Jim Ross fits in just fine at a comic con. Consider this: He once fought alongside Drax from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Details? Stick around.
Ross is an Oklahoman who is famous for his work as a professional wrestling commentator. With 1.71 million Twitter followers, he’s as much of a celebrity as many of the wrestlers.
Ross will be among celebrity guests at a Wizard World pop culture convention, scheduled Friday-Sunday, Sept. 6-8, at the Renaissance Hotel & Convention Center.
If you want to see Ross, be aware that “Good old J.R.” will appear at the convention Saturday only and intends to leave around 3 p.m. because he wants to get to Norman in time to watch his beloved Oklahoma Sooners play a home football game against South Dakota. He’s all yours (including a noon to 12:45 p.m. panel with the Honky Tonk Man) until the commute.
“I love the comic con, Wizard World-type of events,” Ross said. “It’s more casual. The fans can walk up and talk to you. I love that. They have all got a story. I love hearing what they say. More entertainers and performers or whatever need to understand that these stories fans tell us are important to them. And if it’s important to the fans who are paying our bills, it should likewise be important to us, and it is to me.”
Ross said he has been a guest at many comic cons, but he’s making his first appearance of this type in Tulsa, which means it will be sort of a homecoming. He launched his pro wrestling career in Tulsa 45 years ago while working for Leroy McGuirk and Cowboy Bill Watts. Ross lives on the other end of the turnpike now, but he said his two daughters and their families live in Tulsa.
Because a comic con is responsible for Ross’ return, he was asked if he had any nerdy passions when he was a kid.
“I was really, really big on card collecting,” he said. “That was a big deal. Unfortunately, my dearly departed father didn’t realize the value they were going to have. I came home one time from college and was going to get more of my stuff. I realized he threw all my cards away. There were some Mickey Mantle cards in there that probably would have paid for my kids’ tuition. But out of that, I still have a 1951 mint-condition Mickey Mantle rookie card.”
While answering the question, Ross talked about being raised as an only child in a rural area (he still owns 180 acres in Adair County). He said his mother and father worked outside the home, so he had a lot of time to create his own entertainment.
“I was a vociferous reader,” he said. “It was theater of the mind. I would create things and create images in my head. Then, to show my wrestling nerdiness, I always had a little wrestling ring that I played with, so I would get a piece of scrap lumber and put four nails in it, get some bailing twine and make a ring. They didn’t have action figures then. We had army men. The army men were my wrestling territory. That was my first commentary gig, alone in the middle of a 160-acre farm near Westville. I was creating fiction, and I was doing what we are doing now and that’s creating content.”
Ross, who is in the WWE Hall of Fame, now lends his skill set to All Elite Wrestling. He said he signed a three-year contract to do play-by-play for the fledgling AEW, which aims to challenge WWE supremacy and is backed by Jacksonville Jaguars billionaire owner Shahid Khan. Beginning Oct. 2, AEW will inhabit a two-hour slot on TNT’s Wednesday prime-time schedule.
Ross wants to enjoy every day. In 2017, he lost his wife, Jan, to injuries sustained when she was struck by an automobile near their residence. He said he drives by the accident site every day when he comes home.
“It’s a reminder that tomorrows are not guaranteed,” he said. “People say, ‘I don’t know how you do it. I would move.’ Well, that’s running away from something. I have never been known to run away from a challenge, and I have had plenty of them. A chubby kid from Adair County that has suffered three bouts of Bell’s palsy and cannot physically smile is not supposed to have any chance in hell of being successful on television.”
Ross is going back for seconds on TV and in print. He is finishing a sequel to his best-selling autobiography “Slobberknocker” (it’s due in March), and he recently shot a pilot for a cooking show.
“I profess to be a grilling aficionado and I think that I am,” Ross, who sells a signature brand of barbecue sauce, jerky and condiments on his official site (jrsbarbq.com). “I am much more proficient as a taster. I’m a very good taster.”
The premise for the cooking show: Female wrestler Jessie “ODB” Kresa operates a food truck with two smokers. Said Ross: “She even smokes her beans, which I love.” Ross said he and Kresa have great chemistry. “She is set in her ways in how she wants to do her food and her food truck, and I am of the mind that we can always make it better and through that comes a little bit of humor. You never know if it is going to be bought, but there is interest in it.”
What about that time Ross teamed up with Drax?
Drax is portrayed in Marvel movies by Dave Bautista, who got his start in pro wrestling. Bautista (“a sensitive guy who doesn’t look sensitive”) and Ross go way back. When Ross was scouting talent for WWE, he landed a recruiting class that included Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton, Shelton Benjamin and Bautista.
“It sounds like one of those (Barry) Switzer signing classes from back in the day,” Ross said, referring to a former OU football coach. FYI: Ross also signed The Rock, but that’s another story.
Ross was asked for his best Bautista story. There was an instance when Ross had to wrestle (“and I use that term very loosely”) Triple H at sold-out Madison Square Garden.
“We closed the show with me in an OU jersey and jeans, and I was going to have a quote-unquote match with Triple H, who was involved in a huge issue with Bautista,” Ross said.
“I think we really helped Bautista that night gain credibility and elation. Triple H was beating the hell out of me and I was bleeding. ... Bautista was supposed to have been there earlier in the night, and Triple H did something to sabotage his ride or whatever. All of a sudden, Bautista came out in the Garden and saved me. And man, it put him over the moon. Not only did he save me, he dropped Triple H and drug me over and put me on top of Triple H and I beat him.”