If Jim Ross has sounded any better than he did during Saturday’s Double or Nothing, it is hard to remember when.
The proud “Boomer Sooner” delivered a phenomenal play-by-play call of All Elite Wrestling’s inaugural pay-per-view. The excitement in his voice was audible throughout the night, especially during Jon Moxley’s electrifying debut that closed out the show.
“I didn’t know it was going to happen,” said Ross. “I knew we were negotiating with Moxley. I asked what was happening with him about 10 days ago, and I was told it was going well, but when it came time for the show, his name wasn’t anywhere on my format sheet. It left my mind because I had more I knew I had to prepare for.”
If Ross sounded genuinely shocked in his call, it is because the moment even caught him by surprise.
“The lucky part for me is it reminded me of Mick Foley getting thrown off the cell,” said Ross. “I didn’t know that was going to happen, and the same thing happened on Saturday night in Vegas. I didn’t know Moxley was coming out there. He was so full of passion and raw, animal magnetism. I felt it in my bone marrow, it was a ‘Stone Cold’ moment.”
The chance to be back on headset during a pay per view was invigorating for the 67-year-old Ross, but not solely because he was sitting at the broadcast table. Ross explained that the show will forever resonate with him because of the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“The crowd there should be saluted, each and every person,” said Ross. “They brought something special. The only places I can remember hearing a crowd quite like that are some nights during the ‘Attitude Era’ in Chicago and at the Garden in New York. This audience, without question, was there because they wanted to be there, they made sacrifices to be there, and man, when they got in their seats, they delivered. We should all be grateful for that.”
Ross quarterbacked a three-person broadcast team alongside Alex Marvez and Excalibur. Though Ross has been a long opponent of the three-man booth in wrestling, he thoroughly enjoyed the chance to work with two passionate, talented broadcasters in Marvez and the masked Excalibur.
“Firstly, I enjoyed it,” said Ross. “I hope all the people that watched it did, as well. Certainly, we gave effort. It’s no secret that I’ve never been a big proponent of three-man announcement booths, but all of us—Alex Marvez, myself, and Excalibur—decided that each of us would have our own unique role.
“Alex is going to be our Jay Glazer/Adam Schefter, Excalibur is the wrestling analyst, and I’ll do my best to add some play-by-play. Excalibur reminds me, in delivery and range, of a younger Paul Heyman. He can spitfire coherent sentences and make some very valid points. All three of us, if we all stay in our lane, we can really develop a great cohesion and a verbal symmetry.”
AEW offers an incredibly versatile roster, featuring legends (Chris Jericho, Dustin Rhodes), top talents (Kenny Omega, Jon Moxley, Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks), and the future of the business (Pentagon, Fenix, Scorpio Sky, Hangman Page, Britt Baker).
“The roster has a lot of potential,” noted Ross. “We’re now in a very competitive arena. I’m not referring to us against WWE, I’m comparing us against ourselves. The next time we have a major show, we have to bring what we brought this past Saturday or better. Anything less than overwhelming success is not going to work.”
Ross shared that he will add AEW insight as often as possible on his new “Grilling JR” podcast with Conrad Thompson, which just revisited the tragic death 20 years ago of Owen Hart (“People have really responded to that episode,” said Ross. “I had such a different perspective that night as the play-by-play guy, and the memories just came flooding back to me.”).
The future is a blank slate for AEW. There are hurdles to jump, such as television ratings, weekly storylines, and finding enough playing time for the entire roster. But Ross is ready to embrace his place in the company, providing the most iconic voice in all of wrestling to its broadcasts.
“I’m broadcasting for a young, exciting expansion team, but that doesn’t intimidate me,” said Ross. “I relish it. The first voice you hear is mine, and I take a lot of pride in that.
“It’s been an amazing journey. My 26 years at WWE, another 19 before that, and now we can honestly say we have started another phase. I’m healthy, I’m happy, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else except what I’m doing right now. I can’t wait ’til we do it again.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.