Legendary announcer Jim Ross retired from WWE yesterday after spending 20 years with the company. As far as wrestling news goes, this was the ultimate slobberknocker. "At the age of 61 it's time to close this chapter of my life and begin exploring new adventures while my health is great," he wrote on his blog, thus reassuring his fans that he is not hanging it up due to his Bell's palsy, which sidelined him several times in his career. (There are also conspiracy theories -- because wrestling.)
For anyone that followed pro wrestling during his tenure, J.R. was an indelible part of the viewing experience, and the events he called remain pleasantly re-watchable. (Their 1980s counterparts don't hold up as well.) On a day that demands the re-watching of some classic Ross moments, these five are a good place to start.
WrestleMania IX :: April 4, 1993
After working elsewhere in pro wrestling -- primarily at NWA and its spawn WCW -- for 19 years, J.R. made his WWF debut at Wrestlemania IX. Just watch him go bananas around the 6-minute mark when Hulk Hogan pins Yokozuna:
Raw :: September 23, 1996 - Bad Ol' J.R.
There was a brief period in the mid-90s when J.R. was a heel, purporting to side with WCW as they were raiding the WWF's talent base. According to the storyline (and quite possibly reality), he was irate about being dismissed by Vince McMahon after his first bout of Bell's palsy. He had already been hired and fired and re-hired again:
King of the Ring :: June 28,1998
By the late 90s, Good Ol' J.R. had really found his groove. His chemistry with Jerry "The King" Lawler was exquisite. Their call of the Undertaker-Mankind Hell in a Cell match, which features the J.R. "GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY THAT KILLED HIM!! AS GOD AS MY WITNESS HE IS BROKEN IN HALF" (2:50-mark) quote that has since been used as the soundtrack for many a viral video, is emblematic of the way their passion enhanced the narrative:
Raw :: December 8, 2003 - What's The Rock Doing Here?
It's always outstanding when wrestling superstars return from a hiatus, as the crowd never fails to go insane. Ross would be right there with them on that level, which served to further ratchet up the mania. At the 17:10-mark, when The Rock's music hits, Ross's ecstasy would have you believing that Gorgeous George himself had risen from the dead and entered the arena:
Lawler: What the hell is this, J.R.?
J.R.: What the hell is this? GOOD GOD!! OH MY GOD IT'S THE ROCK!!! THE GREAT ONE IS HERE AND HE'S ALL AMERICAN!!!!!!!! MY GOD THESE FANS ARE ON THEIR FEET!!!!!!! WE ARE LIVE IN ANAHEIM!!!! THIS IS ELECTRIFYING!!!!!!!
WrestleMania XXVIII :: April 1, 2012
J.R. hadn't been on screen for much of the past few years, and his absence was conspicuous. It's all but impossible to watch WWE without imagining how he would narrate the events. As such, it was always special when he came back (except for when he replaced Lawler, who had had a scary on-air heart attack). At last year's WrestleMania he returned to announce HHH vs. The Undertaker, and it was as if he had never been gone:
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