Coulthard began his career in the media as a journalist, working for CBS Radio. His first high-profile assignment was to cover the 1988 US presidential campaign of Democratic Party nominee Michael Dukakis. In 1992, he reported on the presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. Coulthard covered the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993. The following year, he spent nine months covering the Yugoslavian civil war. In 1995, he was also selected to cover the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. He returned to the presidential campaign trail in 1996 to cover the campaigns of Steve Forbes and Sen. Bob Dole.
Coulthard came to the World Wrestling Federation in mid-1997 after being recommended to company officials by Todd Pettengill, and started using the stage name "Michael Cole". He provided voice-overs for promotional videos and later became the host of LiveWire show alongside Jim Cornette. Cole first appeared on screen at the June 30, 1997 episode of Raw is War, interviewing the Legion of Doom and replaced Todd Pettengill as a backstage interviewer after Summerslam. In late 1997, Cole became one of the three announcers for the first hour of Monday Night Raw, alongside Jim Ross and Kevin Kelly. Eventually Cole was permanently replaced by Jerry Lawler later in the year. In 1999, Cole became the regular play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Raw, subbing for Jim Ross when Ross was devastated by Bell's palsy.
When the promotion's new SmackDown! television program debuted later that year, Cole was chosen to be the show's play-by-play announcer. Originally his broadcast partner was Jerry Lawler, but when Lawler briefly left the WWF, he was replaced by Cole's WWE Sunday Night Heat broadcast partner Tazz shortly before the WWF vs. WCW/ECW invasion storyline. Cole also had a stint doing commentary on SmackDown!'s former sister show WWE Velocity.
As an announcer, Cole was rarely involved in storylines; however, he has had minor roles in storylines involving Heidenreich, Stephanie McMahon, Vito, and D-Generation X (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chyna, and Rick Rude). His 2004 angle with Heidenreich became infamous due to an implied scene where Heidenreich "Heidenraped" him in the arena restroom. In a 2008 interview, Heidenreich explained that the Cole rape angle was McMahon's idea, and that Pulp Fiction came to mind when Stephanie McMahon approached him with the idea. He also appeared in the Taxi Driver parody trailer in promotion of WrestleMania 21.
Cole called play-by-play at the 2006 Royal Rumble match because Ross, who had commentated the last two Royal Rumble matches with Tazz, had been (kayfabe) "fired" and replaced by former ECW play-by-play man Joey Styles, reuniting the original SmackDown! team of Cole and Lawler. On February 3, 2006, it was announced that Cole and Tazz were starting a radio show on Howard Stern's Howard 100 on Sirius Satellite Radio, but the show was a trial run that only lasted a couple of weeks.
On April 26, 2006, WWE announced that Cole would become the Managing Editor of WWE.com. Shortly after, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon told shareholders in a meeting held on September 14 that he thought that the website "sucks". In response, Cole replied on WWE.com about updated content for the website: a broadband network with original web-only shows have been scheduled for October, with a new mobile offering, a re-vamped subscription site and more exclusive videos and photos. Cole went on to say, "So in summary, the web site does suck, compared to where we are going to take it, but it won’t suck for long. Wish I could say the same for the boss."
On the June 9 episode of SmackDown!, Cole's broadcast partner Tazz left from SmackDown to ECW on SciFi, leaving Cole at that moment without a broadcast partner. At ECW One Night Stand, John "Bradshaw" Layfield announced he would replace Tazz as color commentator. This proved true five days later when he appeared on that week's episode of SmackDown! as Cole's new broadcast partner. After JBL left the broadcast booth and returned to wrestling action on Raw, Jonathan Coachman became Cole's new partner on January 4, 2008. Coachman was then replaced by Mick Foley beginning at Backlash on April 27, 2008.
As a part of the 2008 WWE Draft, Cole was drafted to the Raw brand as Jim Ross was drafted to the SmackDown brand. This effectively ended Cole's near 10-year run as play-by-play commentator on Smackdown in which he called every episode except for two. (The two episodes were the series premiere and the 9/11 Tribute show, both of which were called by Ross.) On the July 7, 2008 episode of Raw, Cole was attacked by Kane. He repeatedly asked Cole "Is he alive or dead?" before Cole was saved by Jerry Lawler. Cole made his in-ring debut as Lawler's partner against the tag team of Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase; a match for the World Tag Team Championship. Cole and Lawler lost after Cole inadvertently tagged himself in, and was quickly pinned by Rhodes after a lariat. At the 2009 Slammy Awards, Cole won The "Oh My God" Moment of the Year award for vomiting on Chris Jericho at SmackDown's 10th Anniversary show on October 2.
Cole became the lead commentator for WWE NXT when the show debuted on February 23, 2010, along with Josh Mathews as the color commentator. Cole hinted at turning heel when he began showing signs of arrogance and cockiness towards face wrestlers and WWE fans alike. He also began to belittle certain rookies on the show, mainly Daniel Bryan. Cole began showing a liking to The Miz, who was Bryan's pro on that season, and who was becoming a significant heel on Raw. On the May 18 episode of NXT, Bryan attacked Cole as a result of Cole's comments to him over the preceding weeks. The following week, Cole called Bryan out and demanded an apology from him, or else he would sue him for the assault. Bryan insulted Cole instead. Cole retaliated by calling Bryan a "loser" and slapping him, which caused Bryan to be restrained by security as Cole left the ring.
