Evil Jim Ross – WWF, 1999
To get the full backstory on this one, we have to go back in time. For years, Jim Ross had suffered from a disease called Bell’s Palsy – a disease which causes facial paralysis (on Ross, affecting half of his face). He had managed to overcome his affrication and continue his job of play-by-play commentating.
In December of 1998, Ross’s mother passed away. The stress from this event triggered a relapse of Ross’s illness, which this time attacked the previously unaffected portion of his face. As a result, Ross disappeared from WWF television and was replaced in his duties by Michael Cole.
Also, Dr. Death Steve Williams had joined the WWF the previous summer, just in time for an event called the Brawl for All. The premise of the matches were that these would be shoot contests. Each knockdown was worth two points and a takedown was worth one. The biggest upset occurred when Bart Gunn legitimately knocked out Dr. Death, who the WWF had been building to win the entire tournament. Gunn would eventually go on to defeat Bradshaw in the finals (after the tournament had lost any chance of legitimacy it may have had when the WWF gave the win to Gunn in a match that Marc Mero clearly won).
On February 22, 1999, Bart Gunn was facing Hardcore Holly for the Hardcore title when he was suddenly attacked and thrown off the entrance stage. The man was wearing an Oriental outfit and mask and immediately disappeared.
The next week, Jim Ross returned to Raw in order to conduct an in-ring interview with Bart Gunn, who would be facing Butterbean in a Brawl for All match at Wrestlemania. Ross immediately accused Gunn of feeling uncomfortable looking at him, because of how his face was distorted. Ross then went on, talking about how Gunn had been talking about knocking out Dr. Death in the Brawl for All, calling him “JR’s boy.” Gunn continued to avoid looking Ross in the face, which led to Ross talking about how he wanted Gunn to look him in the face when he did something he’d never done before – and Ross slapped Gunn in the face. A furious Gunn retorted that all he’d done was to do his job. Ross responded that Gunn was responsible, and Dr. Death appeared and attacked Gunn while Ross directed Williams on what to do.
The next week’s Raw saw Jim Ross coming out to the ring and promising some explanations. He called Michael Cole up into the ring and then reached into a shopping bag he’d brought out with him. Ross pulled out the Oriental outfit that Gunn’s attacker had worn two weeks before. He went over some of Williams’s accomplishments, and then said that all the WWF could come up with was for him to wear that outfit.
Ross then turned his attention to Michael Cole, calling him a pretty boy. Ross then accused Cole of telling people backstage that his face would scare small children. Ross then said he wanted to leave Cole with something to remember him by and kicked him in the crotch. As Cole writhed in pain in the ring, Ross told him to get to the back because he was taking his job back. Ross walked over and sat down behind the commentary table.
Backstage, we saw Vince McMahon ordering Terry Taylor to get out there and give JR the night off. Taylor came out to the ringside area and politely asked JR to take the night off per Vince McMahon. Ross then started ranting about the Red Rooster taking his job. That brought Dr. Death out, who escorted Ross backstage while he was still yelling about his job.
Raw had an interesting twist the next week. The show opened with Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole talking about what was coming up, as usual. However, this week some construction workers had made their way out to the same area carrying some plywood. Lawler tried to ask what they were doing. The only reply he got was that they were simply doing what they were paid to do.
Later in the show, we found out what was going on. Ross and Williams made their way out to ringside and approached the tarp-covered object, which just happened to be positioned right in front of the commentary table. They removed to tarp to reveal a commentary table – with a JR logo on the top and “JR is Raw” on the sides. JR then sat down (as Dr. Death positioned himself to serve as bodyguard) and began doing commentary.
It took one match for Cole and JR to begin sniping at each other and fighting over who got Jerry Lawler. One of the funnier examples – Cole said, “I have a big cowboy hat in my face and I can’t see a damn thing–”
Ross’s reply? “You’re gonna have a cowboy boot in your ass if you don’t shut up.”
Later in the night, Billy Gunn was taking on Hardcore Holly for the Hardcore title. Gunn finally took control of the match by throwing Holly over the top rope – and through Ross’s table. As Gunn won the match, a fuming JR made his way back to the back.
The next week the WWF used JR to take a shot at WCW. JR decided to leave Raw for the week, instead heading to a local college to hold a JR is Raw frat party (Nitro Parties, anyone?). Ross said he’d rather be at ringside but can’t (thanks to Holly) and then started looking for the girls.
Later on, Holly was in a foul mood (so what else is new?) as he arrived at the frat party. Williams immediately attacked and the two nearly destroyed the house before the cameraman was knocked out.
The next week, Holly was defending his hardcore title against Williams in an actual match. As the two in the ring fought, Ross made his way over to the Spanish announce table to continue his crusade to get his job back. Unfortunately for Williams, while referee Tim White was knocked out, Al Snow came out and leveled him with a frying pan, while saying that nobody else would beat Hardcore Holly for his (Snow’s) title.
Revenge came the next week as Snow and Holly fought each other. After Snow got the (nontitle) win, Williams and Ross made their way out and Williams attacked both men.
That was the end of the angle. Without explanation, Ross was simply back behind the commentary table with Lawler the next week and Williams was gone.
This one was goofy, but still enjoyable. Was it rooted in reality? Yes. It was understandable. And let’s be honest – it was kind of fun to see Jim Ross going nuts over losing his job.
Unfortunately, if this angle was meant to get Dr. Death over, it failed miserably. This one was all about Ross. Was it kind of fun? Sure, but if it doesn’t do what it needs to, you’ve got to call it a failure.
Where Are They Now?
Jim Ross remains with the WWE. He is still announcing on Raw, alongside Jerry Lawler.
Steve Williams left the WWF shortly after the end of this angle and went to WCW along with Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera, where he was paired onscreen with Ferrera in his guise as Oklahoma. More recently, Williams has been fighting a battle against throat cancer, which resulted in the removal of his larynx. Williams is still going through chemo but seems to be recovering. His website is http://www.oklastamped.com.
By request, one of the most mismatched tag teams in WWF history!