Ross was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest announcers in wrestling history. He is known affectionately by wrestling fans as "Good Ol' JR". Outside of professional wrestling, Ross has developed his own brand of barbecue sauces and cookbooks.
While attending Westville High School, Ross was the first baseman on the Westville baseball team. Ross was a two-time all-conference football player for the Westville Yellowjackets in 1968–69. His maternal grandparents owned a general store in Westville, Oklahoma and his paternal grandfather Dee Ross owned an off-sale beer store and was a carpenter. Ross was also President of the Student Body, a 4-year letterman in basketball, and State Vice President of the Future Farmers of America where he was State Speech Champion in 1968. Ross was also named Honorable Mention on the 1969 High School All State Football team by the Tulsa World as a center.
During his time in college, Ross had spent some time commentating on college radio. With this experience, Ross was given a chance to be a sideline commentator when an announcer in one territory was unable to show up one night. Jim first worked in the NWA Mid-South area as a referee in 1974. He stayed as a referee there until 1977.
Shortly after Bill Watts bought out the Mid-South territory on 1982, Ross returned to work there, becoming their lead play-by-play man in 1986. The first World Title match he called was between Ric Flair and Ted DiBiase. When Jim Crockett, Jr. bought the Mid-South (since renamed the Universal Wrestling Federation) and merged it with his Jim Crockett Promotions group, Ross joined the new company and teamed up doing color commentary with David Crockett and Tony Schiavone as lead play-by-play man for the National Wrestling Alliance. Ross continued to hone his skills and build his legacy as Jim Crockett Promotions became NWA World Championship Wrestling (WCW). In 1991 the promotion left the NWA and became WCW. Jim was teamed with long-time NWA/Crockett broadcaster Bob Caudle for a couple of years. In 1992, he also spent one season as a commentator on Atlanta Falcons radio broadcasts.
Ross worked his way up the ladder, yet along the way had a contentious relationship with WCW's newest commentator (and future WCW executive) Eric Bischoff. According to Ross, Bischoff, who reported to him, did a really good job of "selling himself" to executives of WCW's owner Turner Broadcasting. According to Bischoff, Ross mistreated him and others (mostly in deference to Ross' then-supervisor Bill Watts), and when Eric was promoted to executive producer in 1993, Ross demanded, and received, his release.
Ross had a three-year contract with Turner Broadcasting, but he took an immediate buy-out for fear that he would not get work elsewhere if he was taken off television for a long period of time. Mick Foley claims that Ross resigned from WCW's booking committee. Ross left WCW after being taken off the air by Eric Bischoff.
World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment / WWE (1993-2013)
Early Career in WWF (1993–2002)
Ross was hired by the World Wrestling Federation (later known as World Wrestling Entertainment and eventually shortened to WWE). He made his on-screen debut at WrestleMania IX and taking over for Gorilla Monsoon on WWF Wrestling Challenge the next weekend. Ross worked alongside Bobby Heenan on that show until Heenan left the WWF in December 1993. Ross was originally the main voice of the WWF's pay-per-view events when he was first brought in, calling both WrestleMania IX and the King of the Ring with Heenan and Randy Savage in 1993. Vince McMahon took his position at pay-per-views starting with SummerSlam 1993.
Ross was then made host of Radio WWF, alongside Gorilla Monsoon (the man he replaced at WrestleMania), which lasted under a year. In this role, Ross was joined by co-hosts such as Johnny Polo, and talked to various WWF Superstars and fans. Ross and Monsoon called SummerSlam and the Survivor Series at the end of 1993 and the Royal Rumble for Radio WWF.
Ross was fired by WWF on February 11, 1994 two weeks after suffering his first attack of Bell's palsy. He subsequently became an announcer for Smoky Mountain Wrestling and the NFL's Atlanta Falcons (the second time he was with the Falcons as an announcer). In Smoky Mountain Wrestling, Ross was reunited with former NWA/WCW announcer Bob Caudle. The promotion was owned by longtime NWA Manager Jim Cornette and featured many former NWA/WCW wrestlers such as The Rock and Roll Express, Eddie Gilbert and Steve "Dr. Death" Williams.
