Jim Ross is bringing the same passion that made him a legendary WWE broadcaster and 40 years of experience in the business to his string of one-man shows kicking off in New York City on March 1 and New Orleans on April 3.
South Florida is currently not on the schedule.
“It’s one I would embrace and look forward to doing,” Ross said. “I’m not going to be as active as Mick Foley for example. Mick seems to be really doing a lot of traveling and doing a lot of dates. I don’t want to be that quite busy so I can have a home life and have some normalcy. If I had to give you a number today I would probably do 15 to 20 shows and be selective with them. I can see doing a Friday and Saturday type thing. I think that would be manageable with the other projects I’ve been talking about doing. It’s a matter of balancing and not overbooking myself is one way of putting it.
“We will see how that evolves. We may do a few more dates or a few less and do more promotion on. We’re getting offers from Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada, notwithstanding the predicted cities in the United States that you would want to play. You’d want to play Chicago. You’d want to play Los Angeles and New York City. There are so many great markets we want to visit. It’s just a matter of getting it all balanced.”
The WWE Hall of Famer may not be a WWE contracted employee anymore, but the proud Okie is busier than ever. Ross has begun to contribute to Fox Sports, has a podcast in the works and remains on the pulse of what’s happening with his former employer. These days the lifelong pro wrestling enthusiast checks out Raw, Smackdown and pay-per-views, more times than not, from the comfort of his own home.
“I’m always amazed at the amount of work that everybody does on a weekly basis,” Ross said. “I don’t think you really appreciate it until you step away from it. You see how hard everyone at WWE works. The broadcaster, just using that as an example, the hours that they spend traveling and preparing and working and traveling again in an environment that has no off-season kind of goes off the radar. The travel and work that a guy like Michael Cole or JBL [John Bradshaw Layfield] does is sometimes underappreciated by the masses, but I can tell you from experience that is very challenging to do what they do.
“I’m somewhat in awe of their workload and all the things that they do getting the show on the air, not withstanding all the crew and people in the TV truck and people back in Stanford who put the video packages together. It’s pretty amazing when you see it come together.”
The fun Ross has watching WWE programming is increased because he doesn’t know what’s going to occur. He says he is not privy to creative.
“I’m just a fan,” Ross said. “The announcement of the WWE Network was all news to me. I hadn’t been preconditioned at all about what the network was going to be or what shape it was going to take or the unique programming features or how it was going to be structured. I am constantly impressed and amazed with the amount of work that many people put into the whole presentation. I enjoy watching as a fan and not knowing what’s in segment four or what’s going to be in segment six and all those things. I have no desire to know.”
A topic of conversation amongst many in the WWE Universe is Daniel Bryan and the way he is perceived by the company.
“I’m a fan of Daniel Bryan and have been for years long before he came to WWE,” Ross said. “I look at it as getting cast in a role on an episodic soap opera. I know roles can change in a matter of segments. They can change in a matter of weeks. So I don’t get wrapped up at all of who is being utilized in a specific way because I don’t know what’s planned. I don’t know what the end game is. I have no idea. I only know what I saw tonight so to speak. I know that things can change and evolve.
“Taking those things in consideration, I just go with the flow. I know that, using Daniel Bryan as an example, he is going to get major television minutes and is still going to be able to go bell-to-bell to do what he does as well as anybody out there right now is a good thing. How it plays out and where it ends is still, in my mindset, still to be determined.”
The veteran announcer has been in the trenches.
“I don’t know where it’s going, and I enjoy that,” Ross said. “I don’t get wrapped up in who’s winning and who’s losing. I get wrapped up in performances and emotions and the process more than the individual casting, so to speak, or booking. It can change in a moment’s notice. Something you think is going to work one way, works better another way.
“Those things evolve. I just know in today’s world where there isn’t an overabundance of top main event level stars that the cream will always rise to the top eventually. It may not be up to some people’s timeline or timing of the matter. Eventually, I’m of the optimistic point-of-view that you can’t hold talent down that is really good at what they do. The other thing is the great talents have the ability to adapt, survive, improve and evolve.”
Ross says he tries to watch as much wrestling on TV as time permits and not just WWE.
