WRITTEN PODCAST RECAP: Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast w/ Jim Ross on why he almost quit in 1998, who he would recruit to WWE, commentating with Vince McMahon (Ep. 164)

Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast

Release Date: December 14, 2017

Guest: Jim Ross

Recap By: Matthew Wilkinson


Newsworthy Items

  • JR said his second Bell’s Palsy attack almost caused him to quit.  
  • JR is always honored when wrestlers request him to call their matches.  
  • JR is a fan of the Woken Matt Hardy character.   
  • Sam thinks Bobby Roode needs to win the US Championship.  
  • Sam enjoyed the blood in the Jericho/Omega interaction.  
  • Sam thinks it will be a triple threat for the Universal Title at Royal Rumble.  

JR Interview- Almost Leaving In ’98

Sam welcomes Jim Ross and reminds him that the last time they did an interview in the studio it did about a million hits on YouTube so there’s no pressure.

JR said he is doing well and that every gig he has, he has fun doing. He doesn’t have a job, he just does things that he likes and gets paid to do them.

Sam said he was surprised when he got the book, as he didn’t think JR thought about leaving in ’98, because by ’98, he hadn’t even done half the stuff that he would become known for. The reason that happened was it was his second Bell’s Palsy issue and it was more serious than the first one, HD TV was getting cool and big. He always had the round little face and now he couldn’t smile, so he is not doing well and JR believed his return at WrestleMania with Austin and Rock was it.

If it is stress causing these things, then this wasn’t helping the issue. He had never had panic attacks until that day of WrestleMania and he was in a tuxedo in a little room thinking he has to tell the old man I can’t do this.

Something just said, if this is going to be your last one ,then go out there and kick ass, so he talked himself out of it.

Being Requested By Wrestlers

Sam wondered if WrestleMania 15 was the first time that wrestlers requested him as Austin and Rock got together and said they wanted him to call the match.

Jr said the bottom line is, he is always honored that those guys think that much of my work. Austin and Rock are two guys that he signed and helped to bring in to the WWE, they knew his situation. His mother had died which triggered another attack and he was on the bench from December to WrestleMania.

Jr admitted he had really lost his game, he thought people would look at him like a freak, and he thought about getting a radio job so people didn’t have to look at him.

Sam asked if that was the first-time guys had requested Jim to call their match? He said it was the most prominent but he knew Flair and Steamboat also liked his work.

Sam questioned if that is the highest compliment you can get from the performers, or is that from the guy running the show?

Vince gave JR endorsements for 20+ years because he kept him on the air. His dad would say when you get to be a professional in whatever you want to do, you learn how to deal with the horse’s head and the horses ass and Vince is the head, he’s the guy.

He used to tell talents this when they signed, be professional in all spaces, but create a healthy relationship with the boss, because that will go miles down the road in terms of opportunities because he knows who you are and can plug in to you for ideas in terms of creative.

Talent Talking To Vince McMahon

Sam asked if that is still accurate advice, can a young guy still establish that relationship? Jim thinks Vince would be very adamant by saying yes. He doesn’t believe those opportunities are easy to attain because of the work load, but JR doesn’t think Vince should let go of his relationship with talent.

Sam mentioned how some people will keep to themselves and hope nobody notices them to not get thrown out the door. JR said it’s not good for the locker room to do that and mentioned how in the Attitude Era they had a competitive group who all wanted to be the top dog. He went on to tell a story about Stone Cold when he booked him on a house show to be in a tag match before intermission to give him a rest. Austin didn’t take kindly to that as ‘top guy’s’ don’t wrestle in the middle of the show, they main event and he made JR switch the decision.

Sam asked if the development system hinders that because people can’t develop a chip on their shoulder working around the world first. Jim said he hopes that isn’t the case, but if wrestlers are silent about things they lessen their chances of making an impact. You need to know your character and then you can pitch in with ideas, which only benefits you.

Sam mentioned how Matt Hardy is an example of commitment, from his on-screen role to his social media, everything he does is the same character.

Jim said that Matt has been around long enough to know where opportunities come and how fleeting they can be. He has one chance to make ‘Woken’ Matt Hardy work because it won’t get a second reboot, he likes the persona, it feels organic and it’s interesting.

