When Jim Ross was a college student at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma, he promoted and coordinated two wrestling events in his college fieldhouse, both of which were quite popular. That’s when he caught the attention of wrestling promoter Bill Watts, who told Ross what every college student wants to hear:
“Hey, kid, if you ever want a job when you get out of college, I got one waiting on you.”
The rest is history.
“I’d always been a fan and I wanted to be a broadcaster, but I didn’t have any idea (how to do it),” Ross said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I thought there’d be a summertime job, quite honestly, and I would have great stories to tell my buddies over beer. All of a sudden, I’m there 40 years doing wrestling.”
Now a WWE Hall-of-Famer, Ross, 64, got a humble start in the business, making anywhere from $25 to $40 a day. To supplement his income, Ross became, in essence, an Uber driver for wrestlers.
“You got two cents a mile from your passengers, so the wrestlers would ride with me,” he said. “I’d get two cents a mile from three of them. That would be six cents a mile. That mileage money was a big deal. I learned to roll a joint (and steer) a car with my knees and not spill any of the sustenance. It was the fact that I was a rookie, I was young, I was getting hazed, I was impressionable – so I did a lot of things for them. I got their beer. I drove with an open container every night. I wasn’t drinking, but there was a lot of stuff going on in my car, whether it be gassy noises or smoking, that kind of helped indoctrinate me to what the hell’s going on.”
Ross joined WWE in 1993. He served as a broadcaster and eventually – to put it in NFL terms– as director of player personnel. Ross signed The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley and several other wrestlers. In fact, one class that he signed featured Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Dave Bautista, Randy Orton and Shelton Benjamin.
“So five guys that all became millionaire wrestlers,” Ross said. “I wore a lot of hats there and I loved it. We assembled a hell of a roster that took a company that was near bankruptcy in the mid-’90s to going public just a few years later with a $160 million IPO. So I was there for the good days and bad days of WWE, but I can tell you honestly I enjoyed every one of them. It was a great adventure. I’m one of the few guys you can talk to who’s worked for Ted Turner, Vince McMahon and now Mark Cuban. Three very unique personalities, shall we say.”