"Tyson and Austin! Tyson and Austin! All hell has broken loose!"
Any wrestling fan that grew up in the 1990s will almost certainly have that iconic phrase, and many others like it, engraved into their memory. The voice behind that locution is none other than Jim Ross, known affectionately as ‘JR' by the vast multitudes of fans and pundits alike.
While JR's voice is no longer attached to the weekly happenings of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), he has managed to remain in the public eye. His more well known activities include a weekly column for FOXSports.com and a podcast called the "Ross Report," where he interviews past and current wrestling characters.
Most recently, JR has begun hosting a one-man show for which he tours various cities across North America to provide a sort of "No Holds Barred" presentation and Q & A session. The shows have been successful in the U.S, and now Ross is bringing his act to Toronto, Canada, where he has personally witnessed many great wrestling moments.
"The show is very interactive," JR told Bloodyelbow.com. "It has to do as much with the fans that are in attendance as it does my presentation. The bulk of the show is the Q & A, which to me is the heartbeat of it because it turns the product, which is the show, back to the fans, which to me is everything. So we are able to do a "No Holds Barred" Question and Answer portion of the show, where no question is off limits. If I do not know the answer I will not be so egocentric that I'll make something up, but I do try and address everything honestly, entertainingly, and as upfront as possible.
"It reconnects me to the audience. Of all the things I did in the business, I think doing Monday Night Raw was the most enjoyable because it was a live television show. It was no net, and because we were at ringside, we were surrounded by the fans, which means you are surrounded by adrenaline, enthusiasm and noise. So it was really a great experience, and these shows are sort of an extension of that feeling and reconnects me to that audience and that live performance."
As a wrestling fan with extraordinary insider knowledge into the business, Ross has a wealth of stories and nuggets he is willing to share with the audience. This is also likely why he is confident enough to allow his act to be an organic, non-scripted performance, where fans are encouraged to take part in selecting the particular topics of discussion.
"I don't use a teleprompter, I don't use a script. It is really organic in that respect. The first part of the show is basically a rapid trip from my childhood when I became a fan, to that moment where we are now. That journey is illustrated by stories - I am a storyteller - so all these points in my life will have a story with it, then getting into the professional wrestling business, which will be a backdoor view, because the wrestling business was a closed fraternity at the time. You really had to have connection or know somebody, so it was really hard to get in. So I tell all those stories and people seem to enjoy it, because a lot of fans in this day and age aren't familiar with the territories and how they operated.
Ross' show is not exclusive to wrestling, as he is an avid fan of Mixed Martial Arts and follows the UFC profusely due to its similar entertainment values. Particularly when Brock Lesnar was the promotion's heavyweight champion, you were likely to find JR amongst the audience in attendance.
When pondering over the similarities between the two organizations and their varying products, JR arrived at the conclusion that both promotions have reached a stage where it is vital to generate new main event stars. For the WWE, this is important because of their recent decision to import all their content, including PPVs, onto the WWE Network, and will need to ensure that their subscriber count is profitable.
As for the UFC, JR argues that because it has been rapidly expanding over the past couple of years, its struggle to bring in true main event talent has resulted in shallow fight cards and disgruntled fans.
"The future of the WWE is talent. You can have great looking HD production that they do. You can do wonderful videos and vignettes like they do. The issue here is getting guys trained and prepared for the next level. You are not just looking for space-holders. It is not hard to train a kid to be a preliminary type guy. It is not easy, because you still need to mold them with the right clay, but it is not as difficult as building that guy to be the main eventer at WrestleMania. That was always my objective, because I always kept my eye on the prize, being WrestleMania.
"This is no different to the UFC. Everybody has to focus on developing new stars. That is the nature of the beast, either a television entity, or a PPV entity - same difference. IF you are a television consumer of a product on TV, you want new innovations, you want new production values, you want to see new talent. You think ‘why should I invest my time in this particular fighter?' So both UFC and WWE, even though one is an apple and one is an orange, they are both challenged with developing new stars for their consumer.
That is the lifeblood of both those entities."
In the second part of the interview, JR will discuss the UFC's PPV and television numbers, the importance of babyfaces and heels in MMA and much more.
*Ringside: An Evening with Jim Ross will next take place in Toronto, Canada at the Danforth Music Hall on May 9th. Tickets are available through ticketmaster.com and at the door.