Saturday, July 16, 2016

Jim Ross Memories Will Abound in Charlotte at Fanfest

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

"Good Ol' J.R." Jim Ross
It was with great delight that I learned recently that announcer extraordinaire Jim Ross will be returning to this year’s Fanfest Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina running from August 4-7. “Good Ol’ J.R.” is scheduled to host “Ringside with Jim Ross” on opening night, and will be presiding over the first-ever “Breakfast of Champions Roast” of the indelible Ole Anderson on Fanfest’s closing day. In between, Jim will be participating in autograph and photo opportunity sessions, including can’t miss photo ops with fellow legendary announcers Bob Caudle and Tony Schiavone.

It is hard to imagine any professional wrestling fan that has not been touched at some point by the voice of Jim Ross. Jim has worn many a hat in the wrestling business, but let’s just talk about Jim Ross the broadcaster now. From Mid-South/UWF and Jim Crockett Promotions/NWA in the 1980’s to WCW, Smoky Mountain and the WWF in the 1990’s segueing to his legendary WWE announcing in the 2000’s that spanned all the way to 2013 and now currently has him calling the action for New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ross’ voice has been synonymous with professional wrestling.

No doubt we all have Jim Ross moments and memories that we are particularly drawn to. After all, he’s called some of the greatest wrestling matches of all-time. I’m no different, and my most enduring Jim Ross memory is of a match that goes all the back to November of 1985. It was a NWA World Title bout, and if it was not the very first, it was one of the first World Heavyweight Title matches J.R. called.

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia in the era of wrestling territories, I was a Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling guy. But in August of 1984, about the same time the wrestling territorial system was starting to break up, I headed halfway across the country to the University Of Arkansas School Of Law in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Out in northwest Arkansas, the wrestling territory that covered my new three-year home was Mid-South Wrestling. I immediately became a fan of this promotion, with its hard-hitting realistic style of storylines and in-ring action. I also became a big fan of a young, but very knowledgeable and exuberant Mid-South TV personality named Jim Ross.

Fast forward to the Thanksgiving holiday season in 1985, and I was forced to make a quick trip home from law school for a family emergency. My airplane trip back to Fayetteville and my looming law school exams was about to set me up for an unforgettable November Saturday night! And my most enduring memory of Jim Ross, the announcer!

Jim Ross on Mid-South's "Power Professional Wrestling"
My flight back to Arkansas added to the drama of this wild Saturday night. The first leg of my flight, from Richmond to Memphis, Tennessee, was uneventful. But then, as J.R. would often say, business was about to pick up! It was a balmy 70-something degrees when I boarded the tiny commuter plane in Memphis that would take me to the then tiny airport in northwest Arkansas. After a short time in the air, the pilot advised that because of severe turbulence, we would have to turn back to Memphis. We were even advised of hotels in Memphis where we would stay over. While that news was going to make things inconvenient, everything otherwise seemed to be all right.

But very soon after the pilot’s announcement, things went haywire. The plane was tossed around like a rag doll, and I thought my head was going to hit the top of the plane. The thrashing of the plane was so violent, that I had burn marks on my shoulders from the harness and was sore for weeks. I was 100% sure we were going down. I was so scared that when we finally landed, I figured we were in Memphis. It turns out we were in Fayetteville, and there were three inches of snow on the ground. The little plane had some how gotten through the clashes of those air masses near Little Rock, Arkansas, where multiple tornadoes touched down.

When I got to my law school dorm room about 10:30 p.m., I was still shaking like a leaf. But I had the presence of mind to turn on Channel 8 KTUL in Tulsa, Oklahoma for Mid-South Wrestling. The lateness of the hour, along with the sometimes snowy picture our cable feed gave us for KTUL along with my harrowing plane ride, was the perfect backdrop of what Jim Ross would amazingly announce that night on Mid-South!

