WWE Star to Join OUInsider

Jim 'J.R.' Ross, of WWE fame, is the newest member of the OU Insider team. Ross will begin his both humorous and informative writing for OU Insider, as well as Sooners Illustrated, August 1st. I sat down with J.R. for a few moments to get a little insight about his perspectives, and about his love for OU sports.

Jim 'J.R.' Ross, of WWE fame, is the newest member of the OU Insider team. Ross will begin his both humorous and informative writing for OU Insider, as well as Sooners Illustrated, August 1st. I sat down with J.R. for a few moments to get a little insight about his perspectives, and about his love for OU sports.

OU Insider: J.R., I had the opportunity to get to know you during the Holiday Bowl last December. It was amazing to see people recognize you and run up for autographs no matter where we were. Are you comfortable with this kind of fame?

Ross: You know, I really think it's only apparent when I wear the black cowboy hat. It's my trademark, and I think that's really what people recognize.

But it's very humbling. I think people see me on TV and they just assume that I'm easily approachable, and I try to be, because I'm just a normal guy like everyone else out there.

OU Insider: How did the relationship with WWE start?

Ross: 'Cowboy' Bill Watts, a great Sooner, got me started back in 1974. At first, I was just a 'gopher' for anyone on the staff. From there I just moved up.

OU Insider: The WWE phenomenon has really mushroomed. How did that happen?

Ross: Well, it's legacy goes all the way back to the grassroots sport and entertainment popularity of pro wrestling of the late 1930's and 40's. Even in those days it would sell out Madison Square Garden and the Cow Palace, so it was no shock to see it eventually become TV material. Of course, it really took off with the advent and proliferation of cable TV.

OU Insider: What kind of reach does it enjoy today?

Ross: It's huge. We're on in 150 countries, 20 languages. Our Monday night show, WWE Monday Night Raw, is one of the top -ated shows on television.

OU Insider: Besides being a TV personality, you're also a pretty well-known Sooner football fan. How'd that happen?

Ross: I grew up in eastern Oklahoma (Westville), hauled hay in the summer, played football and listened to the OU Sooners on Saturdays in the fall. But everyone I knew did.

OU Insider: What kind of impact did your early infatuation have on you?

Ross: OU football really did change my life, early on. I remember hearing that Bud was an English major, and of course we all knew how articulate he was. I thought that maybe if I got interested in literature, that I could impress Bud enough that he'd give me a scholarship at OU.

So I started reading the classics, but I never grew physically to the point that I would attract any offers of any kind, and that's without discussing my athletic ability (laughs).

The end result that I was maybe a little better educated, and probably more well-rounded than some of my peers. And that likely gave me confidence, and perhaps an early advantage, and eventually it also helped me write three books, two of which were on the New York Times Bestseller list; 'Stone Cold Truth' and 'Can You Take the Heat?'.

OU Insider: On top of WWE, you've also had other diverse broadcast opportunities in sports.

Ross: Yes, I was part of the Atlanta Falcons' broadcast team in the early 1990's. I also did XFL football on NBC for the one year it was around.

OU Insider: You honestly sound like you have a great love for sports. What is it about sports that you most relate to?

Ross: For me, it's a heritage. When I broadcast, or watch sports, it always takes me back to remembrances of a living room with my dad and grand-dad, listening to a big game, enjoying a common interest in something that bound us together.

Few things have that kind of power.

OU Insider: All kidding aside, you also know quite a bit about football.

Ross: I am a student of the game. But some of my passion comes from my years of refereeing. I've done 14 state championship games, and I don't know if that's a record, but I don't know of anyone who's done more. I've also been fortunate enough to develop many lasting and close friendships with players and coaches.

OU Insider: You wear an OU 1974 National Championship gold ring. What's the story there?

Ross: Well, I certainly didn't play. But this ring is a gift from my wife, who bought it for me at an auction. She had to bid against a collector who was willing to pay a pretty good price, but she knew how much I love Sooner football and just kept bidding. I don't want to know what she paid, but I wear it every day, on and off of television, for good luck.

OU Insider: WWE is not from anywhere around here, so how do you make almost all the home and away games?

Ross: You're right. The popularity of WWE increased my responsibilities and required me to live in Connecticut. But that same popularity also afforded me the funds to go where I wanted, when I wanted. So it became part of my routine to do my show, hop on a plane and see the Sooners play, wherever.

My wife is from Pittsburgh, and coming to Norman several times each fall allowed her to fall in love with the college town that frankly, is populated by the nicest people on earth. Last year we moved to Norman from Connecticut, and it's the best thing we ever did.

OU Insider: What's your favorite memory of an OU game?

Ross: The 2000 national championship game. I had a sideline pass, and I'm standing down there between LeRoy Selmon and Brian Boswotrh. On the surface, two people 180 degrees apart. But on that night we all had a common goal, a shared experience, we were brothers. I'll never forget it.

OU Insider: We've been talking about you joining the OU Insider staff for months, but we've both been busy. How long have you been on the site?

Ross: Oh, how long have you been streaming? Whatever that is, that's how long I've been there. It's a lifeline, and a great source for accurate OU sports information, especially for people that don't live around the university.

OU Insider: What will your writing reflect?

Ross: From a reporting standpoint, it probably fits in exactly with what OU Insider is doing and has always done. By that I mean that I won't conform to the kiss and tell and sound byte journalism of the SportsCenter era.

But I will try to take people where I've been — and I will give all kinds of opinions. Sometimes based on inside'knowledge — sometimes just my opinion as a Sooner fan of how I think things should be.

Note: We all look forward to J.R.'s humorous opinions and insights beginning August 1. You can also catch him on 'Monday Night Raw' airing Monday evenings on the USA Network at 7:00 p.m. EST / 8:00 CST. Also, make sure you check out J.R's new Barbecue sauce at jrsbarbq.com.

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