Hall of Famer Jim Ross recently updated the Q&A section of his website, JRsBarBQ.com, and some of the answers have me worried that we wont see the slobberknocking announcer on TV again.
More than ever before, he seems more willing to criticise the WWE product, for instance, in response to a question about returning in a GM role, he commented: “I personally think that, by and large, the GM biz/role has started to run its course. I’m talking full time or Guest General Managers, especially guest GM’s who have not the first clue about the product and engage others in lame skits featuring poor acting.”
This is obviously a shot at RAW’s current guest host gimmick, which is something I wouldn’t have expected from him (I don’t mean that as a criticism). I doubt anyone will disagree about hating seeing people like Sharon Osbourne or Criss Angel stink up the backstage segments while showing that they know nothing about wrestling (Though Jeremy Piver calling Summerslam ‘Summerfest’ was pretty funny, but that was less offensive because he came across as liking wrestling). This is where is differ from J.R. I like the concept when the right people are booked. People like Piven, Seth Green or Freddie Prinze love and know the business, and it adds to the character of RAW (i.e. being Pro-wrestling’s flagship show most immersed in pop-culture).
I also disagree that the GM concept is dead. Though i’ve said I like the guest hosts (at least in theory), if it was to finish (which it surely will, probably after The Rock does it) I think there needs to be some sort of visible booker. Even if they don’t have a character and don’t necessarily have much air-time, I think that reference point is needed.
In the blog, he also says that he is hesitant about travelling to RAW each week, and most worryingly, that “there are no guarantees that I will be staying in WWE when my contract expires.” For every wrestling fan this seems ominous. Though I would never blame J.R. for retiring, it would not only be the end of an era (I echo Shawn Michaels’ sentiments that J.R. is the best announcer ever) but it will be the start of a new era of announcing that I don’t think is ready to take the mantle. Until now, I was sure J.R. was coming back, but now that he may not be, I worry about the announcing on WWE programming.
Obviously ‘The King’ and Cole are fine, but I think the others could learn much from the ‘Good Ol’ Boomer-Sooner. Like many, when Matt Striker started on Smackdown, I thought he was really good (as did WWE). A lot of what makes J.R. a great announcer is the accesability of his announcing. He reacts with sincerity, reflecting exactly what the viewer thinks: e.g. “Oh My God they’ve killed him. As God is my witness he is broken in half!” or simply “Oh my God what a night!” This is something the younger and more clinical announcers still haven’t been able to tap in to. Also, whereas J.R. gave wrestlers considered and meaningful nicknames relating to their character (the most famous being HHH’s ‘The Cerebral Assassin”) but now we see Striker (the worst offender) giving everyone on screen nickname after nickname. It seems to be his main technique now.
I think him and Grisham and Matthews would really benefit from his presence, which will be important if/when Cole or Lawler leave RAW. Lets hope J.R. comes back. From what he says though, the ball’s in WWE’s court.