Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast – Interview Friday
Release Date: October 20, 2017
Guest: Jim Ross
Recap by: Jason Darling
- Jim calls out Bill Watts for not being open and honest with talent or members of his staff during the late ’80s, Vince McMahon being the complete opposite.
- One night after Raw, Vince said “J.R, God damn it, I’d like to be able to clone you.”
- Jim’s quote about Vince McMahon: “Vince is the hardest working human being I’ve ever known in my life”
- Wade called Dusty Rhodes the most creative mind in wrestling during the late ’80s and early ’90s behind Vince McMahon. But a key difference was Dusty was an active wrestler first.
- During the show, Jim got a text from Steve (Sting) it said “You’re a good man, I’ll never forget how you helped me.”
- In response to the above text, Jim says he sometimes is disappointed in his peers not being able to share that much kindness and conducting themselves unprofessionally.
- Paul Ellering gets the credit for bringing in Rocco to the Legion of Doom.
“What’s the best way to communicate with Vince McMahon if you work for him? If you are a wrestler, what’s one key to success that’s underrated? What are some key turning points in the expansion years that Vince McMahon came out on top of that could have changed EVERYTHING?” Wade starts off the intro to the show hyping the second part of the interview with Jim Ross on his book Slobberknocker.
Another topic today is going to be Jim’s thoughts on Sting, and if he hadn’t been injured all of those years ago if things would have been different for him and the industry as a whole.
Wade also has a surprise addition to the show this week with an interview done in 1992 with Road Warrior Hawk. Hawk talks about working with Jim Crockett and Vince McMahon, forming a union for wrestlers, and many other topics. The interview was done 25 years ago this week and Wade wanted to share that with everyone listening for free through PodcastOne.
Interview Start, Jim on Vince McMahon:
Initially, Jim is asked about how wrestling fans have changed and how that changes the approach of him doing his work. Jim responds with saying the way he approaches things isn’t about the fans, it’s about the product. He can’t have a blood and violence approach to a PG product. All Jim has to do at New Japan is just call the match so he is able to serve the purpose of the match, instead of a higher power (plugging the network, advertising, things that take away from the action). No plugging at NJPW, Jim is counted in and out and if something is done wrong they retake.
Next is about Vince McMahon, mainly Jim just has a few small references to Vince. No full chapters, but he is brought up in regards to his influence on Jim and his announcing style. Vince described that he put Jim and Lawler in the position of announcing at a crucial time of the company’s history. Vince did not appreciate when people were not honest and forthcoming; he demanded openness and honesty.
Jim’s success with Vince is when it was just the two of them and they were able to have a debate about a topic, two guys having a difference in opinion discussing their opinions like men. He’s glad he never ruined his relationship with Vince because he almost did. Once Vince put Jim in talent relations he knew he was going to do the right thing and let him thrive in that atmosphere. Vince never got on him about his announcing style or word usage while on-air, he absolutely loved everything Jim brought to the table.
Wade tried asking Jim about specific times in the past in which Jim might have influenced and changed Vince’s mind about something or if the opposite ever happened. Being so long ago Jim couldn’t remember anything specific. He did say that for sure he remembers times he thought an idea was “Vince being Vince” but it came back and worked and proved that Vince knows what he’s doing.
Vince is known for having this great persona and Jim downplays it a bit just saying he works hard and is a genius, and those of you that are fascinated with the business might be a bit disappointed, meaning he’s just a great businessman.
Babyfaces and Heels:
Jim quoted Bill Watts in saying “Babyfaces are not stupid, there are no redeeming qualities in heels” in Slobberknocker, Wade isn’t sure when things changed in the narrative these days. He relates it to Jim watching a OU (Oklahoma University) game and the announcers constantly telling you the reasons why the other team might be better than OU. The athletes work harder, the coaching staff is better, they should tell you what you should love about your team and not the charity work of the other team. Jim has said the typical babyface traits have changed and it follows societal trends, much like Steve Austin in the ’90s.
Jim mentions after World War II any Hawaiian wrestler became Japanese and some “French Canadians became Nazis,” was just following trends. Society had other instances of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s traits and he came along at the perfect time.
Jim goes on to say if we were able to create a cookie cutter babyface or heel any company would be able to do it. There are always shades of grey and you have to feel your way through. But then Jim goes on to ask can you cheer a liar, can you cheer a cheater, or is it all in the way the character is presented? In Jim’s world there isn’t a cool heel, he calls them a character babyface, and heels shouldn’t be cheered period. Wade relates it to Roman’s current struggle in the current product. He says he is trying to just be the cool guy in the room and not opening up to fans and appearing to get special treatment.