This edition of Mid-South Wrestling was special, because NWA World Champion Ric Flair was scheduled to defend his belt against Ted DiBiase. But as ring announcer Boyd Pierce was introducing the competitors, Dick Murdock rudely came in the ring and told DiBiase he wanted the title shot. Ted didn’t react well to that, and told Dick he was yesterday’s news. Murdock attached DiBiase, and Flair assisted by kneeing Ted in the back, knocking DiBiase to the floor at the Irish McNeil’s Boys Club. Murdock followed up, and rammed Ted head-first into the steel ring post, followed by a "brain-buster" to the floor and DiBiase was cut with torrents of blood gushing out. I’ll never forget Ross exclaiming, “He is split wide open,” as pools of blood were visible around DiBiase on the ringside floor. As the show went to commercial, it appeared there would be no World Title match due to Ted’s condition.

Dick Murdoch delivers a "brain-buster" to Ted DiBiase on the concrete floor.
NWA champion Ric Flair watches from the ring.
After the commercial break, a somber Cowboy Bill Watts, the President of Mid-South Wrestling, told the viewers from the dressing room that Ted DiBiase was BADLY lacerated in the forehead and had arterial damage and that a pressure bandage had been applied to allow him to compete against Flair for the World Title. Watts advised parental discretion for further viewing, because if the bandage came off the match could become very gory. As it turned out, it did…and it did.

Ted DiBiase
A wobbly DiBiase entered the ring, with a huge white bandage covering his head, already starting to turn red because of the tremendous blood out-flow. Flair immediately tore into the damaged DiBiase, but Ted actually showed some offense that was highlighted by announcer Joel Watts. However, Ross kept it real for the viewers, noting, “But DiBiase is SOOOO weak; and he is bleeding profusely from that tremendous laceration to the head…a classic battle here on Mid-South Wrestling.”

After a high vertical suplex from Flair, the pressure bandage popped off and Ric went for the pin. J.R. ecstatically shouted, “He kicked out…DiBiase kicked out!” The studio audience was raucous for this bout which Jim hastened to add as Ted threw Flair in the corner and Flair did his patented flip. “There’s not an empty seat in the house and they’re all standing …and Flair, up and over,” Ross exclaimed.

As the match neared its conclusion, J.R. made it clear that the crowd in attendance was seeing a whale of an athletic contest between two warriors. Ross continued, “They sense something here! They’re seeing something, a tremendous athletic contest between two supreme athletes!” Were they ever! It soon appeared that referee Alfred Neely was going to stop the bout because of Ted’s blood-loss, but DiBiase persevered. “Ted DiBiase, a tremendous athlete, and Flair is having to reach down into the recesses with everything he’s got,” Jim expertly concluded.

Dick Murdoch
Somehow, the dazed DiBiase was able to put Flair’s finisher, the figure four, on the Nature Boy! Ross analyzed, “It might be the one maneuver that DiBiase can actually capitalize on. But Flair’s in the ropes, and the referee has to break it. If Flair would’ve been in the center of the ring I GUARANTEE you we would’ve had a new World’s Champion!” When Ted tried to reapply the figure four, Flair was able to push DiBiase over the top rope into the steel barricade that surrounded the ring. Ross, almost trying to will Ted back into the ring pleaded, “Can he get up? Can DiBiase get up? The biggest match of his life! He’s lost SO much blood…that’s it…the 10 count. Ted DiBiase…what a tremendous effort by Ted DiBiase!”

Just when I thought I could finally catch my breath, lo and behold Dick Murdock came back to ringside and attacked the fallen DiBiase. Jim exclaimed, “NO Murdock, NO! Come on, Murdock! My God, he’s brain busted him on the concrete!!” When Ross finally sent the TV viewers to commercial, I was completely spent! As Jim would do throughout his announcing career, he was able to build up the talent in the ring, and its accompanying storyline. In this case, a valiant Ted DiBiase turning into a fan favorite by his “never give up” performance. Due to Jim’s efforts, it was almost an afterthought that Ted technically “lost” the World Title match.

Between my plane ride and Jim Ross’ description of one of the wildest TV wrestling matches ever, I don’t think I slept a wink that night in late 1985! And as thoughts of my harrowing airplane flight subsided, I was left with the memory of Jim’s call of the World Title bloodbath on KTUL as my most lasting recollection of that wild Saturday night. Surely in Charlotte at Fanfest, there will be a lot more Jim Ross memories talked about from the past…and the creation of many new ones with his legions of fans.

For more on the Fanfest in Charlotte, click here.
Follow Jim Ross on Twitter @JRsBBQ and on his website at