You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me! – Remembering Don West
On December 30th, 2022, legendary Impact commentator Don West passed away following a battle with lymphoma. Don worked as an on-air commentator alongside Mike “The Professor” Tenay in Impact Wrestling from June 2002 until August 2009 when he was replaced by Taz. Don would return to Impact on-air for the final time on July 2nd, 2017 to commentate Slammiversary.
When Impact Wrestling first started there were a lot of recognizable names competing there. There was Jeff Jarrett, Scott Hall and Ken Shamrock, for example. Mike Tenay had been a voice on World Championship Wrestling television for several years before Impact Wrestling was ever thought of.
There were, of course, other wrestlers that had never gotten a major break and Impact Wrestling was their first exposure. That was the case for the man next to Mike Tenay, Don West. Prior to becoming the color commentator for Impact, Don worked for the Home Shopping Network and had very limited knowledge of professional wrestling. Don’s trademark would be how excited he would become after an exciting move. One of his trademark lines would be “You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me” after a move performed that simply blew his mind.
One of the most memorable examples of Don using the trademark phrase was when Don was calling the historic cage match between Triple X (Christopher Daniels & Elix Skipper) and America’s Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm). Elix walking on the top of the cage to perform the incredibly dangerous hurricanrana on Chris Harris while Don is screaming at the top of his lungs is one of the most iconic memories in Impact Wrestling history.
It may not be known, but Don is also credited with providing the nickname for AJ Styles’ overhead bicycle kick as the “Pele kick.” The nickname came during a match with D’Lo Brown and Don’s inflection on his voice came across as if he was genuinely surprised to see someone deliver such a move. West naming the kick was on the June 4th, 2003 Impact weekly pay per view.
For some viewers his excitable nature was a little off-putting and may have come across insincere. However, it wouldn’t take long to realize that Don was genuinely reacting to action that he had never seen before. Eventually, his excitement was coming through the television and making the event that much more interesting and compelling.
Don’s excitement for specific wrestlers was also notable. In the early years, Don was a big supporter of The Amazing Red and audibly cheered Red on in his matches. Red was one of the first underdog stories in Impact Wrestling history. One of Don’s most shared and remembered calls was when he got on the announcers table and chanted “Go Red, Go” several times during a match where Red was competing with the Spanish Announce Team (Joel & Jose Maximo) against Christopher Daniels, Elix Skipper and Low Ki. That match took place on December 18th, 2002. In fact, Don would end up briefly managing Red in 2009.
Unfortunately my cancer is back and I’m undergoing chemo. Thanks to all that have contributed in the past, and if you’d like to donate the GoFundMe page is “Join The Don West Tag Team Against Lymphoma”. God Bless.— Don West (@DonWestDeals) January 18, 2022
Don also had some comedic moments, but one of the most memorable ones was not at the broadcasting table. On May 12th, 2004 there was a pre-tape segment where Don was interviewing Desire at the park regarding her feud with another wrestler, Trinity. During the interview, Trinity snuck up behind Desire and attacked her. Well, Don ended up trying to intervene and ended up rolling down a small hill in the process. The mental visual of Don rolling down the hill in angst continues to bring laughter.
Don’s style of commentary wasn’t appreciated enough while he was actively providing it on a weekly basis. It’s a case of the heart growing fonder for something after it’s done. Sometimes viewers don’t realize how good they have it until it’s no longer there.
There’s no denying that Don’s commentary had a positive, lasting impact on the wrestling community and Impact Wrestling. While he ended up leaving commentary in 2009, Don continued to help the promotion with his excellent selling of merchandise. The special “Don West’s Brown Bag Special” was one the best deals in wrestling and his ability to sell to wrestling fans has gone unmatched. Without Don’s ability to sell, Impact Wrestling may have suffered greatly in the merchandise department.
Don West was one of the good ones. He loved the business. He was excited about everything and his passion was admirable. He will be missed, but his legend will continue to grow.
RIP Don West. Thank you for the enthusiasm and for the memories.
Written by Bob Colling