When Vince McMahon was indicted by the United States federal government in 1994, he was unable to continue commentating on Monday Night Raw. After a few weeks of Gorilla Monsoon on play-by-play, the WWF rehired Ross to fill in for McMahon alongside Randy Savage throughout that summer. When McMahon was acquitted, Ross was let go by the WWF again. Ross returned to Smoky Mountain Wrestling. The WWF rehired him in early 1995 in time for WrestleMania XI. Relocated to the syndicated WWF programming for the majority of the next two years, Ross would rejoin the primary announce team in the summer of 1996. In September 1996, Ross turned heel in WWF storylines for the first time in his career. Following Diesel and Razor Ramon leaving the WWF for World Championship Wrestling and debuting there as The Outsiders, Ross began to proclaim on television that he was still in touch with "Diesel" and "Razor" and claimed that he would be bringing them back to the WWF soon. Other announcers were skeptical, and WWF President Monsoon said that Hall and Nash were under contract with "another organization", and ordered Ross to cease and desist mentioning them on the air. On the September 23, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw, Ross delivered a worked-shoot promo during which he ran down WWF Chairman Vince McMahon (outing him as chairman and not just a commentator for the first time in WWF storylines) and debuted his "new" Diesel and Razor, claiming that while working in the WWF "front office" he had been the man responsible for so many people leaving the company as part of his "revenge" against the WWF for how they treated him in the past. While he was kept on the air by McMahon, Ross portrayed himself to be bitter and spiteful, with repeated potshots at McMahon. However, the "New Diesel-New Razor" storyline was poorly received by fans, and Ross' heel turn was quickly dropped.
After this angle, Ross went on to host various WWF programs such as Superstars, Action Zone, Raw Is War, and Shotgun Saturday Night. Ross again became the main voice of the WWF beginning at the 1997 Survivor Series. At the end of 1998, Ross took a break from Raw Is War, due to another attack of Bell's palsy which came the day after the death of his mother. He eventually returned to Raw Is War as part of a storyline alleging that Vince fired him because of his condition, but that he would not go down quietly and enlisted the services of "Dr. Death" Steve Williams as his personal "enforcer." The storyline went as far as to have Jim Ross set up his own announce table in front of the official announce table labeled "JR Is War." Shortly after that, Jim Ross confronted his replacement, Michael Cole, in the ring. After minutes of Cole trying to convince that he was not trying to steal Ross' job, Ross kicked Cole in the crotch and left the ring. The storyline was soon dropped as the attempt to turn Ross heel failed (the fans ended up cheering Ross and booing Cole) and he took his seat back as "official" commentator of Raw Is War starting with the main event of WrestleMania XV. Ross' Bell's palsy proved fodder for ridicule by WWF's competitor, World Championship Wrestling, in late 1999. Ed Ferrara parodied Ross, including doing a full impression including mockery of his modified voice due to his medical condition. This was received negatively by fans and wrestlers alike, with Jim Cornette threatening legitimate physical harm against Ferrara. Ferrara ceased mocking the medical condition after the first week. The angle was soon dropped by WCW, but not before "Oklahoma", Ferrara's parody of JR, won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, even defending it on Pay-Per-View, at WCW Souled Out in 2000 against female Wrestler, Madusa.
Ross was the "voice of Raw Is War" throughout the Monday Night Wars alongside Jerry Lawler and cemented his legacy as one of the great wrestling commentators as WWE became the sole major wrestling promotion in North America. After the WWE Brand Extension, Ross worked exclusively for the Raw brand, cutting down to doing play-by-play on Raw-only pay-per-views, while SmackDown!-only pay-per-views were announced by SmackDown's announce team.
For most of the next six years Ross was involved in very few storylines. Also during this time, Ross served as an Executive Vice President of Talent Relations for the WWF/WWE, a codified extension of his long-time role as a member of management backstage in charge of hiring new talent. By 2005, Ross had stepped down from his executive and management roles. According to repeated statements on his official blog, the move away from management proved beneficial in terms of decreased work-load, giving him more time to focus on his health, his family, and his entrepreneurial endeavors.
