at WWE amid bittersweet times ORLANDO, Fla.
don't want this thing to be a wake, Jim Ross says from the passenger seat of a rented Nissan SUV, adjusting his trademark black cowboy hat and staring straight ahead through his red and white Oakley sunglasses as we merge onto Interstate 4 and head east toward downtown Saturday morning. The legendary wrestling broadcaster is talking about his show that afternoon, the first of two weekend matinees at The Plaza Live, a modest movie theater turned concert hall about four miles from Camping World Stadium, the site of WrestleMania 33. It's Ross' first "Ringside" speaking gig since the unexpected passing of his wife, Jan, on March 22, and while he knows the topic of her death, a result of a March 20 traffic accident, can't be avoided, he'd prefer it not become the focus of his 90 minute set. Instead, Ross tells his manager and producer, Rafael Morffi, that he'd like to spend as much time as possible interacting with host Jeremy Borash, telling stories, answering audience super cheap oakleys questions and engaging his panel, which, over two days, includes Tony Schiavone, Bruce Prichard, Mick Foley and Jeff Jarrett, among others. "I got up this morning at 7 o'clock woke up much earlier than that, but finally got up at 7 and something set me off and the water came," Ross said, describing one of the countless texts, calls and tweets of solidarity he's received over the past two weeks. "And I'm thinking, 'My God, I've got this show to do today, and I can't do oakley sunglasses white this. I can't be a distraction.' That's the wrong kind of emotion to elicit out of your audience. They've paid money to come see you, and you've got to deliver more than just tears." Yet while Ross' concern is the customer, it's evident his followers and friends are worried about him. Over the course of a two hour pre show meet and greet with VIP ticket holders, virtually everyone who shakes Ross' hand passes along condolences, one family with a young child bringing an orchid as a token of their support. After the show, another couple waits in line for more than a half hour, not for a photo or an autograph or to tell a story or ask him about his rumored return to the WWE broadcast booth the question du jour but simply to hand Ross a sympathy card. Each time it happens, Ross' heart skips a beat as he chokes out a thank you, and by showtime he's a bundle of nerves or at least as close to one as the Hall of Famer with more than 40 years of experience gets. "I guess I just feel that I need to fulfill my end of the bargain," Ross says when asked why he insists on performing when his fans would certainly understand had he canceled the dates. "It's just old school, andthat's me, for better or for worse. I don't need a parade in my honor. I'm not going to break my arm, as Monsoon would say, patting myself on the back. But the bottom line of it is that I feel obligated to reciprocate to these people who have been loyal to me all these years." Those same emotions also take over Sunday, on a deeper level, when "Boomer Sooner" roars from the PA and Ross joins Michael Cole and JBL at the announce table for the main event at WrestleMania the first assignment of a new tenurewith WWE. "I'm not going to tell you that I didn't have those bald eagle sized butterflies, but that's to be expected," Ross said late Sunday night from his hotel following the Undertaker's loss to Roman Reigns and subsequent retirement. "To be on the card at WrestleMania is not a right. It's really, indeed, a privilege, and I was very happy that WWE reached out and wanted to, as they say, in their own words, bring me home. "That conversation began months ago, and my wife was so excited about the prospects and about the potential of us coming to WrestleMania," Ross continued. "She wanted to get dressed up and walk the red carpet at the Hall of Fame, and she wanted to hear me get introduced and to see mewalk out and call a match. That was her dream, and I shared that dream, which is one of the reasons I was so willing to come here. So much love. has a specific number of dates that I'm obligated to work, which I think is good for me, Ross said. look at it this way: I got my jersey back. I got brought back to my home team, and my opportunities back in WWE, I'm sure, will be multi fold. got a lot of things that I can contribute (to), and I've been so blessed in the business that I've done so many different things," Ross continued. "I've been an administrator and a syndicator, a marketing rep, a VP of broadcasting, a head of talent relations. But the fun part is what I did tonight. hope to have more part assignments in the future, but I've got my jersey back, he reiterated. if the team needs me to play, to work more than they anticipated because they need it, I'm in. sensing Ross' pre show disquiet one day earlier, Jarrett, the longtime WCW and WWE star, pulls Ross into the green room bathroom for a private chat as a local radio host warms up the crowd around the corner. Then, as he takes one last sip from his Crown Royal and steps out into the hallway leading to the stage, Ross walks into an extended hug from Jarrett's wife, Karen, an entertainer in her own right who later says she's "never felt Jim shake like that" before a show. "I wasn't nervous getting in front of a crowd; that's never been my issue," Ross tells me later, when asked about the embrace, before hearkening back to his first major speaking engagement, at age 16, in front of a crowd of 6,000 at the Future Farmers of America banquet at Gallagher Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla. "But I was certainly uneasy with my emotions. That was the big unknown. Could I keep it together and maintain my train of thought?" Throughout the performance that followed, Ross stuck to the script he'd discussed Saturday morning, briefly acknowledging Jan's passing at the outset before moving on to wrestling. The only time he became visibly upset was as he signed off, tears welling in his eyes as he told the crowd, "It's been hard, and my heart is broken, but you've helped me heal, and I thank you a lot." Still, an exhausted Ross expressed disappointment as he decompressed following his post show meet and greet, lamenting oakley radar sunglasses the instances where he admits he lost track of what he was saying. "Generally, in non stressful situations, I've always been able to capture the thought and bring it back," Ross said. "But tonight I had a couple, three times that I couldn't even remember what I was talking about. And that's simply a facet of grieving. "The mind has a short attention span and it takes you to places you didn't necessarily want to go," he continued in his trademark Oklahoma drawl. "So when I'm trying to answer some of these questions tonight, some of them reminded me of my wife, and that's where I went, and then when I got there, that's what dominated my thoughts and I couldn't get back to where I wanted to be. "So that was uncomfortable, and I get that it's going to be a part of the process going forward for a while," Ross added. "Am I embarrassed by that? Yeah, a little bit. But at least I'm honest." Ross is also nothing if not forthright about his experience dealing with the minority of detractors who have been critical of his quick return to the office. "I've had some skeptics say, 'Well, JR didn't grieve very long. He's already going to Orlando,' and it pisses me off," Ross said, his voice growing irritated.
"How do you know I'm not grieving? What are you, Carnac? Are you some oakley mens mentalist? And how do you have the audacity to say I'm not grieving about losing the love of my life, my angel? They say, 'He's already back at work,' but what did you want me to do? Sit at home? "I lost my best friend and soul mate, 24 years together," Ross continued, "And I could have not come and sat in the darkness and cried more. But I was tired of crying, and I wanted to get around people that I knew loved me.".
Prev: oakley green glasses
Next: outlet oakley