Over the next five entries, I'm presenting the transcript of a recent question and answer session I conducted with World Wrestling Entertainment Monday Night RAW commentator and professional wrestling icon Jim Ross, known affectionately to wrestling fans as "Good 'Ol J.R."
J.R. has been a fixture in the wrestling world for decades now, growing up in the territory era and serving as a referee, an announcer, and a pivotal part of the organizations of Leroy McGuirk and later Bill Watts in the center of the country. J.R. worked for several years for Ted Turner's now defunct World Championship Wrestling and has been a key part of the WWE, as both an on-air personality and a pivotal behind-the-scenes force, since he joined the company in 1993.
When I taught a class on American professional wrestling last spring, the WWE partnered with me to officially sponsor the class, which included sending J.R. our way to visit with the class on two different sessions, as well as participate in a public question and answer event that has later been made available as a podcast. That podcast is available here.
Since J.R.'s knowledge and storytelling abilities cannot properly be contained in a single event, there were myriad questions that J.R. and I had discussed surrounding that event that were never brought up in the session he did for us last spring, so we had a chance to discuss these in detail not too long ago.
Through my posts here and my various research projects on pro wrestling's innovation in transmedia storytelling, etc., you know that I believe that the business model of the WWE can be quite instructive throughout the media industries, both in how to tell stories that stretch across multiple media platforms and also about how an engaged fandom operates and helps a media property thrive. I hope this interview with J.R. provides more of the same, whether you share my passion for professional wrestling in particular or not.
Currently, in addition to serving as the play-by-play announcer for Monday Night RAW and WWE pay-per-view events, J.R. hosts original shows on WWE's 24/7 On Demand cable subscription channel, writes a weekly column for WWE.com, runs his own blog at JRsBarBQ.com, and writes a college football article each week for OUInsider during the college football season. He has also launched his own restaurant business in his home state of Oklahoma, as well as a related food line, with BBQ sauces, beef jerky, and peanuts.
I am going to present this interview in the next four posts. The first part of the conversation focuses on the WWE's efforts in creating an immense archive of professional wrestling content and how the company has found ways to value that content through providing new context to make content from years past relevant to the current wrestling fan. The third part of the conversation focuses on how the WWE's Web presence and online wrestling fan culture has changed the ways in which "sports entertainment" can tell its stories. The fourth part of the conversation focuses on J.R.'s various projects outside of his on-air appearances for WWE and how he manages himself as a brand across all of these venues. Finally, we wrap up our discussion by talking about the place of WWE Mobile, WWE video games, high-definition television, and print media has to World Wrestling Entertainment's transmedia empire, and where J.R. sees the company headed through these various venues.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Henry Jenkins' undergraduate Comparative Media Studies class this past week about the elements of athletics and performance in a pro wrestling match, and it is always instructive to talk about the artistry of the pro wrestling match--the most basic element of how the WWE tells its stories--with a group of media students who aren't necessarily wrestling fans. What I discuss with J.R. here is the way in which the basic narrative of that match can be greatly augmented by the continued narratives that new technologies allow for and the serialized stories that keep people coming back to watch wrestling match after wrestling match, over months, years, and even decades.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.