He is arguably the greatest color-commentator in the history of the professional wrestling business. With his trademark Stetson hat and Oklahoma drawl, Jim Ross rose through the sports entertainment industry to become a legend and the voice of the WWE. When I saw that he had published an autobiography, I knew I had to read it. Although I have not watched the WWE in many years, I was an avid fan who tuned in every Monday night for Monday Night Raw to watch stars such as The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, among others. Always at ringside was Ross, affectionately known to fans as JR. His Oklahoma roots were no secret but the life story of man who has spent over forty years in the wrestling business was somewhat obscure for even the most dedicated fans.
Ross was never a “in-ring talent” and spent most of his days commentating or behind a microphone and a result, he possesses an invaluable insight into the promotional side of the business and how stars and heels are created and then sold to the public. Contained within the pages of this book is a story that every pro wrestling fan should read. Some readers may be tempted to think that because he was not a “superstar” in the sense that most people used to, he does not have an amazing story to tell. I would like point out that they would be highly mistaken. In fact, Ross’ story is just as crazy as others that have been told. The reason is that not only did he know the best but partied and traveled with them as well. Like a sponge soaking up everything in its vicinity, he observed and learned over four decades what it takes to survive in the crazy world of what my father used to call “rassling”.
Ross in typical autobiographical style, recounts his childhood and his path to becoming a man as he graduates high school and tries his hand at college. But wrestling steals his heart and nearly his life as he goes through several marriages that produced two daughters. His last marriage to Jan Ross is the most moving and tragic. In March, 2017, she was on her way home from the gym on her scooter when she was struck by a vehicle driven by a seventeen year-old. She suffered severe head trauma and died shortly after at the hospital. The book is partly dedicated to her memory.
I honestly believe that wrestling fans will truly love this book. Ross takes us deep behind the scenes and the past comes alive with some of the most colorful characters in pro-wrestling history. Ric Flair, “Cowboy”Bill Watts, Dusty Rhodes, The Junkyard Dog and Ernie Ladd are just some of the legendary figures Ross became closely acquainted to. The book is a step back into time to an era that some would call the glory days of wrestling when promotions were scattered across the country. The WWE was still the WWF and the competition came in the form of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) and Mid-South Wrestling (MSW) which later became the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF). But a young visionary out of the Stanford, Connecticut would changed the industry forever the life of Jim Ross. His name is Vincent K. McMahon.
Undoubtedly, the crux of the book is the time JR spent with the WWE. While his early days in the business are entertaining and revealing, the majority of fans remember him chiefly from that time. Like many other stars, Ross had an interesting and at times odd relationship with the man nicknamed “Vinny Mac”. McMahon, in a fitting gesture, wrote the foreword to the book. And regardless of what battles they may have had backstage or the peculiarities that may have existed in their working relationship, it is quite clear that McMahon valued the man who became the voice of his organization. And it was through McMahon that Ross went from a mainstay in the business to one if its legends. The anecdotes are interesting and the section on the Montreal screw job will be of high interest to long-time fans.
The New York Times declared the book a bestseller and for good reason. I assure you that once you start the book you will be hard press to put it down. Ross covers it all and pulls no punches. Pro-wrestling is a fascinating industry with the good, the bad, the ugly and the tragic. Friends and mentors die, stars get injured, deals fall through and once close co-workers drift apart over time. In some ways, it is a reflection of life. However, it is how we navigate it that makes the difference. This is an incredible story from an incredible person who exemplifies what dedication truly means. And for wrestling fans, the next time you hear yourself say business is about to pick up, you can thank good old JR.