Jim Ross’s voice is the sound of wrestling. Whether it was backstage brawls, drive-through weddings, or Mankind getting thrown off the Hell in the Cell – you could always count on good ol’ JR to be right by your side, carefully guiding you through the surreal storylines of the WWE. Well, unless he was busy getting lit on fire by Kane.
JR was the man who told us why we should care about the slobberknockers unfolding on our TVs every Monday night. He laid out the storylines, crafted by a team of writers, one frantically shouted phrase at a time.
We caught up with the former WWE announcer and head of talent relations to talk about WrestleMania, his one-man show, and the Voice’s new home – The Ross Report podcast.
SFW: Let’s talk about your one-man show. What can fans expect?
Jim Ross: My show is humor-based but I don’t know that I’m a standup comedian, maybe a half-assed humorist at best. I tell stories about things I saw and the crowd finds it to be very entertaining. So there’s 20-30 minutes of stand-up and then I turn the show into a super-sized Q&A session. That’s what makes every show different.
What's the Q&A part like?
I think fans enjoy that part the most because I don’t restrict the topics so they can ask whatever they want. If you pay your money to come to see me you should be able to ask any question you want. The follow ups are often very unique. So it’s a wide range of topics, a conversation, and I’m going to be the GPS. Sometimes the topics are funny and sometimes their poignant. I’m not there to debate, it’s all subjective. It’s entertainment. I also clarify some old wrestling myths.
My background is not unlike the fan base. I think if you follow the genre of pro wrestling you know it’s a rather unique fan base in that there’s not much middle ground. You either love it passionately or are generally disinterested, like NASCAR. I was a fan first and got in the back door of the business. I thought it would be a good summer job, and 40 years later my college is still waiting for me to come back for my degree.
How did it go last year?
It was a blast. Last year I had Jim Cornette and Steve Austin drop by on the second show. They were originally just coming to see the show but we turned them into surprise guests. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of opportunities to do that this year with some of the people who are coming. It’ll be people that the fans know. It’s a simple straight forward show. It’s a way of giving back a little bit to all my supporters over the years. We’re doing it 1-3pm on Saturday. That way if people are going to the WWE Hall of Fame they can still come.
[jump] Can you describe what being booked at WrestleMania does for a wrestler’s career?
Well it certainly validates their career. In entertainment, or sports, you’re only as good as your last game or performance in the eyes of many. But it really validates that at that point in time you were deemed worthy, and had earned the booking on the biggest event in your vocation.
If you are able to be a headliner in a main event level match at multiple WrestleMania’s it really sets you apart, with ample distance, from most of your peers. It says that on this date, in this point in time, you were good enough at what you do at in the sports entertainment genre, that you were cast in a favorable light at the Super Bowl of sports entertainment.
Is Roman Reigns ready to main event WrestleMania?
Well that’s the big debate by a lot of fans. I think there are certain aspects of his game where he’s close to being ready. He’s a work in progress. I do think the WWE is smart in trying to develop a new big time star. You’ve got to get younger and build a new foundation on the roster.
It’s like a pro team not having any draft picks. So your team starts getting old because you’ve traded away all your draft picks or you’re waiting on free agency. Well in sports entertainment the free agency component of that equation is very limited. There are occasionally guys that come along that you want to take a flyer on to see if they can make the transition from where they were to the top level of the field.
So you know, I don’t have a definitive answer. I would say if I was WWE I would go full speed ahead with Roman Reigns just as they planned. They’ve been planning this for a long time and I would go with my game plan then I would see.
But if I had a gun to my head I’d say he’s probably not totally ready. But the business is such that you can make giant leaps depending on the environment. We’ll see how he plays in the big game — and there’s no bigger game than WrestleMania. He played nose tackle for Georgia Tech, so he’s been in big games before. He’s played in the ACC and division one football. He’s lost a ton of weight to get his body in shape for this venture. So he’s been under pressure before because he’s a highly recruited athlete.
