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October 30, 2009

More of Jim Ross interview

It’s taken a lot longer than I intended, but I have finally transcribed the rest of the interview I conducted with Jim Ross earlier this month. The interview took place prior to Ross’ health issues.

On the need to build new stars: I think the business is at a place where it’s imperative that we build new stars and get guys at-bats. Some are going to find out they’re not cleanup hitters. But they can find their role and maybe they hit eighth or ninth. They can still make a good living and they contribute to the team. But it’s imperative to the business to find new stars. Older stars are holding on and doing the best they can, and are trying to reinvent themselves at times, change their matches up, and work hard through injuries and soreness and wear and tear – which I deeply admire. But the business has got to accelerate the process of moving guys into the upper echelon mix, at least to give them a chance of seeing if they can stick. And if they stick, you got a winner. If they don’t stick, then, unfortunately, you take them out of the lineup and put somebody else in. The replacement players have got to be young guys. And sooner or later, you’re going to find your next nucleus.

On where the next generation of WWE wrestlers will come from: It’s just a matter focusing on recruiting and finding world class athletes and encouraging them to have the aptitude and desire – and maybe more importantly, be fans of the product – to try this profession. It’s imperative. The scouting and the whole process has to be accelerated and maintained and improved upon every single day. As long as they have that mind-set, they’re going to continue to find good young guys that have potential. And then about one or two out of 10 will make it. It’s going to be an interesting future, but I don’t perceive it to be bleak whatsoever.

On fellow Oklahoman Jack Swagger: Swagger’s got a blessing and a curse. He has the blessing of having so much God-given physical ability as a natural 6-5 or 6-6 kid that’s 260, so he has good size. He has an amazing athletic background. He’s been wrestling since he was in elementary school. He wrestled in a Division I program [at Oklahoma] with good success. But he’s one of those guys that is so good that he can put it in a little above neutral and be better than most. What he has to find is the fire inside him that’s going to drive him internally to get to the next level and the next level after that. The Rock had the amazing athletic abilities that few people are gifted with, but he also had the burning desire to be the best, and none of that can be denied. Stone Cold [Steve Austin] comes in with certainly better-than-average athleticism, a hard-nosed old football player. But he had almost an obsession to be the best. Somewhere along the way the light has to go off internally with Jack Swagger, where it starts burning brighter and brighter, and then he can use that to elevate up. That’s what I see that he needs to do. It’s not a company mandate and I’m not speaking for WWE. I’m just saying from my observations that I know how good the kid can be, but he’s at the point now to where it’s largely going to be up to him to continue to turn heads. Every time he gets an outing, whether it’s in the middle of Raw, or the end of Raw, or the beginning of Raw, or on Superstars, or wherever it is, he has to go out and play like it’s the NCAA finals. And those back-to-back-to-back-type performances are what gets you noticed and what gives people confidence that, “OK, this kid’s getting it. Now let’s roll with him.”

On other up-and-coming wrestlers and what it takes to be a top star: John Morrison’s going to be very good. Dolph Ziggler’s going to be very good. They just have to have time. And then they have to make sure that they don’t get a comfort level. “Hey look, I’m the Intercontinental champion” or “Hey look, I’m on a pay-per-view” or whatever. Are you in main events on pay-per-views? Have you headlined WrestleMania yet? “Well, no.” OK, so when you headline WrestleMania, you come back and see me about where you are in your comfort zone. And then I’m going to tell you when you headline one WrestleMania, why don’t you come back and talk to me a little bit more at length when you do your second one. That’s what you’re looking for. It’s those guys that demand to either be in the main event at a premier pay-per-view or go on that pay-per-view and steal the show – like Undertaker and Shawn [Michaels] did last year. They didn’t go on last. They didn’t go on next to last. But they stole the show. And that was because of their passion and their willingness to give the fans the match of their lifetime, and that’s what they delivered.

At a certain point once a guy gets his foot in the door and he starts getting some time on TV, then they really have more ownership than the general public understands. The more-educated fans would rather blame creative. Sometimes they just don’t know what else went on and they don’t know a guy’s attitude and they don’t know who phoned something in or who thinks, “Hey, I don’t really even want to get any higher than this.” You have to understand that some guys get on a semi-main event level, and they don’t know that they can handle the pressure of carrying the show. That’s not for everybody. It takes a very unique individual to be a star, and a main event star. The business is so good now financially that guys who aren’t main-eventers can still earn a great living and prepare for life after wrestling.

It’s just a matter if seeing who wants it when you get to a certain level. It doesn’t matter if you have a six-minute match on Superstars, go out and steal the show. Go have a great, solid match. Somebody’s going to say, “Who cares about Superstars? Nobody watches it. And it’s only six minutes.” That’s the wrong attitude. That’s a loser’s attitude, and that’s what I’ve told dozens of talents. I don’t give a damn if the show’s airing in Zimbabwe at midnight. This is being taped before all the decision makers, and all your peers and all the crew, so I don’t want to hear about the stage. The stage is that ring. The ring didn’t change. It’s an 18-foot square. The bell rings and there you go. What did you do for me between bell to bell? And more importantly, what did you do for yourself?

On WWE’s in-ring product becoming more family friendly: I guess some wrestling fans think that other wrestling fans enjoy getting bled on. If I’m sitting at ringside with my family or my buddies, I don’t want somebody’s blood all over me. I don’t want to get close to it. People say, “Why isn’t there more blood?” Well, do you read the paper? Have you heard about Hepatitis C and AIDS? Who knows who has what? Yeah, they’re all medically tested, but do you want to take that chance? I don’t. I don’t see that being a big issue. I think the shows can be extremely entertaining and exciting without it, but for fans who lived through generations of that sort of presentation, they’re always going to be challenged to accept what they see now as being as good – in that respect only – as the old product.

