stall so I'm like stalling trying to ask him questions. And then they're like, Alright, we're gonna go. I’m like, Alright, thank you for your time back to you guys, like it was that kind of stuff. So it was a lot of like, intensive like, whatever. And then we did an arena thing where I like walk down. I'm like, "What's up WWE Universe?" You know, tonight, you're gonna see the Intercontinental Championship’s on the line, the WWE Championship’s on the line, and then kind of putting over the audience talking to them a little bit and then throwing to a video package. So it's like little stuff like that. I don't know what the process is now, but I did, that was what it was when I first auditioned.”

On doing backstage interviews that not many people remember:

“No, no, no, I think the one everybody, Jericho is only stuff that like people really, really remember from that. But I was backstage in 2016 through the time that I took over ring announcing, I think at the beginning of 2019 or 2018. I don't remember what year it was, it is whatever year JoJo got pregnant. Because I remember getting the call and they're like, Hey, you're going back to Raw and I'm like, yeah, and they're like, you're gonna be ring announcer and they're like, it's temporary. I was like, okay, cool. It's just temporary. It's temporary, and I'm still here.”

Austin Romero’s favorite match that he has announced:

“Man, there's a lot. I will say like announcement wise just riding emotion Cody, the Cody Rhodes thing at WrestleMania was awesome for me. Like it was just one of those things where it just kind of happened like I didn't actually didn't put that much thought on it. Like I just was like alright, the audience was hyped, the music, like everything, like that song slaps, so I was like, I was vibing out and then I'm like, Alright, let's hit this and then kind of did a thing and it was great it worked out well. But you don't know, like you have no idea when you do something like that you're just doing it and then you know people are like oh my God. But like getting to be in the ring like with John Cena or Undertaker, Big Show, getting to announce legends, like interviewing the NWO. Like I've had the opportunity to pretty much be a part or have words or talk with people that were such a huge part of my childhood. Dude, I got to have a like a 20 minute conversation Undertaker just sitting around like just, you know, whatever. Stuff like that is so cool because like, you know, I remember the first appearance, like I remember him coming out. I remember being terrified and like you're just sitting here having this conversation with this guy. Just getting to be around. I mean, obviously the only person that I missed and I was a huge, huge, huge fan of [was] Ultimate Warrior, and Macho Man.”

On a WWE return that Austin Romero didn’t know about:

“It's been a long time, I'd have to really put some thought into that. I'm sure there has been, I think I wasn't, when the big returns were happening, I wasn't ring announcing. So like when Undertaker came back. I was kind of like just chilling out backstage and Scott Aycock, one the security guards, was like, Hey, you should come out here. Oh crap, what did I do? He's like, stand right here. And this is back when the desk was on the left side of the stage. So I was kind of just standing there. And we were in New Orleans. I'll never forget this. [It was] Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon, [she] was given Mick Foley the business in the middle of the ring, just about how bad of a GM he is and how worthless, whatever. I'm like, why am I standing out here? And then all of a sudden you just hear Bong. And I'm like oh, and I'm right there, the pyro starts going like the fire, the flames and like, the smoke starts bellowing and I'm just like this is so freakin cool. And I remember sitting on that side of the stage. And so it's the one time I visibly remember, like, kind of fangirling, I was just sitting there, because I've never I'd never seen his entrance live. I'd never seen it live like that. So I was just kind of sitting down. I watched that happen. And that was one of [the times] I had no idea he was going to be there. And a lot of times for most of that stuff, you know, it's better that we don't know those things. Obviously, you kind of have to be prepared for whatever's going to happen, you got to know stuff. Sometimes if, the storyline goes you can kind of figure out where it's gonna go. But other than that, we just got to prepare ourselves and be ready for whatever's gonna happen.”

On studying other ring announcers:

“Yeah, definitely. I mean, Howard [Finkel] [Tony] Chimel, Justin Roberts. I did watch Lilian [Garcia] and Brandi [Rhodes] even. And Jojo. I Think JoJo kind of slipped into it when I first started, like a little bit before but I was listening to all that stuff, obviously, because I'm a male announcer I'm going to pick up more from those. But there's cadence things that I've picked up from Lilian and it's just, it's interesting where you can kind of like, when you, depends on what era and wrestling you came from, on who you tie your ring announcer to. If you were like a huge edge fan, obviously like you're like, Chimel’s my guy, right? [Rated R Superstar] Yeah. That's fantastic. Love that thing. Couldn't do that now if we wanted to. And then you know, Justin Roberts obviously has tonnes of announcements, he was a voice of an entire generation and still is still doing his thing. And obviously, Howard, like, just the microphone coming down, his announcements, you know, MSG, like the things that he did, he was a lovely human. Meeting him, he was just one of the nicest, most genuine guys. Getting to pick his brain when I first saw it was really, really cool. But like he's got such a unique voice, everybody had these unique things. So like, there's little bits and pieces, you know, like any, you take the things and you make them into your own thing. And then you go to it.”

