AN EVENING WITH
As one of the many who considers Jim Ross to be the greatest wrestling announcer in history and a huge fan of his weekly "Ross Report" podcast, I knew that shelling out $30 to see his one-man show in Toronto would be well worth the time and expense. I wasn't disappointed.
There were roughly 250-300 rabid and knowledgeable wrestling fans gathered inside The Danforth Music Hall, an intimate concert setting in the heart of Toronto's Greek community. I was fortunate enough to score fourth row on the left side - a great viewpoint, but unfortunately, my photos turned out pretty terribly because of the stage lighting (what you see to the left is the best one). Not the end of the world....
Ross opened the show, surprisingly, by cussing, when he revealed in great detail the time that Jerry "The King" Lawler "shit his pants" during a Monday Night Raw taping. It's unusual to hear someone who is usually so professional swearing, so it set an interesting tone to open the show.
Beyond that, JR took some cracks at beleaguered Toronto mayor Rob Ford and even jokingly hinted that the Okie may run for public office, a fact that was well-received by many Torontonians.
In the slow, Southern drawl that entertained fans for decades, Ross talked about his early beginnings in Leroy McGuirk's territory, working with Bill Watts in the UWF/Mid-South territory, brokering the deal that allowed UWF to sell to Jim Crockett Promotions, his time in WCW, and of course, his lengthy run working for WWE. You may think you know all of this from reading different accounts of JR's career, but this was honestly done in much more depth than usual, and worth listening to.
Tailoring his lecture for the local crowd, Ross also went into stories on the Hart family (including one involving Stu Hart, the Calgary dungeon and a cat with giant testicles) and calling the Hulk Hogan vs. Rock match at WrestleMania X-8. Probably not a huge deal overall, but the fact that he thought ahead to give the Toronto crowd customized stories and was well received.
He also shared a story about how, during the week of WrestleMania X-8, Ross and his wife Jan went to dinner with Chris and Nancy Benoit. This led to Ross stating that Benoit wouldn't want to be in the WWE Hall of Fame because of the way the final hours of his life panned out.
From there, Ross opened up the floor to Q & A, moderated by Live Audio Wrestling host John Pollock. A variety of questions were asked, including which wrestlers should be in the WWE Hall of Fame (see video to the left), Brock Lesnar's position within WWE, the plane ride from hell, and why Kenny Bolin never made it as a manager in the big time. Definitely the questions ran the gamut, and Ross was prepared.
In fact, the only time a question was refused was when some yahoo went up to the microphone and claimed to be running for Mayor of Toronto. Pollock made sure to cut him off before much damage was done, but it went against the nature of the mostly-respectful Toronto crowd.
One question that almost certainly had to be an audience plant was about which women's wrestler Ross enjoyed working with most as head of talent relations in WWE. This was a cue for the familiar theme music of one Trish Stratus, who just happened to waiting backstage for such an opening.
Surprise guests are actually a staple of JR's shows. During WrestleMania week in New Orleans, both Jim Cornette and Steve Austin made appearances, as did Mick Foley in New York. In fact, the "surprise" was predicted by many in the audience beforehand, who were guessing Edge or Bret Hart as possible guests.
Stratus stayed on stage for the remainder of the show although, surpisingly, most of the questions weren't directed at her. As she put it at the conclusion of the show, she was content to listen to JR tell stories. Still, both performers admitted they wouldn't likely fit in with today's WWE product, swapped stories about Ric Flair behind-the-scenes (I'm sure JR could write a book on those) and answered questions about locker room ribs and poop (yes, seriously.... see the video to the left).
Still, while Stratus was a very welcome addition to the (almost completely male) crowd, it showed that people really came to see Jim Ross and pick his brain from someone who has "seen it all" during his 40 years in the business.
JR closed the show by announcing his new gig as an announcer on Monday nights..... for boxing on Fox Sports and also plugged the fact that his BBQ sauce is now available in Toronto through the Belly Buster's chain of submarine restaurants. He thanked the crowd for their interest, encouraged people to "do something nice" for a stranger and, as he has signed off on his podcast many a time, explained that your tomorrows aren't guaranteed - his advice to live life to the fullest.