Jim Ross fell in love with amateur wrestling as a young boy growing up in eastern Oklahoma, then became a professional wrestling legend as an announcer and WWE executive.
The Norman resident will be inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena for all of this weekend’s NCAA Championship action, sitting alongside his friend, WWE talent scout and former Oklahoma State wrestler Jerry Brisco.
Q: Have you always loved wrestling?
A: When I grew up, the news outlets were limited. Back in the day when I was a kid, my grandfather subscribed to the Tulsa World and the Tulsa Tribune, and the Muskogee paper. He was a vociferous reader. He taught me how to read when I was 5, and one of the box scores that was easy to read through was wrestling. The Bedlam matches felt like minor bowl games, grappling bowl games. If you were a sports fan, that was just one of the sports you loved because it got viable, regular media coverage.
What is Jerry Brisco looking for in amateur wrestlers that can translate to pro wrestling?
Jerry scouts all the amateur programs. He goes to all the major duals. He has a network of coaches who work with him who know what WWE is looking for. He goes to the NAIA nationals, the Division II nationals. He’s looking for guys who have that nice look, a marketable look — he doesn’t have to be 6-3; he could be 5-10 — and some of these guys have a little showmanship in them. They’ve got a little swag about them. You need extroverted athletes. If you’re an extroverted athlete who is motivated to be an entertainer, you could go from amateur wrestling and the wrestling room, the sweat and the stench, to really making a lot of money. There’s been a lot of them in the amateurs that did exactly that.
Who was your favorite wrestler growing up?
Oh, of course, (Dan) Hodge. When I grew up in Oklahoma in the early ’60s, Hodge was the guy. He was as famous in a lot of our circles as Mickey Mantle was because he had done so well in wrestling. Three national championships. Never lost a match. Then he became a Golden Gloves boxing champion in the United States. Think about today how marketable that guy would be.