Under The Black Hat: My Life In The WWE And Beyond
Author: Jim Ross with Paul O'Brien
Synopsis: The sequel to Ross' bestselling 2017 autobiography Slobberknocker: My Life In Wrestling
My wife, daughters, family and friends gathered ringside to see their husband, father, and friend get on his knees and canoodle the shaved, tanned, tensed buns of his boss for "entertainment."
My only comfort was that the chairman was a clean freak so I knew the runway would be clear of debris.
"These people are going to kiss my ass through you," Vince said as he unbuckled and unzipped his trousers.
I would tell you why this was happening, but who gives a shit, right? I mean, is there anything I could say to justify a middle-aged man getting people to pucker up to his badonkadonk on his own TV show?
Didn't think so.
The Olympic gold medal winner Kurt Angle was there, too, as Vince's muscle. Angle grabbed me, and I struggled to get away while Vince pulled down his trousers.
Yeah, now that I think about it, this was all wrong from many different angles.
When we last left off with the literary adventures of Jim Ross three years ago in Slobberknocker: My Life In Wrestling.... the world's greatest wrestling announcer had just returned from a bout with Bell's Palsy, reclaiming his throne in time to call one of the industry's biggest matches - Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock at WrestleMania XV. After a career punctuated by hard work, controversy and constant change, Good Ol' JR was finally back where he belonged.
Or so we thought.
While being one of the most influential voices in the industry (both at the announce booth and behind the scenes) has its benefits, it can also be a curse, as Ross outlines in his sequel Under The Black Hat: My Life In WWE And Beyond. Not only does JR have to deal with an increasingly-megalomaniacal Vince McMahon at every turn, but he also loses friends, colleagues, jobs and even his beloved wife, Jan over the course of this book.
When it comes to the head of WWE and his relationship with Ross, Vince is portrayed as being every bit as evil as his Mr. McMahon character ,and then some. Whether it was the aforementioned Kiss My Ass Club segment in from his hometown crowd; filming a skit of live television that made fun of JR's colon surgery (while he was still recovering from it); informing him on-air that he'd be moving from Raw to SmackDown because of some blog comments he'd made; or even having him "fight" the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H and Michael Cole... it's clear that the relationship between chairman and announcer is a bizarre one.
Interestingly, it isn't all about the horror stories. JR recalls how Vinnie Mac supported his quest to sign Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Brock Lesnar and others; how he held a "JR Appreciation Night" in the same state where he was forced to kiss the boss' butt; how he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame; and even how supportive the entire McMahon family was after Ross lost his wife. Not to suggest some of these actions cancel the others out, but again, it emphasizes the unique ups and downs these two have had over a quarter-century.
Ross is a storyteller by nature, as anyone who listens to his podcast or have attened his live shows can attest to. He mixes humor and emotion effortlessly, and we're entertained by the many stories told by the man in the black Resistol hat (as we were in Slobberknocker) and wish that there were even more pages filled with his unique anecdotes.
At the heart of his book is a love story about his wife Jan, one that began in his previous book and continues here. Jan was supportive of JR single every step of the way, and that comes jumping at you here. When she suddenly passed away in early 2017, Ross was understandably heartbroken, while still motivated to keep busy in WWE and elsewhere.
By the end of the book, Ross does have a happy ending, as a chance meeting with Tony Khan at a New Japan event led to his current role in All Elite Wrestling. Obviously no one would have been able to predict the runaway success AEW has had since its beginnings, but seeing Ross motivated and in a prominent role once again helps offset some of the unpleasantness he suffered at the hands of WWE.
Overall Rating: Oh Hell Yeah! While this book is admittedly not as powerful as his first offering (and couldn't have been, given the more comprehensive subject matter he had to work with in Slobberknocker), this is an engaging read from one of pro wrestling's most engaging storytellers. Highly recommended.