On introducing and advice from John Cena:

“I think in the moments like as they're happening, we're just kind of like, I'm going from segment to segment and whatever. But obviously, it's John Cena, you know what I mean? Like, he's this. He's larger than life. Like just a really, he's a cool guy. Like in general, like, he's somebody that I've actually learned a lot off of, through the years of the company. And I was fortunate enough to crossover with him while he was still active there and before he kind of stepped away. But he always, you know, I want to make sure that I give respect to him, and that's kind of the one way I can do that is just trying to help. But he's also so it's interesting, because like John is a big guy on, he's so smart dude, he's so smart about wrestling, but he's very much like, alright, you know, don't push the crowd too far here, because it takes away from the pops in the match or whatever. Like he's very, like, he'll ask, we used to sit down before like house shows, and he would be like, Oh, what do you see out there? And I would look at the shirts in the audience because I told him, you know, one of the things I worked when I was working on Nickelodeon, I was really good about looking at the audience and kind of gauging how it was going to do my show, based off of what I saw out there. And he's like, Okay, what do you see? And I was like, alright, well, at that specific town, the first time he ever asked me that, I think we were in like West Virginia or something like that. And I was kind of looking around, I'm like, All right, I see DX, I see Prototype, I see really old shirts, like older shirts. And he's like, Well, what does that tell you? And I'm like, that it is an audience that is familiar with our brand, familiar with the superstars of before and not as familiar with what's going on currently. He's like, okay, so what are you going to do? How do you adjust to that? I was like, well, when I'm putting over the beginning of the card, because in the house shows we basically host the whole thing. Premium, what are they like, not Premium Live Events, but live events, basically. I would go out there and kind of put over the reason who they're facing, why they're facing them. Like it would be more of me telling a story, as opposed to me just going hey, the champions here, there are the titles on the line tonight, it can be very vague on some of that. So it was really cool. And he would look around. He's like, how many? How many? How many kids are out there? It's like, it's a kid heavy audience. Okay, cool. And he would talk about how, you know, there's psychology to wrestling and, and all that and he would just tell me. I asked him, I was like, because in the you know, Performance Center, when you're learning things are like, Alright, cool. You know, you start out, the babyface is hot. And then, you know, there's a cut off and the heel kind of lays down and I asked him, I'm like, Why do you typically do that? And he just kind of said, everybody knows what I'm about, everybody knows me. They know what they're getting with me. They know once I go into my thing, they know everything is gonna happen. He's like, my job in the beginning of that match, is to put over the other person to let them show what they've got to get everything in there. Because once I go, it's over. And he's like, it doesn't hurt me at all, but I want to help them, it was just his In the way he looks at stuff and the guy like he knew everything he was, he's invested in every portion of that business. And it's just it was really cool.”

Who has Austin Romero learned the most from:

“I think between, I learned, obviously, in the Performance Center, there's guys like Coach Bloom and Terry Taylor, those guys, obviously a lot, coach Smiley. Robbie, the coaches down there, I learned a lot from, and then obviously, Scotty 2 Hotty, one of my neighbours like talking to him a lot and kind of learned a lot from him. But as far as like, on the road learning stuff, I definitely learned a lot from him [Cena]. As far as like, using what I know. And then like what he knows, and kind of helping my psychology as far as like working with the audiences and stuff. Because I, as an arena host, you want to, when you say thank you, you want to, you know, get the crowd crazy, and you want to whatever and like thank you, thank you, thank you, whatever. And to his point, he says, you know, because he looks at it from whatever you watched, you know, 6 matches maybe. And that 7th match is the big match, one they've been waiting for all night. But the audience is gassed, obviously at that point, because they've been cheering all night, they've gotten these crazy matches. So me pushing them one more time before that he's like, there's ways you can do that. And still get what you're trying to get without having to get that, you know, response back. And I'm like, you know, you're right. Because as a host you want, obviously you want people to like cheer and clap and whatever. But there are ways to do those things without sucking the energy out of the audience before they're about to get these, you know, big things. So he helped me think in different ways on how to do things, to where I'm not affecting anything, if that's the case, if that was one of those things. So that was really cool. And also big show Big Show was another one, Big Show was another guy when I was on tour, who really kind of helped me out and did that. And Michael Cole’s helped me out and just a lot of people.”

On being destined for show business at an early age:

“I think like at a young age, my mom was like, you know, you're gonna do stuff. So I was like modelling and like doing acting and like I shot a film when I was still in like middle school. So like, I was homeschooled for a while and did this whole like feature film, I was doing a lot of acting and stuff. [Chris - can we see this film?] I don't [know], I have no idea. It was about, it was a ghost story about this thing, something called the Pink Lady and it was like this, I don't think it was a Memphis [thing]. It was filmed in Tennessee, I don't think it was a Tennessee thing, but I think they filmed it there. But it's some urban legend somewhere about the Pink Lady and like, just kids, very Stranger Things esque, please find it. I think it was like the Monta Vista productions. I don't even know, that's all I remember, because I found [out], my mom sent me a bunch of stuff. And I found that in there was like, Man, I forgot about that. But I played this little nerdy kid, had glasses, and then halfway through the filming I had a growth spurt, so I grew like two feet. So like, they had to use a stunt double for me in close up scenes and filmed me from behind and all the long like the faraway scenes. Whenever they were running, they would run ahead of me. And I'm like, Wait, guys, and I'd be running in the back just so that you couldn't tell how tall I was. That has cursed me forever. The same thing, same reason I don't get in the ring. Because I’m too tall.”

Why Austin Romero didn’t pursue acting:

“You know, I don't think it was ever, it wasn't. It was something I enjoyed, but it wasn't something that I was like, yeah, I want to be an actor. I was just like, I want to just want to do things. Like I want to go out there and like, I don't know, be funny, get on camera and whatever, but I don't necessarily want to be an actor. Like it's that weird, like halfway point. And then I remember stumbling into kind of the wrong audition. And I stumbled into like Nickelodeon on accident, and then started hosting. And I was like oh, this hosting stuff is great, I want to do this. And then that's kind of how I went down that route. And was like, you know what, this is what I was trying to do this whole time and didn't know what it was called. Had no idea. I didn't realise what the difference between acting and hosting was. I just thought oh, if you're an actor, if you're on TV, but then you're like, okay, cool. You can host and now go to WWE to be a ring announcer and all this stuff, which I'd never done before.” 

What is Austin Romero grateful for:

“The people closest to me, the WWE and the opportunities.”