I was lucky enough to be guided to Jim Ross’ podcast, The Ross Report, about a month ago by the good folks of r/SquaredCircle. The time in my day usually filled with football podcasts was now open and I was looking to immerse myself in as much pro wrestling information as I could get my hands on. Or ears. Whatever. I was immediately hooked and listened to about 10 straight hours to catch up. Like many of you, my fandom was at its peak during The Attitude Era and Good Ol’ JR was the voice of wrestling for me. I still get goosebumps hearing some of his old calls. Each podcast is filled with so much information that it’s like taking a class; manna from heaven for someone like me who wants to learn as much about the business as possible. So when he announced that he’d be performing his Ringside: An Afternoon With Jim Ross show in San Jose at the RockBar Theater the day before Wrestlemania I immediately knew that I wanted to attend.
Growing up in the Bay Area I was spoiled by the likes of Bill King and Lon Simmons so the bar for sports commentators has always been set high. JR never failed to meet those expectations when he was behind the mic and I can happily say that still holds true today. Let me preface this by saying I had no idea how funny this show was actually going to be. I’m a huge fan of seeing comedians live. I’ve been lucky enough to see modern greats like Lewis Black, Daniel Tosh, Mitch Hedberg (God rest his soul), Dave Attell, and Louis CK in-person and have left those shows with a laughter headache. JR’s show was up there with those performers in terms of comedic value for me. The man is hysterical.
The RockBar Theater is an awesome venue. It was my first time there and from the moment I walked in I wished I had a place like it closer to home. The bartenders were all personable and the security staff was chill. I had a VIP ticket so I got to meet him and shake his hand before the actual show. He was gracious with every single fan and true to his word didn’t, as he says, “usher fans through like cattle.” He followed each individual fan’s lead. Some people had quick conversations, telling him how far they’d come from or how such and such call is their all-time favorite, and everyone had him sign something. I kept my interaction brief for fear of losing composure and totally marking out, but the handshake and dialogue exchanged will be something I will never forget. I was honored and told him as much.
When it came time for the actual show to start I didn’t know what to expect. I intentionally went in unprepared for what was to come. John Pollock from Live Audio Wrestling hosted and did a great job. I’m a fan of the podcast so it was cool to see him there. He announced that JR was dedicating the show to the late Perro Aguayo Jr. which, right off the bat, I knew JR was a classy guy, but to me this was huge. It’s WrestleMania weekend, you know there are a ton of educated wrestling fans and smarks in the crowd from the world over, and to acknowledge this tragedy and have a moment of silence in the luchador’s honor just shows you the type of person JR is. He cares about people. He puts others over.
Then the man in the black stetson took the stage to a huge pop and standing O. He announced that his wife, Jan, was in attendance and it was the first show of his she’d been to. Then he apologized to her ahead of time for things during the show she’d be hearing for the first time, of which there were several. By all accounts Jan is a great sport. He then announced that both Michelle Beadle of ESPN and UFC fighter Daniel Cormier were both in attendance and they got huge pop, as well. What followed was about an hour of hilarious, sometimes self-deprecating, always informative stories told by the man who lived them in a way only he could portray them.
From his days in Mid-South Wrestling as chauffeur/concierge/McGuire Twins’ back-washer during his tenure in under “Cowboy” Bill Watts to Ric Flair’s penchant for whipping it out, no topic was off-limits. His transparency lends to how genuine a person he is and there’s no sense of ego or self-serving in his approach and it’s endearing. He has great comedic timing and articulates his stories just as well as he steered the ship calling matches. Much to my pleasure he talked about the “Plane Ride from Hell” and told stories about many of the talents he signed, my favorite being about The Rock and where the name for his studio, 7 Bucks Productions, came from. That’s one thing casual fans may not know, not only was JR a commentator, he was also in charge of talent relations for years and signed some of the biggest stars in the WWE.
My favorite part of the show, and it’s something he does consistently and part of why I’m such a huge fan, was when he touched on equality and race in wrestling and the world. I mentioned that JR worked for Bill Watts. “Cowboy” is known for being the first promoter to stand up against the racism that existed in pro wrestling during The Territory Era. He hired the first black booker (WWE HOFer Ernie Ladd) had a black star as the face of his territory (WWE HOFer Junkyard Dog in Mid South Wrestling), and while at the helm of WCW crowned a black champion (WWE HOFer Ron Simmons). Notice a trend here? Ross, who has Cherokee in his blood, is of the same belief as his mentor: no matter what color you are, we are all human beings. He also lauds the Divas and long ago proposed a WrestleMania moment involving Ronda Rousey. We all know how amazing that moment became. There was a feel-good moment during this portion of the show where Ross pointed to a young man with Down’s Syndrome who was in the front row and told him he was, “a special little angel.” I’m not trying to paint the man as a saint. I’m just showing you how much he exudes the good in the industry. When wrestling is right, like so much of WrestleMania weekend was, it’s a beautiful thing. He should be given a position to influence the current WWE, in my opinion.
Next came the Q&A portion which lead to some interesting moments. One fan inadvertently referred to him as an announcer and got a little heat, another tried to cut a Rock “millions...and millions” promo while asking his question, but Ross took it all in stride. There were some good questions and yes the Hell in a Cell from King of the Ring 1998 between The Undertaker and Mankind, which is arguably one of his most memorable calls, came up. Then came one of those classic moments where there’s a setup that seems a bit out of place, then a massive payoff that totally makes it work.
Pollock is in the crowd taking the questions and after several he tells JR he looks kind of hot and asks if he needs a towel. I’m looking at JR thinking “I mean...the lights are bright, but I don’t see him sweating like a hog or anything.” Then I realize this was a cue of some sort because JR turned a bit to face the curtain and asks if someone can bring him a towel. Then music hits and SAMOA JOE COMES OUT WITH HIS TOWEL! The place went insane. I’m a Joe fan and really hope the rumors of him signing with WWE are true. The chants of “JOE! JOE! JOE!” were deafening and we were all was fist-pumping. I knew JR would have a special guest and he pretty much admits he always has one, but I was there to see him so anything else I was taking as a bonus. I hadn’t paid any mind to who may show up considering it was WrestleMania weekend and almost everyone in the industry was in the Bay Area (except Taz, to my chagrin). Talk about awesome.
The pair took a few questions together, though there was no confirmation of Joe signing with WWE. He did answer a question regarding preference of being on WWE or NXT by saying he’d just be honored to compete in the company. Then they closed the show to huge applause as many were heading to the WWE Hall of Fame presentation and JR mentioned on his podcast and before the show itself that it was important for him to get people out in time to make it. Like I said, he gets it. I highly recommend attending his show when you have the chance. Tickets to this particular show were only $20! I give it top marks all around and will go again next time I get the chance.
Did you attend the show? What did you think? What other celebrities did you see in attendance?