Jim Ross remembers calling the action with Mr. McMahon
In his latest column for WWE Classics, Jim Ross remembers calling the action with Mr. McMahon.
A couple of years after joining WWE in 1993, I received the opportunity to join Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler as the third man in the booth on Monday Night Raw and WWE pay-per-views. Working with one’s boss is a totally different dynamic than working with a peer, especially when doing live or live-to-tape commentary of a genre as unique as sports-entertainment.
Vince McMahon was, and still is, the unquestioned leader of WWE and is generally recognized as the most influential and powerful man ever in the sports-entertainment genre. By the time I started working with Vince — he was still Vince and not Mr. McMahon — I had been part of many WWE broadcasts primarily in the customary role of doing play-by-play. Since Vince handled the play-by-play on Raw, I provided color commentary with Jerry "The King" Lawler acting as an antagonist.
Much like Bill Watts, the owner of Mid-South Wrestling and UWF who I broadcasted with a generation earlier, Vince knew exactly what he wanted to see and hear on the broadcasts that he created and produced. I cannot think of any occasion where I was ever better prepared for a broadcast than when working with McMahon. Traveling with the head honcho and talking the product 24/7 certainly kept one completely immersed in the moment and informed of WWE’s creative direction. When we went on the air, we were thoroughly prepared, ready to inform and entertain … or adlib on the fly if need be, especially when the chairman would call an audible.
One thing that I’ve always admired about Vince is his untiring work ethic and relentless pursuit of the brass ring. McMahon often said “that sleep is our enemy” and no matter how many hours we put in at work prior to going on the air, Vince was always ready to go over the top, become larger than life and fulfill his role as the voice of WWE.
Most fans don’t realize how challenging it is to broadcast live TV, especially in a hybrid genre such as WWE. Unlike the on-air talents in the NFL where they have producers figuratively joined at their hip, providing them with info and tidbits of data, we WWE announcers are responsible for getting ourselves ready for every broadcast. Luckily for me, Vince McMahon, who created the product, was my broadcast partner and I fed off of him. I traveled the same road as Vince in the creative sense.
Obviously, we had different styles and backgrounds, but, along with Lawler’s brilliance, that’s what helped make our three-man team special. Vince was an outstanding storyteller and he knew the direction that he wanted the product to take. "King" and I simply had to listen and emotionally invest while coming up with our own material to complement what McMahon established.
Vince was known to be more of a storyteller than a play-by-play man even though in his early broadcasting career, he filled the traditional role of calling hold by hold. I am a firm believer that calling so many matches in the formative part of his professional career helped McMahon form his long-term philosophies and vision that would create the global WWE we know today.
I was there for the changing of the guard when the powder blue, three-piece suit or tuxedo went by the wayside and in came the denim during the early days of the Attitude Era. Seeing Vince McMahon in jeans in those days was as unique as seeing Cowboy Bill Watts in a three-piece suit.
Lawler always complemented McMahon extremely well, especially when "King" would talk of Vince’s toupee, which, of course, McMahon never had. When I came long to make it a three-man team, Vince gave me room to work, and I provided "King" with some new material.
While I am not a major fan of three-man announce booths in general in any genre, there are exceptions to the rule and I remain steadfast in remembering Vince, "King" and J.R. as the best three-man team that I ever worked with on Monday Night Raw and, arguably, the best trio, for my money, ever at the announce table.
McMahon was an excellent play-by-play talent who I learned a great deal from and who understood in-ring psychology as well as anyone who ever put on a headset. Plus, no one ever cared more about WWE and its fan base than The Chairman. I was lucky to have been able to work so closely with Vince McMahon as he was able to see up-close what I could contribute to WWE, which lead to some amazing years not only at ringside, but also in the boardroom.
While “Mr. McMahon” has made Good Ol’ J.R.’s life challenging at times, Vince McMahon provided Jim Ross a career opportunity and an education that will likely never be duplicated again in the business.