Social Media

Sam asked what JR thinks of social media and wrestling these days because they don’t protect their character. Jim thinks we are past taking it back, the genie is out of the bottle. When you develop your TV persona with components of your personality, are you ever really out of character, or are you ever in it?

If you go to lunch with Steve Austin, he is the same dude that you would see at the arena, only when he is in front of the crowd he is louder and more over dramatic. So then, you always think when you see him on TV it feels real to him.

The boys and girls, sometimes they can be their own worst enemy by trying to play the role of a wrestler or what they perceive a wrestler should be. The person they need to be is what they see in the mirror, making yourself entertaining. The guys that were able to do that have long careers.

What Is He Remembered For?

Sam asked when he looks back at his career, does he prefer what he did at the commentary table or what you did in terms of developing talent?

JR thinks he will be known for his commentary work because it was so widely distributed, the big growth in WWE, he was right there. From a business perspective, he will be prouder of being in a position to hire talents to help the company grow. Vince gave JR the chance to provide guys a chance.

Modern Day Commentary

Sam asked what JR thinks of commentary nowadays and JR said he doesn’t know if its by design or the talents strengths, as to why there are less personalities in the play-by-play.

They then discussed what it was like working with Vince McMahon at the commentary table, with Sam wondering if he would tell them things at the table. JR stated that they never did that. Vince respected what we brought to the table and he loved that role, he could produce backstage to the truck, he did that during a break not during a live moment. If he has three minutes to do work in that commercial, he would do it, he is Mr. McMahon all the time and Jr said he has so much respect from him.

Who He Would Hire Today

Sam wondered if he was recruiting right now, who out there is on his radar that he would bring in? Jim said he is going to certainly work out a way to bring Chris Jericho back, he is looking at Kenny Omega and finding the interest out from Okada, he is a good looking young man, he’s really good.

He would certainly welcome Cody Rhodes with open arms and the Young Bucks because he likes those kids, as many shirts as they are selling now, get under that WWE umbrella and see how many you sell.

JR would also try to figure out a way if there is one more run in CM Punk, and one more run means one WrestleMania, the only other way he would do him is have him return at WrestleMania and that way there is no pressure on anybody.

Sam mentioned that we have seen it happen time and time again, you agree to do one more match and then you want to do more. JR said when he spoke to Shawn Michaels to get him back he flew from Stanford to San Antonio to visit him and said there will be a generation who remember him as the guy who lost his smile.

That’s not the legacy he wanted to leave so he worked out a deal to bring him back. JR thought it would only be one match, yet he had a brilliant run.

Sam said people talk about his second run as if it was better than his first and JR is one of those people who thinks that way.

Shinsuke Nakamura

Sam wondered what JR’s thoughts are on how Shinsuke Nakamura has done on the main roster are.

JR thinks that we haven’t seen the best of him yet, the question is, will that be discovered? He believes it’s what happens bell-to-bell that is missing for Nakamura right now, not the entrance.

He remembered the match against A.J. Styles at Wrestle Kingdom and said that that match is right up there with the Omega/Okada battles in his opinion.

State Of Wrestling -NXT/WWE Network

WWE has now uploaded all the old NXT shows on the WWE Network, the OG episodes of NXT, when FCW was still the developmental territory and NXT was the hybrid wrestling and reality show that WWE put on the SyFy Network to replace ECW.

It’s great to watch as there is nothing like it anymore, especially as the seasons go on and you get into season three and it’s all women. You look at these seasons and its full of stars. The success rate of the NXT TV show, which was universally panned, is way better than Tough Enough.

You’ve got Maxine who went on to Lucha Underground, AJ Lee and Kaitlyn who would still be wrestling if they wanted to, Naomi, that’s just the season that really went against everything.

You’ve also got Titus O’Neil, Daniel Bryan, Ryback, Wade Barrett. There’s very few people where you wonder what happened to that guy. It’s amazing to see a show that they just stopped caring about. Michael Cole and Josh Matthews are just sitting and trashing the show as they go, it’s as if nobody is watching it.

Some of it is really good and before they were stars and some of it is complete train wreck. Sam is super happy that they are on the Network, what he is really looking forward to is when WWF Superstars and WWF Wrestling Challenge is up.

