My National

My National

Veteran commentator Jim Ross talks WWE's popularity in the UAE

  |  October 10, 2013

The recently-retired announcer and commentator Jim Ross. Courtesy WWE
The recently-retired announcer and commentator Jim Ross. Courtesy WWE

Jim Ross — or Good Ol’ JR as he’s affectionately known — has been inseparably linked with the world of wrestling for 40 years, serving as a referee, announcer, talent scout and commentator during this time.

Many regard him as the voice of wrestling, which in 2007 led to him becoming one of the few non-combatants to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

In September, however, the stetson-wearing veteran announced his retirement from WWE. While the 61-year-old insisted it was due to his advancing years, internet observers have speculated that he was forced to quit by the WWE chairman Vince McMahon after failing to control guests at a press event Los Angeles.

Whatever the reasons, just before his departure, Ross reminisced with us about the highs and lows of his career.

In his opinion, his longevity in the business was down to an uncomplicated passion for the spectacle of wrestling.

“I always remained a fan,” he explains. “I never broadcast down to my audience. I remained someone up on those seats. I kept that in mind.

“I never knew what a wrestling broadcaster was supposed to be, so I never played a character. I was just myself, for better or for worse. I always maintained my love of the genre and that what kept me going.”

Nowadays WWE is a phenomena, generating millions of dollars in revenues and pulling in top TV ratings in more than 100 countries.

Ross recalls that it has been a battle to realise this success, fighting against the lack of coverage and scorn from the mainstream media.

"We were almost like a man without a country — we didn’t find our ways to the sports pages and the entertainment writers didn’t want to write about us,” he explains.

“The only time we’d get some outside the box coverage would be if there was a tragedy,” he adds, alluding to events such as the death of the wrestler Owen Hart in 1999 while abseiling into the ring.

But Ross is unsurprised that wrestling managed to transcend national borders to achieve a truly global fan base.

“Where we live, no matter our ethnicity, we all have heroes. We have protagonists and antagonists in our lives, whether that be fictional or non-fictional,” he says.

“That formula of good versus evil is very easy to translate. If the performers are doing their job, even if you don’t speak their language, you should be able to establish who’s the villain and who’s the fan favourite.

“Back when I began, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind that it would be popular in the United Arab Emirates. It doesn’t surprise me now as I realise that it’s such great entertainment, so why wouldn’t it be popular everywhere?”

As for his future plans, as well as a forthcoming spoken-word theatre tour in which he will recount anecdotes from his career, Ross says he will continue to watch and admire the bouts from afar.

"I'll be sitting somewhere out of sight and enjoying the show,” he says. “Now I’ve had the journey I had, I’m almost broadcasting in my brain. I’m processing too much information. But I guess other people would think I’m crazy if I’m actually commentating out loud.”