Social media is buzzing with stories and accusations of JBL bullying wrestlers and announcers, none of which have been as well documented as Justin Roberts’ experience.
In his new autobiography, Best Seat in the House: Your Backstage Pass through My WWE Journey, the former WWE ring announcer recalls the dozen years he worked in McMahonland. It’s a brutally honest account of how Roberts went from watching Saturday Night’s Main Event and pestering William Regal at the bar to being part of WrestleMania and helping out a little boy named Connor. It’s a heart wrenching, hilarious and riveting book which I highly recommend you add to your summer reading list.
Below are excerpts from my interview with Roberts, which you can listen to at Wrestledephia Radio. In addition to the following, Roberts also discusses being backstage the night Eric Bischoff debuted on Raw, witnessing The Streak end, his relationship with Tommy Dreamer and much more.
Was it therapeutic for you to write this book?
Justin Roberts: “I know it’s supposed to be, but it’s not so much therapeutic for me as it more or so made me appreciate a lot more and a lot more people. When I talk about certain people that were part of my journey from the beginning through the end, it makes you realize this person did this or that, and it’s really cool how it all turned out. It really made me appreciate the whole story and everyone involved even more.”
There are three people in the book who come off in a negative light: JBL, Triple H and Kevin Dunn. Do you think you’ll hear from them after more people read the book?
Justin Roberts: “I didn’t really give my opinion on them. I just told the story of my experiences and how they came into my story and what their involvement was. By telling the story, you as a reader can say that guy seems like a great guy or that guy doesn’t seem like a great guy. I tell my story and the role everybody played and how I was treated by everybody. I didn’t make anything up – that’s the best part of the book. It’s completely honest. Maybe if they had treated me better, I would have portrayed that in the story. With all the names I mentioned in the story, you just named three coming off sounding negative. If that’s the case, everybody came off in a positive light because everybody else was cool.”
Justin Roberts: “It’s hard when you’re on the outside and you read things. We all see that Triple H is this hero among the internet. He’s the guy standing up for the wrestling fans, telling Vince to make this better. For us, internally in the company, we thought there’s a great chance he’ll be on our side and look out for us and try to help. Then you see him come in and clip the wings off certain guys and keep certain guys down. You realize he’s just looking out for himself.
All these fans and independent wrestlers want to come in. These fans say I’m going to be a writer and change this and make the shows make sense now. These wrestlers say they’re going to be better than this guy or that guy and I’m going to do this or that. All these people who want to come work for the company and change it for the better – I love that and I get that. And I was the same way. Most of the people who work for the company are the same way. So when you read this story it really shines some light on how it works and why that may not be able to happen.”
Why was the Summer of ECW your favorite time in the business?
Justin Roberts: “When we first started, it was all ECW originals. It really wasn’t anybody that had been brainwashed by WWE. It was just these characters, these real life characters, who were just good, funny, quirky guys and girls, coming in and having fun. We love being ECW and we get to be that on the WWE roster now, so it’s going to be great. Tommy Dreamer, Balls Mahoney, Sandman, Sabu, all those guys. Everybody was awesome. Everything we did was fun. The first show we did lasted an hour and Dean Malenko was the agent and he was like, ‘Uh, we have to do something.’ It was just so different because WWE was so structured and its shows were so anal. Then week after week they would say stop this or stop that, and they’d take away this guy and bring in another guy that they weren’t using. Slowly they got rid of the ECW guys and made it their own brand. But before that, it was awesome. It felt like I was working the indies and getting a WWE paycheck.”
You mention in the book that you don’t feel like you fit in with these other companies out there like TNA or Ring of Honor. Why is that?
Justin Roberts: “I don’t know. I got too good of an education at WWE. I’m not sure if I’d like to go somewhere as a ring announcer or as a producer. Right now I’m working with Championship Wrestling from Arizona for a monthly taping. I go there and produce the guys on their promos and help them with their matches. I love producing. I’ve learned a lot from Vince, Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko, Fit Finlay. You learn so much from watching complete show after show after show for over a decade. When you see other wrestling companies doing things a different way, it’s great they’re doing something different, but if it’s not the way I’m into, I don’t know if I’d able to be a part of that.
As far as announcing, I don’t know. I had a great run ring announcing. I don’t know if I’m still looking to ring announce. Looking around, there’s nowhere I feel I’d fit in great there. Until that happens, I’m going to sit on the sidelines and hope these companies do really well. I want there to be, I don’t know if I’d say competition, but just an alternative, I guess.”
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