WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross recently spoke with Newsday about his WWE depature following the 2013 SummerSlam WWE '14 panel, CM Punk's WWE departure and more. Check out the highlights:
On Will Rogers and Mickey Mantle being his heroes growing up: "Both those men, in their books and their comments and when they were interviewed, that'll tell you how big a thrill it was to do their profession in New York City. So I couldn't think of a better place to start for an Okie who's had a long journey from his farm to New York City."
On keeping busy following his WWE departure: "For somebody that was supposed to slow down, I haven't got that slow-down gear in me, I don't think."
On the infamous SummerSlam panel that allegedly led to his departure: "The wheels came off a wagon I didn't build...I knew that when it was over, a lot of the top WWE officials were very anxious to get Ric Flair out of the facility. So I knew there was some concern there, but I didn't know that the concern involved me. A story started out of misinformation that I had been drinking with Flair all day. And the issue was that if they [WWE officials] had checked their schedule, I had been booked all day with WWE activities and SummerSlam that had nothing to do with Ric Flair."
On where the panel went wring: "I knew before we started, we didn't have any script, we had no prompter, we didn't have a producer in my ear. And we had a panelist that was obviously impaired that should not have been on the panel. So you know that things have a chance, now, to not be the smoothest rides one has been on."
On how it led to his leaving: "My job was to keep the rudder in the water. I didn't do that. And so, the decision was made that we part ways. And to be honest with you, and this is not looking back, or trying to cover somebody's tracks, or cover my own [behind], I was really looking for an opportunity to move on. I wanted to get into the podcast business, I wanted to get into one-man show stuff...I wanted to look at other opportunities, like this Fox Sports thing that I'm doing now. And I knew I couldn't do those things while I was under contract to the WWE. But to be honest, to be totally frank with you, I had such a loyalty to that company, and I still do, that after 20 years I didn't know how I was going to say goodbye."
On CM Punk's departure: "This whole locker room has a different feel to it, and a different -- they're not as edgy as the Attitude Era locker room. They're not as competitive. I don't know that they're as hungry. But now, CM Punk is different. [Compared with] today's corporate wrestler, CM Punk is a little bit of a rogue. And I don't mean that in a negative way. Over the last two of three years, he's been my favorite WWE performer to watch in the ring, without question. He would've been a huge star in the Attitude Era, without question. Here's the deal: He's a very cerebral guy, who has an old-school spirit, that really cares about every aspect of the business. I think that he needed time off, ample time off, to recharge his batteries. I think he has, for lack of a better term, a major case of burnout. And I think the problem should have been recognized and addressed much earlier than letting it get to a head and him being so frustrated and such a sense of hopelessness that he decided to go home. Walking away from a problem is never a solution. Never. Solve the problem."
On what Punk may do next: "At some point, he is going to want to get back into a game. Where that game is, I don't know. Who's gonna be playing in that game, good question. But I would be surprised to see him wrestle anywhere other than WWE on any ongoing basis. But I can certainly see him, if somebody had a new promotion, and they wanted someone with a bright mind and a fresh mind, who understood the product and who could communicate well, which he can do, he might be a great fit in a new promotion: upper management, creative, working with talent. He may be perfect for that."
On a possible non-wrestling career path for Punk: Let me tell you what I think he would be perfect at. I think if he doesn't come back to WWE, which I do hope happens, I think he would be an amazing MMA broadcaster...He's glib, he's intelligent, he's well-spoken, he understands infinitely the product, and he knows how to entertain. He has everything that an MMA company would desire. And I think he would just be phenomenal."
On his career: "I've done everything. I've been ring crew, I've been driver for a blind promoter, I've been a valet, I've been a referee, I've been a ring announcer, I've been a corporate officer, play-by-play man, blah, blah, blah. No one has been on my journey."