Jim Ross may be the Senior Vice President of Talent Relations for the WWF, but underneath that corporate exterior he’s a fan like you and me.
Listening to Ross field questions from a slew of reporters yesterday afternoon during a TNN conference call, one got the clear impression that Ross is really looking forward to Sunday’s ‘Invasion’ pay-per-view event from Cleveland, both as a WWF employee and as a wrestling fan.
“It’s going to be a runaway train from start to finish,” said Ross “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun and have a lot of emotion.”
Ross confessed that because of all the new wrestlers scheduled to appear on the card, this Sunday’s ‘Invasion’ pay-per-view will either hit a home run or strike out miserably.
“This Sunday’s show has the chance to be a real entertaining pay-per-view or it has the possibility to be a train-wreck. It can be a hell of a spontaneous, explosive program with a lot unique, first-time match ups… but the reality of it is, because you do have so many new pairings, you do have so many inexperienced guys, you do have some guys that are tighter than hell as far as being nervous, you can have some hellacious wrecks out there. This one’s really hard to predict. I believe if some of these matches are given enough time to tell their story it can really be terrific. Some of the other matches need to be kept short, for obvious reasons.”
Ross also revealed that a strong performance by the WWF’s roster on ‘Invasion’ is critical to the success of the ECW/WCW vs. WWF angle.
“It’s obviously always important that we give our fans their money’s worth. We have to be careful how we package every match and what we are looking for out of every match. Every match will not be a five-star, smashing success. There will be some matches on here that will not be as good as some others. The guys have to try and not do too much, relax as much as they can, have some fun, work within their limitations. There’s probably going to be ten or eleven matches on Sunday. It’s going to be a big event. It’s going to be a lot of fun for those watching and a hell of a lot of fun for the folks in Cleveland.”
Ross admitted that the WWF is not sure where or how the invasion angle might play out on Sunday.
“I think this whole thing is going to continue to evolve and we’re going to make some game-time decisions. I think it’s going to be a fun ride because it’s not predictable and we don’t even know for sure what we’re going to do. We’re going to let the issues develop and let our audience help us decide to make those decisions. It’s a work in progress.”
Ross explained why the WWF overhauled the WCW invasion angle by bringing in ECW into the mix.
“I think the TV ratings were certainly a factor. The WCW roster, as the talent we were able to retain, didn’t hold the sizzle and provide the singular threat against the WWF like they would have if we would have had the entire WCW roster intact with all the established main stars that had the name identity. We didn’t have that luxury, so the ECW thing was really a great idea to put the WWF in a state of jeopardy with this threat of these two organizations combined. I think it’s good booking in that respect. I think we overestimated what we thought we had in WCW, not necessarily the talent but with the brand itself.”
Ross acknowledged that the original invasion angle did not get off the ground because the WWF fans did not care enough about the WCW brand name and that ECW’s involvement saved the angle.
“When Vince presented the idea to us, it kind of brought a twinkle to everyone’s eye,” said Ross. “Sometimes you just get a feeling that something is going to work and I think many of us thought that this had a chance to work. The guys with ECW roots that we hired over the last couple of years certainly fit in the ECW scheme of things. The nice thing about it is you take some like the Dudleys or Tazz who had a great deal of name identity develop over WWF TV, so them going back to ECW strengthens that side.”
Ross also stated that one of the problems with the original invasion angle was that heel and babyface sides and characters were not clearly outlined. The revamping of the angle to include ECW has addressed that problem.
“We have clearly defined an antagonist and protagonist (in this feud) as far as the WWF being perceived as the protagonists and the other guys being perceived as the antagonists. I believe in any great story the characters need to be clearly defined. I’m encouraged by this angle. I think it’s been a real good deal for us.”
With Paul Heyman involved in the invasion storyline with an on-camera role, a space has been opened up on the announcing team for ‘Invasion’. Ross isn’t sure who’ll be calling the action with him on Sunday.
“I can’t tell you (whom) I’m going to be working with on Sunday because I don’t know. I’m not sure the company knows. We’ve kind of band-aided this thing up with Michael Cole and myself working together which is not the ideal combination. We realize that you have two play-by-play guys and I’m sure I get in his way on Smackdown! and we try and let Michael do play-by-play on RAW because that’s what he’s most comfortable with, but that’s not the most ideal situation. It could be me and Michael Cole again, I just don’t know.”