The Ross Report with Jim Ross
Guest: Justin Roberts, former WWE ring announcer
Released: September 9, 2015
Link to Stream or Download Episode
Report by Tom Grattini, PWPodcasts reporter
TOP ITEMS FROM EPISODE
-Jim Ross predicted Jimmy Snuka will not serve time.
-Ross said Hogan came across well on Good Morning America, but said his statements about wrestling again some day are ill-advised and he should just go away for a while, including going quiet on Twitter for a while.
-Guest Justin Roberts said WWE ought to “treat people better” if they don’t want to look bad due to a negative portrayal by ex-employees.
SUMMARY & TIME STAMPS
This week’s Ross Report featured former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts.
After his usual gratuity towards his various sponsors, J.R bantered a bit about his general dislike for shopping malls, his new favorite vice/sponsor, and treated the audience with Imitations of Terry Funk, Dusty Rhodes, and of course Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Ross moved on and gave his thoughts on several topics ranging from The Jimmy Snuka murder trial to The Undertaker’s current status.
At the 7:40 mark the mood quickly turned more serious as Ross began discussing the recent indictment of former WWF/WWE Superstar Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka stemming from a third degree murder charge from an incident over thirty years ago that resulted in his girlfriend at the time death. “I’m predicting this… I’m predicting that he will not be convicted and that he will not spend a day in jail for his alleged transgressions.” Ross stated, believing Snuka’s severe health issues (stomach cancer, onset dementia) and age, along with the lack of DNA, will make it difficult to convict the ailing Hall of Famer. Ross stopped short of giving an opinion on whether Snuka was innocent or guilty, instead playing it safe by adding he wasn’t sure If “Jimmy did it or not?” and chose to criticize Pennsylvania’s police department, wondering aloud why it has taken over thirty years for them to get their case together.
At the 9:10 mark he switched gears and offered his thoughts on Hulk Hogan’s recent appearance on Good Morning America, where he began his image-rebuilding crusade after his racist remarks that have devastated his career. Ross thought Hogan came off well, but believed Hogan’s talk of having one more match is hugely misplaced and advised that Hogan should “Go away…” for the time being and leave Twitter along with any talk of “One more match….” alone.
At 11:30 he gave his thoughts on The Undertaker, stating that it’s his belief that while many people are of the thought that WrestleMania will be his last match, Ross himself is of the opinion that Taker will instead keep wrestling-though obviously at his current reduced schedule. Interestingly enough he thinks Sting , who has been forever recently been rumored to face Taker at Mania, might actually hang up the boots after WWE’s big event.
He finished with a few more plugs, before giving some props to future guest ECIII (Ethan Carter 3rd’s) recent work at 15:07. Ross gave good reviews for TNA and Ring of Honor’s current product in general, in particular highlighting the commentary work of Steve Corino and Kevin Kelly.
Guest Interview Begins…
Finally, at the 21:20 mark, Ross introduced former WWE announcer Justin Roberts. After exchanging pleasuntries, Roberts discussed his youth growing up in Arizona and later Chicago “only thing wrong was the weather”. Ross told Roberts he was shocked to find out he worked for the WWE for 12 years, before the two sardonically discussed the rigors of traveling for WWE, with Ross joking he used to “set his clock to when he was eligible for a frequent flyers first class upgrade.”
At 24:35 Ross shared a humorous story about traveling with Tazz and how his one-time announcing partner would “elbow a lady in a walker..” to get on the plane first. The conversation switched to Roberts’ pre-WWE days, during which he got his first break at just 16 years old with Sonny Roger’s Pro Wrestling International Federation out of Chicago, before moving out to Arizona for school at Arizona State (Where he eventually earned a degree in Media Arts & Education) and working for several more independents and Tough Man contests of all things .”I was doing school during the week and what I wanted to do on the weekends.” Roberts offered.