After his rivalry ended with Bryan, Cole began to belittle other rookies from other seasons of the show. In the second season of NXT, Cole would do this to Kaval and in the third season with AJ Lee, calling them all "internet darlings". During the third season of NXT, Cole criticized the competition after a challenge, which resulted in him walking out, "quitting" the show. The following week, Cole returned to the show. In the fourth season of NXT, Cole was replaced by Todd Grisham, but made an appearance on the December 28 NXT, helping Brodus Clay in a talent competition.
On the June 21, 2010 episode of Raw, Cole was made the official spokesman for the Anonymous Raw General Manager, where he had to address the crowd what he had sent to him by e-mail. Cole then debuted his new catchphrase, "and I quote....", before reading each e-mail. On the October 1 episode of SmackDown, Cole returned to the show to join Matt Striker and Todd Grisham on commentary. On that same episode, Cole told Striker and Grisham that the reason he was on the show was that he was the new "Voice of the WWE" and that he should be on all WWE shows.
On the November 29, 2010 episode of Raw, Cole interfered in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for the WWE Championship between Jerry Lawler and The Miz, costing Lawler the match and helping Miz retain his title. A week later, Cole apologized, only to take it back and demand one from Lawler. After Lawler threatened to attack Cole, the Anonymous Raw General Manager issued a "cease and desist" order, which barred any physicality between them and that if either of them violated the order, that individual would have their contract terminated immediately.
Cole continued to argue with Lawler on commentary, telling him he was "stealing the spotlight" and to "stop putting his nose in other people's business". After Lawler unsuccessfully challenged for the WWE Championship again at Elimination Chamber, Cole interviewed him about his match on the following Raw. When Cole mentioned Lawler's recently deceased mother, Lawler stole the microphone from Cole and challenged him to a match at WrestleMania XXVII. Cole responded by throwing water into Lawler's face and then running backstage.
A week later, Cole accepted Lawler's challenge to a match at WrestleMania, on the conditions that he could have his own personal trainer at ringside with him and if he could choose the special guest referee for the match. Cole then revealed his trainer to be Jack Swagger. On the March 7, 2011 episode of Raw, Cole announced that he had chosen John "Bradshaw" Layfield (JBL) as the referee for the match, but before he could sign the contract, Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupted and delivered a Stone Cold Stunner to JBL, and then signed the contract himself. Beginning on the March 14, 2011 Raw, Cole began announcing both Raw and SmackDown inside a glass booth which he called the "Cole Mine". Later that night, Cole invited Brian Christopher, Lawler's son, to the ring to reveal family secrets about Lawler. Christopher confronted his father and told him he was ashamed to use the name "Lawler" and accused him of being absent from most of his life. Jim Ross then interrupted and confronted Cole and called him a "rat bastard". Jack Swagger attacked Ross and put him in an Ankle Lock. Cole followed suit with an Ankle Lock of his own. During the following weeks he also criticized the Divas.
At WrestleMania, Lawler won the match using the Ankle Lock submission hold. While celebrating his victory with Stone Cold, the anonymous Raw General Manager reversed the decision, due to Stone Cold physically getting involved in the match by pushing Cole, making Cole the winner by disqualification. A month later at Extreme Rules, Cole teamed with Swagger to defeat Ross and Lawler in a Country Whipping match.
Lawler then challenged Cole to one last match at Over The Limit. Cole initially declined, but Swagger was provoked into agreeing to the match on Cole's behalf. A week later, Cole announced that the match would be a "Kiss My Foot" match. During the signing, Cole and Swagger's alliance ended when Cole insulted Swagger, causing him to walk out on Cole, who then tried to beg Lawler for forgiveness. At the pay-per-view, Lawler defeated Cole. After the match, Eve and Jim Ross came out to get their retribution on Cole. Eve delivered her signature moonsault to Cole and Jim Ross covered his face in barbecue sauce. Bret Hart also returned and put Cole in his signature submission move, the Sharpshooter, to help Lawler make Cole kiss Lawler's foot.
The following night on Raw, Cole made an apology to the fans and Lawler, which Lawler accepted. Cole continued to favor most villains and question the actions of the fan favorites to regain control in matches.
On the May 30, 2011 episode of Raw, Cole insulted Alex Riley during an in-ring interview, which led to Riley pushing Cole and resulted in The Miz attacking Riley from behind. On the June 20 episode of Raw, Cole was voted as the opponent for Vickie Guerrero in a dance-off, hosted by Matt Striker, with Cole winning the contest from receiving the most boos from the crowd. On the July 25 Raw, after Triple H announced the return of Jim Ross to commentary, Cole voiced his opposition to Triple H, who then gave Cole the choice to stay or quit. After Cole decided to stay, Triple H placed Cole in a match against Zack Ryder, which Cole lost quickly.
