On a recent episode of the Grilling JR Podcast, Jim Ross which featured JR discussing the 2001 Royal Rumble. Outside of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin winning his 3rd Royal Rumble match, the event also saw Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit face off in a ladder match that was heavily praised. Ross talked about that historic ladder match and who was behind the match. He also talked about Jericho’s impact in AEW in the present day and the excellent work he has done with the Inner Circle.
“The majority of that was Jericho,” Ross said. “As Jericho proves on a regular basis in AEW. He’s got a great booking mind. He’s very creative and when you can take a group of guys: Santana and Ortiz, Jake Hager, Sammy Guevara, MJF and Wardlow.
“That original Inner Circle, I don’t want to say they were unknowns but on a national level, the only guy that had any name identity was Hager and he didn’t have it as Hager, he had it as Swagger. Jericho has proven on a regular basis that he’s got a brilliant mind and he’s fun to do commentary with.”
Ross noted how he’s been very vocal in helping AEW talent and referees backstage with different aspects of the business. He said recently he had a conversation backstage with an AEW talent, wouldn’t he didn’t name, over his punches and what he needed to do to fix them.
“I told one of our guys this the other night: you need to work on your punches,” Ross said. “You got too big a hurry and the execution of one of your punches was lacking. The punches early in the match when you were measuring it and doing your thing they were beautiful. You got in a hurry, so the punches became a work, it looked like a work.”
Ross recently posted a picture on his Instagram with Brian Pillman Jr. where he said Pillman was turning into a “hell of a hand.” He stated that since he posted that picture, he has received negative feedback from people online.
“Somebody took exception to that,” Ross said. “[They said] Pillman Jr. is now earmarked as a hell of a hand and anybody JR said that they become less than.”
Ross also talked about WWE bringing in wrestlers from ECW and why they were so welcoming to come to the company. He said the issues ECW talent had with pay made it easy for them to come to WWE.
“Those were the easiest guys to sign,” Ross mentioned about ECW. “The ECW guys knew if we got them a fair number and they got over, they’re going to make a lot more money and the fact that they didn’t have the drama of getting paid. You want to s--t on your company, all you have to do is not pay people on time.”
Ross also talked about Taz, who came into the company by choking out Kurt Angle at the Royal Rumble 2000. One year later he was thrown out of the 2001 Royal Rumble match in 20 seconds. He said the reason for the issues with Taz always came back to his height and issues talent had working with him due to his MMA style of wrestling.
“I brought Taz in,” Ross said. “I thought he was an attraction kind of guy. I thought he would do us a good job if he was booked in the same basic mold he was in ECW. One thing about Paul Heyman is that he had the great ability to accentuate a talent’s positives and disguise their negatives. Paul made Taz so strong that you forgot he was 5’8. He was not what the business was getting a regular diet of. I was definitely in the minority [on Taz in WWE]. Vince trusted my judgement but then he got unconvinced. He fell out of favor and a lot of the people he could’ve drawn money working with believed them selling a guy who’s 5’8 didn’t make any sense and people would not believe it. Even though Taz could probably whoop their ass in a real shoot.”
“Nobody could’ve had a better debut in Madison Square Garden than Taz got and he beat Kurt Angle by submission. People thought his suplexes were dangerous, a lot of the talents got back to Vince and said I don’t really want to work with this guy. Enough of the top talents convinced McMahon that Taz was not a good hire, he was limited on what he could do, his suplexes were dangerous so he fell out of favor. If you want a message sent to somebody, have them have a 20 second [appearance] in the Royal Rumble.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Grilling JR with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.