Roberts went on to share his younger days of growing up watching the WWF, GLOW, USWA, and Windy City Wrestling. “Anything that was wrestling, I wanted to watch.” he stated, professing his love for the sport at a young age. Ross shared his own experience as a youth growing up watching the sport, adding you only got one hour of wrestling per week and you really had to “work your schedule around it.” It was an interesting exchanging , listening to two fans from distinct generations and the differences that being a fan from each era included.
After some amusing commentary by Ross about his Father’s severe disdain for pro wrestling, Ross asked Roberts about his views on pro wrestling and the internet, wondering if he believed the “Dirt sheets” were overly critical. “To be honest, I don’t read any opinion sites of anything.” Robert’s offered at 34:08. He added sometimes there is legitimate news available, but believes for the most part they have little to no credibility, instead choosing to stick with the legitimate news reporters for his information. They moved on to the pre-Internet days of the Apter Mags and how Roberts would go to his local drug store and buy every magazine available. They discussed that during the days of the territories, the mags were your only way to follow your favorite wrestlers.
At 38:18 the conversation shifted to former announcers, with Ross stating his belief that Tony Schiavone has always been underrated due to his having the misfortune of having to follow and forever be compared to the Legendary Gordon Solie, whom Ross showed great respect to, calling him the best of all-time. High praise indeed. No mention of how Tony severely overexposed himself during the latter era of WCW and continually coming off as sounding ridiculous while trying to prop up a dying WCW product as part of the backlash, though.
Roberts gushed to Ross that it had always been a lifelong dream of his to interview him and ask him what it was like working with all the talent he did in WCW, eventually at the 44:32 mark Roberts, asked Ross what his favorite era of talent was to work with. Ross considered the question for a moment before answering , “Somewhere around the ’89-’90 era”, then proceeded to run down the group of stars they boasted at the time. Ross called Ole Anderson “The most natural heel he was ever around.” This was a particularly good exchange as Roberts seemed fascinated by Ross’s admission and they almost switched roles completely with Roberts, who never met Anderson, asking several follow up questions about Ole’s acumen as a booker and his perception in the locker room. The also praised Gary Hart and then Dusty Rhodes for putting himself and Schiavone together to work the first Night of Champions, which aired head to head against WrestleMania, commentating that they caused WWE so much trouble the cable companies forced Turner to stop going head-to-head with the PPV as it was costing them a considerable amount of money. Ross ran down the legendary Ric Flair-Sting matches, their network of tag teams and young talent, adding that “Barry Windham was as good as anybody in the world at the time.”
At 49:00 Roberts, clearly showing his enthusiasm and curiosity as a fan, asked Ross in a nutshell what led to WCW’s collapse if they had all of these supposed brilliant wrestling minds. It’s a question you could tell Ross has answered many times before and still remains a bitter pill to swallow nonetheless. Ross went on to state it was the Turner’s side mismanagement that eventually led to disaster after disaster. Primarily because of the wrong executives being at the top, from Jim Herd to Kip Frey who Ross said was “very intelligent but had no product knowledge.”
When Roberts asked Ross what his favorite PPVs were, he listed Starrcade, War Games “because it was something very different at the time,” and The Great American Bash. Roberts stated BattleBowl was his favorite PPV as a youngster, though J.R thought the title was “too wordy and confused the fans.” They goofed on some of the worst PPV match ideas like the King of the Mountain match, with Ross adding “if you have to explain this many rules to your fan base, you’re in trouble,” and WCW’s legendarily bad Chamber of Horrors Match.
