I recently spoke with WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross, who is now calling NJPW On AXS TV each week. In the second and final part of the interview below, JR shared his thoughts on WrestleMania, Triple H vs. Roman Reigns headlining the show, if the authority figure angle has run its course, seeing Sting for the first time, if Sting should wrestle again if he's able and more. You can listen to the full interview in the video above.
Please note that the interview was conducted before WWE Fastlane and the top WrestleMania matches were not yet official.
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You blog a lot about Roman Reigns and WrestleMania, and talk about it on your podcast. it was looking like the biggest WrestleMania of all-time a year ago, and now it's looking like it's going to be Triple H vs. Roman Reigns [in the main event. What are your thoughts on the top matches on the card?
"Well its very tough to judge matches here in February that won't take place until April 3. The stories that are told between now and then will go a long way. I don't have any concerns that WWE will do 100,000 fans for WrestleMania. The stadium is a big attraction that nobody wants to write about, because they want to micromanage booking and think about what the finishes might be, which I think is comical. A lot of people who live out this way in Texas and Oklahoma have never been to AT&T Stadium because they can't afford it, or can't get tickets. It's an amazing tourist attraction, and that's why they have thousands of fans who go there to watch high school football finals. Fans get into the stadium. You can fly virtually anywhere in the world from there to Dallas non-stop. It's very accessible. It's got good geography in it's favor. And it's WrestleMania, man. A lot of time those cards are overestimated. You really only need one or two big matches for people to say that was a good show. How you close the show is the key thing.
"Triple H and Roman Reigns, there's a lot of good ideas that can happen there. I'd probably have Vince McMahon in Triple H's corner, The Rock in Roman Reigns' corner, then I'd probably have Vince and Triple H screw Reigns and the Rock. I go over that in depth on my Podcast with James Storm on Podcast One. It's like you're following your favorite football team and calling the plays. That's something with us wrestling fans, we all like to book. I'm not past that age."
Do you think Austin not wrestling at WrestleMania this year closes the door once and for all on speculation of him wrestling?
"Oh hell no. Are you kidding me? They'll say it every year until he's in a walker. They still want him to wrestle Hogan, and Hogan has chronic back issues. It's just not going to happen. Steve is done. He's had every opportunity in the world to do matches after his WrestleMania 19 farewell, and he's just moved on. Some people can't understand the act of moving on. It'll be that way forever. Part of my idea with McMahon and WrestleMania is to have him in play, and he's 70 years old, so how smart am I? You always retreat back to those ideas that you enjoyed or would like to relive."
It shows Vince is still effective as a performer. Ratings jumped up after he did that stuff with Reigns in December.
"He's a star, and there's a great love of the Attitude era. So many adults, or adults with young kids, the Attitude era had an impact on them and he was a character in that period. Triple H gets a great babyface pop because he's remembered as one of the greatest stars of the greatest eras. He had some amazing matches with Foley and Austin and Shawn and Taker. He did well, and he's looked at as a major star in their favorite era, so yeah, he's going to be a babyface. The promo that Triple H cut after the Royal Rumble was an Attitude era promo. Was it a babyface promo or a heel promo, or a star promo with attitude. I think he'll always be a babyface to this clientel, and I don't see anything wrong with that. The consumer speaks their mind. If he's being cheered, there's a reason. You should respect that, it's good enough."
We do a podcast on Monday nights after Raw with Vince Russo, and one of the things that gets brought up is that the Authority vs. top babyface story has been happening on and on for almost 20 years. It doesn't seem as effective as Austin vs. McMahon. Is that something you think needs to end, or does it still have legs?
"I think that the authority figure angle could be less prominent and more effective. Seeing it less makes it more special. It needs a bit of a rest. It's hard with all the Raw GMs for anyone to out-Mr. McMahon the real Mr. McMahon. Everybody knows he's still present, so it's hard to cast around that character in that same role. I'm not saying to erase it and go away permanently. I'm saying that it might not be a bad idea to see it less, so the impact are significant. How do you outcast Austin and McMahon? You need to tweak it and make it different. If you're going to have the hero that's pressured by the establishment, it needs to be a little differently so Reigns isn't compared to Austin, which isn't fair to Reigns. When Vince came out as the authority figure, he was jeered pretty much universally. The small group of people who cheered for him were some 18-34s who just wanted to be defiant. Now Hunter gets cheered a lot. Stephanie is probably the best true villain in the company. She's so good, and the crowd has swayed this way, that when they see something they like, they applaud it. Give the role a rest, not totally. When it does reoccur, it will have significance. You'll be better in the long haul and freshen things up."
What were your thoughts when you saw Sting for the first time?
"Red Bastien was very high on Sting and Jim Hellwig. Bastien was a good friend of Bill Watts'. It was kind of a whirlwind thing. We thought the BladeRunners would be our version of the Road Warriors. Unfortunately, Hellwig didn't stay long. He didn't agree with the big Cowboy. He was relieved of his post and ended up in Dallas where Gary Hart took him under his wing. It was a good move for us, Hellwig, and a good move for Dallas. It was win-win-win. Sting was then standing on his own and had a perpetual light around him. He had the 'it factor'. You didn't know why your eyes were on him, but he was a guy you want to see more of. He was a good professional, always on time, never an issue. A great athlete, great leaping ability, great physique, good looking kid. Bill and I didn't see anything that was going to prevent him from being a star. Putting him with Eddie Gilbert, and I think Rick Steiner. Eddie had been around the business his whole life, and was a good mentor to those big, young guys. That helped us a lot, because Eddie took them under his wing. Sting looked good, spoke well, had character, and we all thought he was going to be something special. It was a matter when the lights would come on and when would he get his shot? Watts sold the UWF to Crockett, I would say by far Sting was the wrestler who had the most longevity and success."
