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Rock Star Reflects...on good ol' JR!

Despite the rumors floating around concerning Jim Ross’ recent retirement, I would like to congratulate good ol’ JR on a fantastic career in the professional wrestling/sports entertainment industry.

While Hulk Hogan, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and Shawn Michaels were throwing around the ICON label back in 1997 a true icon was working two different jobs within the World Wrestling Federation. Jim Ross was both the Executive Vice-President of Talent Relations as well as the host of Monday Night RAW. While one of those positions would be quite difficult to handle, Ross held and excelled in both of them.

Let’s take a look back on the career of good ol’ JR.

I was initially introduced to Jim Ross through his play-by-play of Mid-South Wrestling back in the mid-80s. Unfortunately I do not have many memories of his run in MSW/UWF because it was not nationally televised. Once the UWF buyout by Jim Crockett Promotions transpired Jim Ross became a weekly staple on my television when he co-hosted World Championship Wrestling with Tony Schiavone and David Crockett. To this day I am still quite fond of the former Saturday night 6:05pm wrestling show.

Unbeknownst to me at the time Ross was not only a play-by-play announcer for the NWA but also a member of the booking committee. His commentary alongside Bob Caudle during the Flair-Steamboat trilogy in 1989 enhanced the competitive battles taking what was already great and making it legendary.

While having an extensive knowledge of pro wrestling and exercising it within his commentary Ross also provided unique background information on the ring participants. As you already know Ross is a devout supporter of the University of Oklahoma Sooners. When it came time for Ross to have an entrance theme he chose the Sooner fight song. The integration of his college football acumen with wrestlers such as “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, Ron Simmons, along with Rick and Scott Steiner made his announcing appropriate and realistic.

Without a doubt Ross also had an amazing plethora of catchphrases. Prior to listening to Ross’ announcing I had never heard the term “slobberknocker.” His phrase “business is about to pick up” signaled the audience to pay closer attention as the heat for the match got hotter. “Scalded dog” and “government mule” were metaphors Ross was known to extol when someone’s ass was getting whipped. In addition his exclamation during the Hell in a Cell match in June 1998 between the Undertaker and Mankind stands as one of his best and most notable: “As God as my witness he is broken in half!”

Ross’ career in WCW lasted until Eric Bischoff became Executive Vice President of WCW in 1993. Despite having a guaranteed contract with time remaining on it Ross knew that his TV time was precious and sought greener (yet less financially green) pastures in the WWF. In fact, according to writer Keith Harris, “On March 28, 1993 Jim Ross stuck the middle finger to his former employer WCW, just one month after having resigned from the company due to Eric Bischoff removing him as the lead TV announcer, by having Vince McMahon on his WCW sponsored radio show to announce his signing with the WWF, technically before he had even received his official WCW contract release.”

On April 4, 1993 Ross began his WWF career at WrestleMania IX in Las Vegas, NV as the play-by-play announcer alongside “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. How can anyone forget seeing Jim Ross in a toga?

Unfortunately for Ross he suffered partial facial paralysis due to Bell’s palsy and was fired on February 11, 1994. Subsequently he worked for Smoky Mountain Wrestling and the Atlanta Falcons. However, during the infamous WWF steroid trials Vince McMahon was unable to perform his announcing duties on Monday Night RAW and rehired Ross to fill the play-by-play role. Upon conclusion of said trials Ross found himself out of a job with the WWF again.

In December 1994 Ross was rehired and worked on the syndicated shows instead of RAW. But in 1996 Ross rejoined the RAW broadcast team alongside Jerry “The King” Lawler and Vince McMahon. In a poor attempt for ratings Ross turned heel lambasting the WWF in promos and promising the return of “Razor Ramon” and “Diesel.” This move sent shockwaves to wrestling fans during the Monday Night War, and it inadvertently caused Kevin Nash and Scott Hall to receive raises in their contracts due to WCW’s naivety.

Sadly Nash and Hall were not rejoining the WWF. Instead Rick Bogner and Glen Jacobs (last seen on RAW as Isaac Yankem, DDS) filled the roles of “Razor Ramon” and “Diesel.” The audience quickly dismissed the duo as fake and Ross’ heel turn was quickly scratched. On the bright side Ross’ commentary during IYH: Buried Alive in October 1996 is truly time worth spent if you have never heard Ross’ heel character.

After the Montreal “screwjob” at Survivor Series 1997 McMahon gave up his announcing duties. Ross then became the lead announcer on RAW until Bell’s palsy struck him again in late 1998. He did not return to WWF programming until March 1, 1999. With insistence from the Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin Ross replaced Cole during the main event of WrestleMania XV and didn’t miss a step.

