By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Whether he wanted it to or not, the raspy Oklahoman growl from a modest man in a jet-black cowboy hat named Jim Ross has become synonymous with numerous signature moments in professional wrestling’s heyday.
Ponder back to Mankind’s descent from the roof of the meshed mayhem that was the still-new “Hell In A Cell” structure by The Undertaker and tell us Ross’ “As God is my witness, he’s broken in half!” call isn’t etched in your memory.
Or his repetitive-yet-emotional screams of “Stone Cold!” as The Texas Rattlesnake hurled Kane over the top rope to seal his third Royal Rumble victory in 2001.
In fact, many consider “Good ‘Ol JR” the voice of pro wrestling, bar-none. His ability to focus on talent’s strengths and paint a storyline’s picture with heart made it feel like you needed to be there with him for the match he called, that anything else wasn’t worth the bother.
It was only a matter of time before JR penned his own autobiography and with help from Sports Publishing, Paul O’Brien and the late Scott E. Williams, “Slobberknocker” was born in 2017.
Let’s face it – if there was going to be a book on JR, “Slobberknocker” has a better ring to it than “Government Mule Dude.”
Right off the bat, if you seek input from Ross about World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Owner Vince McMahon’s “less than celebratory” segments that degraded his Bell’s Palsy disability, you won’t get it here. Ross speaks only highly of his old boss for the opportunity to take the ball and run behind the desk and curtain. McMahon actually pens the foreword, appropriately enough.
Ross does makes it sound as if Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock wouldn’t had gotten over without his input to Vince and for what it is, that may be true. They certainly needed it at the time to overtake World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and their stronghold grasp of the industry via “The Monday Night Wars.”
A chapter highlight is his confidence in the Mankind character and how that eventually pays off despite his concern for Mick Foley’s “hardcore” work ethic. It shows you his expertise in talent relations, just a glimpse of the backstage magic he provided.
With WCW in mind, JR goes in-depth about his childhood upbringings and how he worked humbly with the likes of “Cowboy” Bill Watts in Mid-South territory days behind the scenes by offering to do what he could to help the company whether through advertising, ring announcing or even to set up the ring.
JR’s biggest advice seems to be that he landed luck in the industry through paid dues and an almost obsessive fixation with the business, part of which he regretted from lack of family time. Through it all, he never lost who he was and it was that aspect that gave him success in talent relations.
His struggles with Bell’s Palsy dominate the last few chapters and set up the “finish” (return to the booth at WrestleMania XV in Philadelphia) in dramatic fashion, yet provide a keen sense of closure you might not get otherwise.
As “JR” as the book is, there are some elements that aren’t there. He has a strong social media presence on both Facebook and Twitter as well as a well-known podcast called The Ross Report, yet none of it is ever mentioned. Hell, not even a whimper of Barbecue sauce supremacy graces one page. Given his stature, it would’ve been interesting to get his perspective on how to stay relevant in the “digital age” when information on professional wrestling is ever present.
That said, “Slobberknocker” delivers what it promises and gives wrestling fans some insight behind one of the best minds in the business. Respect goes a long way, but it builds the foundation to personal success. JR’s story is one that needs to be heard for anybody that wants to pursue their passion but aren’t sure where to begin. All it requires is heart and the mind will follow.
With God as our witness, this book will break you in half. Don’t do this. You’ve got a family at home, dammit.
Nah, we’re just kidding.
Check it out. It’s quite the slobberknocker.
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Fresh off the thriller that was WWE WrestleMania 23, that year’s Backlash had plenty to offer itself.
Let’s start with the Last Man Standing Match for the World Heavyweight Championship between Champion The Undertaker and Batista that actually stole the show.
That would’ve been the main event if you ask us.
There were other moments that you probably didn’t realize happened here – Vince McMahon was crowned ECW World Champion (eye-roll), WWE Women’s Champion Melina and Mickie James traded fists while in splits and a Batista spear literally brought the stage down.
This made us realize that 2007 maybe wasn’t so bad after all, as veterans like Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker delivered gutsy performances.
Now, let’s get to the nooks and crannies of “WrestleMania 23: The Important Stuff Part II.”
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
While its progression to realism from a cartoonish image was evident towards the latter half of 1996, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) still struggled to shake control from its rival organization – World Championship Wrestling (WCW). WCW was in a stretch where it’d dominate television ratings for 84 consecutive weeks.
This show was peppered with potential from a standout opener between Leif Cassidy (now known as Al Snow) and Flash Funk (better referred to as 2 Cold Scorpio), a passable “Armageddon Rules” match from The Undertaker and The Executioner that went all over the arena/set and a good effort from its WWF Intercontinental Championship bout between Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Marc Mero.
The rest was showered in shrouds of ridicule as enthusiastic as the sights of Fake Diesel and Razor Ramon on our screens. Even good ‘ol Jim Ross on commentary couldn’t do much for us. We’ll also investigate the ideological mess that was the WWF World Tag Team Championship match.
In the battle of “Powerbomb Vs. Sharpshooter,” powerbomb emerged victorious, but it was our collective brains that got powerbombed in the end.
You could tell how much the WWF needed a shakeup headed into 1997.
To top it off , the namesake of the show – Vader – wasn’t even on the card. Good riddance to WWF 1996.
With the first WWE Pay-Per-View held in Canada since WrestleMania VI five years prior, the “In Your House” series continued to invade the houses of professional wrestling fans in the 90’s, giving us trademark mid-90’s WWE – outlandish characters, strong emphasis on promos and athleticism in the tag team and main event matches.
Compared to some of the past IYH’s, this show ranked up in the better half, with a fast-paced two hours with some riveting matches, nothing ever getting slow or boring, even though some of the overbooked finishes were questionable.
All on that below.
In Your House 3 was mostly known for its unique “Tripleheader” main event, which was the WWE Tag Team Champions Owen Hart/Yokozuna fighting against WWE World Champion Diesel/WWE Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels, with every Title up for grabs, as whoever got pinned would lose their respective belt(s) to the person who pinned them.
The rest of the event was well… very 90’s. We saw glimpses of future failures (Savio Vega’s initial babyface run, Dean Douglas, the list goes on) and we also saw some breakthrough performances from the likes of The British Bulldog, Bam Bam Bigelow and Bret Hart.
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
From the opening bell to the final seconds of the broadcast, this was a night that belonged to Bret “The Hitman” Hart all the way.
Many could even argue King Of The Ring 1993 was a career night for Hart as he battled through three rough, grueling matches to get the King Of The Ring accolade, also sparking what would be a long feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler over the title.
When Hart wasn’t in the spotlight, the undercard took a bit of an upper cut to the chin, with some questionable booking decisions. We’ll get into it all below.