Joe Roderick from Grand Slam Sports interviewed WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross. Here are some highlights from the interview.
His first thought over learning the weather for Wrestlemania weekend: “My initial thought was to pack a jacket. That hasn’t changed. I looked at the long-term weather, and it looks like we’re going to get a break in the end. It’s going to be chilly, but it’s not going to be raining. It’s not going to be snowing. It’s going to be an adventure, which is great for fans like me. The stadium is great. [It’s a] beautiful stadium. It’s going to be the home of the Superbowl next year. I’m excited about it. I think it’ll be a unique opportunity for those attending. Apparently the weather hasn’t driven anyone away because it’s sold out.”
If the wrestlers have expressed concern over the weather: “I think that they’re so engaged and wrapped up in the process that that probably won’t be discussed until Sunday. It’s game time. You go play and have fun, and entertain the audience. No one’s expressed any serious concerns. I can tell you that wrestlers have a different problem wrestling in the hot sun because the canvas gets so hot; you don’t want to lay on it long. Which is not the goal anyway, quite frankly. I think we’ll be alright. I think everybody will be good.”
Looking back from his 20th anniversary with WWE, if he thought Wrestlemania would be the spectacle it is today: “No. It’s just become an amazing attraction. It’s the one wrestling event that displeased fans will buy on pay per view one time a year. This is the one event that some people will invest in because its got the best of everything. It’s just amazing what we’ve been able to build with that brand. My first on, as you said 20 years ago, 1993, was outdoors in the sunshine at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. It’s been quite the maturation of going through stadiums. I think that’s where we’ll end Wrestlemania, will be permanently in a stadium somewhere until death do us part.”
If it’ll work having the same main event two years in a row: “I think so. It did affect the ticket sales. We’ll see how it affects the pay per view buys. I think that the most recent estimate is 1.3 million pay per view buys, globally for the event. I don’t think it’s going to hurt. Long time fans remember return matches and there’s a story there with Rock and Cena. It’s been well told for over a year. Cena’s looking for, in his own words, retribution. So, I don’t think it’s going to affect the show at all. I think it’s going to be just fine. You got two major stars and Rock’s bring a lot of movie fans to the pay per view table that may not be big time WWE fans, but they’re fans of his movies. I’m intrigued by it. It’s going to be very interesting. The challenge is, fans will follow everything that precedes them. They have to entertain an audience and reengage an audience that’s been sitting in those seats for approximately four hours. They have their work cut out for them to close the show on Sunday.”
The Rock’s energy and work ethic: “It’s amazing, isn’t it? I follow him on Twitter, and he’s up at four o clock working out. And he’s on his crazy diets. He’s a machine. I signed him back in the nineties and I was amazed by his athleticism, but the most important quality he had was his work ethic and his drive. He just was hell bent on being something special. At that time it was to be the biggest star the wrestling business had ever seen. And then he got the opportunity to be in the film business, and he had the number one movie in the world this past weekend, the GI Joe movie. He’s extraordinary. He’s just has a work ethic that’s otherworldly, that’s the best way I can put it. He’s just a different breed of cat.”
If it seems Cena has been teasing a heel turn: “It seems that way. Last night, I was going into the show thinking that Rock won last year, so Cena will automatically win this year to even their big match rivalry at one apiece. But after last night, I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. I was intrigued that Cena’s promo was a little bit edgy. I thought, is that just the character, the persona, being what it’s cast to be, or is it the human being processing what I said earlier? We have to follow everything. We have to close the show. It’s game day for us. So I don’t know. It’s provocative to me because I try to stay away from all the creative stuff. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen. I don’t have any desire to know the end of the movie. I want to see it unfold. So, I’m somewhat intrigued by the whole process, especially after last night’s RAW.”
How many times a day he’s asked on Twitter if Cena’s going to turn heel: “I can’t count [laughter]. I have a lot of standard questions on Twitter. It’s quite the adventure. The Twitterverse is a very unique world we live in, social media wise. That’s certainly one of the most prominent ones [questions]. What I don’t understand is this. You already have half the audience who boo him. They’re the same ones that want him to be a bad guy. But they’re already booing him. What do you want? You want him to be a bad guy so now what? You can cheer him? I don’t get it sometimes. It’s a confounding conundrum, to say the least, the demographic of WWE and their male fan base that like to boo John Cena. An old promoter told me one time, “As long as there’s a rear end every 18 inches, it doesn’t matter.” They’re a ticket buyer, and they’ve paid there way in so it doesn’t matter.”
