[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]followed the trail of replica belts and black t-shirts along 12th and Callowhill into a dim concert hall. We then inched step by step into a dungeon where a line of jacked fans, young and old, wrapped around a bar counter. There were sprinkles of steel chairs, probably about 200, facing the blue-lit stage.
And on that stage was a bundle of BBQ sauce, a stool, and the voice of my youth.
Jim Ross, the undisputed greatest announcer in all of sports and entertainment, had visited the City of Brotherly Love to perform his one man show.
As Ross had vowed in our interview a few weeks prior, the VIP meet-and-greet was not like pushing cattle through an assembly line. Everyone had plenty of time to have their memorabilia autographed, pose for photos, and chat with the affable Okie.
I waltzed up to the stage cloaked in my Crimson Tide hoodie, clutching my commemorative poster, and licking my lips at the free bottle of sauce.
Ross greeted me with a hearty handshake, mentioned how both our teams haven’t had a great season, and joked about almost falling off his stool for the seventh time that day.
I thanked him for coming to Philly, and for agreeing to an interview with Wrestledelphia. (Which can be found here.)
He said no, thank you for all your help in getting the word out.
At that point, I could have left to tailgate the Royal Rumble and no matter how early Daniel Bryan would get eliminated, I’d still consider the day a dream come true.
But I stayed because BAH GAWD J.R. was telling stories!
Now the VIP was obviously a bit more money than general admission, but it guaranteed you a seat. At least a hundred more folks piled in to the dungeon for standing room only, proving that J.R. is quite the draw.
Former WWE Creative Writer Andrew Goldstein, a Philly native and official rasslin’ correspondent for Sportsradio 94WIP, kicked off the show in hilarious fashion, referencing rabbit ears, Neshaminy Mall, Nick Foles, and that famous southern drawl which sucked him, and the rest of us, into lifelong piledriving fandom.
“Let’s start the band!”
As “Boomer Sooner” echoed throughout the basement of Underground Arts, good, ol’ J.R. shuffled to the stage, basking in the standing ovation of the Philly crowd, which included former Pro Wrestling Illustrated writer/editor Will Welsh and the Blue Meanie.
I won’t spoil the anecdotes because I urge you to attend his next show, but let me just say this: J.R. is one funny dude.
He’s played the straight man for so long, it’s almost surprising how effortless he made the crowd laugh. His timing and delivery rank up there with most of the comedians I’ve seen live. He’d be a natural fit in the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, clinking glasses with Ron White.
Then he turned it over to the Q/A, as Goldstein roamed around the audience with a microphone.
The no-holds-barred moniker proved true as J.R. answered questions about Brock Lesnar’s future (“I would think he wants to end his career in UFC in a more satisfying manner,”) which talent WWE should sign (“A.J. Styles,”) who he picks to win the Royal Rumble (“Daniel Bryan…Roman Reigns doesn’t need Die, Rocky, Die chants,”) and much more.
Goldstein interrupted to ask J.R.’s favorite incarnation of the Four Horsemen, which signaled those familiar gallops as J.J. Dillon walked on stage to a thunderous pop.
The manager of the Four Horsemen, who doesn’t age by the way, joined Ross for the Q/A, and shared stories of horrifying riots, handling WWE payroll, and Ric Flair’s unrobed “Nature Boy.”
The show lasted about 90 minutes and in hindsight, I wish it kept going through the Rumble.
Meeting J.R. and J.J., two of the most influential men behind the scenes of WWE and two of the most deserving Hall of Famers, was a thrill of a lifetime.
I appreciated the experience then, and even moreso now.
Less than 24 hours after meeting them, I would be laid off, beginning a week of frustration, uncertainty, and depression.
This ordeal would be a helluva lot tougher had I not listened to J.R.’s journey, which included multiple firings and three bouts of Bell’s palsy.
So thank you Jim Ross, for not only entertaining your fans for a couple hours, but also inspiring one to survive the biggest slobberknocker of his life.
Wrestledelphia.com assistant editor John Corrigan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @NotReady4Radio.
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