“That’s the great thing about having a DVR,” Ross said. “It kind of goes back to the WWE Network. You can kind of watch it when you want to and when you have time. I try to watch Raw on Monday nights and try to watch as it happens. When you are a fan, you want to watch different kinds of wrestling and presentations because it’s part of my DNA. I enjoy a lot of it and after 20 plus years with WWE, I’m still a WWE guy. It’s like my Oklahoma football team. I’m always going to be a fan of my team whether we win, lose or draw. I watch a lot of product.”
The legend refers to himself as an old school guy who is more concerned on the action in the squared circle. He says he is rather invested in the physicality, athleticism and competition than any other entity on any wrestling show broadcast.
“That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good promo or things that are featured like a video package,” Ross said. “I like a lot of things of that nature. If you say to me is there one thing in WWE you would like to see them do more of, I am going to say I would like to see them have more bell-to-bell content because that is what I personally like. At the same time I know you have to have a balance and some entertainment entities. I like the game, and I don’t invest in halftime of a football game much and what the announcers have to say. I like to get back to the game, so to speak.
“It’s not really a complaint. That’s just my thing. I like what I was raised on, which back in the day was more focus on the in-ring aspect of the presentation. It has evolved that even during the ‘Attitude Era’ we had some amazing things that were entertaining and memorable and significant that weren’t bell-to-bell. There was other stuff. There was [Steve] Austin with the Zamboni or Kurt Angle with the milk truck. There were all kinds of stuff that were fun and entertaining that didn’t have anything to do with a headlock.
“I think that’s always the balancing act is to provide something for everyone. You want to take care of your core audience, but you want to entertain the casual fan at the same time. I don’t know if there is a right or wrong. It’s just so subjective.”
Ross recalls an episode of Raw on New Year’s Day in 2007 from Miami where the focal point of the show was more on a non-wrestling personality and certain ex-husband of Britney Spears. He thinks about this night every time he sees a highlight of the Fiesta Bowl that year when the Boise State Broncos upset his beloved Sooners in overtime.
Perhaps the result would have been different had the commentator been in Arizona watching in person instead of calling Kevin Federline versus John Cena in Miami. It will be something that pops in J.R.’s head when the Magic City is mentioned.
“I had requested a rare off day from that broadcast,” Ross said. “It couldn’t be arranged, so consequently I did the Raw broadcast because of the significant build of the Federline stuff. He was getting some outside-the-box PR. It was something they felt I needed to be there, which is fine. The issue is not so much remembering how John carried Federline through a match. It was the night that had one of the bigger upsets in college football history.
“When you are looking at Top 10 lists and bowl highlights and all these types of things, it always shows up. It always reminds me that night I was in Miami broadcasting Raw. Lawler was staying in his condo in Fort Myers, so he gave me a ride back to my hotel in Miami and dropped me off. I got to my room and saw the fourth quarter and the overtime. So I got to see part of it. That’s one of the memories I have. It’s not so much a wrestling memory as much as a date memory for just the amazing amount of airtime that ball game got. It’s not a negative memory. It’s just a memory I know where I was on that date.”
The die-hard college football fan does have fond memories taking his talents to South Beach a time or two. He likes taking in the sights during his visits.
“Miami has been such a hot spot dating back to the Florida Championship Wrestling days,” Ross said. “It was a great club as they say. It has a tremendous amount of history and heritage and so forth. Hopefully, we will get Miami on the books at some juncture and come down there. That’s another market. I mean how can you not want to come down to do a show and come a day or two early. You get a chance to do some extra media to sell another ticket or two, but also enjoy the weather, food and people and fun.
“That’s what I’m looking at with this one-man show is to have fun. I really want to have fun. I really want to interact with the fans. It wasn’t easy being a guy with a Southern accent and then having three bouts of Bell’s palsy and making it. So part of my thing is we’re going to talk about overcoming challenges. Lord knows I’ve had plenty of challenges just like anyone in life in their careers, but a unique set of challenges. The key is if you want something badly enough, you just can’t turn your jersey in because once you turn your jersey in you are off the team and out of the game. I’ve never wanted to be out of the game. I love the business.”
• Follow Jim Ross on Twitter at @JRsBBQ and visit http://www.jrsbarbq.com/ to purchase his signature products and read his writings.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.
• Check out “Ringside: An Evening with Jim Ross” 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1 at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City. Fans visiting New Orleans for WrestleMania XXX can also see the WWE Hall of Famer at the House of Blues 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Thursday, April 3.
For tickets, visit http://www.ticketmaster.com/Jim-Ross-tickets/artist/1944341 .