May 21, 2005
REAL NAME: James W. Ross
Ross' background in sports includes graduating from Bill Kinnamon's Umpire School in 1975, refereeing wrestling matches in Oklahoma, working as a commentator for the Atlanta Falcons in 1982 and finally going to work as a commentator for Bill Watts' Mid-South (later UWF) territory, becoming the organization's main play-by-play man.
When the UWF was merged into World Championship Wrestling, Ross became WCW's lead commentator, until 1993 when he left to work for the WWE. He debuted at Wrestlemania IX and worked in place of legendary commentator Gorilla Monsoon who had stepped aside due to health reasons. Ross soon found himself working next to Vince McMahon during the early episodes of Monday Night Raw and on pay-per-view. As the steroid scandal surrounded McMahon and the WWE, Ross even took over for McMahon as the lead announcer for WWE telecasts.
Struck with Bells Palsy, a form of facial paralysis in 1996, Ross was let go by the WWE. Rehired shortly after, Ross actually turned heel in late 1996 when he boasted that he had re-signed Diesel and Razor Ramon, much to the disbelief of fellow commentator McMahon. However, the two men he produced were not Kevin Nash and Scott Hall but impostors (including Glen "Kane" Jacobs as the fake Diesel). However, as the '90s progressed, Ross found himself working his way up, both in front of the cameras (eventually becoming the WWE's lead play-by-play man) and behind the scenes, becoming the Senior Vice President of Talent Relations. But tragedy struck Ross in December 1998, who suffered a second bout of Bells Palsy during a WWE tour of England and was also told of the passing of his mother.
Ross returned to call the Rock/Austin main event at Wrestlemania XV. Shortly after his full-time return in April 1999, Ross turned heel again, attacking Michael Cole, who had taken over commentary duties during Ross' absence. He would also align himself with Steve "Dr. Death" Williams during Williams' feud with Bart Gunn.
Soon, Ross' role on-screen returned to him being the lead commentator on Raw and the WWE pay-per-views. In 2000, Ross became one of the WWE's many published writers, authoring a cookbook entitled Can You Take the Heat? which was coupled by the national release of his Barbecue Sauce.
Ross would also return to his football roots, stepping into the broadcast booth for the XFL's first and, it turned out, only season of play. The year 2001 would also see Ross lose commentating colleague Jerry "the King" Lawler, who quit after his wife, Stacey (The Kat), was fired. Lawler was replaced by Paul Heyman, who was beside J.R. for the Invasion angle. Ross would be reunited with Lawler after 2001 Survivor Series.
In 2002 and 2003, Jim Ross actually had to step into the ring as part of WWE storylines, usually teaming with Lawler. Ross would find himself under attack from Eric Bischoff, Lance Storm and William Regal and Kane, among others.
As well, Ross and Lawler had to defend their status as the Raw Commentary team from Al Snow and Johnathan Coachman. Coachman and Snow defeated Ross and Lawler at Unforgiven on September 23, 2003 to earn the right to broadcast Raw, but J.R. defeated Coachman the next night on Raw to regain the commentary position.
With J.R. back behind the microphone on Monday Nights, his backstage responsibilities began to change as well. On April 9, 2004, John Laurinatis (Johnny Ace) took over as Vice President of Talent Relations, while Ross was named Executive Vice President, Business Strategies.
In late-2004/early-2005, Ross and Lawler again stepped back into the ring, this time to battle Muhammad Hassan and Khosrow Daivari, two Arab Americans who accused J.R. and the King of being prejudiced against them. Hassan and Daivari challenged the two commentators to a political debate which turned into a brawl as the two sides clashed in the ring. Ross would second Lawler during the latter's match against Hassan at New Year's Resolution.
On January 24, 2005, Ross was honoured by his native state of Oklahoma, and Governor Brad Henry proclaimed it Jim Ross Day. That night on Raw, a ceremony honoring Ross and including Stacy Keibler and the legendary Danny Hodge, was interrupted by Triple H and Ric Flair. It would take several months, but on April 18th, Ross got his revenge, so to speak. After Triple H challenged Ross to a match, Batista interfered and gave a beaten and bloody Ross the victory.
Through his years with WWE, Backstage, Ross played a more important role backstage than many people realize and in fact is one of the top men in the organization. However, in October 2005, Ross's time behind the mic looked like it had come to an end. He was publicly fired by Linda McMahon on an episode of Raw. Shortly afterward, he returned to his native Oklahoma and underwent surgery to remove part of his colon.
--- compiled by John M. Milner
Order Jim Ross' Can You Take the Heat? The WWE Is Cooking!