17th Apr2020

‘Jim Ross: Under the Black Hat’ Book Review

by Chris Cummings

Written by Jim Ross, with Paul O’Brien | Published by Tiller Press | Format: Hardback, 320pp


I’ve admired and been a fan of Jim Ross’ work since I first heard him do commentary at the start of the 90s when I began my love affair with pro-wrestling. I was immediately drawn in by the passionate, educational and concise manner in which JR called matches and told stories, allowing us fans sitting on the couch at home to truly FEEL what was happening in those centres, gardens, arenas and domes, live. Listening to Jim Ross calling RAW each week, Pay Per Views every month, and various other shows from Mid South to WCW to WWE, and now listening to his work in AEW, has always been a joy. I’m a big fan, and so I was beyond excited when Under the Black Hat, the sequel to Ross’ first autoobiography, Slobberknocker, was announced. I pre-ordered a copy on Amazon and it arrived a few days ago, in the midst of lockdown, as the World is struggling, scared and bewlindered by this ongoing pandemic. It was a much needed distraction from everything going on, but beyond that, it is an emotional, moving, beautifully written and exceptionally entertaining book from one of the voices of my child and adulthood. Wrestling has been a big part of my life for SO long now, and Jim Ross has been one of the big reasons why my love for it has rarely dwindles, regardless of how I’ve felt about certain creative directions or decisions.

The book begins where Slobberknocker ends, with JR returning to WWE in 1999 after a hard and difficult bout of Bells Palsy. The book winds in and out of many topics, some of them difficult to read, some of them funny, all of them necessary. Reading about Jim’s life working as Head of Talent Relations for WWE is incredibly insightful and interesting. He discussed his dealings with many talented performers from his tenure, from Austin and The Rock, to Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero, to Brock Lesnar and John Cena, and when you look back on the men and women that Jim Ross signed to deals for WWE, you truly see how much of an impact he had on pro-wrestling as a whole, and certainly WWE. The biggest names the business has seen, or many of them, were handed a pen and a contract and coached by Jim Ross. Unbelievable.

The chapters in which Jim speaks about his wife, Jan, whom he lost back in 2017, are a combination of heart-wrenching and beautiful. He speaks with such real and deep warmth about her anytime she is mentioned. It’s hard to read, and I imagine much much harder to have written, but I loved reading about his love for his wife and his memories of her.

This book, from the road stories to the tales of real and true life beyond the ringside booth or the corporate office, is wonderful. Jim Ross remains my favourite announcer in the world. His calls, to this day, make me feel excited about what’s happening on my television. The passion and knowledge is still alive and well, and being able to tune in to AEW Dynamite or PPV and listen to him call matches is a great thing. If there’s one thing that I can pick from this book that didn’t make me smile, it’s my own selfish desire for more. These stories are vibrant and crazy, sad and wild, and the way Jim Ross tells them here makes this a page-turner that flashes by quickly.

A must-read for anyone who has ever tuned in to a wrestling show, to anyone who has ever wondered what happens behind the scenes, to anyone with a raised eyebrow about the weird world of wrestling, and to anyone who wants to read about the life of a man who has lived his dream, suffered great hardships, worked with some of the biggest stars of the business he loves and survived through every tough day that came his way. It’s inspiring and brilliant, and I urge you to pick up a copy. One of the very best wrestling books written.

Under the Black Hat by Jim Ross is out now.


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