AEW commentator Jim Ross along with podcast host Conrad Thompson were in the United Kingdom for a three-tour show titled Grilling JR. The shows were held in London, Manchester, and Glasgow. Our good friend Liam Johnson (Twitter: @Lcjcheshire) attended the show in Manchester at the Comedy Store and sent in the following recap.
Inside The Rope’s Kenny McIntosh hosted the event. Jim Ross and Conrad Thompson were sat beside Kenny at a table. Kenny brought up the recent falling out of Jim Cornette and Dave Meltzer and asked JR and Conrad for their opinions on the situation. JR did a Cornette impression. Conrad said that Cornette is playing a character on a podcast to be entertaining and mentioned the fact that Meltzer also wants to entertain his fans and with that brings polarizing opinions. JR mentioned how both should think about today more than what was done in the past. JR said they’re both smart wrestling people but this is “childish BS”. JR said he has “no dog in the hunt” (isn’t taking sides). Conrad made the point over modern wrestling in that context is king. Conrad brought up the example of how his daughter liked Naomi’s glow belt which didn’t really impress him but then he thought that he liked the Million Dollar Belt back in the day when he was a kid (point being, different demographics like different things).
Kenny asked JR about All Elite Wrestling. JR said he didn’t expect to leave WWE in the first place. JR said he didn’t know who Excalibur was until he joined and that he didn’t know what to expect but said they have a unique owner in Tony Khan. JR mentioned how WWE lost over a billion dollars and how Vince lost over 300 million in over 20 minutes (the point most likely being that the state of the business can change very quickly).
JR mentioned who AEW are hiring including the likes of Keith Mitchell, Jericho, Moxley, Darby Allin, Jungle Boy etc… Jim said he didn’t know everyone initially but said that AEW is less political and more casual. There are no writers in AEW. The main stars do their own creative. JR likes the fact that AEW don’t have any writers and said that players are the main stars. Jim made the analogy of if Manchester United had no star players, less people would watch them. Jim said the younger guys are constantly learning. Jim compared Darby Allin to a young Jeff Hardy through being so fearless. JR also said Darby was entrepreneurial through his videos that he makes and puts online. JR described how he met Tony Khan through Alex Marvez. JR said that AEW plans on coming to the United Kingdom in 2020. Jim doesn’t know exactly when and whether it’ll be to tape television.
JR said that a few wrestlers were basically their own worst enemies in not saving money, not completing their taxes or getting married several times (but didn’t mention names).
Kenny said how Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson’s comedy timing was great when they were on screen characters during the Attitude Era.
JR said that Pat Patterson and Ray Stevens may have been the best tag team of all time. Jim said they had “great fundamentals”. JR also mentioned that Dusty Rhodes and Dick Murdoch were a phenomenal tag team. Patterson and Stevens were “the yard marker”. It was mentioned that Ric Flair has said that Ray Stevens was the main reason he became a wrestler.
JR and Conrad started to take questions from the audience. Someone asked about Vince McMahon. Jim said the Mr. McMahon character was Vince amplified. Jim said he still communicated with Vince even now. JR said he has no room for negative feelings. Jim said he only worked in WWE for two days in 2018 and made lots of money but felt like a charity case which he didn’t like. Jim mentioned what’s to come in the new book such as Austin’s retirement match and why it didn’t go on last at WrestleMania 19 as well as the loss of Jim’s best friend, when his wife Jan passed away.
Jim mentioned that his dad died the day the Road Warriors debuted at Raw in the Manhattan Center and how his mom died the day of the UK pay per view Capital Carnage. Jim said he has a fear of dying alone in a Marriott Hotel and asked questions like “How would my kids find out?” and “what would happen to my private pics on my cell phone?”, which got some laughs.
Jim mentioned how some things are booked as a surprise and brought up the example of Shawn Michaels beating Davey Boy Smith for the European Title at the UK PPV One Night Only in 1997. Davey’s terminally ill sister was in attendance and Davey dedicated the match to her yet still ended up losing to Shawn which shocked a lot of people at the time.
Someone in the crowd asked whether professional wrestling should become a more sports-orientated product. Jim said how Britt Baker’s recent segment with Tony Schiavone was the highest rated quarter hour of the show. Point being, pro wrestling is more entertainment than sports. JR said the Steve Austin and Rock interview pre-Wrestlemania 17 wasn’t rehearsed at all. Jim said a good announcer “gets his ass out of the way” to let the talent do the talking.
The upcoming book covers why the decision was made to turn Austin heel. Jim said shortly after Austin’s heel turn, there was an angle on TV where Austin attached JR and made him bleed. Austin cut him with a scalpel rather than just a blade after which, Jim needed stitches and still has a scar. JR asked Austin why he did that later to which Austin replied, “we have to make it look good as it’s live TV”. Jim made the point that it was Smackdown which wasn’t live at the time (it all sounded like it was in good humor and there was no heat between the two). WWE knew the Rock was going to make movies so Jim thought the decision didn’t make sense. Jim also said how Austin became a comedic character some weeks after the heel turn. Conrad wondered whether Austin’s heel run in the early 2000s was why Vince never turned John Cena or Roman Reigns heel. JR said you make turns when merchandise and ticket sales change. Conrad said that’s probably why WCW turned Hulk Hogan heel.
Someone in the crowd asked Conrad what it’s like to be part of the Flair family. Conrad said certain people who don’t like Ric have put Conrad in the “no fly zone” to which Conrad said, “fuck ‘em!”.
Conrad said there are no “gotcha moments” with JR as he’s so honest with the audience.
The subject of the mid to late 90s WWF television show Livewire was brought up (Livewire being a live phone-in show where fans could call in and ask questions to the hosts). Conrad mentioned the Livewire YouTube videos with JR trying to hurry up callers who were wasting time on live TV. JR said he didn’t want to do the show as he already had enough on at the time. JR said he didn’t get on with Vince Russo back then but he does now. JR mentioned Brock Lesnar and how Brock was the captain of the Ohio Valley Wrestling roster (he even drove the ring truck) and how Russo wanted him on the WWF roster to work a match on Raw. JR said Brock didn’t know his own strength (he wasn’t ready at the time) and said how he was happy to tell Vince McMahon that this was the case.
An audience member asked about Mick Foley being thrown off and choke slammed through the cell. JR said he wouldn’t have done that (if he’d have had influence on the match). From what Jim was saying, it sounded like the cell was never meant to have broken after Foley was chokeslammed through it. Jim mentioned how when he was at an airport, someone whispered in his ear, “Bah God he might be broken in half” (all these years later).
JR also said that Brock Lesnar was lucky that his neck could have taken the impact that it did when he landed wrong after that shooting star press at WrestleMania 19.
A very good show where time just flew by.