Jim Ross believes that good things can come in threes.
Almost two years removed from his last full-time announcing gig, Ross recently returned as the signature voice of WWE’s Monday Night Raw telecasts. The dynamic, though, is different from when Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler spent almost an entire decade as Raw’s lead announcing tandem. Michael Cole — Ross’ original play-by-play replacement on Raw — is part of the team in an agitator type of role.
After an admittedly rough start on Raw two weeks ago, Ross said the trio already had made strides entering Sunday night’s Summer Slam pay-per-view show.
“Any three-man team is all about timing and chemistry,” Ross said Wednesday. “All the guys have to have their egos in check. They have to share the load and the storytelling. We’re starting to smooth things out a bit. Once everybody gets comfortable with whatever role they’re there to fulfill, it will really start to come together.”
Along with the late Gordon Solie, Ross is considered the best announcer in wrestling history. But until rejoining Raw, Ross had only made sporadic appearances on WWE telecasts since October 2009 largely because of health issues. The 59-year-old Ross suffered a third recurrence of the Bell’s palsy facial paralysis that initially affected him in the 1990s.
He also had a heart scare (later proven the result of a faulty medical test) and recently needed surgery to remove an orange-sized hernia suffered during physical confrontations with Cole and Jack Swagger on Raw this spring.
Now healthier after changes to his workaholic lifestyle and diet, Ross said he didn’t hesitate to accept WWE’s offer to don the headsets once again.
“It’s in my DNA,” said Ross, whose roots in pro wrestling date back to 1974.
“I wasn’t given a great deal of notice that I was going to be brought back, but everybody involved in the decision-making knew it wasn’t going to be a hard sell. Of all the jobs I’ve ever had in the business, I can honestly and easily say the most fun is broadcasting.”
The time away from WWE announcing allowed Ross to further pursue some of his other passions. The homegrown barbecue business he started with wife, Jan, grew to the point that Ross and WWE have partnered to sell JR’s barbecue sauce and accompaniments through the company’s website (www.wweshop.com/Category/JimRoss).
Ross also provides updates on his barbecue products as well as his thoughts on University of Oklahoma football — he’s a die-hard supporter who lives just blocks from the stadium in Norman — and the wrestling industry through Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/JRsBBQ) and a blog (www.jrsbarbq.com/blog).
Like many longtime fans, Ross is excited by the buildup to the John Cena-CM Punk headline match at Summer Slam, which is emanating from Los Angeles. Punk’s antiestablishment character has generated interest from hardcore wrestling supporters and others whose interest in WWE had faded because the product had lost its 1990s-era “Attitude” edginess. Ross also believes that verbal interactions with Punk have allowed Cena to add an edgier dimension to his babyface persona.
“This (feud) has played upon Punk’s natural personality and his real organic philosophies about the business,” Ross said. “I also think it has enabled the John Cena character to continue to evolve in a way that gives it more depth.
“Some fans are going to be cheering Cena, some are going to be cheering Punk and some aren’t going to want either to lose. The fact there are all those scenarios shows the emotional investment in that match.”
Ross, too, has an emotional investment in WWE and the pro-wrestling industry.
Continuing to build his legacy through Raw’s three-man announcing team is one of his hopes as Ross enters the golden years of his golden career.
“I’ve embraced this opportunity,” Ross said. “At the end of my days, I want to be able to leave something behind that others can build on and can say I contributed something. If I can go into this environment now and help make the three-man booth good or great, I hope we’re able to do that.
“Our goal is have fun, not talk over each other . . . . I’ve always believed wrestlers write the music. It’s up to us to put words to their music.”
Penguin Publishing has released SuperFan, a young-adult novel based around a 12-year-old who becomes a pro-wrestling fan after his father gets stationed with the U.S. military in Afghanistan. For more information, visit the website of author Jeff Gottesfeld at www.jeffgottesfeldwrites.com.
Alex Marvez takes a ringside look at the latest in professional wrestling in LIFE on Thursday. Contact him at email@example.com.