Earlier this week, The Atlantic Wire's Connor Simpson brought you a loving tribute to Jim Ross, the WWE color commentator whose retirement was announced on Wednesday. But it turns out it wasn't a retirement at all. Ross was fired — for failing to control Ric Flair when the '80s wrestling icon got drunk at the WWE 2K14 video game symposium and started talking too much about the death of his son. All but the kids and marks are well aware that the drama on camera during the WWE's professional wrestling matches is staged. But there is plenty of real drama off camera.
Ross has worked with the company since 1993, and when the firing rumors hit, many wrestling fans were outraged. "The Jim Ross firing remains the talk of wrestling," Dave Meltzer reports at his site, The Wrestling Observer. "Jim Ross didn’t screw Jim Ross. Vince McMahon screwed Jim Ross," Wrestling Rumors' Jon Alba says.
If JR's retirement does have to do w/ 2k14 panel...what a BS way 2 fire a legend for a 4th time w/ out even using the term fired. Disgusting— Justin LaBar (@JustinLaBar) September 11, 2013
According to The Wrestling Observer, infamous WWE CEO Vince McMahon fired Ross this week. A few weeks ago, Ross had hosted the WWE 2K14 symposium, a yearly promotional thing for a video game. But once Ric Flair (pictured at left) started talking, "he didn’t stop and took over the show," The Wrestling Observer explained. Flair entertained the audience with funny stories, like how wrestler John Cena doesn't have to do cardio. Then it got a little dicey, like when he mentioned Cena was once a teetotaler. "I said good luck with that shit," Flair said, indicating that one might rely on alcohol in the world of professional wrestling, and then noting that Cena drinks a lot now. Then things got heavy. "The decision, which was made by McMahon, was first told to us by a source in the company that it was possible, if not likely on the day of SummerSlam, stemming from the now-infamous 2K Sports symposium where Ric Flair spoke at length about a variety of subjects," The Wrestling Observer reports. His scoop quickly spread across the wrestling internet.
What variety of subjects? Flair said that at his son's funeral five months earlier, he took off his wrestling hall of fame ring and put it on his dead son's hand, and closed the casket. He gave another wrestling ring to his surviving son. Later, Flair said, when he went back to work, he was called into the office, thinking he was in trouble. Instead, the WWE had made him another ring — this one with his son's name engraved on it.
Dave Meltzer runs The Wrestling Observer, which has become a sort of New York Times for wrestling, often getting the behind-the-scenes story on what's really happening in the wrestling world. In 1995, Hulk Hogan burned a copy of the newsletter during WCW World War 3. "This is like a dinosaur compared to the internet, brother!" Hogan said. "The internet's got the scoops!" (Did you know Hulk Hogan was a new media visionary?)
On Thursday, Meltzer updated with more evidence. "When Ross was in Manchester last week, he outright said that he had no intention of retiring and talked about his work in developmental." Larry Brown Sports points out that during the symposium, Ross foretold his fate. "This is real," Ross said. "This is reality television at its best. I’ve lost complete control of my job. I’m sure I’ll never be asked back, and this has probably destroyed what career I have left."
Flair used the story of his son's death, and the ring the WWE made for him, to show how much he loved professional wrestling and the organization. "There's nothing like the WWE," Flair told the crowd to applause. "I wanna tell you, the events are phenomenal — and they are. But working for these guys is like working for the best people in the world. They take care — they might be hard, but they don't ask anything of you they won't do themselves. I'm talking about us the performers. I mean that's just the way it is, they're awesome people." Those words must have sounded different to Ross three weeks later.