J.R.'s history in the broadcasting booth

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April 24, 2012

Jim Ross shares some tales from the announce booth.

Over the years, I’ve had many talented broadcast partners that have helped me grow as an announcer. Broadcasting is a team effort and two, or three, individuals not functioning as a team cannot be as effective as they can if they set aside their own agendas and focus on what they see on their TV monitors and embellish the TV personas of the talents involved. I’ve been blessed to have had many outstanding partners.

Over the next few weeks, I will address many of these broadcasting partnerships, starting off with some that I worked with prior to arriving in WWE in 1993. (PHOTOS)

My first broadcast partner provided color commentary even though he was totally blind. Leroy McGuirk was a former NCAA Wrestling Champion at Oklahoma State University and long time kingpin of the NWA Junior Heavyweight Division before losing his sight in a car accident in Little Rock in the early 1950’s. My calls of the action had to be visual and descriptive. I attempted to paint a picture of what was occurring in the ring so that my sightless partner could contribute. It was a unique way to break into the world of broadcasting pro wrestling, especially if the boss (McGuirk was also the owner of the territory) enjoyed a taste or two of his favorite bourbon prior to going on the air. Production was barebones as we used hand mics, no headsets and a two camera shoot back in the mid ’70s to do the weekly, one hour TV show that aired in many markets throughout Oklahoma, Arkansas, southern Missouri and north Texas.

After buying McGuirk out, Cowboy Bill Watts expanded the territory to include the aforementioned areas while adding Louisiana, Mississippi and Houston. Watts named his company Mid-South Wrestling, which would later become the Universal Wrestling Federation or UWF. Watts was the territory’s owner, oftentimes its top wrestling star, TV producer/writer and broadcaster. In the beginning, my claim to fame was stating, “Hello everyone and welcome to Mid-South Wrestling! I’m Jim Ross alongside Cowboy Bill Watts . . . here’s Bill.” Then, at the end of the hour, after throwing in a minimum of thoughts during the show, I’d come with, “For Cowboy Bill Watts, I’m Jim Ross and we’ll see you next week for more Mid-South Wrestling.” I didn’t say too much, but I received a great education.

My role working for Watts changed over the years to where Cowboy was confident enough in what he had taught me that he left the broadcast booth completely to focus more on producing the TV show and managing the talent while overseeing the overall business of Mid-South. I learned a tremendous amount from Watts about in-ring psychology and how to tell a story that was believable to the viewers. Watts was a genius when it came to producing episodic, one hour TV shows that drove fans to the live events, which was our primary business before PPV became a major income stream.


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