WWE bouts announced by Jim “Good Ol’ J.R.” Ross are seen in 160 countries and translated into 40 different languages. His voice — and the audience for professional wrestling — are truly global.
But Ross still pays homage to a career started in the Sooner State. Now living in Norman after nearly 40 years in pro wrestling, he will be honored at Monday’s WWE Raw Supershow at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The league bets that memories of the old Mid-South and Ross’ Oklahoma ties will bring a big crowd to the live televised event.
“I see people all the time saying, ‘I don’t watch as religiously as I used to, but back in the day I never missed a day of Mid-South Wrestling,’” Ross said. “If they were in an area where Mid-South Wrestling Association aired on Sunday morning, they had some religious issues to address. Sometimes it was a photo finish getting to the church on time.”
Founded by ex-wrestler Leroy McGuirk, the Mid- South Wrestling Association was purchased in 1979 by “Cowboy” Bill Watts, who took it to new heights. Ross became the program’s lead play-by-play man in 1982.
Unlike WWE, Mid-South Wrestling was a regionally syndicated show produced by an Oklahoma-based production company. Its circuit covered Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.
Mid-South owner Watts was the top star for several years while also producing, directing and writing the show.
Along the way, a number of memorable wrestling characters were born.
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase were just a few of the headliners.
“The stars that were developed there eventually migrated to the WWE,” Ross said.
The oil bust put the finances of Mid-South Wrestling in a full nelson, eventually forcing Watts to sell out to Jim Crockett Promotions in 1987.
Ross views the old Mid-South show as the forerunner of today’s reality television. The WWE also recognizes its value; the company bought the archive of shows in 2009 after extensive negotiations with the Watts family.
Ross was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007. He said that was a special experience, “but it’s not like being recognized in your home state in front of your friends and family.” That’s why he is particularly looking forward to Monday.
“There will be a few surprises here and there,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, it will be a fun night. I think people will leave there glad that they came.”