Still working as the voice of Raw, Ross was again "fired" (kayfabe) from his play-by-play job by Vince and Linda McMahon on October 10, 2005. Doctors had discovered a serious issue with Ross's colon, and his storyline termination provided an explanation for his absence. While recovering from his colon surgery, Joey Styles (best known for his commentary work for Extreme Championship Wrestling) called the weekly Raw. After recovering, Ross helped produce the Raw announcers from backstage, and was brought back for Saturday Night's Main Event in 2006, then the Raw-brand matches at WrestleMania 22 in Chicago, before taking back his play-by-play job on Raw on May 8, 2006, after Styles quit Raw in the storyline, declaring his hatred for "sports entertainment".
Ross' contract with WWE expired in October 2006. At that point, neither side had signed a new contract and instead worked week to week under the terms of the expired contract. In November 2006, Jim Ross stated on his official blog that he had signed a new one-year contract with WWE and would continue to work year-to-year. On March 31, 2007, Ross was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Stone Cold Steve Austin.
On June 23, 2008 during the 2008 WWE Draft, Ross was drafted from Raw to the SmackDown brand while Michael Cole was drafted from SmackDown to Raw, trading positions as commentators on each brand. This ended Ross' position as Monday Night Raw's play-by-play commentator after a nearly 12-year run. The following day Ross posted a blog on his official website saying initially he was not happy with the move and considered quitting the company since he was not told beforehand about the move, but that he will work "to make Smackdown the best program the WWE produces".
On April 5, 2009, WrestleMania XXV, Ross commented on Rey Mysterio's mask which had been made to represent Heath Ledger's role as The Joker. His comment was, 'I think Rey's career is alive and well King'. Jim Ross has apologized on his JR's BBQ website explaining that, "it was the wrong choice of words to use and on live television mistakes can happen."
On April 8, 2009, Ross announced on his WWE Universe blog that with the departure of Tazz from World Wrestling Entertainment, he would assume the role of SmackDown's color analyst, with ECW announcer Todd Grisham moving over to the brand as the play-by-play announcer. At Backlash, Santina Marella, Santino's "twin sister" revealed that she loves Ross rather than The Great Khali. Ross was not told about the joke but posted in his blog "Let bygones be bygones". October 6, 2009 was his last broadcasting as a full-time announcer for the WWE.
Ross missed the SmackDown tapings on October 13, 2009, as he asked for a day off due to an anniversary. This was the first time he ever asked for a day off. Seven days later, on October 20, Ross suffered his third Bell's palsy episode en route to Columbia, South Carolina for a SmackDown taping. After initially planning on working the tapings and reuniting with Lawler, Ross instead flew back to Oklahoma, missing the show—Lawler and Cole commentated SmackDown—and leaving his plans for WWE Bragging Rights in the air. On October 21, 2009, Jim Ross announced that he would not be commentating the WWE Bragging Rights pay-per-view, but Grisham mentioned that SmackDown would give Ross the Bragging Rights trophy as a "get well" gift. According to Ross in his personal blog, he will be out of action, recovering from his current bout with Bell's palsy. On March 31, 2010, Jim Ross confirmed on his Twitter page that his health is in good order. On May 1, 2010, his talent contract with WWE expired but recently has had his contract renewed. He still works for the WWE and is a consultant for the Talent Relations department dealing with talent payroll, scouting and talent development.
Return To Raw and Feud with Michael Cole (2011-2013)
On the November 15, 2010, live three hour special Old School Raw from the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Ross made a guest appearance on commentary with Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole, calling a match between Daniel Bryan and Jack Swagger. This was Ross' first television appearance in over one year. Cole would insult Ross throughout the match, which resulted in Ross hitting Cole over the head with his hat after the match had finished.
On the March 14, 2011 episode of Raw from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, Ross made another guest appearance, trying to talk some sense into Cole, who over the last few months began a feud with Jerry 'The King' Lawler. Ross would get insulted some more by Cole, which made Ross challenge Cole to a fight, only for Jack Swagger to come out and attack both Lawler and Ross.