Furthermore, finding a lead protagonist in 2017 the diverse fans love is tough. Jim says “Good luck on that deal, the keyword there is “diverse” and continues saying society is so diverse and with all the tragedies, needing to beg people to donate money for relief efforts and the mass shootings, it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen week to week that could impact our societal views on the product. He says the gun guys (most likely meaning gun lobbyists, seemed to get pretty upset here about the country) and the president isn’t helping matters with the country currently.
Jim believes Reigns needs to just stay the course and keep growing, as he is and not change anything. It’s where we are in society and wrestling. Jim says some people see Colin Kaepernick as a plague, others see him as a martyr. But there is nothing we can do to change what will happen with Kaepernick, he has to stay the course and work on it on his own. He sometimes it’s hard to love wrestling, “Some days it does not love me back.”
Wade shares a story from Slobberknocker, trying to tie storytelling in with character development, “Harley (Race) sold it like he was both furious with me and afraid of the sanctions I could bring down on him.” This was in talking about being a referee and the power that held and what that did for storylines. “What gets a crowd hotter than someone cheating?” and Wade says when you don’t have a strong narrative structure to work off of, trying to create heat against Roman doesn’t exist and they are working an uphill battle.
Jim says fans need to have a emotional connection with the wrestlers when they go home or after a show is over. That is basic marketing because you take the emotion home and use it to buy merch, watch the network or other things productive to the business.
Funny story about a talent coming to Jim, asking for help or his wife would divorce him. He (the person coming to Jim) bought his girlfriend plastic surgery and the wrestler’s wife found out. Jim brought it up because that was one story he could have put in the book but he decided not to because he didn’t want this to be a “Tell-all book,” he wanted it to be a special book about life and his career. Wade says as much as this isn’t a “Tell-all” there is still good stories.
Turning Point in Expansion Years:
Wade believes Junkyard Dog leaving and going to WWF was a big turning point Bill Watts of Mid-South Wrestling got hit with. Jim agrees him staying would have helped, but overall it would not have saved anything. He says if Bill Watts had been able to get the TBS deal and gotten in before Crockett, then Ted Turner would have bought Bill out instead and things would have been different. Ted only verbally agreed with Bill Watts, but since Crockett swooped in and bought the time slot they offered, Ted went the other route.
He goes on to ask how would WCW have been different (or the number two promotion) if it had been Bill at the helm instead of Crockett. Jim believed that Bill was not burnt out, but charred, he thinks Bill wouldn’t have been able to control as much as he wanted so it wouldn’t have been a long-term deal anyway. Even when he went to WWE (WWF at the time) the “high” had worn off. Bill needed to be on mainstream TV in the ’80s, not late ’80s ,’90s.
Jim relates Bill’s knowledge of the business and how it never passed him by this way. Even from the early 1900s in baseball, pitchers have to throw strikes. Batters have to hit the ball and want to hit it over the fence far for a home run. Nothing changes that. Bill would have been reluctant against high-flying today, not because of it being that they are in the air, but because of the selling and everything done afterwards. Bill was used to being the boss, so that’s why it never worked in WWE. Jim believes it wouldn’t have worked if he was the number two promotion with Ted Turner.
Wade compared the combination of Rhodes and Crockett and how would Watts have strived differently and if they would have had the same production. Because Rhodes and Crockett were more entertainment, and Bill seemed to be more wrestling basics and maybe a better competitor to Vince. Jim agrees it would have been more athletically oriented, but would have created a good dynamic between the two products if it had come to Bill being in the position WCW was.
The way in which WWE is presented is considered to be a little more silly to Wade. He speculates that maybe it isn’t the only way to be presented nationally. If Bill Watts had been at the helm, the content of what WWE is now would be a bit different and Vince would not have gone to the levels he did in order to win the Monday Night Wars. Jim agrees that times have certainly changed and a lot of what the Attitude Era brought around doesn’t make WWE what it is today, just that the product needs to be good.
Wade brings it full circle by saying when you are watching Game of Thrones, you are watching it knowing it isn’t real, but that doesn’t diminish your enjoyment of the show. When it comes to wrestling, it shouldn’t be considered tongue-in-cheek and should be presented with a more realistic approach to help enhance the product, its talent, and the story. Jim agrees and says that is always how he has been told and taught how to announce the product, with the passion and feeling he feels during the match.