I do support the fact that he’s in the position that he’s in, and based on my experience from my days as an executive at WWE and knowing how the process works, I endorse the idea that at some point you’ve got to take a chance and give someone who you believe has a great upside the potential to get in the game. It’s no different than back in the day when the late Bill Walsh pulled Joe Montana from the ball game and put Steve Young in. Somewhere along the way you’ve got to be strong enough in your convictions to try something new.
I was at WrestleMania Axxess last night and saw your BBQ sauce for sale at the merch booth. Can you talk a little bit about starting that project?
Well, it’s a modified version of my mother’s home recipe. So it’s an omage to my mom. My wife’s a great cook and we got with a great family owned company down here in Oklahoma City.
I’m a foodie and I’ve written two cookbooks, one a New York Times’ best seller. I grew up in an era where every Sunday after church we had a family dinner. It was a feast every Sunday. It wasn’t that you were required to be there, but you wanted to be there. I mean, the food was too good to miss. The desserts were killer.
All the women in my family, my grandmother and my mom, they worked outside the home. They had jobs but that didn’t detract from them cooking a great meal. So they’d work all day then come back and have another job: to feed the family.
So my wife and I came up with the concept to do something to honor my mom. It’s only in a few stores in the Oklahoma area, but online it has exploded. Now my ketchup and mustard is a house brand for some people!
So we’ve been really blessed with that and you just hope somewhere down the road some grocer will see the opportunity. You know, to have my ugly mug and black hat on the label so you got some name identity. But bottom line is that it tastes damn good. The deal is real simple: How many quote unquote celebrities, and I use that term loosely in my situation, have put out some sort of food product and it died a natural death because it wasn’t very tasty? Even your most loyal fan base will desert you if the product you’re selling isn’t good. And I don’t blame them. That’s why we say our products are good, not gimmicks.
It’s a fun thing to do because I’m an entrepreneur at heart.
What else are you up to?
I’m writing my autography, and my gold ol’ mighty, I don’t know if I should have even started that project because it’s massive. But I haven’t divested myself from the wrestling business, by any stretch. I love it. I got to do the play by pay on PPV in January from Japan. I had a blast.
Oh yeah, New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 9?
Yea. It was one of those things, you know, you question yourself: Do you still have enough fuel in the tank to get to your destination in a timely manner? So I had fun doing that, and I’ll be doing some more of those. I was also just talking to Fox about doing more boxing on Fox Sports One.
I’m doing projects I like. I have a role in a movie coming out on Movie On Demand called What Now? April 3rd. It has a wrestling theme and some wrestling personalities, like myself, in it.
So I’ve got a lot going on but right up there on the top of the list is trying to build this condiment brand. It’s hard because the big food manufactures are kind of like the mafia. They’ve got everything lassoed. For a little operation like ours to get shelf space in some big grocery stores is damn near impossible. We’re working at it though, it’s not impossible, and we’re going to continue working at it. But it ain’t easy, pal.
Who’s on your podcast, The Ross Report, this week?
Oh man, I have to listen to it. I love Terry Funk. Did you ask him why he started doing a moon sault so late in his career?
Oh he’s crazy. Just nuts, I’ll tell you. Absolutely uninhibited, doesn’t give a damn what he says. I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it. He’s brilliant. A very intelligent guy with great gut instincts about the business. One of the true legends. He was a great guest who really held nothing back and was very conversational. We’ve know each a long, long time so it was a lot of fun.
That’s the main things about these podcasts, man. I mean you make a couple bucks or whatever but really the best part is you get to reconnect with a lot of people that you knew casually or people that you haven’t been in contact with for years. It’s been a fun journey and it continues to grow. I’m blessed every day. I’m having fun in this “retirement.” I’m the busiest retired guy you know.
Fans of Ross can catch his one man show at 1 p.m. March 28th at the Rockbar Theater at 360 Saratoga Avenue San Jose, CA 95129.