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Welcome, everyone, to Mr. Tito‘s book review of the highly anticipated 2nd book from wrestling personality and announcer Jim Ross‘s Under the Black Hat that was made available to the public on March 31st, 2020. As I begin to write this column review, I completed it just before 11:30pm on April 1st, 2020. I couldn’t put it down… Before I started working remotely from home in the morning, I’d read as much as I could. During lunch breaks, I’d read it as I was eating a sandwich or chowing on some soup. Read a few pages during piss breaks or dropping the kids off to the pool… And then I’d read most of it at night before I’d go to bed. I’m almost sad that I inhaled it so quickly because I didn’t want it to end…
Jim Ross is a truly remarkable person to have in the wrestling business. From my book review of Jim Ross’s first book “Slobberknocker”, I made the following specific remark that I wanted everyone reading my review to take with them: if anyone wants to learn about the pro wrestling business, this is your textbook. I made that statement because Ross explains to you why Mid South Wrestling did so much with less and how he was a major component of why the WWE’s Attitude Era helped “save” the WWE during the Monday Night Wars.
Oddly enough about Ross’s first book, my ONLY gripe about it was how he didn’t go into deep details about his WCW tenure not just as an announcer, but as a creative team member dealing with Jim Herd, Bill Watts, and other people that the Turner tried to prop up as leaders in that company. My guess is that Ross had a lot of friends in WCW and that nobody within WCW was mean-spirited directly at him or to him… Well, what I was hoping for as a critique on WCW from 1989-1993, was given to us on Jim Ross’s thoughts on the WWE from 1999 through the early 2010s.
In other words… Jim Ross’s first book, Slobberknocker is a like a wrestling textbook on WHAT TO DO in the wrestling business. It’s like Bill Walsh’s famous coaching book that many top coaches in the NFL, for the past few decades, received as an influence, Slobberknocker should be read by all promoters and wrestlers alike. But what Under the Black Hat demonstrates is WHAT NOT TO DO in the wrestling business. This book confirmed many of my fears and rumors that I’ve heard about the WWE that we’ve heard since the promotion hit its peak during the late 1990s. The promotion quickly changed into a Corporate machine and that machine changed Vince McMahon permanently or made his bad habits become louder.
We pick right up from his last book during 1999 and right away, I’m wondering WHY the WWE was making so much money yet treating it’s management as if the company was still poor. Ross just off the heels of his 2nd Bells Palsy attack and he’s not only asked to return to commentating but is now responsible for scouting, hiring, contract management, and payroll of the entire talent roster BY HIMSELF! You would think that the WWE would give the man some staff of managers, assistant vice presidents, vice presidents, or even administrative assistants to help out with the paperwork and other office stuff. Nope… WWE, despite about to go public, still operated on a shoestring budget… And that was so bizarre to me reading this book.
But Vince McMahon came off to me as a total bully and he deserves a major FINGER OF SHAME for the way he treated one of his most loyal and intelligent employees. If Jim Ross doesn’t sign his old WCW friends, Steve Austin and Mick Foley, or doesn’t convince a young Rock to sign with the WWE, WCW would have dominated longer than 83 weeks in the Monday Night Wars ratings. On top of that, Ross recruited many other younger talents that stockpiled the newly created developmental system that stocked the WWE with new talent for years. Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and John Cena will be on Wrestlemania 36 this weekend and Jim Ross had each of those men debut during 2002! 18 freakin’ years ago! The way that Vince kept messing with Ross’s announcer duties, just suddenly demoted him as Talent Relations VP, the Kiss My Ass Club, mocking his colon surgery, switching him to Smackdown without notice, and then scapegoating him for the 2K event disaster… Jim Ross should be Vince’s #1 advisor and on the WWE’s Board of Directors.
