Vince McMahon's Federal Indictment Helped Jim Ross Get Rehired By WWF

"Good Ol' J.R." Jim Ross has dedicated nearly 50 years of his life to the professional wrestling business, getting his start with Jim Crockett Promotions and NWA before branching off into WWE, NJPW, and, now, AEW. But Ross' journey from commentary booth to commentary booth nearly looked a lot different given how things played out at the time of the infamous federal drug trafficking prosecution of former WWE CEO Vince McMahon. In 1993, charges were filed against McMahon, claiming he was routinely acquiring anabolic steroids for pro wrestlers to access through a Pennsylvania doctor that had the ability to ship steroids directly to WWF's Titan Tower in Stamford, Connecticut. 

Ross wasn't with the company when the charges first came to light — he had been replaced on WWF commentary by McMahon and was turning his attention to Smoky Mountain Wrestling and announcing for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. The initial plan while McMahon was focusing on the trial was to have Gorilla Monsoon assume the role of commentator as well as a top executive, holding down the tasks McMahon oversaw. Reports indicated that Monsoon was lacking in this position, requiring WWF to pivot its plans. Ross was rehired to fill in for McMahon alongside Randy Savage throughout the summer of '94 as Monsoon narrowed his focus to only doing play-by-play commentary on "Raw." The trial would last for 18 days, with the media documenting what occurred each step of the way.

The Aftermath Of The Trial

What brought extra press attention to the trial was its star witness – Hulk Hogan, who testified that he would regularly pick up steroids at WWE headquarters, but emphasized that McMahon never directed him to use them. The Ultimate Warrior, Rick Rude, Big John Studd, who testified via telephone, Tom Zenk, who returned to the U.S. from a wrestling tour in Japan to appear, Moondog Rex, The Warlord, Tully Blanchard, and Nailz all took the stand, with Nailz being the only star to claim that McMahon directly encouraged steroid use. McMahon was acquitted of all charges by a jury on July 23, 1994, allowing him to re-focus his energy on expanding WWE further.

Ross was actually let go from the company once more upon McMahon's return to full-time duties, this time for reportedly leaking information to journalist Wade Keller of PW Torch during the trial. During a 2019 episode of his "Grillin' J.R." podcast, he recalled that the interview didn't seem "inflammatory" at the time. "It was mundane," Ross explained. "I don't know if anyone can even find it anymore. I'm sure it's in Wade's archives somewhere if you want to check it out, but I don't think it was overwhelmingly fiery or anything like that. I talked about normal stuff." He was rehired by the company in December 1994, serving as an announcer for syndicated WWF programming before returning to the main announcer team in 1996. What followed was arguably the best work of his career from 1996 to 2013.