Nobody is happier about the recent elevation of Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho from the mid-card doldrums of the WWF to the main event picture than Canadian wrestling fans.
Nobody, except Jim Ross.
A long time admirer of Benoit and Jericho’s work, the Senior Vice President of Talent Relations for the WWF is ecstatic over the way the two Canadian grapplers have risen to the challenge issued by the booking committee and earned their place in the upper echelon of the WWF roster, right next to the likes of Steve Austin, HHH and The Rock.
“They stepped up to the plate in a big way. I’m so proud of them,” Ross told SLAM! Wrestling over the phone from his office in Stamford, CT. “They really deserve this opportunity and it couldn’t happen to two better guys in my view. They’re real strong company men with great values. They’re just going to keep getting better and better. I’m really pleased that they’re getting the opportunity and I hope that it sends the message to the other talent that are kind of percolating that hey, look – your number could be called at any time, just be ready for the opportunity. We’ve got some other guys to me that are on that same cusp that can be moved up.”
“I think Edge and Christian are close to being able to bounce up to another level. The Hardys look like they’re going to be able to do some singles stuff, which is good.”
If the thought of the WWF breaking up two of its most successful tag teams surprises you, it shouldn’t. In this day and age where the top singles wrestlers command the largest salaries and biggest storyline pushes, it’s inevitable that most tag team partners eventually want to venture out on their own and try to establish themselves as singles stars. The WWF tag teams are no exception, according to Ross.
“I think all those guys, even though they enjoy being partners, are still curious to know how they would do as a single. I think when you grow up, as a lot of these kids have wanting to be in the business, most of your daydreams are of being introduced by yourself in the main event, not as somebody’s partner.”
“It’s like everybody always wanted to play centre on the hockey team,” continued Ross, using an analogy most Canadians can easily identify with. “That was their whole goal, to be a Gretzky and handle the puck. But all of a sudden, they may make it as a defenseman or a goalie. You’re still in the game but I just think these kids envision being singles stars as youngsters and now their opportunities are starting to develop.”
Ross also updated SLAM! Wrestling on the condition of Triple H.
“He’s down in Birmingham, AL and he’s going to stay there for the foreseeable future because that’s where the top physical therapists are for Health South, who Dr. Andrews’ people did the surgery.”
Characterizing the loss of HHH as ‘a huge setback’, Ross is convinced he’ll make a successful comeback.
“He’s looking at this rehab just like a job. He goes to rehab at nine in the morning and he rehabs until about six at night, with the exception of an hour or so for lunch. He does it Monday through Friday and he does a half-day on Saturday and gives himself Sunday off to rest his body a little bit. I talked to him (last Thursday) and he seemed to be in real good spirits. He vows to back better than ever.”
Alas, all is not rosy for HHH in Birmingham.
“The only downside of being down there is, obviously he misses coming to work, but the irony of it is the hotel he’s staying at carries neither TNN or UPN so he can’t watch RAW or Smackdown! live. (laughs) We’re sending him tapes, though.”
Ross also had some encouraging words for wrestling fans in Toronto.
“We’ve got some big plans for the marketplace, it’s just a matter of getting some I’s dotted and T’s crossed.”