DALLAS -- Last Monday, Cageside Seats was lucky enough to get to sit down with legendary broadcaster Jim Ross and talk to him about the future of WWE broadcasters. Ross weighed in on the current crop of announcers that WWE fans are getting to know every week on RAW and SmackDown and over in NXT.
Cageside Seats: What's your impression of Corey Graves?
JIM ROSS: I like him. I liked him when he was working as a wrestler. I've helped him -- tried to help him, in a way -- and I think I have. [He's] very open to suggestions. He's a student of the game, wants to learn. He got a bad hand with concussions. Wanted to be a wrestler all his life, [but] concussions popped up. Luckily for him, he works for a company that's given him another opportunity. They liked his work ethic. He came to work on time, he worked hard, he did all the things right. And unfortunately, got the concussion issues. But they saw a good communicator and a student of the game.
I think he's young and contemporary. The [tattoos] help him, frankly. But I like him. I like the fact that he wants to be good. And I like the fact that he understands he's there to be a facilitator. I tell anybody in broadcasting, "You will get over the better you are able to get talent over." ... And I think he understands that very well. And he brings up some nice points, I think, on shows. I like his work.
You've just got to wonder how they're going to utilize him going forward. I'm not too worried about it, because they're a TV company. They're not a pro wrestling company, they're a television company. You can't have too many good broadcasters in any television company. I think his contemporary look [will help him].
The last time I talked to him -- and it's been a long time -- he was really watching tapes ... listening to other commentators and how they got talent over. So I'm sure he's listening to Paul Heyman's work and Jerry Lawler's work and Bobby Heenan's work and other guys that were really good at what they did.
I like him. I think he's going to do real well. ... He'll have a longer career as a broadcaster than he ever [would have] as a wrestler.
I've talked to him about it ... the opportunity you have now, attack it with the same passion you did the wrestling drills and all that, and become a broadcaster. Don't become an ex-wrestler trying to be a broadcaster. Forget the ex-wrestler stuff. Become a broadcaster and use the wrestling expertise that you've learned to embellish that.
How about your thoughts on Byron Saxton?
Byron is another kid that I've known, helped and talked with, worked with all the way back to the Florida Championship Wrestling days ... Kid's got a great physique, by the way. Looks great.
He's so polite, so well-mannered. You can tell he's got a great mom and dad. Those are the little things I always look for. If I was recruiting him, we'd have talked about his background, his family. You always want to know a little more about the guys, you know. He is a classy kid. He also had some injury issues. He is very articulate, he's highly intelligent. He'll be reliable forever. I don't think you'll ever have any issues with him -- knock on wood -- with DUIs, or baby mama issues and all that stuff.
The only thing I would say, is ... the WWE has to help him figure out what his role exactly is. Now I'll tell you, at WrestleMania, I thought he did a better job of defending himself and playing off of JBL. Because JBL is intentionally -- and it's a good thing -- kind of digging [at] Byron. He's [poking] Byron with a stick to see if he bites back. And I thought Sunday night, he had great interaction with JBL. And he did it in a way that didn't take away from the match. It was a short, succinct soundbite answer, or response. But he's showing now that he's got some Spaldings and he's not letting JBL walk on him. Which JBL would not endorse; he wants you to fight back a little bit, because it makes the banter better. As long as they do it in soundbite form and they don't cannibalize the match, so the soundtrack takes us so far away from what we're seeing.
I think we're seeing a chemistry being built and developed between JBL and Byron. And I think that's important for them to do. And I felt like they took a giant step in the right direction at WrestleMania. It gave me pause to be very encouraged about where it could go. As long as they remember to keep it succinct and in soundbite form. But Byron can't ever cower away and [put his] tail between his legs and fade away. Because then the fans will completely disown him. He's gotta defend himself.
He has an amazing opportunity here. The fact that he is the only broadcaster in the company that is on prime time television twice a week. In a major way. He's on RAW and SmackDown. So he's got a really good chance to get over and establish his body of work. Of course, he's got to do the same thing with Lawler on SmackDown that he's doing with JBL. And JBL is a little bit more aggressive, in a traditional, villain way. Lawler's more wise-ass-ish, cutting. ... As time goes on, we'll see Lawler having more fun with Byron. The key for Byron is, Byron's gotta respond. ... Byron's gotta defend Byron. Not necessarily defending Byron, as much as defending his point of view. And his philosophy of representing the protagonist, basically, without being a fanboy.
But I like Byron. I think he's gonna do well. I think the only issue with him is, three-man booths are challenging. Not my favorite deal. The three-man booth is a challenge to start with. Because you've got that wild card in Byron on RAW and on SmackDown. How do we get him more involved? And I thought, again, at WrestleMania, a positive step in that regard, thanks to JBL. And then Michael Cole laid out and let them do their thing. And then Cole was always ready to get right back in when there was a near fall, or something that needed to be documented verbally. So he's done a good job there, kind of directing traffic, for lack of a better term.
And then we'll see how Mauro [Ranallo] does with Lawler and Byron, because Mauro has to call the matches, but he also has to be a facilitator to some degree, between the quote-unquote heel broadcaster in Lawler and the protagonist broadcaster in Byron. It's a tough job, man.
All those kids are good. I don't have an issue with any of those broadcasters. They know they're working for a TV company, they have to understand product knowledge. They have to maintain their look, they have to maintain their decorum. I think the future for the WWE on the announcer side is bright. Michael Cole's been there a long time. I don't know how much longer he wants to travel. I have no idea.
You think he might walk away or move into another role at some point?
I think he might become a producer or someone who works with the announcers, or things like that. I could see something like that. I don't think it'll be any time soon. He's still a young guy, in the big picture. But at some point, we all get replaced. Whether we like it or not, we get replaced.
Vince is a unique guy. He likes young, he likes youth. He likes vibrance. I think that as long as he's the head guy, they'll always have young, fresh faces. They're a TV company, like I said. ... Rightly or wrongly, it's what it is.
That's why I think the Byron Graves and Byron Saxtons and these guys are so important to nurture. Tom Phillips is another guy ... really good kid. Really good. And Tom's a very great student of the game. I enjoyed working with him so much down in Florida. Very polite young man, very well-mannered, very professional. Good look, good sound. He'll be a player there.
And Mauro's in his 40s. He's got years left. He does a stellar job. He's living his dream. I feel badly for him, because he's probably tired of seeing [on Twitter], "You're the best since JR" or "You remind me of JR" type of thing. Mauro is Mauro. JR is JR. More power to him, man. I'm so happy he's there and he's doing what he's doing. He's fought through a lot of issues, with his bipolar [disorder]. I'm very happy for him. He's a good friend, too. I'm very pleased that he's there.
The full interview with Jim Ross will appear as part of this week's episode of the Rudo Radio podcast. You can catch Jim Ross as the voice of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. You can also catch Ross on the Fite TV app and can keep up to date with his blog, appearances and podcasts on his personal website.