At 52:42 Ross finally brought up Roberts venture into WWE. Again, Roberts was almost giddy here, enjoying just being able to kick back and discuss pro wrestling with one of his idols. They briefly went over Roberts recently discovering he has sleep apnea, before moving on to how he started with WWE. “I drove them crazy… I drove Howard Finkle crazy.” Roberts laughed, sharing that he would bring a roll of quarters to school and call the WWE offices in between classes and added, “Howard always took my call.” While working for the independents, Robert sent VHS tapes in for “years” while at college in Arizona, before eventually getting a try out in June of 2002, working a dark match between The Prototype (John Cena) vs. Shelton Benjamin. J.R shared with Roberts that he remembered his try out and the discussion of it on the plane ride home, where no one had anything positive or negative to say about his voice, but everyone was really high on his look, which was really getting to be a “big thing there at the time.” He said that Roberts had an excellent look and was youthful and clean, citing that Howard Finkel at the time was the number one ring announcer and at the time and it was just time to move on to something new – an interesting analogy when given to thought Ross’s own experience with being sacked in favor for Michael Cole. This was also a nice admission as Roberts had never heard the story before.
1:10:39 they went back to Roberts going thru the process of getting a tryout as a commentator, something he had no experience doing. Roberts stated there were a ton of other people in the independents who deserved the shot before him, but again Ross put over how much WWE loved Roberts look. He worked with Jonathan Coachman during his commentary try-outs which he described as a disaster. He relays a funny story about trying his hand at interviewing The Rock, with Coach playing the Role of The Great One, that which resulted in Roberts bursting into uncontrollable laughter when The Coach switched roles to The Rock, which he thought definitely killed his chances of working with the company.
1:18:49, the final segment began with Roberts describing getting the call to work Monday Night Raw, before he was nixed for Howard Finkle. Despite the un-booking, Roberts took it as a vote of confidence that they thought enough to contact him to work WWE’S most storied ground, During this time he began reliving Tony Chimmel when he went on vacations until 2004 when he started working the Raw House Shows and Heat, along with the re-branded ECW shows, which pretty much gave him his first “regular gig”. Roberts relayed that by 2007 he was working Smackdown Broadcasts and then Raw in 2009. He also worked every PPV from 2007-2014 during this time period. “I graduated college and i had that piece of paper…i had that diploma.” Roberts began surmising his rise to prominence. “But at the same time i also had all these years of experience working in what i wanted to do.” Ross called this great advice and called Roberts “very bright.”
At 1:23:50 they reached the point of Roberts departure. “It wasn’t my call.” Roberts stated when asked why he left. He stated according to the WWE, they were just going in another direction, something Roberts seemed to find highly dubious although he remained civil when the subject was breached. Again, this was an interesting exchange between two former WWE talents who left under controversial circumstances. The two briefly discussed the backstage politics of pro wrestling, and Ross was particularly opinionated here. “People handle power differently,” he said. And “after awhile he didn’t want to be around his old buddies” because of this, but stopped short of mentioning any names.
1:32:27, they went over Robert’s book. “I wanna tell my story honestly” he said, prompting Ross to add, “That’s going to make people uncomfortable.” For the first time all interview Roberts showed some rancor. “Maybe they should treat people better,” he said. Roberts discussed his current foray into the acting industry, which he’s really enjoying along with relaxing and no longer being a slave to WWE’S yearly grind.
Ross closed with positive words regarding Roberts, who he called a “Positive young man with a bright future” and performed a pretty creepy imitation exchange between Stu Hart and Terry Funk.
SCORE & REVIEW
7 out of 10: Roberts came off as totally likable and very sincere during the almost two hour podcast. More importantly, he came off as a huge wrestling fan – something the younger generation nowadays can be lacking in. He was generally enamored with Ross’s discussion of his days in WCW, during which they switched roles between interviewer and interviewee. I thought there were several glaring omissions from their discussion-the most grievous being Ross’s failure to even remotely touch on The Connor “Crusher” Michalek story, which Roberts very publicly accused WWE of twisting for marketing purposes before the 8 year old’s death from cancer. I know this isn’t “60 Minutes,” but I felt like Ross dropped the ball here by failing to bring it up in any way, shape, or form. Other than that, a fine podcast boosted by Roberts enthusiasm and overall general classiness. Despite some obvious bad feelings, he didn’t come off as some with an ax to grind at all.