Ross’s Under the Black Hat CLEARLY shows how the WWE has declined as a company for the last 20 years. As time went on, more corporate types surrounded Vince and got in his ear. Meanwhile, the Hollywood writers hired began to write storylines and angles that were clearly catering to Vince McMahon and not to wrestling fans. Why else would the WWE make an announcer become so involved with wrestler storylines? Using Jim Ross to get Triple H over (twice) and Steve Austin over as heels is cheap heat that won’t last forever. And why is Jim Ross wrestling in matches? I don’t exactly see Marv Albert or Jim Nance ever being invited to participate on a basketball court or football field?
What I liked about the book is that it confirmed many stories that we’ve heard over the years, at least from Jim Ross’s perspective. How Vince Russo was used or filtered in the WWE, the Jeff Jarrett incident, the Steve Austin stuff from 2002-2003, and the passing of Owen Hart… Then, you’d learn many new nuggets that you’ve never heard of such as Ross actually speaking to the Carters about joining TNA. Think about that for a second… TNA could have either Jim Ross or Paul Heyman… Wow! In negotiating with both men, Heyman and Ross wanted to drastically change the TNA roster and the Carters wouldn’t let them. Thus, they passed up two great wrestling minds from helping their company during the late 2000s. Mind blown.
The best parts of his book were Jim Ross’s details about his late wife Jan. What an angel. Just based on what Ross said, she reminds me a lot of my wife whom I’ve known for over 2 decades now. When you find that right person, she complements you so well that it completes you as a person. When times are tough whether it’s family life or especially in the case of Jim Ross, professional life, having that right person as your companion will get you through anything. Almost 4 years ago, I lost a parent on top of work piling on to me with a major project… I was a hot mess. Yet, always there by my side was my wife… Helped keep me sane through that entire year of pain. A great wife is easily described as someone who can wash away any pain from the second you walk into the door of your home. I related heavily to what Jim Ross said about his wife Jan and it made me legitimately emotional reading it.
Top to bottom, this book was excellent and heavily detailed of Jim Ross’s life and wrestling for the past 2 decades. I would imagine that maybe Vince McMahon might not like what Ross said about him in his book… Then again, Vince was often a cruel bully to Ross and often took Jim’s talent for granted. Just look at how dependent Vince McMahon remains on Brock Lesnar and why he signed Randy Orton to a major 5 year deal to stay away from All Elite Wrestling. Maybe Jim Ross’s “revenge” for Vince’s bullying will be to keep contributing to building up All Elite Wrestling (AEW) to show Vince McMahon what he took for granted during the 2000s. Vince McMahon really needs a Jim Ross to be in his management group and/or Board of Directors to keep developing or scouting talent correctly while forcing the WWE to keep the wrestling fundamentals around.
LAST WORD: Come on… [ A+ ] grade all the way! STRONGLY RECOMMENDED! Like the first book, it’s an easy read that flows well page after page. If you are a diehard wrestling fan and yet you’ve been frustrated with the WWE for the past 2 decades, this is your book to validate your claims. If you’re a new wrestling promoter and want to learn what not to do as a wrestling promotion, this is your book. If you are a wrestling fan, period, this is your book. Buy this book and Slobberknocker to enjoy a written clinic on pro wrestling.
So just chill… Until the next episode!
Play my Super Mario Maker 2 courses on the Nintendo Switch:
Die Hard (themed after the Bruce Willis Film): 2YH-48W-HMG
Die Hard 2 – Die Harder: QQ1-MHW-YTF
Die Hard with a Vengeance: 5MB-2YG-VRG
Hoarding the Toilet Paper: 43G-S79-TVG
Star Trek 2 – The Wrath of Khan: 1LV-L7L-KDF
Inside Her: FC1-TW9-7YG
Star Wars vs. Star Trek: N3X-R6M-Y9G
Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time Wrong Warp: 2RX-QCV-N9G
Super Link Bros: HBD-H5C-QRF
Santa Bowser Came Early: GL8-F48-3XG
Super Wrestling Bros: 0H6-9HT-S5G
WWE Royal Rumble: SDH-JC2-HFG
WWE Elimination Chamber: P3B-5DJ-91G
WCW World War 3: BT4-W1Y-HRG
Extreme Championship Wrestling: 42J-4GT-W3G
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