This week’s episode of Grilling JR with Jim Ross and Conrad Thompson covers WWE Royal Rumble 2001. This show happened shortly after the ECW closed and during the final days of WCW.
Here are some highlights:
There was talk of Shawn Michaels returning to WWE in 2001. Ross was asked why this hadn’t happened until 2002: “I made several trips to San Antonio to talk to Shawn and his then manager and lawyer, Skip. I don’t remember Skip’s last name, but he was a nice man and a really good guy. My argument to Shawn has always been that you can’t allow your legacy to end like this. You’ve put a bad taste in people’s mouths, either inadvertently or by premeditation. I don’t know and I don’t care. But at the moment, the perception of you is not that positive. For a guy who is considered, along with Ric Flair, the two greatest ring performers of all time, that just isn’t fair. It’s not good for you. It’s not good for your fans. It is not good for nothing. So I said the bottom line for me is that I just want to bring you back into the fold. If you keep the attitude that I see now, you can be of great help. You can be an influence. He’s an influencer. He’s a childhood hero to many of these cats, these children. I said you can be of great benefit without ever taking a bump. But you can tell by the twinkle in his eyes that he loved this challenge so to speak. He wanted to give back and he wanted to change his image and the perception he had gained. But, there is no doubt that he wanted to be back in the ring. He had ego, which is great. Ego is not a bad thing. He had the confidence and the ego that he wanted to go back and prove that he could still do it. I said that when he came back a year later that he hadn’t missed a step. He was the best guy we’ve had on the list when it comes to bell-to-bell work. He was as good as anyone we had after sleeping for all these months and years. It took a while to get over the physical barriers, the medical issues, the psychological issues and all of those things. But I thought I wouldn’t talk about it. We just need to stay diligent, give him time and have the patience to make it his idea.
Ross spoke about his perception of a lot of ECW talent that WWE has signed: “I feel like I’m down on ECW and not at all. I signed a lot of their guys. But, I can tell you from my experience, working with a lot, not all, but a lot of guys from ECW that I hired, for some reason they came out of this trustless and half-paranoid environment. about every decision made. Maybe it was just a facet of the leadership there. Paul was a young manager. Paul was very nervous. Paul knew what to say to pass this moment. “Where are our checks?” Well, you’ll never believe what happened.
Ross talks about the politics Taz went through in WWE: “I brought Taz. I thought he was an attractive guy. I thought it would do us a good job if it was booked in the same base mold it had been booked with ECW. The one thing about Paul Heyman that is brilliant, there is no doubt, is that Heyman had the ability to accentuate the positives of talent and disguise their negatives. Paul made Taz so strong you forgot he was 5’8 ”. He was not what the company received a regular diet. He was thick. He was athletic. He was a strong guy but he was short. I have fought all this several times with other talents, Jericho, Benoit, Malenko, Eddie. I saw how the public believed in Taz. I was definitely in the minority. So, I guess in the end, Vince trusted my judgment, but then he wasn’t convinced. I don’t know if it was after meeting Taz. I have no idea. I really do not know. But, in the end, he fell out of favor and a lot of people he could have made money with thought that selling for a guy who is 5ft 8in didn’t make sense and people wouldn’t believe him. not even though Taz could probably blow his ass off in a real shoot, but we weren’t shooting. We’re working. No one could have had a better Madison Square Garden debut from a guy from Red Hook, Brooklyn, all Taz had and he beat Kurt Angle by submission. He choked on her ass. People thought his suplexes were dangerous and all that stuff. So a lot of talent went back to Vince and said they didn’t want to work this guy because he was dangerous. They would tell me, but they would tell Vince. He’s heard enough that many of the top talent were uncomfortable stepping into the ring with Taz that he ultimately took it to heart. Taz injured himself and tore a bicep or a tricep, I can’t remember what it was. I think Bruce (Prichard) and I spoke to him after that show and he was worried about getting cut because he had to have surgery. He almost got there, apparently. I said you were going to receive your checks as if you were working. He looked at me incredulously as if I was a bull shooting him. I think enough of the top talent convinced McMahon that Taz was not a good employee and was limited in what he could do, his suplexes were dangerous, blah, blah, blah, and so he fell for it. disgrace and eventually became a broadcaster. But if you want to play with someone, host a 20 second match in the Royal Rumble.
If you are using any of the quotes from this article, please credit Grilling JR with ah / t at TBEN.co for the transcript