On the October 17, 2011 Raw, Cole and Alberto Del Rio lost a tag team match to John Cena and longtime Raw announcer Jim Ross. This prompted Cole to challenge Ross to the "Michael Cole Challenge" (a series of three contests) the following week; Cole said that if Ross won each challenge, Cole would quit his job. The two met on November 14—the "challenge" had been postponed twice due to Ross being (legit) ill—and after Ross won the first two challenges (arm wrestling and dancing), Cole then declared the third contest was who weighed less, which Cole won. After Ross was "fired," CM Punk came out and attacked Cole, putting him in the Anaconda Vice submission hold and injuring his arm; Cole vowed revenge and said he would sue Punk for injuring him.
Cole reignited his NXT rivalry with Daniel Bryan on the November 25, 2011 episode of SmackDown, in response to Bryan cashing in his "Money in the Bank" contract and pinning an incapacitated The Big Show to win the World Heavyweight Championship; Cole called Bryan a "hypocrite" who wouldn't stay true to his beliefs. Several weeks later, Cole began taunting Bryan over his feud with Henry; when Bryan went to confront Cole, Cody Rhodes (who was providing color commentary) attacked Bryan. After Bryan completed his own heel turn, Cole began to cheer for him, saying on commentary that Bryan "grew on him."
Cole was a surprise entry in the 2012 Royal Rumble match. He was eliminated by Lawler, Booker T, and the returning Kharma. Cole was put in a match with John Cena on the June 4, 2012 episode of Raw, which he lost, and was forced to make an apology for all of his wrongdoings.
On the July 9 episode of Raw, Cole was booked against Jerry Lawler in a WrestleMania XXVII rematch, which he quickly lost. The anonymous Raw General Manager reversed the decision, making Cole the winner by disqualification following interference by Booker T. Santino Marella then came out and pulled out Hornswoggle from hiding underneath the ring, claiming that he was the anonymous GM, although WWE reporters have called this assumption into question, considering it only one of several possibilities.
Cole was lauded for his handling of his fellow commentary partner Jerry Lawler's legitimate on-air heart attack on the September 10, 2012 episode of Raw. In spite of being a heel commentator for two years, Cole provided updates to television viewers on Lawler's condition throughout the episode and was described as "classy and professional" for his handling of the emergency. The incident effectively turned him face for the first time since 2010, as he began favoring the face wrestlers and began receiving cheers. Cole also joined in commentary during Raw and pay-per-view events, including Night of Champions and Hell in a Cell by Jim Ross and John "Bradshaw" Layfield. Cole cemented his face turn when he hugged Lawler in the ring when Lawler returned on the November 12 episode of Raw.
On the March 30, 2015 episode of Raw, Cole, along with JBL and Booker T, were attacked by Brock Lesnar after Seth Rollins refused Lesnar his WWE World Heavyweight Championship rematch. Cole did not appear on commentary the following week on Raw because he was suffering from serious internal bleeding, and was replaced by Byron Saxton. Cole also welcomes Saxton as the new color commentator for Monday Night Raw, replacing Booker T on June 8, 2015. Cole returned once again for one night only on December 22, 2015 as lead announcer, along with Lawler and Booker T, for a special Christmas edition of SuperSmackDown Live!. On the February 19, 2016 episode of SmackDown, Cole subbing for Mauro Ranallo, who was absent due to suffering from influenza, alongside Lawler and Saxton.
In December 2013, Cole served as a special guest announcer for fellow WWE employee Booker T's professional wrestling promotion Reality of Wrestling, along with Rich Brennan (formerly known as Anthony Pratt and Rich Bocchini).
Cole has appeared as a commentator in numerous WWE video games, providing his own voice. He has also appeared as a non-playable character in several and is a playable character in WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role, WWF No Mercy as an unlockable character and WWE '12 as a downloadable character.
Cole appeared on the September 12 episode of Fox & Friends to address fellow WWE commentator Jerry Lawler's heart attack that occurred during the September 10 live broadcast of Raw.
Cole has appeared in numerous WWE Studios movies.Finishing moves
An-Cole Lock (Ankle lock, with theatrics) – adopted from Jack Swagger
"Get on Your Knees" by Rage Against the Machine (2011; Used while teaming with/managing Jack Swagger)
"Burn It to the Ground" by Nickelback (2011–2012)
"Can-Can (Kicker's Waltz)" by The Little Bear Band
"King of Kings" by Motörhead (used once in 2011 while impersonating Triple H)
"Never Thought My Life Could Be This Good" by Jim Johnston (May 20, 2012 – March 2, 2013)
"Cool Party" by Jean Baptiste Ayoub, Jérôme Faby and Pierre Dubost (April 4, 2013 – present)
World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE
Slammy Award (4 times)
"Oh My" Moment of the Year (2009)
"And I Quote..." Line of the Year (2010)
Most Regrettable Attire of the Year (2011) Dressing as Triple H
Favorite Web Show of the Year (2013) – with John "Bradshaw" Layfield and Renee Young for The JBL and Cole Show
Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
Worst Gimmick (2011)
Worst Television Announcer (2001, 2009–2012)
Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic (2014)Insulting fans who purchased PPV
Gooker Award (2011) Antics throughout the years