An article by Mike Mooneyham
Published in November 1999
Jim Ross hasn’t seen it. Doesn’t want to.
WCW reached into the bottom of a tasteless barrel last week on Nitro when new booker Ed Ferrara impersonated Ross in a parody that mocked not only Ross’ announcing style, but also a disability that has plagued the veteran commentator for five years.
Ross, who is the WWF’s lead announcer and is widely regarded as the best play-by-play man in the business, suffers from Bell’s palsy, a disease that paralyzes one side of the face. Ross, however, has been affected on both sides since experiencing his most recent episode last December.
“Obviously I was busy when it was on,” said Ross, who was broadcast ing Raw when the Nitro segment aired. “I don’t plan on checking it out. I don’t plan on responding to it. I don’t know what benefit that would have for me. I’m not going to go on any vendetta.”
Ferrara’s parody, complete with Ross’ trademark black hat and spoof ing Ross mannerisms and catch phrases, included the return of “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, a longtime friend of Ross who recently was re leased by the WWF. Ironically it was WCW bookers Ferrara and Vince Russo, then head of the WWF creative team, who saw no marketability in Williams in that organization. But it was Ross who was assigned the unenviable task of delivering the bad news. Ross said he harbors no animosity toward his fellow Oklahoman for the display Monday night.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]“The good thing out of it is that hopefully Doc will have a job,” said Ross. “I think he’ll be a real good addition to their roster. I still think that there is a lot of marketability left in him. I believed that when we signed him, I believed that when he left here. That was only my opinion, and that was not the consensus opinion of upper management and the creative faction, which included Russo and Ferrara when they were here.”
Ross, who is senior vice president of talent relations, said he believed that Williams probably still had heat with him over his recent release.
“Unfortunately in my role, not only do you hire people, but you have to be the point person of letting people go. In this business sometimes you’re not forgiven because you tell the truth and you have to deliver less than positive news. I was the one who had to deliver the news to Doc that there were no creative plans for him here, and there was nothing here for him at that point. Doc’s not a bad person, he’s a good man. I think he was very frustrated about the situation he was in, and I’m sure he holds some animosity toward me because of the way the situation played out.”
Ross, who acknowledges his role as Vince McMahon’s “hatchet man” but adds, “That’s a job description and not a personality trait,” expressed disappointment with Ferrara and Russo for airing the segment that made fun of a real-life physical ailment.
“Having not seen it makes it hard to judge. But I thought that because they were both working here and had met my family and had known how close we were, they knew about when I got sick the last time. I got Bell’s palsy just a few hours after my mother passed away. That was a real sudden death, and I was a long way from home (at a WWF pay-per-view in the United Kingdom) when it happened. The doctors think that might have triggered it. But in any event, that whole last episode of Bell’s palsy kind of tied in part and parcel to my mother dying. So for many members of my family, it was a very challenging time. I thought those guys understood that better, because they were working here when all that occurred. But I guess it just didn’t make any difference to them.”
Several insiders speculated that a deep-rooted animosity was behind the public humiliation on Nitro, and claimed that while in the WWF Russo had tried to bump Ross from his main announcing spot in favor of the younger Michael Cole.
“I think there’s something to that,” said Ross. “Russo would tell people things that he wanted to get back to me about how big a fan he was of my work. I believe at this point and time that he was not being truthful. I think that Russo would have been very pleased had I just faded away. It was the same mindset that (Eric) Bischoff had. It’s that J.R. doesn’t look like a matinee idol, J.R. can lose a few pounds, J.R. sounds like he’s from the South and people from the South can’t have any intelligence and can’t communicate. Apparently the public doesn’t have a problem with me.” The WWF’s Jim Cornette, who has been an outspoken critic of Russo, agreed that Ross has long been targeted by Russo.
“He was one of the leaders behind making J.R. a buffoon,” said Cornette. “He doesn’t understand why anyone liked J.R. and that Southern accent, and it isn’t even Southern, it’s Oklahoman. He has been a leader to make him look bad.”
The Ross parody, however, was just one of the low points on last week’s Nitro. Russo, who has openly expressed his dislike for Mexican-style wrestling and Mexican wrestlers who can’t cut good promos in English, has been on a campaign to publicly embarrass the Luchadores and resorted to racial stereotyping by holding a “Pinata on a pole” match involving Juventud Guerrera, El Dandy and Psicosis.
To make matters worse, Williams hospitalized the Mexican wrestlers during a run-in while Ferrara, as Ross, called the action. Guerrera suffered a separated shoulder, El Dandy a broken collarbone and Psicosis a reinjured knee. Williams’ overly stiff style had been a major reason the WWF was reluctant to put Williams in the ring with Steve Austin.
Ferrara, who once wrestled briefly as Beautiful Bruce Beaudine and is a product of Slammer’s Gym in California, has had past experience play ing the role of Jim Ross. He impersonated Ross earlier this year on Raw when Ross was being portrayed as a deranged announcer, and took a stiff German suplex at the hands of Williams at the time.
“I’ve never seen that either,” said Ross. “I never watched the replays of any of that when I was disgruntled, deranged, mentally disturbed, unbalanced
whatever the heck it was they wanted me to be. Russo wanted to turn me heel because he doesn’t believe that people with a Southern accent have any intelligence and people don’t respect people with a Southern accent. They laid out this plan that I didn’t want to do at the time. But you try to be a team player and practice what you preach, so you go along with what management wants to do. If I had not wanted to try to support Russo and Ferrara, I would have gone to Vince (McMahon) and told him that I wasn’t going to do this. And then would have said, `OK, J.R., I understand why you don’t want to do it.'”
The fact that Thanksgiving is just around the corner isn’t lost on Ross.
“There’s too many things to be thankful for. I’m back at work. My family’s healthy. My daughter’s graduating from college next month, which is a great accomplishment for her. Business has been pretty good, and the ratings are solid. So there’s a whole lot more good things happening in my life than bad things.”
Ross said that the past year has been one of his most challenging, and in light of the adversity, he could have just packed it all in and done something else.
“It’s been challenging. I could have just said the business and the people who are in it and the fans who support it are not worth me trying to come back. I could have come back as a producer or done something behind the scenes. But that was a function of not quitting. The sad part is what they don’t realize, and honestly neither did I until I got it, is how many people are affected by Bell’s palsy. I had the opportunity to reach out to a lot of people who have written me letters and have helped with remedies and potential cures. It affects more people adversely than just me and my family, and they didn’t take that into consideration. I guess they think that my family is immune to all this and they are disassociated with it. It affects more than just me. There is just too much to be thankful for. There’s too many folks out there who have a whole lot worse-off life than I have, so the last thing I’m going to say is `Woe is me.'”