One of the toughest things an announcer has to do is to relay bad news to the audience. With the utmost respect Ross carried out his responsibility on May 23, 1999 by informing the pay-per-view audience that Owen Hart had died. It reminded me of the incident during the 1972 Olympics when Jim McKay had to relay the bad news that occurred in Munich. But I digress…

While Ross was the play-by-play announcer on RAW Ed Ferrara—a TV writer who worked for the WWF but subsequently joined WCW in 1999—parodied Ross on WCW Monday Nitro as the character “Oklahoma.”  In my eyes this parody was incredibly distasteful and mean-spirited. It was neither funny nor cute, and Ed Ferrara should be ashamed of himself for doing it.

As I mentioned earlier Ross was not only the play-by-play announcer but also the Executive Vice-President of Talent Relations for the WWF. Notable hiring that pertains to Ross’ tenure in said position includes: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, “The Rock”, Cactus Jack, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, and many others. Along with the change in programming that the WWF undertook in the late ‘90s I firmly believe the talent that Ross hired to fulfill the change made the difference in the Monday Night War.

On August 26, 1999 Ross performed his announcing duties alongside Jerry Lawler on the network premiere of WWF Smackdown. However, Michael Cole would assume that role following that episode. On an infrequent basis Ross would make appearances on Smackdown (e.g. the 9/11 tribute show that aired live on 9/13/2001).

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the constant humiliation thrust upon Ross during his WWF/WWE tenure. In 2001 Ross became only the second member of Vince McMahon’s “Kiss My Ass” club behind William Regal. In 2005 health issues would require a leave of absence for Ross. To explain the absence WWE humiliated Ross with a “head up his ass” colonoscopy skit featuring Vince McMahon. Further humiliations include getting burned by Kane, receiving the mandible claw by Mankind, and kissing Michael Cole’s foot. It was no surprise that anytime WWE hosted a live RAW in Oklahoma Ross would become the butt of the joke.  In spite of all the humiliation Ross exemplified a company man performing his job with class and dignity.

In order to place a better focus on his health, family, and eventually JR’s BBQ sauce Ross stepped down as Executive VP in 2005 but continued his weekly announcing duties on RAW. John Laurinaitis served as Ross’ replacement.

In a moment that could be considered by many as overdue Ross was elected to the WWE Hall of Fame on March 31, 2007. His longtime friend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin inducted him.

In June 2008 Ross was switched from RAW to Smackdown as part of the annual WWE draft. Twelve years of duty on Monday nights came to an end due to an angle that Ross was not made aware beforehand. Although he contemplated resignation he persevered until October 2009.

Unfortunately that was when Ross suffered his third bout with Bells’ palsy.  He would not resume full-time announcing duties until July 25, 2011 when COO Triple H “rehired” him to join Lawler and Cole. That would last until October 10 when Laurinaitis “fired” him publicly in front of his wife on RAW in Oklahoma City.

Thereafter Ross made special appearances that include calling the last four matches of WrestleMania XXVII and participating in the Michael Cole-Jerry Lawler feud. Additionally he announced the Hell in a Cell match between the Undertaker and Triple H at WrestleMania XVIII, appeared at both the 1000th episode of RAW on July 23, 2012 as well as the 20th anniversary on January 14, 2013, was honored on October 1, 2012 on JR Appreciation Night, and co-hosted the pre- and post-show for WrestleMania 29 with Dusty Rhodes, Kofi Kingston, and Scott Stanford.

When Triple H took over Talent Relations he hired Ross as an advisor and scout. Ross also mentored new announcers at the WWE Performance Center. Ross would hold this position until September 11, 2013 when he announced his retirement.

As a fan of professional wrestling over most of the last 2 decades I also attest to being a fan of good ol’ JR. Whether he was proclaiming “This is the NWA where we wrestle!” or apologizing for some of the adult content during the Attitude Era Ross sold the product better than anyone. Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, and Michael Cole among others greatly pale in comparison to Ross’ work in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s. Whether or not we have seen the last of Jim Ross on WWE TV remains to be seen. But, to be fair, I tip my cap to the man in the black hat. Thanks, JR!


  1. While this isn't exactly breaking news, Ive been watching alot of early 2000 wwf during my time off. Its really fucking amazing how good Ross was. Never realized just how good he was until he wasnt around for awhile. Ill pour out some BBQ sauce for you, homie.

  2. As long as I live, I will never forget this day, because Vince has done the worst thing. He has robbed JR of his dreams., of his livelihood, and let me say this... and understand what I'm telling you. And I'm on record with this. Vince McMahon is a no good lousy sonnabitch. That's exactly what he is. He's a no good bastard for what he did, for taking JR out of the ball game. HE's RUINED HIS DREAMS, AND HE OUTTA BURN IN HELL FOR IT!

  3. It still upsets me what McMahon did last week to a longtime VALUABLE employee. Lost in all of this is a man who just 3 years ago had another bout of bells palsy and now is without the wwe medical insurance plan he has used for years. I don't care how much money Ross has saved, Vince better be taking care of him under the table with insurance.


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