There’s tons of content and that’s what is great about the WWE Network, they could add hundreds of hours at a time and we would still speak about different shows.

Clash Of Champions

What is happening on the WWE Network is Clash of Champions, on paper, Clash of Champions at first was a ‘meh’ but as things have gone, Sam left SmackDown last night excited about this PPV.

The Nakamura, Randy Orton vs. Kevin Owens and Zayn match with Daniel Bryan and Shane as referees is clearly building to something and Sam could not be more excited for it.

SmackDown since the beginning of November has slowly built tension, whether you have liked what’s happened or not, you have to admit there has been a masterful telling of a story of tension building between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon. Something has got to give between them, something is going on there that would lead you to believe, especially if you heard the commentary, Byron was opposing Daniel Bryan and Corey Graves was on his side.

There was a time when that would appear that the bad guy commentator was taking his side, but Corey isn’t necessarily a bad guy commentator, he doesn’t like Enzo, who is a bad guy, but likes Bobby Roode, who is a good guy.

Corey is going to argue with Byron about everything, no matter what, so that’s not Daniel Bryan becoming a bad guy and it was great by design that Bryan counts the 1,2,3 for Zayn and Owens. They put themselves above the roster so Shane’s beef with them is righteous, it’s just. He is trying to run a show and Kevin and Sami are trying to destroy it, keep in mind, this union came together when Sami saved Kevin whilst Shane was leaping off the cell.

At the same time, we talked about this with Wade, Sami Zayn’s reasons for becoming this cocky bad guy, which he is doing amazingly at, are right.

Good guy Sami Zayn was portrayed as a guy who was annoying, now nobody is rolling their eyes at him so he is justified in the way that he feels.

Daniel Bryan never destroys a story but always makes it realistic and he comes at you with legitimate logic. If you want to stay in character around him you need to stay on your toes. If you say something that doesn’t make sense in the eyes of your character, he won’t give you an ounce.

Part of the Yes Movement was about what he did before WWE, for Bryan to come out and put that all down is not that cool, right? Sam took Bryan’s side in that argument, as much as he is a big WWE guy, he watched him wrestle for Ring Of Honor, he is the guy who sits and can’t believe Kevin Steen is wrestling Shinsuke Nakamura in a WWE ring.

Everything they did before counts, it has to. Let’s be honest, save for Sami Zayn, Daniel Bryan, Nakamura, Owens, they are all just evolutions of what they were doing before WWE.

The problem is that Nakamura is in the same group, not that he is a ROH dude, they didn’t travel together but he has major accomplishments outside WWE, the same can’t be said for Orton or Shane.

It’s going to be very interesting and Sam doesn’t think Daniel Bryan is going to turn heel. He would not be at all surprised to see Shane turn heel at Clash of Champions. Regardless of how this plays out, we are looking at tension between Shane and Daniel to be palpable coming off of Clash of Champions. So, where does that lead?

The problem with Daniel Bryan is that everyone wants to see him in the ring again and Sam doesn’t know if it’s a wise idea to build up this tension between them if you can’t have it pay off in the ring.

Daniel Bryan is one of, if not the most, beloved superstars on the main roster, if he gets back in that ring he is the most popular guy on the show, but all signs lead to that not happening. Is the match with Shane the 20% chance that he can get back in the ring?

For the life of Sam, he doesn’t understand why this is building if it’s not to ultimately have a match between these two.

He would rather see Bryan and Owens and Zayn as a team, but if you put them as a team, nobody is booing them, they would be bigger than the Shield.

His contract is up early next year and maybe WWE is trying to flirt with the idea of him wrestling to keep him onboard but to keep him then he will have to wrestle, because the dude is going to wrestle somewhere.

If you pay attention to the story, at no point is Shane the good guy, you understand his motives but he is not allowing Daniel to be the GM of the show. It’s his fault he got beat up by Kane.

Now, you have Shane McMahon who is so obsessed with a personal rivalry he has put business aside, because they are actually good for the show. You got your championship match, Jinder Mahal vs. A.J., we can all only hope that A.J. retains the championship.

