On a recent episode of the Grilling JR Podcast, Jim Ross covered the 2001 Royal Rumble pay per view which was won by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to set up The Rock vs. Austin at WrestleMania 17. Ross talked about WWE setting up Rock and Austin for WrestleMania three times and how much he enjoyed calling all of those matches. He also said Vince McMahon would book matches for the main event of WrestleMania based on the look on a billboard because he was a supreme marketer.
“He’s a supreme marketer,” Ross said. “He understands that’s one of the first images. That image of this event is going to influence a lot of interest. Does it influence them enough to go make them buy it? I don’t know that but it doesn’t’ hurt anything when you have an attention grabbing, common sense poster.
“Rock and Austin was a dream match. It was a match we built for a long time, they had three main events at WrestleMania. I was lucky enough to be around to call all of them. It’s always going to be a great memory in my career.”
In 2002, Shawn Michaels would return to WWE after taking a four year hiatus from the company due to back issues. Ross talked about his pitch to Shawn and how he convinced him to come back to the company. He said part of that pitch involved him pushing an idea that was similar to his role with NXT currently.
“My pitch to Shawn was always that you can’t allow your legacy to end this way,” Ross said. “You have put a bad taste in peoples mouth whether inadvertently or premeditatedly, I don’t know and I don’t really care. Right now the perception of you is not so positive. For a guy thats considered to be, along with Ric Flair, the two greatest in ring performers of all time, that’s just not right. It’s not right for you or your fans.
“I just wanted to get [Shawn] back in the fold. You could be a great help, much like he’s doing now in NXT. He’s a boyhood hero for a lot of these cats. You could be a big big benefit without ever taking a bump. You could tell by the twinkle in his eye, he loved that challenge, he wanted to get back and change his image and perception he had acquired. There’s no doubt he wanted to be back in the ring. He had the ego, the confidence that he wanted to go back and prove he could still do this. When he came back a year later, he didn’t miss a step.”
Ross talked about the difference Shawn made for WWE the day he walked in the door. He said the year of waiting from 2001-02 was very hard on him and Vince because they badly wanted him to return.
“He was the best guy we had on the roster, as far as bell to bell he was as good as anybody we had after being dormant for all those months and years,” Ross mentioned. “It took a while to get past the physical obstacles, the medical issues, psychological issues. Vince and I talked about this, [we knew] we just have to remain diligent. Give him time and have the patience for this to become his idea. That year waiting, we were all getting impatient. We needed him back, we wanted to see him back and him on the card made every card better.”
Ross also discussed the wrestling business today and wrestlers who refuse to lose clean in the middle of the ring. He said it’s ridiculous how talent have to find ways to be protected from taking someone’s finish and losing matches clean.
“I don’t understand what the big issue is about somebody winning and losing,” Ross mentioned. “Now everybody has to have an out. They have to miss the big bump over the top, everybody has to have something where they crash and burn before they lose. Instead of getting into a wrestling environment and having a very competitive matchup with counters and storytelling and logic. Anybody should be able to lose to another top guys finish, that’s what [finishes] are for.
“People can’t lose unless there’s some external reason. They can’t lose because they’ve made a mistake, a human error, a guy’s on a certain night than another guy. I firmly believe in my heart that I can take care of anybody doing the honors to where they leave that match with their dignity intact and all that good stuff because they got caught in the other guys finish.”
Ross continued to express his displeasure with talent not willing to eat a talents finisher to lose a match. He said it’s becoming a glaring issue in the wrestling business and a bad trend.
“You see it in MMA all the time,” Ross continued to say. “What we do is supposed to simulate realness. It’s a bad trend for our business. Everybody’s always got to miss something big to lose and oftentimes you don’t even lose to the other guys finish. You should be a good enough worker to strategize yourself into getting into a predicament that for three seconds you could not get out of. That’s where we are right now with pro wrestling.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Grilling JR with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.