Ross came back at WrestleMania XXVII to call the final four matches on the card, including the Cole/Lawler match. He also made an appearance on the following night's RAW program, alongside Jerry Lawler, whom he called the last three Matches of WrestleMania with the night previous. He left Raw later that night after Cole squirted him with his BBQ sauce, which legitimately got in his eye and caused Ross to need one of his eyes flushed by the Medical Trainers backstage.
Since returning to the Announce Table the night after WrestleMania on RAW, Ross once again became an unofficial Raw commentator, reuniting with Jerry Lawler, then the next week, managing Lawler in his re-rematch with Jack Swagger. Following the Match, which King won, thus gaining the right to pick the type of Match and stipulation for a rematch between him and Michael Cole at Extreme Rules, he chose a Tag Team Match, where he and JR would face Michael Cole and the man Cole pushed, poked and slapped after losing to King that night, Jack Swagger. JR then called the rest of the show with Lawler and Josh Mathews, serving in the role he portrayed when he was last a full-time commentator on WWE programming providing a mix of both color and play-by-play commentary.
On the April 18, 2011 episode of RAW eminating from the United Kingdom, during Michael Cole knighting ceremony, Ross was forced to kiss Cole's fungus-infected foot and miss the remaining two Matches that night after also, once again, receiving an Ankle Lock from Jack Swagger.
The next week on RAW, the 2011 WWE Draft version of the show, Ross faced Michael Cole in the only Match of the night not worth a Draft pick for a Brand. The Match was almost five minutes long, most of which was Cole taunting Ross, most notably with the Kamala belly pat and wearing JR's hat, only to take it off and step on it in the Ring and kick it out of the Ring. Ross legitimately broke his hand, as well as cut himself on his right knuckle and bust Cole's lip, causing Cole to bleed from inside his mouth. Ross won the Match by Disqualification when Swagger came in and attacked him. Jerry Lawler, who was at Ringside with Ross to counteract Swagger's being at Ringside for Cole, got in after also being attacked by Swagger on the outside of the Ring earlier and took out Swagger after Cole whipped Ross' back with his Belt, which Swagger took off of him before putting him in the Ankle Lock. Lawler whipped Cole on his behind with the same Belt, which prompted the Anonymous RAW General Manager to make the Tag Match between the four at that Sunday's Extreme Rules a Country Whippin' Match, the second of Ross' career. Cole ran off holding his behind as JR showed Lawler his busted knuckle, as well as the blood on his right cheek. Lawler & Ross ended up losing at Extreme Rules, when Cole pinned Ross with a roll-up.
At Over the Limit on May 22, Ross showed up to gain revenge on Cole for squirting him with his own barbecue sauce a couple of months before on Raw. JR brought his own bottle of sauce to the ring with him and proceeded to pour it all out over Cole's face, hair and clothes. Things only got worse from there for Cole, as Bret Hart made a surprise appearance and locked in the Sharpshooter, while Lawler made Cole kiss his foot. After that, he joined the announcer's table alongside Josh Mathews and Booker T to call the "I Quit Match" of John Cena and The Miz.
Brief return to Raw (2011)
On July 25, 2011, the new COO of WWE, Triple H re-hired Ross to a full-time commentating position on Monday Night Raw to reform the partnership between himself and Jerry Lawler (alongside Michael Cole). On September 19, Jim Ross interviewed Mark Henry on winning the World Heavyweight Championship from Randy Orton at Night of Champions, but only to be attacked by him. Jerry Lawler tried to stop him but he received a World's Strongest Slam. Ross and Lawler were replaced by Josh Mathews for the rest of the night.