Sam doesn’t have anything bad to say about Jinder Mahal, if you want to get motivated by somebody, pay attention to him. He got a dream job and was given nothing and then gets fired because they had nothing for him, he comes back and jabroni city, but he is getting better in the ring, working his body like crazy to become a physical specimen. He is clearly 100% dedicated to being better and WWE, he became WWE Champion. A lot of his reign didn’t work as well as it should have, but there have been worse champions than Jinder Mahal, he is still busting ass to get better and better.

You have to give him credit, but A.J. Styles is the best wrestler in the world right now, number one by a mile. So, logic dictates that he should be the guy who has the championship and he should hold it into WrestleMania for a big match, will it be Shinsuke?

Here’s the thing, Sam thinks Shinsuke has looked awesome leading into this tag match. Coming off Sunday, if Shinsuke looks like a million bucks, then maybe he could be the one to face A.J.

A.J is amazing, he has the physicality of a 30-year-old but has the mind of someone who has been in the industry for 25 years.

As far as the US championship match goes, as much as Baron Corbin should have the title, Sam doesn’t think it has done more for the title than he has been able to do for himself.

Sam is a big Baron Corbin fan and he is almost there, but the championship is not getting him there, he’ll get there. Bobby Roode badly needs the Unites States Championship and this needs to be his coming out party because right now, what has he really done that has been glorious on SmackDown?

That has to happen at the PPV, he has to get the championship. He’s nowhere near ready for a shot at the WWE Championship, but Bobby Roode as US Champion has a good ring to it.

The lumberjill match will be cool to see all the women around the ring, Charlotte will win that match.

What went on with the Riott Squad was the same thing that happened to Absolution on Raw, he still needs more separation to those two groups.

You’ve got Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley on the kick off show, Sam would imagine Rawley gets the win. Of course, a match that people are talking about on the chat, a fatal four way for the Tag Team Championship.

The Usos are the tag team of 2017, we have Usos vs New Day vs. Gable & Benjamin vs Rusev Day. You talk about a Cinderella story, is there anything better than Rusev Day?

It’s amazing and it’s so great to see them win matches on SmackDown, it works every time and fans are reacting. They feel like old school, real bad guys and they are funny and entertaining and their matches work.

The Usos are floating out of that heel thing at the minute, somebody is going to turn heel in New Day in 2018, they will split up in 2018.

Sam thinks Big E will be the one who turns heel and when he does he will need a new outfit, whether its full pants or something, but the singlet will remind everyone of twerking.

In 2018 he is going to turn heel and be more of the 5-count guy we saw as the NXT Champion and be a powerhouse bad guy, it’s going to be a risky move but they’ll break up.

You have Breezango and the Bludgeon Brothers, they are growing on Sam. He likes them in the ring but the gimmick is cartoony.

He takes back a lot of what he said last week, if you want lessons in how to make the most of your TV time, that’s exactly what screaming guy on SmackDown did this week.

He got himself over on TV, he was given 30 seconds and he made the weird facial expression and the screaming noise, he got himself over and everybody got a kick out of it.

Final Battle

The other news this weekend is of course, ROH Final Battle, you have Cody Rhodes against Dalton Castle which Sam loves, he is a big fan of Castle in that spot.

Of course, you have the big ECW reunion with Tommy Dreamer and Bully Ray against the Briscoes. Sam is anxious. He is going to try and get there for it, if not he will definitely watch it on PPV.

Chris Jericho/Kenny Omega

Also happening outside WWE was Chris Jericho jumping Kenny Omega. There is nothing not cool about what’s happening with them and hopefully it makes New Japan a bigger platform than it is right now. He is not one of these guys who isn’t mad about not having blood in wrestling, but it helps, he thinks blood helped that story, although he wishes there was a little more of a beating to get the blood.

Jericho looked awesome and the fact he was in Japan turned everyone’s head upside down, it was super well done.

Sam really likes that Jericho is going to New Japan and completely putting himself in with that show and culture and isn’t worried about being WWE PG friendly, he is in it in a way you would want Jericho to be. He was really beating the snot out of Kenny and he wasn’t doing it in a nice way, he was doing it in a way that he was telling a brutal story to convince people to buy a PPV to watch this match.

