Announcer wrestles with grief
Review: Under the Black Hat: My Life in WWE and Beyond
Jim Ross has been involved in the pro-wrestling business for over 40 years. A household name, he has left an indelible legacy on US pop culture (if you’ve seen any parodies or memes involving pro-wrestling, you’ve seen Jim Ross). And yet, in Ross’ second biography, it’s the portions dedicated to his late wife Jan that stand out the most.
Ross was with the WWE for more than two decades, during the company’s biggest boom period. Working closely with promoter Vince McMahon, he was the company’s head of talent relations, bringing the likes of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Chris Jericho to prominence.
Despite holding such a respected position in his industry as arguably its greatest announcer ever, Ross long endured strange ‘hot and cold’ treatment from the company. McMahon replaced him as lead announcer several times only to bring him back when he proved simply too valuable.
In service of the company, Ross endured several ‘angles’ that verged on public humiliation. Under the Black Hat delves into Ross’ endurance of this strange treatment in a frank way. This may be the first time he has spoken about how the WWE’s often macho culture of borderline abuse came to the fore during his time there.
Anyone who has seen one of Ross’ one-man shows or listened to his podcast knows that he is a masterful storyteller and Under the Black Hat pushes this ability to the fore. The book’s short chapters make for compelling reading. Ross’ candour stands out, as he delves into his numerous battles with Bell’s Palsy, what it was like to be at ringside the night Owen Hart died, to the night where Ric Flair got drunk at a WWE event and the company blamed Ross, an event that proved to be the catalyst for his departure from the company. And yet, the book is not a hit piece and won’t be fodder for any defamation suit.
Parts of the book are also laugh-out-loud funny. Ross’ viewers may find themselves surprised by his wit and one-liners, but these are peppered throughout. Insights particularly enjoyed Ross describing the time that WWE went public on the stock exchange (“I knew that me trying to tell the likes of Stone Cold, The Rock, and Undertaker about stocks would be like a turnip trying to teach a spoon the theory of relativity”).
And yet, as adumbrated earlier, it’s the chapter devoted to the passing of Ross’ wife that elicits by far the biggest reaction from the reader. While the chapter is short, the grief that the author feels is palpable.
With a recent career move to a new company, AEW, Jim Ross has managed to become yet more relevant in his chosen field. Under the Black Hat is thereby not only recommended to pro wrestling fans but anyone who has had to fight for success in their chosen career path.
Under the Black Hat is now available in book stores and on Amazon Kindle.
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