Last Saturday, the day before WrestleMania 31 shocked viewers with a surprising ending, over 700 diehard WWE fans convened at a small bar in San Jose. There would be no wrestling and no storyline to dissect. But there would be stories.
All the reasons why Jim Ross was a legendary commentator were on display in his 2 and a half hour one-man show: honesty, comedy and a whole lot of Southern drawl.
The show was 21 and up, and it was clear why once Ross got talking. He told several stories of the Nature Boy, Ric Flair, and his affinity for bathrobes and erections (one time keeping Ross from scoring with a couple good-looking flight attendants). He wasn't shy about his multiple marriages, but made a point to say that he got very lucky in his current wife, a former gymnast and flight attendant who was, as he said multiple times, way out of his league.
One of his most graphic stories came from when he was first trying to make it in the business. His boss told him to take care of the McGuire twins and do anything needed to make them happy. As he walked into the locker room one night, and he made it clear that wrestlers had locker rooms not dressing rooms as they were athletes, he found the 600+ pound twins crying in the shower. They needed help washing their backs. Ross obliged, forever etching the scene in his memory and providing a laugh-inducing moment at his show.
Though Ross' show was full of funny stories, it was also full of wisdom. He shared secrets of how he was successful in the industry. Most importantly, he stressed the point of honesty. He made some tough decisions as a talent consultant but was always transparent with the wrestlers. Though they may not have always liked him, they sure as hell respected him, a sentiment that no doubt lead to his future success.
Ross, an avid Sooner fan, also expressed his disdain in the recent racist actions of an Oklahoma fraternity. He stressed that race, gender, or sexual preference didn't matter to him, what mattered was the person underneath. Most importantly, what mattered in the wrestling world was passion and talent.
In a Q&A session, Ross was asked about the fateful night where Bret Hart lost his title in the most deceptive way, which would later be referred to as the Montreal Screwjob. In Hart's last match with WWF before moving to WCW, Vince McMahon flipped the script without Hart's knowledge, handing the championship title to Shawn Michaels, and causing uproar from not only Hart but fans as well. When questioned about the Survivor Series match, Jim Ross vehemently denied he had any idea about the betrayal despite speculation he might have been involved.
Ross also didn't disappoint with his special guests. ESPN's Michelle Beadle, a huge WWE fan, and UFC fighter Daniel Cormier were in the crowd. As the show wound down, he also brought out ROH wrestler Samoa Joe, who has been amidst speculation of a move to WWE, to the delight of the crowd.
Samoa Joe's story was relatable. He spoke about how he was never wanted at the beginning of his career. When he got opportunities, he proved himself and forced the naysayers to realize that they needed him. Even Ross himself said he didn't believe Samoa Joe had the right stuff to make it and that he was proven wrong. Samoa Joe also spoke about his potential move to WWE, saying he'd be happy with any opportunity, whether it was with NXT or on the main roster.
One of the biggest takeaways was when Samoa Joe touched on the fans' disappointment with WWE's direction and choices. He said that instead of always complaining about what the company is doing wrong, fans should talk about what they are doing right. Not only was this a great lesson about WWE, but about life. It quickly became clear why Ross wanted him as his guest. His candor, optimism, and attitude fit everything Ross has stood for in his career.
The performance had it all and was a perfect kickoff to WrestleMania weekend. Ross further proved why he's a legend in the wrestling world with his unbridled honestly, humor, knowledge, and undeniable passion: making his show a must-see for WWE fans.