With the recent revamping of the invasion angle in the WWF, Jim Ross is discovering there isn’t enough hours in the day to get all of his work done.
Even though he has his plate full trying to help run the most successful wrestling company in the world, the WWF’s Senior Vice President of Talent Relations took time out of his very busy schedule last week to take part in a TNN conference call, fielding a variety of questions from journalists and broadcasters.
Foremost on reporters’ minds was why the WWF felt it necessary to scrap the planned WCW vs. WWF invasion angle and bring ECW and Paul Heyman into the mix.
“WCW had such an eroding fan base and really lost so much momentum before they went out of business,” explained Ross. “I think (our) 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 revealed that the WWF’s plans to establish two different companies with separate television programs isn’t dead.
“We still would like to create two separate brands. Those brands would have the opportunity to be displayed on their own individual television programs. That is still our long-term goal, and I stress long-term because that’s exactly what it is. We don’t have a date or a timeline as far as we’re going to do this by the end of the year. We’re going to get there and it’s our destination but I think it’s going to take time to get this thing going.”
Ross also discussed the possibility of signing Bill Goldberg, Sting and Ric Flair, explaining it isn’t likely that we’ll be seeing any of them in the WWF anytime soon.
“We’ve had serious talks with all of those guys. It’s a matter of economics and motivation. You’ve got guys like Sting, who’s 42 years old… he’s been in the business a long time, he’s made a lot of money, he’s saved a lot of money, he’s in good financial shape, he has other career goals, he has a young family, and for him to come back and work a full time schedule probably isn’t in the cards.”
“Goldberg is owed so much money by Time Warner and his belief is that they owe him the money and they should pay him,” continued Ross. “They guaranteed him the money and they’re not paying him. That’s Bill’s point of view. He wants that money before he makes any move.”
“Ric’s a great legend and should be treated as such. He’s got a contract that based on what he’s being paid… I’m certainly not saying he’s not worth what his contract states. We just don’t pay on that sort of structure. We pay on a more upside situation with a lower downside guarantee and it keeps that talented motivated. There are no ceilings and the sky’s the limit as opposed to going on salary and this is what you make in WCW as it was formally structured… Ric knows we’re interested and that we would welcome him here with open arms when he’s ready to make that decision.”
One WCW star that Ross believes might have a future in the WWF is Scott Steiner.
“I’ve had great conversations with Scott Steiner while he’s been out injured. When he’s healthy and his medical issues are behind him, I’m going to be very surprised if we don’t do business. I’ve talked to him ten times in the past few months and I’ve known him his entire career so I’d like to see him on the roster when he’s healthy.”
While not giving away the WWF’s plans for SummerSlam, Ross said that fans can expect to see The Rock on the August pay-per-view.
“The target for The Rock is to come back and make his first pay-per-view appearance at SummerSlam. I don’t know when The Rock will be back with us on television. I suspect, and it’s only speculation, it’ll be the last week of July or the first week of August.”
Ross also stated that he would like to get Mick Foley more involved in their television programs, but that the best-selling author has been busy writing several children’s books and a novel.
“Vince and I met with Mick last week here in the offices in Stamford and Mick has been so overwhelmed with the promotion of Foley is Good. I think we’d like to get Mick back and involved. I think it’s to our advantage to get Mick Foley back on television.”
Word of Buff Bagwell’s dismissal spread across the Internet recently as speculation into the nature of his firing hit a fever pitch. Ross confirmed that Bagwell had been fired but admitted there’s a chance he might come back.
“Buff and I had a meeting in Atlanta on July 9th and we had problems with the way things were developing around Buff. For whatever reason he just had some sort of negative aura around him. I’m sure a lot of it was his fault and I’m sure some of it was contributed to by others. The bottom line is that the talent had largely lost confidence in him, his attitude was less than desirable and he realized it. He had made a lot of social-type mistakes in the locker room and it was after we discussed it that it was mutually agreed that for him to ever have a chance here he needed to get away and let some time go by and then hopefully some time in the future we’ll sit down and re-evaluate the situation.”
Bagwell’s attitude aside, Ross is pleased at how the atmosphere in the locker room between the WWF and WCW rosters has improved since the invasion angle started.
“There was a lot of tension when we first had the influx of new talent. Since we’ve been booking them on house shows together and they’ve been traveling together and they’ve been working with each other on the road, they’ve had the opportunity to have more conversations and start building their relationships. I’d be lying if I said all the relationships are perfect and there’s no problems at all. I can tell you the locker room atmosphere is better and better each and every week.”
Ross ruled out the chance of any new talent coming into the WWF because the focus is being put on establishing their current crop of stars.
“I think right now we’ve absorbed as many guys… we’ve got to get some guys over. We’ve got to get some guys on the roster that you see over. There’s no magic wand where we can say ‘okay you’re going to be over by Thursday’. They have to jump up and play. It’s a real, real opportunistic time for a talent if they seize it. I don’t think you’re going to see any more guys added until we have done a better job through time and creativity of getting these guys over that are already here.”
One of the guys that Ross feels the company needs to get over is The Big Show.
“I don’t know that we’ve done the best job in the world creatively with him. He has not been physically and mentally prepared at all times to do his best either. We haven’t given up hope on the big fella and we’re not going to, at least at this point and time. I still think there’s value there. I think if the light bulb just went off and he really sees what he can do here and how viable he can be, he can be a great contributor… When you’ve got a guy that size in great condition that can do some amazing thing physically, you just can’t wash your hands and walk away as quickly as you might and average sized guy.”
In the absence of HHH and The Rock, Ross said he has been most impressed with Kurt Angle, stating he’s really “stepped up to the plate” and that he “has a chance to be the next top guy here.”
Since the resignation of Jerry “The King” Lawler a few months ago, the WWF has been scrambling to come up with a regular broadcasting duo for RAW and its pay-per-view events. Ross commented on the status of his former broadcast partner, admitting that “no door has been bolted shut” to Lawler.
“I felt badly that he left. I was disappointed that he left. I think he has a lot to offer our business and in the right environment Jerry is as entertaining as anybody I’ve ever broadcast with. I’d be very surprised if somewhere down the road that Jerry Lawler wasn’t back broadcasting in the WWF, I just don’t think that’s going to be right around the corner.”
Ross also explained to reporters why the WWF won’t re-sign Chyna.
“We were negotiating with her representatives for quite some time. We had several meeting with her over her contract and her goals and what she wanted to do in the future with her life and her interests. We had talked about that for months and months and it just came to the point that what she and her representatives perceived as a number she needs to be at for her to be comfortable, we just couldn’t get there. We just came to a business decision that we can’t meet her needs and so we made the decision to cease the negotiations and therefore allow her contract to expire at the end of November.”
As far as the status of the Women’s title, last held by Chyna, that’s in limbo.
“There’s no tournament in the works. We’ve been so busy with this invasion angle that we really haven’t addressed the ladies championship. Obviously, it will be addressed at some point in the future. I just don’t know what the timeline is for that.”