Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Ross brings 'Ringside' event to Philadelphia

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From Action News at 4: Jim Ross is excited about his Philly show.

Jim Ross shares his feelings for Philly, 'Macho Man,' and Deadspin fame
Jim Ross, the cowboy hat-wearing, 'Stone Cold'-yelling, Boomer Sooner-rooting, BBQ sauce-making, hall of fame pro wrestling broadcaster is coming to Philadelphia this Sunday for his one man stage show.

In his 40 years of working in what he terms the 'insanity' of the business, Ross has accumulated a copious amount of stories. Hence, his Ringside: An Afternoon with Jim Ross events.

This Sunday afternoon at Underground Arts, Ross will share those stories, enthralling his faithful Philly fans with tales featuring the likes of The Rock, Hulk Hogan, and Triple H.

"It's storytelling, it's interacting with the audience in a live forum, in an unedited raw type environment which I really enjoy. No question is off-limits. That's the most intriguing and provocative aspect of my show, what the audience brings," Ross said.

Tickets can be purchased on AXS.com. Ross promises fans will get out in ample time to attend WWE's Royal Rumble event later that night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Watch: Jim Ross discusses his Philly show


For those unfamiliar with Jim Ross or professional wrestling in general, you still may know of his voice. With the popularity of websites such as Deadspin and Reddit, Good Ol' J.R.'s vocal stylings have become the go-to for motivated memesters to dub under any outrageous play in sports. Just visit deadspin.com/jimross and see for yourself.

"It's kind of flattering, over great NBA dunks, over UFC fights, NFL games, it's kind of fun. I get a laugh out of them. I'm amazed people have the time. I can't even cut and paste on the computer," Ross quipped.

While his computer acumen is questionable, his gift for calling the action in the confines of a squared circle is considered unmatched.

"I have become more aware of what people think about me as a person and my work and my contributions to a very unique genre. Social media has helped me recognized that," Ross said.

Many within the wrestling business as well as those who watch it consider Jim Ross, one - if not, the one - of the best wrestling commentators of all time. In fact, in 1999, two legitimate top mega-superstars of the industry, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin and The Rock, requested Ross to call their match in Philadelphia, even when he was sidelined from a relapse of his Bell's palsy condition.

"I was off work. I had severe depression which is a side symptom of this situation. We go to WresteMania like four months later in Philadelphia. I think it was WrestleMania XV. Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were in the main event. I signed both guys. I brought both guys into WWE. They went to Vince McMahon and said 'hey, could J.R. call our match?' Vince was gracious enough to acquiesce and said, 'J.R., I'm putting you back to work. You're going to call the main event of WrestleMania. Be sure to bring a tux,'" Ross recalled.

The admiration Ross receives from wrestling fans worldwide was never on display more than on that March night in 1999 in South Philadelphia.

Ross recalls before walking out to ringside, someone backstage warned him that Philly was the town that booed Santa Claus, so he shouldn't be too upset if they boo him, too.

Even though he'd been off television for months and his face was partially paralyzed, Ross figured it was a little too late to worry about that and hoped for the best as he walked through the curtain.

"The crowd hears my music and they start cheering. I get a standing ovation from the sold out arena. I get very emotional. I have tears coming down my eyes. I finally get to ringside. The fans are still cheering," Ross said.

Ross says that Philadelphia crowd gave him confidence and a new lease on life. He believes without those fans endorsing him that night, he may have not had the courage to continue his physical therapy and return to the broadcasting booth.

"I processed it this way, the fans in Philly said, 'J.R. we don't care what you look like; we just want you to bring your heart, your passion, and your love for what you do and do your job.' My spirits were lifted and I had a more positive attitude about my career," Ross said.

Watch: Jim Ross shares his Philly story


On that night, as he did many nights throughout his 21 years at McMahon's WWE, he worked alongside Jerry 'The King' Lawler.

Lawler has a storied wrestling career of his own, from his Memphis days to fighting comedian Andy Kaufman. But for viewers who watched WWE in the 1990s and 2000s, Lawler is best known for being the jocular color commentator to Ross' straight play-by-play man.

"Jerry is a phenomenal broadcaster. He and I had a great chemistry thanks to him. He was more an antagonistic broadcaster at the time really meshed with my character. We had a blast," Ross said.

In 2008, the tandem of Ross and Lawler was broken up after more than two decades together on WWE's Monday Night Raw program. In a shock to Ross, he was 'drafted' to WWE's Friday Night Smackdown show during a live edition of Raw. Ross says, however, he was promised the day before by a member of the top brass that it was not going to happen.

"My being drafted to Smackdown was more of my ego and my feathers being ruffled. I thought I should've been told the truth. I would've been fine with it if I had been told that. It was kind of a joke on me to see how I was going to react, to see my natural reaction. Some thought it would be amusing. That was my consternation about moving to Smackdown. It wasn't because my ego was going to be affected by working on Friday nights instead of Monday nights, the money was the same," Ross said.

