Jim Ross is a one-man show – really.
The distinctive voice long associated with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) visited ESPN’s Bristol headquarters recently for a “Car Wash” to help promote “RINGSIDE: An Evening with Jim Ross.” In New York last week and in New Orleans next month when WrestleMania visits the Big Easy, Ross regales “RINGSIDE” audiences with stories inside and outside the world of pro wrestling.
Ross’ fans are legion: His three-week old podcast “The Ross Report” topped the iTunes charts for downloads in the sports category.
“Which means that because I beat Bill Simmons [host of the popular The B.S. Report], I’ll never be invited on his show,” said Ross, who cites Simmons’ production as his favorite ESPN podcast.
Ross, a 2007 WWE Hall Of Fame inductee, has many ties to ESPN. He counts ESPN play-by-play voice Brad Nessler as a colleague from their days in Atlanta radio in the early 1990s. Ross helped shape the careers of SportsCenter anchors and studio hosts Jonathan Coachman and Todd Grisham when they worked on WWE telecasts with him years ago.
Ross, whom E:60 interviewed for a future segment exploring WWE, shared some thoughts about ESPN, the NBA and more with Front Row.
On Brad Nessler…
I think “Ness” is the best all-around play-by-play guy in the business. For a guy who [last season] was doing college football and then an NFL game [for NFL Network] and then another college game like he does shows his work ethic and his talent. And he’s just as well-versed in college basketball.
On Coachman and Grisham…
“Coach” is as multitalented a person as I’ve ever worked with. Grisham? A tall, disillusioned Alabama fan! [Ross supports Oklahoma and revels in the Sooners’ 2014 AllState Sugar Bowl win over the Tide.] I’m proud of both of those guys. [Going to ESPN] was a wonderful career move for them. They’re better fits in ESPN’s world than they were in the WWE’s world.
On working with E:60 for a future story that provides an inside look at WWE…
I’m expecting a masterpiece. [E:60 producers] were allowed crazy access. . . [Producer] Ben Houser became a student of the business. I was very impressed with Ben. He asked great questions.
On what NBA Finals matchup he would apply the term “slobber knocker” to…
We really need to have Oklahoma City and Miami again. That’s the money. The WWE is an attraction, star-driven business. If you’re a television programmer, wouldn’t you like to have LeBron James versus Kevin Durant? That intrigues me as a fan.
On what Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins and UFC star [and ESPN The Magazine “Body Issue” cover subject] Ronda Rousey have in common…
Sometimes the Thunder is too nice. Would Perkins make a great WWE villain? Absolutely. Perk has the best facial expression and demeanor. The only person in sports right now that has a better facial expression than Kendrick Perkins is Ronda Rousey. When Ronda Rousey walks into the ring to fight, she has the greatest facial expression in sports. I think our girls [WWE female performers] would probably be scared to death [if Rousey joined the circuit].
On helping Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Brock Lesnar transition from star college athletes to pro wrestling superstars. . .
“The Rock” was a unique case because The Rock’s grandfather and father were both pro wrestlers. He had a familiarity with the business in general… He was a third-generation guy; he also had a college degree at Miami and he was also broke. You had a bright, broke guy who was also very motivated. I signed The Rock and really felt like he was going to be exceptional from Day 1. The best example would be Brock Lesnar. He came out of the University of Minnesota as a national champion All-American wrestler. He came from a farm in South Dakota. He didn’t go to the ‘U’. He didn’t grow up in the sizzle world of pro wrestling. He was a dairy farmer’s son. So getting him to develop his personality and release his natural charisma was something that took a little bit effort on his part. . . The biggest thing you work on is their personality, their TV presence. He finally got it.
On his vision of an ideal scenario for Daniel Bryan in WrestleMania. . .
I would make sure Daniel Bryan left WrestleMania with his “moment.” Every star in WWE wants to have a WrestleMania moment – meaning some bucket list dream as a professional to go to WrestleMania and steal the show. In a perfect world, just for me, Daniel Bryan would leave WWE [as] World Champion. . . Right now, Randy Orton is the champion. As the deck is currently dealt, it would be Daniel Bryan somehow against Randy Orton.
Or, maybe, if you really wanted to have some fun with it, you’d make it a Triple Threat Match. You have two villains – Batista [versus] Randy Orton versus Daniel Bryan. Three guys against each other. First man to score a pinfall or submission wins. The two big villains and the smaller overachieving hero. In my storytelling world, we’d have a happy ending.