On the October 10 episode of Raw, Ross was fired by the new Raw Interim General Manager, John Laurinaitis, for walking out on Triple H the week before. Ross later revealed that he was given no prior notification that he was to be publicly fired like he was. On the October 17 episode of Raw, Ross returned in a tag team match with John Cena in a win over Michael Cole and Alberto Del Rio. A week later, Cole would challenge Ross to a "Michael Cole Challenge" match, where if Cole would lose, he would quit. Despite this, on the Halloween special episode of Raw, Ross "no-showed" the "Michael Cole Challenge" due to inflammatory bowel disease. The Michael Cole challenge was rescheduled for the following week, but again was cancelled. The challenge was yet again scheduled for the November 14 episode, and was slated to kick off that night's episode. In the episode Ross won two of the three challenges which were arm wrestling and dancing but lost the final challenge which was who weighed less. Subsequently, he was "fired" again.
On the 12/12/2011 edition of RAW at the Slammy Awards, JR won the slammy award for "tell me I just did not see that". He then got in a rap battle against Michael Cole which JR won. He then celebrated by doing the Spinnaroonie.
On April 1, 2012, at WrestleMania XXVIII, Ross, sporting a new beard, returned to call the 'End of an Era' Hell in a Cell match between Triple H and The Undertaker per Undertaker's request behind the scenes. it should also be noted that he ended his long time feud with Michael Cole as the 2 shook hands healing any old wounds they had between them.
Ross also made an appearance at the 1,000th episode of Raw on July 23, 2012, commentating the opening match.
On the September 17th and October 8 episodes of Raw, Jim Ross joined Michael Cole & JBL at commentary filling in for Jerry Lawler.
NXT & Substituting for Jerry Lawler (2012)
Following Jerry Lawler's heart attack on September 10, Ross returned to Raw to work as an interim commentator while Lawler recovered. Ross was honored on the October 1 edition of Raw as it was dedicated JR Appreciation Night and was held in his hometown of Oklahoma City. While CM Punk interrupted the segment as it aired, Ross was acknowledged by Vince McMahon and Triple H as well as local wrestling legends Bill Watts and Danny Hodge after Raw went off the air.
Periodic Appearances on Raw and Smackdown, Retirement (2013)
On December 17, 2012, during the WWE Raw, Jim Ross appeared alongside Gene Okerlund and Ricky The Dragon Steamboat to announce the winner of the Slammy Award for Match of the Year. Ross also returned on the 20th Anniversary edition of Raw on January 14, 2013, where he called the steel cage main event between John Cena and Dolph Ziggler. Michael Cole allowed Ross to replace him to call the match alongside JBL and Jerry Lawler.
On March 1, 2013, Jim Ross made a return to Friday Night SmackDown to interview his long-time friend Jack Swagger, and Swagger's advocate, Zeb Colter. Swagger began provoking Ross, saying he wasn't a "real American". Alberto Del Rio ran down the ramp and into the ring and gave Jim Ross his cowboy hat back, which Jack Swagger originally knocked off. Del Rio then said to his WrestleMania XXIX opponent that he wasn't a Jack Swagger, but a jackass, and then Ross left the ring. On April 7, Jim Ross appeared to host the WrestleMania 29 pre-show and post show alongside Dusty Rhodes, Kofi Kingston and Scott Stanford.
In 2012 when Paul Levesque (Triple H) took control of Talent Relations he hired Jim Ross to work as an Advisor and Scout within the department. In 2013 Jim Ross also began to coach and produce new announcers at the WWE Performance Center in Florida.
He announced his retirement from WWE on September 11, 2013 to pursue his personal business endeavors.
New Japan Pro Wrestling (2015-present)
On January 4, 2015, Ross and Matt Striker served as the English language commentators for Global Force Wrestling's presentation of New Japan Pro Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 9 in Tokyo Dome pay-per-view.
On January 19, 2016, it was announced that Ross had signed to become the new lead announcer for NJPW's weekly program on AXS TV.
Independent circuit (2016–present)
On October 8, 2016, Ross, along with Jim Cornette, provided commentary for What Culture Pro Wrestling's first iPPV, Refuse to Lose. On December 31, Ross was on commentary for the pilot episode of World of Sport Wrestling on ITV. On February 12, 2017, Ross returned to WCPW for commentary at the iPPV, True Destiny and for WCPW's Loaded tapings that same month.