As for Lawler, he remained on Raw. That is, up until last week when he was moved to Smackdown.

On wrestling radio shows and websites, fans were calling this a demotion for 'The King' as Raw is considered the live, flagship show and Smackdown is taped and shown later in the week, now on Thursdays.

"I'm sure Jerry had a different situation. Jerry had a little bout of diverticulitis. It took Jerry out of action for a week or two. WWE is working with so many announcers, trying to build that roster up, to also supplement what's going on the WWE Network. They decided to shuffle the deck and move Jerry to Smackdown. I'm sure he's just as content to working Smackdown as he is working Raw," Ross said.

Watch: Jim Ross speaks on Jerry Lawler's new role


Besides Lawler, Ross has broadcast events alongside a litany of wrestling greats from Jesse Ventura to Gordon Solie.

During his first ever appearance for WWE in 1993 at WrestleMania IX in Las Vegas, one of Ross' commentating partners was the late 'Macho Man' Randy Savage. Savage was just announced as an inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame, which Ross joined in 2007.

Ross remembers Savage as intense, paranoid, and unique. Ross said Savage did not talk to him when he arrived in the WWE. Probably, J.R. assumes, that was because he had just left being the voice of WWE's rival WCW and now Ross was commentating WWE's biggest event of the year.

"I didn't dislike working with Randy, but working with Randy was the biggest challenge of any broadcast partner that I've ever had. To say he didn't have talent would be inaccurate. He would literally sweat through his attire sitting ringside at the announce table and that was just through his raw intensity," Ross said.

Ross regrets not getting to know Savage better prior to his death in 2011. He thinks Savage, who left WWE in 1994 for WCW, was not happy being a broadcaster and wanted to continue wrestling.

"He couldn't be the 'Macho Man' like he wanted to be the 'Macho Man' by having the headsets on and being an announcer. He was really born to be in the ring," Ross said. "I think when I was working with him, I don't think he was really happy with his role totally. The hand was dealt that he wouldn't be back as an active wrestler in the WWE, for whatever reason, I wasn't privy to that. So he did not renew his contract and went to WCW. He was a vital part of their successes during the Monday Night Wars when Ted Turner was battling Vince McMahon. He was just an intense, unpredictable guy."

Watch: Jim Ross discusses working with 'Macho Man'


Jim Ross' other partner during his first day at WWE was Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan.

Heenan, a former wrestler turned manager turned broadcaster, rode into Caesars Palace riding on a camel - backwards.

Heenan who is regarded as one of the best orators in wrestling history - WWE made a DVD documenting his quick wit - has not been seen on WWE television for years due to his battle with tongue cancer.

"Just impeccable comedic timing. One of the great talkers of all time, which is part of the sad irony of his life right now. I'd love to have Bobby Heenan on the Ross Report podcast. I'd love it. But he can't talk. So there's a sad story there. But he's alive and God bless for that," Ross said.

Ross has had a number high profile guests on his Ross Report podcast including Steve Austin, TNA President Dixie Carter, Kurt Angle, and Shawn Michaels.

Along with podcasts, Ringside events, running his BBQ sauce brand (an homage to his late mother's Oklahoma recipe), tweeting via @JRSBBQ, and writing for Fox Sports, Ross is not quite yet done with his day job.

Earlier in the month, while celebrating his 63rd birthday, Ross traveled to Japan to call Wrestle Kingdom 9 in front of 40,000 wrestling fans, a collaboration between Global Force Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Though he says he had a great time in Tokyo, nothing has been confirmed about a sequel performance. However, he's up for talking.

"New Japan has to commit they want to continue to do these pay per views and if they do I'm willing to sit down and talk about being a part of it going further. I'm anxious to engage in conversation to see if something can be worked out," Ross said.

It should come to no surprise that Ross, whose career is far from over, is on the verge of releasing an autobiography. Joking he did not want to make it the size of War and Peace, his life's story will be broken up into two books, with Philadelphia having a key role.

"Here's a little scoop for you, the last chapter of the book will be me going through the curtain in Philadelphia to call Austin vs. Rock," Ross revealed.

Watch: Jim Ross on his relationship with WWE, autobiography


Yes, that Philly moment played an important part in Ross' life and this Sunday, in a setting a bit more intimate than the Tokyo Dome, J.R. returns to Philadelphia, where fans, perhaps some of the same ones who cheered for him back in 1999, can listen to his stories and ask him questions.

And Ross says - "any question is cool."

But if you are planning to ask what will Jim Ross do after the Ringside event? That's already been answered.

"I can't get too far away from the cheesesteaks. I should have t-shirts printed saying 'J.R.'s first ever cheesesteak tour' cause I plan on indulging in some of Philadelphia's culinary delights," Ross said.

Wit' or without BBQ sauce remains to be seen.

Tickets for Ringside: An Afternoon with Jim Ross can be purchased on AXS.com. For more information follow @JRSBBQ on Twitter.



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