Even though Jim Ross is no longer under contract with WWE, he is very busy, including many projects in the works.
Arguably the greatest pro wrestling broadcaster of all-time, he isn’t calling any matches on Raw these days but continues to watch the product. He remains a loyal fan, much like he was before his long and successful career.
“I miss being around a lot of my friends in WWE and people that I built relationships with over the last many decade,” Ross said. “If you’ve lived in a certain community or been an inhabitant of an area and you move away, you certainly miss people. You miss the adrenaline rush that came with the great moments. I got very busy and found a lot of things that people were interested in me doing within a matter of days of me leaving WWE. So I really haven’t had time or enough empty days that I would sit around and bemoan the fact that I am no longer in WWE. I miss it and had a great run there, over 20 years.”
The proud Okie made the jump from the now defunct WCW to WWE in 1993, making his debut at WrestleMania IX. Since then, he emerged the voice of the company and worked his way up the corporate ladder. Besides his broadcasting duties, Ross wore many hats in WWE including a successful stint as vice president of talent relations. Before parting ways, the veteran was involved in the developmental program.
“Coming to WWE was the best business decision that I ever made,” Ross said. “It’s like anything else where things run their course. You have a choice to either move on or become unproductive. I wasn’t ready to be turned out to pasture so to speak. I still got some fuel in the tank. Luckily, I got some projects and things people are interested in me doing that I’ve stayed very busy.”
Even though it was billed that way by WWE, Ross is far from retired.
“I haven’t bought any golf clubs or fishing pole or any of those things, but I have stayed very busy just getting our team together for a controlled, albeit busy 2014,” Ross said.
“That took a little time to get everybody in place and entertain the different things that come our way. So I took the fall to finish the football season with my [Oklahoma] Sooners and went to all of their games. I stayed busy on infrastructure and getting a plan put together with really good people to have a productive 2014 in an arena where I can control my time and manage my time in strategic way.”
In order to put all his ducks in place for the coming year, Ross says he turned down several offers to do shows late last year. Kicking things off in 2014, the consummate businessman wrote his first column for Fox Sports with talk of furthering that partnership, working on a potential podcast and promoting his inaugural one-man show stateside in New York City.
“I don’t close the door on any opportunity,” Ross said. “I’m a good listener in that regard. I want to be involved in projects like the one-man show concept because that really caters to the wrestling fan base. It’s a very unique show in as much as I present it and my journey from the barn to the Garden. I grew up on the farm as an only child. I was the latchkey kid long before the term was fashionable. I used my imagination and creativity to entertain myself. This was long before cable TV and computers and tablets and all those things.
“I was a reader of a lot of things, especially sports. I think my show will continue to keep me connected to the fan base. I think a lot of my projects are going to cater to and interact with the fans. That’s my intention. To say that I’m not going to do any projects that would be outside the envelope would probably not be accurate. I’m open-minded to listen.
“Somebody said to me, ‘How would you like to do a reality show?’ I’ve had several reality shows pitched and ideas pitched to me. I’m not closing any doors, but my first priority is to continue to interact with the wrestling fans who I’ve grown to know and love for 40 years. That is priority one. Then if I do other projects that are outside pro wrestling arena, we will just take those opportunities and evaluate them as they come our way.”
Knowing how successful Mick Foley's shows were in Europe, Ross did a one-man tour of his own in the United Kingdom in the summer.
“Mick started out as a stand-up comedian and kind of morphed his show to more storytelling and things of that nature,” Ross said. “I’m not a stand-up comedian. My shows are a little bit different. I think Mick’s success in doing what he has done has certainly given me confidence that if I prepare well and promote adequately that there is an opportunity there. I think him doing these one-night stands is admirable and used as motivation for our own show.
“I’ve attended a few of Mick’s shows and enjoyed them a lot. They are a little different than what I do because my journey is so unique. I was never a wrestler. I didn’t go to wrestling school. I didn’t have a relative or connection to get in the business. The business was very tight-knit, very closed and almost like a closed fraternity.
“It was almost mafia-like where you had to know somebody to make it in. My journey was a lot different than anybody else. Non-athlete, non-connected, how I got into the territory days back in 1974 and working in the territories was a unique learning experience for somebody in their early 20s with basically his first full-time job out of college.”
J.R. recalls learning from the ground up during the territory days and Mid-South Wrestling with Leroy McGuirk and Bill Watts.
“McGuirk was blind, and I had to take notes for him and sit in the booking and creative meetings early on in my career,” Ross said. “I was his driver on long trips to TV. I had a very unique opportunity to learn things that guys my age never had that chance. You wouldn’t bring in an inactive performer into that inner-circle at 22 years of age. It was a conflict of interest and a trust factor.
“I think the way my story started and how it evolved from driver, concierge and ring crew guy to then getting into broadcasting and developing a great relationship with Bill Watts, where I was involved in a lot of the day-to-day management of the company. This went as far as learning to do payroll, how to book a card, how to book a big show and book it backwards where you have this book with multiple chapters that culminates with a big show, which for us at that time was in the Louisiana Superdome.”
Given all the roles Ross took on in his legendary run in the business, so far, he finds himself fortunate for all those opportunities. Each was an experience and makes him one of the most fascinating personalities in the history of the industry with probably thousands of anecdotes to share.
“So if you look back at anybody who has done a show or written a book, my story is going to be really unique,” Ross said. “Going through being the territory business in the 1970s to when wrestling made it on cable television and pay-per-view and satellite, going through the corporate wrestling timeframe with Turner Broadcasting to being hired by WWE in 1993. I’ve gone through a lot of different generations, different changes and worked with some amazingly interesting people in a unique role. So I think my story is different.
“A lot of others are written from the wrestler’s perspective, which is cool, and I’ve read a ton of them. I enjoy them. I’m not saying my story is better, but my story is explicitly unique to my life. That is what I’m going to share with these one-man shows. I talk about how I went from an only child in a very rural area to ending up working in a booking office in a territory and then taking it from there. I knew I couldn’t survive on that $125 a week salary. I had to find something that I could be good at to survive and make myself have value.”
No show will be the same, and a highlight of the event will be the interaction with the audience. Ross finds this aspect entertaining and challenging simultaneously. He aims to make his shows organic with no real script or teleprompter. It’s a creative outlet for Ross in an intimate setting with just him and the crowd. As a result, reviews have already been unanimously positive for the European ones he has done thus far.
“That’s why the Q&As is such a viable part of what we do,” Ross said. “I’m going to do a bit of a monologue and tell stories that tie to my journey, then the Q&A portion. The questions are no holds barred. Ask what you want. I don’t think it’s my place to edit the audience or suppress their curiosities. If I can answer it, I will. If the answer is going to embarrass someone or their families or if someone is just looking for the proverbial dirt, I always tell everybody they can ask me anything you choose and there is no topic that is off limits.
“That said I’m going to answer them or address them in good taste. It’s like someone asking, ‘Who is the most promiscuous wrestler that you ever knew?’ It’s just an analogy, but I can give them an answer. I don’t know if it would be accurate. I don’t know how that answer will set with someone’s family or grandchildren.
“I will address the question because I don’t want to be rude, but I won’t answer a question like that. I will reserve the right to address the question as I feel is appropriate, but if I do give you an answer, it will be honest.”
• Follow Jim Ross on Twitter at @JRsBBQ and visit http://www.jrsbarbq.com/ to purchase his signature products and read his writings.
• Spend “An Evening with Jim Ross” on Saturday, March 4 at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City. http://concerts.livenation.com/event/00004B81F2499B3E
• Look for more installments with Ross coming soon.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.