WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross recently appeared on The Rack, which can be heard at WildTalkRadio.com, and the following are some interview highlights:
On calling Wrestle Kingdom 9:
“It was fun. Once you get past the travel, and you can navigate around the language barriers in Japan, then everything else is really positive. The event was in the Tokyo Dome, 40,000+ fans on hand I think, and it was the first time we’ve aired, or anyone aired, a New Japan pay-per-view in North America and it did really well. It’s been critically acclaimed as one of the better pay-per-view wrestling shows in years and it was really neat to be able to be part of that. For me, after 40 years in this business, and then being out from the play-by-play table for a while, you have those doubts and wonder how much gas is left in the tank and are you going to endure this four-hour pay-per-view with the last hour is your most important because your matches, those are the main event? So, I had a great time; it was unique, not quite what I’m used to here in Oklahoma, but it was a good, fun experience and I hope we get to do some more; those talks are ongoing. I signed a contract to do one, but I’d certainly be interested in doing more if it’s the right place, right time and all those clichés. But, I had a great times and it’s good to know I hadn’t forgotten how to do my old job so there’s a lot of nostalgia in that regard.”
On his one-man shows:
“Well, I got into the wrestling business, when I was 22 and very accidentally and thought it would be a good summer job that I could make some money and then go back to college and finish my last semester of college and graduate. Forty years later, I’m still waiting on that dream. I liked what I was doing; I read somewhere one time ‘If you’re lucky enough to find a job that doesn’t feel like work, grab it and embrace it’ and I found that situation in that very unique genre. Then, from 1974 until now, there’s been immense changes, going from relying on syndicated TV to getting on national cable and then getting on satellite television, getting involved in pay-per-views and corporate ownership like Turner Broadcasting and WWE, both corporately owned and publicly traded or were publicly traded as there is no more WCW.
My point is by seeing the evolution of the business change drastically on several fronts, I worked with some compelling, gregarious, amazing entertainers in those 40 years; went on a lot of trips and a lot of events in a lot of countries and cities. So, the stories are really unique and in my show, I try to take those first 10-20 minutes and try to create a GPS of where were going and hit some highlights and tell some stories that are either poignant or humorous or motivational but entertaining bottom line and then I turn it over to the audience and then the audience are able to ask any questions they choose and wrestling fans are always looking for a forum in which to express themselves, that’s why there are so many wrestling websites and there are so many on twitter following wrestling people; they enjoy the communication and interaction and I feel like I owe the fans a great deal for supporting me for 40 years so this is a small down-payment on what I owe people back. I love to engage the Q-and-A’s, they’re poignant sometime; they’re inquisitive, you scratch your head wondering ’Why did you ask that question?’. But, I tell them upfront, if you’re nice enough to come to my shows and we have fun, I’m not going to restrict the subject matter of the questions. So, I’ll answer every question to the best of my ability and as honestly as I know and that makes every show different. It makes every show have its own vibe, its own energy and that’s what we’re expecting over Royal Rumble weekend.
I’ve never been to Sayreville, New Jersey at the Starland Ballroom. I’ve been to Philadelphia many times and our show in Philly will be on Royal Rumble Sunday at 3:00 in the afternoon. I enjoy meeting the fans at the VIP meet and greets, which start 2 hours before show time and we meet the fans one-on-one, take pictures and chat with them and I enjoy visiting and hearing what’s on their mind. I mean I’m a fan so we talk the same language. Philadelphia has been really important to me, really important to my career when I really needed it so I’m excited for the Royal Rumble weekend with a Friday night show in Sayreville, NJ and a Sunday afternoon show in Philadelphia. I’m excited about the whole process, should be fun. I figure I’m probably going to gain some weight because I can’t pass a Philly cheesesteak place without at least checking it out and smelling, you know; you smell a good cheesesteak, you have to at least try some.”
His thoughts on The Undertaker:
“He’s a guy I have great respect for. When I was in charge for hiring the talent for WWE and the talent department as an Executive Vice President of the company, he was a very strong, positive influence in the locker room. He was the captain of the team, for lack of a better term; so if there were issues that I needed support on or advice on or needed a to go guy to get honesty and hit you right in the gut with the truth, it was the Undertaker. So, I always got plenty of Undertaker stories.
Actually, he was wrestling under a mask in Dallas when I saw him, and we brought him to WCW and then he stayed in WCW and one of the officials there, his contract was coming up and I said ‘We should renew his contract’ and this guy says ‘Well, obviously, you don’t know anything about talent because he’ll never draw any money and he’ll never be a big star.’ SO, I go to the Undertaker and I said ‘Look, don’t try to broadcast this, but you need to try and get that WWE offer nailed down because they’re not going to give you a raise here and you need to know the honest truth.’ And Vince saw what I saw; here’s a 6’9” guy who’s very athletic and it’s up to the promotion to find the right creative for this or all the talent; it’s up to a coach to put the guys in the right position to win the games, to have the right game plan.
So, yeah, I do have a lot of stories about Taker, he’s a wonderful guy and obviously coming to the end of an amazing career. I don’t know how many he’s got left in him, I don’t have any idea if he’ll be at WrestleMania this year or not. My sense of it is that he will; that’s only my intuition, because I think the day the Undertaker retires will be the cause of a huge promotion, well-planned, well-thought out celebration of his years of contribution and I haven’t heard any chatter on that matter. I just can’t see him ‘Ok, he got beat by Brock Lesnar last year and the streak at WrestleMania is over, so he’s just fades away’; I just can’t see him fading away without some sort of classy send-off and maybe that’s at WrestleMania this year, I don’t know. It’ll be a sad day when he’s no longer back in the ring, but it happens to everybody; there’s a DNA expiration date on everyone’s body, somewhere in wrestling, where it tells you enough is enough and maybe he’s hearing those whispers now from himself, I don’t know. But he’s a class act, a first-ballot Hall of Fame guy and he’ll always be part of the company no matter what role he may assume once his wrestling days have completed.”
His thoughts on Bray Wyatt and a possible likeness to the Undertaker:
“I like Bray Watt, I liked his grandpa Blackjack Mulligan too. I liked his dad Mike Rotunda. I think Bray Wyatt is a very unique character and I’m not sure if WWE knows exactly what they have on their hands because the character is still evolving and that’s much like the Undertaker in the early going, they weren’t sure where this was going to evolve to but it seemed to feel right. So, that’s where I kind of sum up the situation; the somewhat of a macabre aura around the Undertaker, obviously, and this kid comes in, Bray Wyatt, and he assumes this character, makes it his own in that sense of a TV persona and he’s really good at what he does.
So, I think he’s got great potential to have a very successful career but I really believe we’re not going to know exactly what color to pain that character, what brush to use, until it evolves a little bit more. But, the good news is, however it evolves, it’s going to be a successful evolution. He’s a very talented kid, he’s unique and different; people notice him and he does unique things. All those things are prerequisites to become a pro wrestling star: you’ve got to get noticed and remembered for the right reasons by your consumer base or fan base, and Bray Wyatt has those traits. I’m excited to see how he advances in the future; he’s certainly a keeper and if he has half the success the Undertaker did, WWE should feel very fortunate.”