Return to WWE (2017-2018)
On April 2, 2017, at WrestleMania 33, Ross returned to WWE, providing commentary for the main event No Holds Barred match between The Undertaker and Roman Reigns. Shortly after the event, it was announced that Ross had signed a two-year deal with the company. During the summer, Ross would provide commentary, alongside Lita, for the Mae Young Classic. On the January 22, 2018, episode of Raw 25 Years, Ross would reunite with Jerry Lawler as part of the commentary team that was at the Manhattan Center. On April 8, 2018, at WrestleMania 34, Ross called the fifth annual André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the WrestleMania 34 pre-show, alongside Jerry Lawler and Byron Saxton.
All Elite Wrestling (2019-present)
Although Ross' career has predominantly been as a commentator Ross has participated in matches, with some notable success, including a victory over Triple H in a no-DQ match (albeit with help from Batista).
Ross' most notable wrestling appearance was in a tag team match with broadcast partner Jerry "The King" Lawler against Al Snow and Jonathan Coachman at the 2003 Unforgiven pay-per-view, with their Raw broadcast jobs on the line. They lost the contest to Snow and Coachman due to interference by Chris Jericho, however two weeks later Ross and Lawler regained their jobs when Ross defeated Coachman in a Country Whippin' match, using a stunner finishing maneuver. Ross has participated in more contests alongside Lawler and has appeared in a few extreme stipulation matches. Ross competed against Michael Cole on the April 25th edition of Raw, where he defeated Cole by disqualification after Cole's manager for the match, Jack Swagger, attacked Ross while he had Cole mounted and was landing punches on him.
Jim Ross has been involved in multiple conflicts as well with superstars such as Triple H, Val Venis, Jack Swagger, Vladimir Kozlov, Mankind, Stone Cold Steve Austin, bloodied in a Match by then-RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff, and was even set on fire by Kane. Ross even main-evented the WWF's first-ever show from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA, an edition of Raw is War that took place on October 11, 1999. Ross teamed with Stone Cold Steve Austin to take on WWF Champion Triple H and his partner Chyna.
As part of storylines, Ross has been regularly targeted by Vince McMahon in rather harsh circumstances throughout his time with WWE: most notably in 2005 when Vince McMahon's character, Mr. McMahon, featured in a series of segments which made fun of Ross' legitimate colon surgery.
Ross was married to his wife Jan and has two daughters (from a previous marriage) and two granddaughters. He suffers from Bell's palsy, which sometimes results in temporary paralysis of Ross' facial muscles. In late 1998, following the death of his mother, Ross took a break from Raw as the effects of his grief reportedly worsened his Bell's palsy, and Michael Cole filled in for Ross. Despite his condition, Ross has established himself as one of the all-time greatest wrestling commentators, often compared to Gordon Solie.
In 2007, spurred on by sales of his line of barbecue sauces and beef products, Ross opened up J.R.'s Family Bar-B-Q, a barbecue restaurant in Norman, Oklahoma. The restaurant was closed as of May 2010. He is an avid Oklahoma Sooners sports fan and is a regular football season-ticket holder. This is reflected in his entrance music which is the Boomer Sooner fight song. He was spotted on the Sooner sideline during their November 27, 2010 win over in-state rival Oklahoma State 47-41, as well as the 2010 Big 12 Championship Game between Oklahoma and Nebraska.
On March 20, 2017, Ross's wife was involved in a vehicle accident while riding a Vespa and suffered serious head injuries. Two days later, Ross announced on Twitter that his wife died from her injuries.
- WWE Talent Relations Consultant
- WWE SmackDown color commentator
- WWE Friday Night SmackDown play-by-play announcer
- WWE Raw play-by-play announcer
- WCW Executive Vice President of Broadcasting
- WWE Executive Vice President of Business Strategies
- WWE Executive Vice President of Talent Relations
- UWF/Mid-South play-by-play announcer
- SMW play-by-play announcer
- WCW play-by-play announcer
- XFL play-by-play announcer
- Atlanta Falcons play-by-play announcer
Championships and accomplishments
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Art Abrams Lifetime Achievement Award (2010)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Stanley Weston Award (2002)
- World Wrestling Entertainment
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Jim Ross on Twitter