Yesterday afternoon, I was spending time with my wife to celebrate her birthday when the news broke that Jim Ross "retired" from WWE. My firsth thought was that I hoped he was in good health and that wasn't the reason for his sudden departure. After finding out that his health was fine, I started getting angry. really angry.
Let's be clear here, Ross' recent actions were not those of a man who was ready to move on from WWE. He has been involved heavily in developing new talent in Florida with NXT. He continually worked as a goodwill conduit for WWE on his own personal website. He was in attendance at SummerSlam less than a month ago, representing and working with the promotion. He was not a man on his way out. He was still an integral part of the company.
And therein lies my problem with this ridiculous situation.
As we chronicled here on the site when it happened, Ross was the host of a panel discussion for the new WWE video game on SummerSlam weekend. For the first half of the presentation, Ross was direct, acerbic and brutally honest, probably too much so for WWE's liking. He made some comments that I knew right away would cause him some problems. The one that stood out to me was when he, in so many words, made it clear that he could and would gladly be doing commentary on the WWE shows but that is not his call. What he didn't say was that the call was that of Vince McMahon. On the one hand, I can understand how WWE management, and Vince himself, would take that comment as a slight. But on the other, this is the company that encourages people to stand up and be noticed, right? They are the people who say grab the brass ring and make them notice you, aren't they? They are the folks who say that you shouldn't accept a spot that you feel is beneath your talent level and you should fight to rise higher. They feel you shouldn't accept just having a spot on the card.
So, is it really a bad thing that arguably the greatest announcer of all time is not happy being absent from Raw every week? If I am Vince McMahon, even if I don't want JR in the booth I respect and appreciate that he still feels he should be there. I wouldn't want it any other way. I don't want a passive JR. I want the guy who will do everything he can to show me I am wrong for pulling him from television.
If that had been the extent of what happened SummerSlam weekend, perhaps Ross would still be with WWE. Unfortunately for him, Ric Flair made sure that something that may have only been a minor annoyance turned into a full-fledged incident.
For those of you that missed it, an inebriated Flair took over the panel discussion in a way that WWE did not appreciate. He talked about a number of subjects that the WWE didn't want addressed at a company function (and probably anywhere). Ross tried repeatedly to get Flair in line but it was just not going to happen that night. Flair wouldn't stop hijacking the presentation. While people from the videogame actually enjoyed Flair's act, WWE officials most certainly did not. They have been fighting for years to get mainstream acceptance for their product, to appeal to advertisers that want to reach children, and much of the content at that presentation was diametrically opposed to what WWE wants to present itself as.
Almost immediately, word filtered out that there was serious heat on both Flair and Ross. WWE addressed Flair immediately, pulling him from the interview process immediately after the panel portion of the presentation ended. We have heard that WWE officials have made it clear to Flair that if he wants to have a future with the company, he would address his personal issues immediately. From what we have heard, he is doing so now.
Until yesterday, it appeared publicly that heat on Ross had dissipated. In all honestly, it should have. After all, he is not Ric Flair's keeper. He didn't force Flair to drink before the presentation. And short of duct taping Flair's mouth shut and handcuffing him to his chair, there wasn't much he could do to stop him.
But unfortunately his inability to stop Flair's meltdown factored significantly into Ross' sudden "retirement".
Let me be clear here in saying that Vince McMahon has the right to run his company as he sees fit. I will never dispute that. Given the fact that Ross went along with the sudden "retirement" story, which once again shows his loyalty to the company, I would think (or at least hope) that he was given a large golden parachute to be a good solider in how all of this went down.
But that doesn't make it any less reprehensible to me.
Jim Ross is a legend. Jim Ross has done as much for WWE over the years as anyone else not named Vince McMahon, including guys that have taken bumps. If Vince decided that Ross needed to "retire", there was no reason it had to be done via a WWE.com story on a Wednesday afternoon.
Since Ross has apparently gone along with the story, there was no reason to do it in the manner it happened. Instead, McMahon could have treated Ross in a classy, respectful manor on his television programming by announcing the retirement on Raw on Monday with the ceremony honoring the legend to follow the next week. It would have been the proper way to handle the departure of someone of Ross' stature (and would be a small step toward making up for all of the times that McMahon embarrassed Ross for no good reason, other than Vince found it funny, on WWE TV programming).
Instead, they released the story on their website like it was no more important than a WWE on-sale ticket date or a worked story on why HHH does what he does as the boss. WWE handled the situation like a teacher in the summer time, no class. Their verbiage of "we thank him for his many years of service and wish him well" is just another way of "wishing him well in his future endeavors".
It added insult to injury to see Vince McMahon, Triple H and Stephanie Mac go on Twitter and thank him. It couldn't have felt any less genuine to me. Words are cheap. Actions are what really matter.
It is ironic that a main reason for this "retirement" coming to fruition is that WWE is striving to be family friendly. I guess what they mean by that is to be friendly to other people's families because they sure as hell were not to one of their own.
Just one man's opinion.