Having officially retired from WWE in September, Jim Ross is now trying to carve out a new niche for himself in life. Breaking into wresting 40 years ago, he turned into one of the most legendary announcers and executives in the history of the business. That legacy really took hold first calling a number of classics matches in WCW and then in WWE, eventually becoming the voice of the company during the "Attitude Era," eventually leading to an induction in the WWE Hall of Fame. Earlier this week, as part of the media rounds for one of his new projects, his speaking engagements in New York City that take place this weekend, he talked to Bleacher Report.
Bleacher Report: How did these shows in New York come about?
Jim Ross: The four U.K. shows I did last Summer did extremely well. They were very, very well attended, and I didn't know when I signed up to do them how well I was going to perform or how much I was going to enjoy the process. Live Nation was very motivated to bring me into the fold and to promote some North American shows. I'm obviously very excited, nervous, but overall really excited and looking forward to those shows on Saturday. More are being negotiated, but we're just being careful in not putting me on the road as a road warrior every week or multiple days a week.
Bleacher Report: What can fans expect from these events?
Jim Ross: We kind of start in the mid-'70s and I talk about the territory days, some of the colorful personalities I worked with back when I was in my first job out of college, some of the jobs that I had, responsibilities that I had as a young man in the pro wrestling business, (and so on). We start there, and I take them on a little journey backed up by stories...there are some funny stories, there are some poignant stories...so we kind of take it up to there, and I try to use good time management with those stories and get into what I like to call the "No Holds Barred Q&A" section of the show. That aspect of the show always makes every show different, it always adds a different energy when you're interactive with the audience, and I enjoy talking to the wrestling fans. I'm still a wrestling fan: That's how I started out, that's how I will end the day.
Bleacher Report: Any differences, based our your experiences traveling the world, that you expect between the British fans and the New York fans?
Jim Ross: No, not really. I think that's the one common denominator, that the fans, no matter where they are, they're all passionate. The fans who are gonna attend my shows, are, in my view, passionate about the genre. Sometimes, you could argue, (fans) have too much passion. In as much as that the product, almost, seemingly, consumes them, and that's not healthy for anything, one entity to consume anybody. You need balance, you need to be diverse, and you need to have multiple interests in life to get the most out of life. I think it's wonderful that people are so passionate and sometimes emotional about the business, but I always believe you're better off if you're a little more diverse.
Bleacher Report: WWE Network launched this week, have you gotten a chance to look at it at all yet?
Jim Ross: Yeah, I signed up Monday morning with no problems, I didn't have any issues whatsoever signing up (in spite of the issues some fans had). I was lucky, I guess. Last night, when I was working on my podcast, I listened to and watched some of the main event at the first WrestleMania and really enjoyed it. It had been so, so long since I saw that event, that some of the nuances of the commentary, for example, were things that I had forgotten.
Bleacher Report: Do you think that WWE's creating a generation of fans that's going to be more naturally interested in wrestling history now that they have all of this at their fingertips?
Jim Ross: Well, I would think they have the opportunity to really see how deep the roots go into the business. They have the opportunity to take a history course on their own time and their own dime, which, I think if they're truly fans of the pro wrestling genre, the business itself, that they're gonna be able to sample several different eras, and different styles, from these territories. So yeah, I think you're gonna find fans who discover that there was wrestling before the Attitude Era. I guess I'm being quasi-facetious, but WWE's got an amazing library of some territories.
The thing that people should remember, is that back in the day, because wrestling does not have a season, every week is a week of first run TV. In the territories that I worked in, specifically, we never had a rerun. So those shows that aired, aired one time to their constituency. So it's not like you're watching old episodes of Seinfeld, where you've seen them so many times you can memorize the dialogue, like a lot of us that are Seinfeld fans. You are gonna watch a show that, unless you were in that region, on one particular week, you probably have never seen it before unless it was a clip on a DVD or something like that. So I think there's gonna be a lot of vintage content that will be brand new to the vast majority of the consumers. I think it will create a level of more knowledge, and more background, and more history, which I think is good.
I'm one that really believes you can't navigate and enjoy the future if you don't understand the past, and certainly, with the WWE Network, one is given the opportunity to understand, experience, watch, and feel the past, which kind of brings us up to date to today's product.
Bleacher Report: When it comes to your work in WCW that's on WWE Network, anything particular you would recommend for younger fans that haven't seen it?
Jim Ross: I get people asking me that all the time on Twitter, and I get a lot of people giving me feedback on what they've watched on the network (so far), and they've all watch a variety of things from those WCW days that they've enjoyed, whether it be a Starrcade, or a Wrestle War. One of my favorites is in Chicago in '89 where (Ricky) Steamboat beat (Ric) Flair to become the NWA Champion (at Chi-Town Rumble). That was a really good show, and they had an extraordinary match. That's one that I would certainly try to see if I were them.
There was another show (SuperBrawl II) in '92, from Milwaukee, it had (Brian) Pillman vs. (Jushin "Thunder") Liger on it. There's a lot of really good shows on there and you're gonna find matches within the pay-per-views that really, really were outstanding. Pillman and Liger were kinda ahead of their time, and I think the Flair-Steamboat match was extraordinary in Chicago; great crowd, really was well-performed by the talent, and then there was another Flair-Steamboat blowoff match in Nashville (at Wrestle War '89) where we had the judges, and one of the judges was Terry Funk, and that pay-per-view launched the Terry Funk-Ric Flair rivalry in WCW, and some of those matches (like Great American Bash '89) were phenomenal.
Some of my favorite matches were those Clash of the Champions (TV specials not yet on the network). One of my favorites was (Clash 9) New York Knockout, that I broadcast the "I Quit" match with Flair and Terry Funk. You had a lot of hall of fame guys in that: Gary Hart was involved in that as Funk's manager, Flair and Terry had an amazing "I Quit" match, and I broadcasted that show with Gordon Solie, which was a big personal dream of mine and something I really remember. It's endless. We could talk all day about these things.
For me, being in the business for 40 years, it lets me see guys who are gone, or deceased, and I don't want to sound morbid: It brings back good memories. Most of the guys, I had great memories with, so I get to see them in their heyday, when they're healthy, so it's nostalgic in a good way.