You called that Clash of the Champions where he faced Ric Flair. That was a star-making performance and it drew a 5.6 rating. What do you remember about that match?
"It was a star-making moment for a lot of people. I'd never done a live broadcast on TBS before, they'd never done a live primetime wrestling broadcast on TBS before. The Clash was against a WWE PPV (WrestleMania 5), so there was a lot of tension and angst in that regard. I'd never been in Charlotte or Greensboro before, or in that arena. That arena was famous for great nights of action through Jim Crockett promotions. There was a lot of new. You have that sense of team pride that one of your guys, Sting, was in the main event. Other than us outbooking ourself with those judges, which was ridiculous, I thought the night was successful. People have often said that all Sting had to do was follow Flair. That's true in the sense that Ric's the heel and the champion and the incumbent, but you still have to be able to follow him and do what the heel wants you to do in a big league way, and Sting was able to do that. Ric has made a whole lot of guys better, Sting included, but you have to have something in your toolbox to keep up with Flair, and Sting had plenty in his toolbox. It put him on the map. You're proud to see one of your alumnus from your school, so to speak, do well."
Would you want to see Sting wrestle again if he can get to 100 percent, or do you think the one with Seth Rollins should be his last?
"That's the thing that's frustrating sometimes. I understand why you asked that question, but it goes along with the Daniel Bryan situation. I don't know any fan that's b---hing loud and long about Daniel Bryan has looked at his medical records or is a neurologist, and neither am I. If you've never sat in a chair and had to make decisions with family members, then you'd look at this matter differently than that WWE has some ridiculous conspiracy theory against Daniel Bryan wrestling. There's no motive, it's insanity. Until your team doctor says this guy is good to do, how do you defy your team doctor and put him back in the ring? I don't know all of the (details) of Daniel Bryan's diagnosis, but I know there's no way in hell WWE wants Daniel Bryan to sit on the sidelines while he could be in the ring. Do you think they could use Daniel Bryan for this WrestleMania run? Of course they could. The same thing with Sting. I don't know how badly his neck is injured, but I understand he has stenois. With the narrowing of the spinal cord, I don't know that he'll ever be able to wrestle safely. If he can't wrestle safely at this stage of the game, why would you even consider? How much do we gain if he has one more match? I know he could be crippled, but let us see that one more match? Seriously? I would say based on what I know that if he has stenosis, and has all this damage from 30+ years, my vote would be no. Let's do other things with Sting. He could be integral with the WWE and PR or the Network. I He's glib and a great conversationalist, I don't know why he couldn't work on the Network in some things. I could tell you that fans that think that he hasn't had the run he needed in WWE, they're more worried about it than he is. He's objective about it. It's not the NFL. It's closer to broadway."
Dana White is talking about putting CM Punk's debut at UFC 199 instead of UFC 200. Would you rather see it at UFC 200?
"Don't need it, not if I'm the promoter I don't. You have plenty for 200, why let him be lost on the undercard? I could put him on the 199 card where I need more sizzle and a marketable match where he won't be lost on the card. I think 199 is perfect for him, and he doesn't need 200, and he'll get a lot more publicity if he's on a card where he has some exclusivity. If he's on 200 with a big ensemble cast, he'll get lost in the shuffle."
You're back with Ringside with Jim Ross on WrestleMania weekend. You have a show Saturday afternoon, another one after the Hall of Fame, and a third that Monday after Raw. What can fans expect from those shows?
"Uproarious hilarity, intriguing dialogue, life-changing experiences, tears, sobbing, writhing on the floor in agony and ecstasy. Hopefully a lot of fun. My guest and I will tell some stories, we'll get into the uncensored and unfiltered Q&As. We'll have a host working the room with a wireless mic. My guest and I will do our best to entertainingly and honestly answer the questions. It should be a lot of fun. The most fun part of the shows I do is the Q&As. We're going to bat around a couple of stories and have some fun there. The first show is from 4-6 Saturday. The House of Blues is a classy building, a lot of room, great food, and it's a 8 minute walk from the American Airlines Center where the Hall of Fame and Raw are held. After the Hall of Fame we'll do the show at about 11 with another guest. I have a final show which should be kind of fun. My business team thought I was crazy and thought that two shows was enough, but I said 'let's do a third show, and do it after Raw.' That Raw crowd is very raucous, have a lot of fun and enjoying a lot of American beer, because for many of them, it's their last day in the states. I thought we should put one more thing in, and that's a show Monday night after Raw. All of those shows are doing well, the one Monday night is doing the best. I'm not telling anyone they need to hurry, but all three shows are trending to sell out before the event. Tickets are still available, but they're not going to last forever. Once they're gone, they're gone. I encourage fans to check out Ticketmaster. We have a 20 dollar ticket, we think that's a great value for the show. Come and do some shopping, I'm going to bring some TSA friendly products like seasoning and jerky, and for those who are not flying, I'll have sauces and mustard and ketchup. It'll be a lot of fun. A lot of the wrestling community is contacting me for tickets, so you never know who you'll see there."
Click here for the first part of the interview, where JR discussed raving about Shinsuke Nakamura to Vince McMahon and Triple H, his deal with AXS, calling NJPW, replacing Mauro Ranallo on the show, if he was surprised WWE signed Ranallo, and more.