The way Paul Bearer’s death has been used in the buildup to Undertaker vs. Punk: “I thought the end to the program last night was very controversial. People that are really into the inner workings of the business, by and large, loved it. Those that are casual fans and still believe that pro wrestling is real, and the man on the moon, the moon walk was fake, they didn’t like it. I can tell you from knowing Bill Moody, aka Paul Bearer, for 20 years, that he is in heaven loving it. He would have loved it because it’s keeping his character, his persona, in a prominent role going into the biggest event of the year; in what arguably could be the Undertaker’s last match. I don’t know how many more Wrestlemania’s the Undertaker believes he has in him. I think it’s safe to say that he has wrestled more main events at Wrestlemania than the Undertaker has left. I thought it was controversial, but it seems like controversy, in this day and time, is profitable more often than not.”
What kind of shape the Undertaker is currently in: “Well, he’s in great shape, as good as it can be. He’s just like an old baseball pitcher that used to throw heat, and now his throw’s chilling. The bottom line is he still gets people out and he still is able to help you get a “W.” I think that’s where we are with the Undertaker. His body is worn and he’s had tears and surgeries. Still mentally tough, physically tough, and still dedicated to his profession. I know that he’s never going to compromise his body of work to have one more payday. So I know we’ll see him have a great match on Sunday against CM Punk, who’s another phenomenal performer. But he works through the pain. Not many guys I know would do what he’s doing right now, but he loves it that much. It’s not a need for cash. It’s not a need for he needs one more payday. He’s got all the money he needs. He loves what he does, and as long as he can keep the quality of his work up he’s going to continue to do it.”
If there is a match on the card that he thinks can steal the show, despite not being a main event: “This kid Fandango is a lightening rod. People either hate him, which is kind of ironic again because he’s cast as a villain, so you’re supposed to hate him, but then some will overanalyze that and say well yeah, but it’s the wrong kind of hate. It’s the go away hate. But they haven’t seen the kid build a bill yet. I have, down in our training area, very gifted young athlete. He’s kind of a Gorgeous George like character. I remember reading Lou Thesz’s book, called Hooker, ironically enough, and Lou was never real high on Gorgeous George’s persona, but Lou respected Gorgeous George as a real wrestler. I think the fans just haven’t got a chance to see Fandango yet and I can tell you that Chris Jericho will do all he can to steal the show. I’ve kind of had my eye on that match for those reasons. I think it may be a sleeper.”
Chris Jericho: “He’s very very skilled, very talented in a lot of areas. Hell, he almost won Dancing With The Stars. He’s got a rock band. He’s got a television show on Syfy. The guy’s multi-talented. He’s very passionate about being good. Not average, not okay, but being really good, and I think he’ll push Fandango, whose real name is Johnny Curtis, to the max on Sunday. It should be a lot of fun.”
Bruno Sammartino: “I tell ya, if all the guys in the Hall of Fame were sitting at a table, they would all leave the head of the table vacant until Bruno got there. He dominated a wrestling territory, and the fans in St. Louis can identify with Sam Muchnick’s amazing run as a promoter there, week after week, month after month, year after year, and Bruno was the champion for one run for eight years. So his act in the market in New York City was amazing. He sold out Madison Square Garden 188 times, and he sold it out again this Saturday. A fitting honor, and I never thought it would happen. I’m very very happily surprised that it is.”
If there is a particular speech he is looking forward to hearing this Saturday: “Oh man. That whole world changes once you get up there. I had a speech written for 2007, and I completely went off script and just talked from my heart, and I think a lot of will do that. I think Mick Foley will give a very impassioned speech because he was an overachieving, average high school athlete, who grew up in Long Island. His dad was an athletic director. Mick used to hitch hike to the Garden from Long Island, which is not easy, and go to the wrestling shows there. I think Mick’s will be very very entertaining. I think Bruno’s will be very poignant, because when you hear Bruno’s story of hiding out in the mountains as a kid, hiding from the Nazis, and all these things as his challenges growing up and almost dying, all the crimes that were perpetrated on his family and his village in Italy, World War II. I think it’s going to be very poignant. The Bruno chants will be loud and long on Saturday night, without question.”
If he’ll be involved at Wrestlemania on Sunday: “Well, I don’t know. I’m not being evasive. I don’t have an assignment as of right now. I’m kind of like the Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky. I’m in the bullpen, going through my crazy mannerisms, and I’m ready to come in and get somebody out if you need it. If I’m needed, I’m there. If not, I’ll enjoy the view from wherever I am. I’m not being evasive. I’m not being cute. I don’t know. I’m always ready to roll if they need me, and last year I got an assignment sort of late. Thanks to Vince McMahon I was called out of the pen to call the Undertaker and Triple H match. I’m hoping something along those lines happens again. If so, then I’ll have a blast.”
EXCLUSIVE: Does Mania Feel Like Mania This Year?