Wade asks about Jim’s thoughts during the time in which Sting had his patella tendon tear and how much of an impact that was. Jim thought Sting was positioned to be the next big babyface of WCW, he was going to be their Hulk Hogan. The booking in WCW was so shallow there was no backup. He relates it to WWE when Stone Cold got hurt, they had the Rock and others to help backup.
Wade asks if Sting had anything lacking that would have held him back from being that Stone Cold, or Rock level of popularity. Sting was always kept in his strengths and didn’t showcase his weakness (The point Wade was making earlier about Reigns).
Jim goes on to talk about delivering promos and that not everyone is good at it. For the examples of Sting and Reigns, you work to their strengths and after a few years of developing their character and working on it you can make the promos they deliver work to their strengths. Sting was the nicest human being and did everything he was supposed to. He gets compared to Flair, which he doesn’t have the charisma that Flair has, but who does? Wade also says having one of those amazing matches with other wrestlers is something Sting never had. Jim thinks Wade is thinking too much about it and just knows what he knows about Sting.
Wade stresses that Slobberknocker is more than just a wrestling book. The stories are amazing, with a ton of personalities from wrestling, but they are very good reads about more than just the business. He says wrestlers should also listen because there is a lot to learn from Jim about the business.
Road Warrior Hawk:
John Arezzi conducted this interview in 1992, 25 years ago this week. Big news at the time was Hawk leaving the WWF and the Legion of Doom. Hawk says he wanted to slow his schedule up and have a private life, not working as much as he has been. Also the rigorous schedule of WWF caught up to him and he was “fed up” with it. John says it seems this has been building up with rumors over the last year. Hawk says he had a contract and wanted to make sure he fulfilled it, but yes, for the last year he has been wanting to scale back like this.
Next, it was discussed that Hawk being brought back with Paul Ellering was maybe a shot in the arm he needed to get through these last 4-6 months of his contract. The friendship between Paul and Animal with Hawk wasn’t hurt from this move, they are still friends and understand.
Crush is slated to be Hawk’s replacement in Legion of Doom, Hawk says he believes Crush is extremely good, but he is unsure how the chemistry will work and only time will tell. John goes on to ask about Rocco taking away from the edge of Legion, and says it wasn’t integrated long enough and he believes it could have worked.
John asks about the popularity of wrestling and that it seems to be down. Hawk says he believes it’s at a valley right now and will be peaking again soon, it happens in every kind of business, especially in pro wrestling.
Ric Flair had lost to Bret Hart the World Title this week, and John asks Hawk about it and if he is shocked about the outcome. Hawk says controversy creates interest, he said Bret can carry the load of the WWF.
John goes on to ask about the NWA vs WWF and how they differed working in both. Hawk says in NWA it was less red tape, things flowed better but there was a lack of experience. When Ted Turner bought them out, the Road Warriors left not because of money, they had guaranteed money, but they felt that the treatment of the “guys” wasn’t there and didn’t want to be involved in that.
Guaranteed money, vs. a cut has always been an issue with wrestlers, Hawk is asked about this and he says most wrestlers of course would want guaranteed money, because it’s guaranteed.
Unionizing wrestlers is the next topic and John asks if that will ever be a thing for wrestlers. Hawk says there is no way. You will always have main eventers, mid carders, and openers, Hawk wouldn’t want to be a main eventer and in a union with mid carders or jobbers. It wouldn’t make sense and would be hard to do.
This was a good compliment to last weeks interview with Jim. Interesting conversation about Vince and babyfaces and heels, as it relates to wrestling as a whole and the product today. Only complaint is Wade went a bit long on the prospect of Bill Watts being in that spot Crockett was when they were bought out and WCW was formed in the late ’80s early ’90s. It may have been before my time, but even Jim appeared to grow tired of those questions. Just my opinion. Also, it was nice to hear Jim’s thoughts on Sting and the ‘92 interview with Hawk. It was still a great podcast and one I look forward to visiting again after reading Slobberknocker.
0:26 – Start of show
6:35 – Start of Jim Ross pt 2
15:15 – Vince quote about J.R.
19:09 – End Part 1 of Interview
36:10 – End Part 2 of Interview
69:15 – The Rock quote about being top guy
70:40 – Jim’s interview ends
74:35 – John Arezzi interview with Road Warrior Hawk
91:27 – Hawk interview ends
About the Author
Jason Darling is from Frederick, MD, part of the DC-Metro area. His first vivid memory of wrestling was on his 15th birthday, the triumphant return of Triple H to then WWF television. Since that day he has been a fan and hasn’t missed a Raw or Smackdown. Follow him on any social media platform with the username @Wheenus
For more, check out part one of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast with Jim Ross.