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.