On his future: I’m looking forward to many more years in the business. I think I’ve got a lot to offer. Whether I stay on the air on a weekly basis or I don’t, that’s not my call. But I’ve had such a blessed career that if it ended tomorrow, I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:02 PM | | Comments (8)
        

Comments

I like hearing Ross' concern about talent. I just don't think the way WWE would like to develop wrestling talent will work. Guys like the Rock and John Cena, who go through their WWE training and minor league system, are not typical. Maturing a character and style, literally over several years in environments where you can take chances, has always been the best proven way.

He is such a class act, I really appreciate hearing about the business from someone who knows as much as he does, but also tells it like it is; can't wait for him to make it back on TV.
Thanks for getting the rest of that transcribed for us!

I wish Ross would've touched on the issue of the harsh language that's not heard on WWE programming anymore. The blood can be dealt without; but it's the language. The, "oooo, he told you" or "she told you" is what I miss the most... His discussion on the new superstars is very true. The young superstars are halfway there. They can't stop and be happy with the United States Championship, or the Intercontinental title, or the tag titles both WWE and World. They need to work over the limit to become WWE, ECW, or World Heavyweight Champion. I would love to see these young men strive and show their hunger for one of the three world championships. Morrison's already been a world champ (ECW)and he needs to get there again on SmackDown and win the World Heavyweight title. JR always makes great points; and I always agree with him. Hope you're feeling better JR and I hope to see you back on tv soon.

I agree with GMan. The reason that WWE is having such a tough time finding new main event talent is because they have changed the game. I know this has been said time and time again, but the territories were such a great forum for wrestlers to hone their craft. Now, people that want to be wrestlers have limited opportunities. They join WWE Developmental and the moment they show any sign of having any talent, they're moved up to ECW. The Rock and John Cena were flukes in that they are both very charismatic guys. But as charismatic as Cena is, he wasn't really any good until recently, years after his main event push began.

Ted Dibiase is about to get a huge push. And I like Dibiase. I think he's going to be a great asset to WWE in the future. But he's going to get this push five years before he should. And that's the problem with WWE's system. Imagine if Dibiase was working in Memphis for a few years where he can really let loose. He'd become a better wrestler, a better interview, more confident and relaxed, and when the WWE push came up, he'd be able to deliver.

I have enjoyed listening to JR since the old Mid South days. He has always been a great analyst. Wish him well and hope for a speedy return.

I love JR's sport references be it football or baseball. The guy is just so sharp. A great mind in the business.

In recent years he has taken a back seat and slowed down a bit as it seems so he can kinda of "enjoy the ride" more as he's certainly paid his dues and certainly the price to earn the fame and more importantly the resepect and admiration from his peers and fans alike.

I'm very happy for the guy at this point in his career that he has the type of work schedule that he demands because he's earned it.

He is such a brilliant mind in this business and he can contribute so much more to wrestling but the fact that he's comfortable with all that he's done for wrestling already gives him that much more respect from me.

Get well JR my thoughts are with ya for a speedy recovery brother!

I love Jim Ross.
However, I think always implying that talent has the power to make themselves into stars is a bit disingenuous. It seems much of the time these guys like Rock and Cena he uses as examples didn’t just “want” to be the best, but were given “The Spot” right away!
Cena was MAIN Eventing a PPV within a few months of his debut! The WWE makes a HUGE mistake in not giving very good mid-card guys a main event program. The attitude in WWE is that the top brass seems to think you have a spot on a card, and do not deviate from that no matter what “until you are ready”. Just give them a taste.
Kofi Kingston should feud against Orton for the Title, not come out on top, and a year later, he could it again against whoever is champion. It should not be to be in the Main Event, you must be a “MAIN EVENT” guy. This gets repetitive, and with 52 weekly shows and 13 PPV’s, there is no urgency in buying most PPV’s. And heck, if a guy likes that one main event shot, maybe he gets hungry faster, maybe studies even more, maybe understands the pressure of being in the top spot is.
Rob Van Dam wanted to be a top guy, and he was held back for years. WWE went as far as to edit Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn matches because they did not like Lynn very much. Dallas Page wanted to be in the top spot in the WWE, but Vince did not like him. Vince has “a look” he wants, and most guys with “that look” always do not have great personalities or any real drive. I mean really, do most people know the guy in your high school who was 6’5”, athletic, handsome, and had an electric personality? Uhhhh, no., mostly those guys were douche bags with no charisma, nor did they have to work that hard to get uhhh, “passing” grades.
The thing is to, the WWE likes to “make” their own people, but their farm system is not an effective one. It does not give enough killer instinct to it’s performers.
I would also argue the WWE should make territories ALL OVER THE COUNTRY! It would be a way to make a “farm system” ran by different teachers. I would have Florida, Los Angeles, Seattle/Portland, Minneapolis, Calgary, Dallas, Chicago, Ohio Valley (again), and Memphis. Make pseudo “territories” like the old days. Send the guys with potential around the country! Have them wrestle for 3-5 different promotions! Or if guys do not go over well in Florida, they can go to Dallas and work for someone else! Just give the guys experience to learn promos, learn how to become “stars”. Make them go out and promote shows, learn every aspect of the business like the Von Erichs, Jerry Lawler, Don Owens, the Armstrongs, etc. used to do.
The WWE needs to think outside their box, and stop crying about the economy, the UFC, or mid-carders not trying hard enough.

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.
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