Fans still want to get lost in this story and Jericho is onboard with that, the last thing he wants it to go to Japan and be this WWE guy. It was super successful and Jericho will do a hell of a job and you talk about a guy who takes advantage of an opportunity, he is that guy.

You believe in the Alpha vs. Omega argument, you believe that Jericho feels like people are not giving him the credit for being the best in the world because they are so interested in the Elite and Bullet Club.

Mixed Match Challenge

The other big announcement was the WWE is doing a show called Mixed match challenge on Facebook, you will have Raw vs. SmackDown and technically Survivor Series is the only time they go head to head, this is mixed tag competition.

They haven’t announced what the teams are, but from Raw; Alexa Bliss, Alicia Fox, Asuka, Bayley, Enzo, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, Nia Jax, Goldust, Sasha Banks, The Miz and one other person that the fans will vote for on social media.

From SmackDown you have; Becky Lynch, Bobby Roode, Carmella, Charlotte, Jimmy Uso, Lana, Naomi, Rusev, Natalya, Sami Zayn, Nakamura and one member of the New Day that the fans will vote for.

You will have one guy and one girl and it’s a single elimination tournament with one eventual winner. There is a lot of star power and they are obviously pretty gung-ho about this, it’s going to be a 20-minute show on Facebook, so it’s a global audience.

It will air 10pm Tuesday night, live on Facebook. What are we doing with the 205 Live crew? Obviously, it isn’t being cast aside as you have a live tour in January so you could move it. They could move 205 Live to Monday nights, but then you are asking an audience to sit there for four hours plus whatever you tape before Raw. That’s a lot.

If you are going to do it live, Sam wouldn’t think you would do it any day besides Monday or Tuesday so you’re not going to fly your television crew on another day.

Maybe they will do it at 7, so you watch 205 Live before SmackDown, Sam doesn’t think that would be the worst thing in the world.

He doesn’t think it makes sense to do it at 10:20 after the mix match challenge, because you won’t have that on the Network, at least not at first, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens.

Moving it to 7 pm is the best bet, on Monday, economically it makes more sense as you don’t have to fly them out, but he thinks it will be a 7 pm start time either Monday or Tuesday.

Someone suggests they drop the live element and tape it at smaller venues on the road, but it’s expensive to tape TV. They may not want to bring camera crews out and you can’t bring the budget down because you spent so long holding the production value at a certain spot.

It might be the best thing in the world for it as it looks like a different show but it seems like a downgrade.

Final Topics

We are running out of time, it looks like a triple threat match at the Royal Rumble and he thinks that’s the right call.

We have seen him face Braun Strowman and Sam doesn’t think anybody wants a Kane match so he says do a triple threat match, it would work best.

All we can do is hope with Rich Swann, Sam said it was disappointing because he gets all the opportunity in the world and it feels like he is squandering them.

Let’s hope that it gets sorted and the accusations are false, but it doesn’t seem like they are and if they are not false, he is not going to sit here and justify bringing him back because you have to draw a line.  

Rating: 8.5/10

This was a good episode of the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast with both a strong interview and State Of Wrestling. The State Of Wrestling was detailed and varied well between WWE and other wrestling stories, which is always a good thing. Whilst the interview was in-depth and detailed, covering different elements of JR’s life that you don’t normally hear about.

Subjects Covered (With Timestamps)

00:00-Sponsor Ads
09:02-JR Interview- Almost Leaving In ’98
11:30-Being Requested By Wrestlers
18:20-Talent Talking To Vince McMahon
25:38-Social Media
29:40-What He Is Remembered For
32:51-Modern Day Commentary
36:20-Who He Would Hire Today
43:05-Shinsuke Nakamura
54:14-State Of Wrestling- NXT/WWE Network
1:01:20-Clash Of Champions
1:28:40-Final Battle
1:33:51-Kenny Omega/Chris Jericho
1:39:00-Mixed Match Challenge
1:43:30-Final Topics

About the Writer

Matthew Wilkinson is from Bradford, England. He’s been a fan since the late 90’s with the Attitude Era and was then heavily invested again through the rise of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. He can be found on Twitter at @MC_Wilkinson1


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