Taking time out of his busy schedule to field questions from reporters on a conference call late Thursday afternoon, Jim Ross touched on several ‘hot’ issues in the wrestling world as of late, including the possibility of the WWF signing former WCW World Champion Bill Goldberg.
Ross, the Senior Vice President of Talent Relations for the WWF, gave a candid assessment of Bill Goldberg potentially signing with the company, pulling no punches and holding nothing back.
“I’ve known him since high school. He’s not a lifelong fan. He got into this business late,” Ross told reporters during the hour-long conference call. “He’s a massive athlete but I don’t think the business runs through his veins. I don’t think he has that passion for this product that a lot of guys who have been fans all their life have.”
“That’s not saying anything negative about Bill. He has a great deal with Time-Warner. He’s got a guaranteed contract and I don’t think Bill Goldberg is going to do one thing to get back into the ring… until, and only until, his deal with Time-Warner expires.”
Ross was emphatic in stating the WWF has no intention of buying Goldberg out of his Time-Warner contract.
“You could say ‘Now wait. Why don’t you guys go pay him three, four times what he’s making from Time-Warner, because you’d know it would be worth it!’ No, I don’t know it would be worth it! We think it might. And I’d love to have Bill Goldberg on our roster and say, ‘Hey Bill, by the way, I can tell you you’re not going to get hurt in the next two years of this contract. You won’t take a bad bump. You won’t hurt your neck.’ I can’t look the guy in the eye and tell him that.”
Ross firmly believes Goldberg will sit out the remainder of his Time-Warner contract before he negotiates a return to the sport with the WWF.
“He’s got guaranteed millions of dollars for doing nothing right now. Guaranteed! And I can’t guarantee him that he’s going to come here and not get hurt or that things won’t work out as well as we thought or that he’ll be in the main event at WrestleMania… I can’t give Bill the guarantees that Time-Warner has given him from a financial standpoint.”
Another former WCW star that the WWF have been rumoured to be interested in is Scott Steiner. Ross didn’t deny the WWF would like to sign him but said they want to wait until he gets healthy before opening up any sort of contract negotiations.
“We are still waiting for more information on Scott’s physical health. He’s had a variety of muscle tears over the years and other surgeries and I think it would be to Scott’s benefit, and to ours, to make sure that he’s physically sound before we enter into any sort of negotiation or agreement.”
Asked about the status of Chris Benoit, who’s been out for several months with a serious neck injury, Ross revealed the Canadian star is “healing exceptionally well”.
“He’s started doing some rolls in a ring and a little bit of light jogging. He feels great. He has no pain. He is really for the first time in a long time pain-free. We hope Chris is able to come back around WrestleMania but that’s only a loose goal.”
Another potential free agent out there is Jeff Jarrett. Many insiders believed he was forever blacklisted from the WWF after holding them up for a reported $250, 000 to drop the Intercontinental Title to Chyna on a 1999 pay-per-view the day after his contract expired. The following week, Jarrett jumped to WCW.
Ross maintains the door is still open and that Jarrett “is not unwelcome in the WWF.”
“I think Jeff Jarrett is an excellent, solid, fundamentally sound talent. We have had no dialogue with him, not to say that we won’t. He has not been as high a priority of a talent as others we have discussed… We don’t think it was a good way to leave. But my God, we out to forgive people and move on.”
“I’m not going to live my life saying, “Boy I’m going to get that guy. I’m a big shot around here, he screwed me around and he’s never going to come back here.” That’s stupid. That’s so old, acquainted and a Mickey Mouse way of looking at things. I refuse to live my life that way.”
With the news breaking last week that the WWF was negotiating with Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, many fans wonder whether or not the promotion would consider bringing back some more older stars like Randy Savage.
Ross didn’t rule it out.
“We’re always looking to add quality performers, guys with name identity, talented people to our roster. That should be our goal everyday. I don’t know that we have had any conversations with Randy Savage, not to say that has happened intentionally. I don’t think there’s any issues here that would ever preclude him from coming back to work here… I’m not saying we’re not interested in Randy Savage, we just haven’t had any discussion with him and of course that’s a two-way street. If Randy had any interest, he knows how to get as hold of Vince.”
What about the often-rumoured return of Shawn Michaels?
“It all depends on physically if he can do it one more time. I can’t tell you that he’s never going to have another match again. I believe in Shawn creatively, I really think he has a tremendous amount to offer our fans and us… Whether or not his body can allow that to happen, I can’t answer.”
Ross also revealed that Eddie Guerrero, fired by the company last year after he was arrested on a DUI charge while in drug rehab, could also find his way onto the WWF roster.
“We love Eddie. Eddie’s part of our family. He’s just got some issues he has to deal with and once they’re dealt with and we can get Eddie back headed in the right direction, we would embrace Eddie Guerrero being back a part of our team. He’s one of the most talented performers I’ve ever seen… I’m a lot more concerned about his life than I am his ring-work. But I’d love to see him back some time and we’re going to work toward that end.”
Looking at potential future superstars who could lead the company several years down the road, Ross admitted he is very high on Randy Orton, a third-generation star currently in Ohio Valley Wrestling, one of the WWF’s developmental territories.
“I think he’s probably going to make it to the primary roster once the brands split without fail, unless he has some bad luck with injuries. He has that wonderful heritage with his grandfather being a great performer and his dad was one of the best. The guy’s got running through his blood… he has a great aptitude for the business.
“I think he’s going to be one of our best,” continued Ross. “I think he has main-event status written all over him, it’s just a matter of him getting the proper experience and to continue to develop his skills and never getting complacent. We’re lucky to have him…. He’s a good kid and he’s going to be a player for us for years to come.”
With the recent decision being made to pull the Hardys and Lita from all television, many false reports circulated that the trio had been suspended.
Ross was quick to squash that one, saying the promotion wanted to give the trio some rest to recuperate, allowing them to come back fresh.
“The rumours of them being in the doghouse have been much blown out of proportion. They’re in good standing. They all, because they do so much outside for us… I think they just got worn out. Physically worn out.”
Growing up as lifelong wrestling fan in Oklahoma, Ross grew up watching Leroy McGuirk’s NWA promotion out of Tulsa. The territory was built around perennial NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion Danny Hodge and as a result, Ross became a fan of the junior heavyweight style.
He’s vocally supported the idea of the WWF incorporating a legitimate cruiserweight division into its mix, an idea he feels will come to fruition once the much-talked about brand split takes place.
“I think we have the whole creative process more interested in the cruiserweights than they have ever been since I have been here. I think once the brands split, the cruiserweights will have a whole lot more viability. I truly believe that. I think there’s too many guys with too much talent that just happen not to be 300 pounds.”
One free agent that many feel could be a major star in the cruiserweight division would be Rey Misterio Jr.
Ross conceded the WWF would be interested in bringing Misterio aboard if such a division was created.
“We have a great interest in Rey’s abilities… but until the brands split and we see where we’re headed with the cruiserweight area, it wouldn’t be fair for Rey to be brought in lost. I’d like to bring him in with a purpose.”