After 26 years with WWE, Jim Ross recently the company to sign with AEW. The senior adviser shared his last WWE experience with Steve Austin on The Steve Austin Show and discussed why fans left pro wrestling after the Attitude Era.
“I was in the country of Saudi Arabia for about three hours,” Ross recalled. “It took me about three days to get there, I slept in a bed about six hours, got a great payday, the [Prince] requested [Jerry] Lawler and me. They put us on the pregame show and the prayer hour show. Steve, I’m sure you are familiar with the religious practices of the Saudis, we had to stop wrestling but we could do the prayer show, I felt like Jimmy Swaggart or somebody.”
“We wrapped it up and went straight to the airport. We were watching people in civilian clothes carrying machine guns over their shoulder, you don’t know who the good guys are, and the bad guys are. Thank goodness I was wearing that hat. That’s the international peacemaker.”
During the heyday of the Attitude Era, over an estimated 10 million people watched professional wrestling on Monday nights. Ross has a theory on why those fans have left and feels that it is unfair to call AEW competition for WWE.
“They lost interest, and nothing changed,” Ross stated. “There was nothing new, nothing fresh and they lost interest. It was the same thing… I’m not knocking Monday Night Raw, but they are always going to get the first knock because they are the biggest dog in the yard.
“I get a kick out of these armchair analysts saying AEW is going to be competition, are you kidding me? Maybe someday, but WWE has such a long head start ahead of everybody, they have the global footprint, they are a publicly traded company, they got money, nobody is going to catch WWE and it shouldn’t be anybody’s goal, it sure in the hell isn’t mine.”
Despite shying away from AEW being competition, Ross does feel the upstart company can bring the lapsed fans back into the fold. He feels the company’s social media presence and dedication from the Khan family is huge for AEW.
“Social media is going to be a big part of what we do,” Ross said. “That’s the great thing about the Young Bucks, they have a great social media following, they sell a lot of merchandise. They remind me of you [Austin] because they are very ambitious. They are always coming up with different designs. It is going to take time; you hear the Khan family doesn’t have the money to see this thing out. Trust me, they have the money to carry it out. Now, whether they get into this and two years out they are bleeding money, they may make a business decision. I do know they are in it for the long hall, the foundation is there.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Steve Austin Show with an h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.