It's almost universally accepted that Jim Ross is the greatest wrestling announcer of all time. He's also become of one of the greatest wrestling podcasters in recent years with his program The Ross Report. But how does Good Ol' JR rank as a wrestling author?
Quite well, actually. In fact, the WWE Hall of Famer is already breathing the rarified air shared by multi-time bestsellers Mick Foley and Chris Jericho with Ross's biographical debut, Slobberknocker: My Life In Wrestling.
To be sure, his legendary career -- which includes announcing and management positions in Mid-South, Jim Crockett Promotions, WCW and the WWF/E -- provides tons of material for Ross to work with. However, the way he's able to tell stories with a flair for the narrative and more than a dash of humor is quite remarkable.
Slobberknocker almost serves as a Forrest Gump of wrestling, meaning that JR saw and experienced so many different things during his career, including the rise and fall of the territory system, various ups and downs in World Championship Wrestling and wielding influence during the World Wrestling Federation's biggest boom period ever.
Along the way, Ross comes into contact with a who's who of professional wrestling, sharing stories about Bill Watts, Ernie Ladd, Tony Schiavone, Ric Flair, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jim Herd, Sting, Brian Pillman, The Rock, The Rock & Roll Express, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Ultimate Warrior, Gordon Solie, Shawn Michaels, Pat Patterson, Bruce Pritchard, Mick Foley, Jerry The King Lawler, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and of course, Vince McMahon.... the man who has fired Ross on more than one occasion over the years.
In addition, JR shares anecdotes about some names in the business that I'd certainly heard of but don't know a ton about, such as Leroy McGuirk, Grizzly Smith, Jim Barnett, Dick Murdoch, Dick The Bruiser, Don Jardine and Danny Hodge. These are fun additions that you're not necessarily going to hear about elsewhere.
Instead of simply rushing through the various accomplishments and moves he made throughout the business, Ross crafts each chapter as its own mini-story, one that's often filled with humor... even when it's at his own expense.
One aspect I really enjoyed about this book is how Ross is able to look at his own flaws objectively (in hindsight). He talks about his first two marriages, not making any excuses for his life choices but owning up to them. Even as he's lecturing his father on a divorce in the late 1980s, Ross reflects "Who the f*ck was I to lecture anyone on relationships?"
Thankfully, Ross's family life does turn around and, due to help from Ric Flair and advice from Linda McMahon, he decides to settle down with the love of his life Jan, who unfortunately passed away last year. It's obvious (even now as an avid fan of his podcast) how close the two of them were, and you can hear the heartbreak in his writing voice.
By the way, credit is due to Scott E. Williams, who researched much of the book and passed away in 2016. And props to JR for getting both Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin to write forewords and afterwords for the book!
The only criticism I have of this book, albeit a selfish one, is that the story concludes in 1999 as JR returns to call the main event of WrestleMania XV. This is obviously strategic, as I suspect Ross has (at least) another book in him; there should be tons of ground to cover from the 2000s onwards.
Overall Rating: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be. This has instantly become one of my favorite wrestling books, something I could easily see reading over and over again because it's such a fun and interesting read. Boomer Sooner!