Jim Ross’s first autobiography Slobberknocker chronicled his early years in the wrestling industry, but with a career as long Ross’s, a sequel seemed inevitable. Under the Black Hat covers “Good ‘Ol J.R.’s” career from roughly 1997 to his last years in the WWE. While Ross doesn’t complain about his time in the biggest takeaway in the book is what a schmuck Vince McMahon is. Fortunately, readers will also discover the incredible friendships Ross had with WWE Superstars and his once-in-a-lifetime romance with his third wife.
Jim Ross loves professional wrestling. It’s something you can pick up when he’s calling a match, interviewing a wrestler, or speaking on his weekly podcast. However, he’s had to put up with his fair share of crap in order to work for the WWE. Rare is the corporate job where a person doesn’t deal with office politics, but what happens when you boss is an eccentric (some might say a complete loon) like Vincent Kennedy McMahon?
While there have been some great wrestling announcers such as Gordon Solie and Lance Russell (not to mention excellent ones such as Bob Caudle, Tony Schiavone, Ed Whalen, and others from the territory era whose names seem to fade away except for all but the most diehard of fans), Jim Ross’s body of work is the greatest of all time. Despite his status as the best of the best, anyone who knows his history in the WWE would be hard-pressed to say the WWE has treated him with the respect you’d expect from such a valued commodity. Instead, Ross has been fired, buried on TV, and put in some of the most humiliating angles possible, often with the only pay-off being to indulge Vince McMahon’s warped sense of humor.
Through it all, Ross endured, relying on his third wife Jan as his rock-solid support. Her support was unwavering no matter what decision Ross went with in his career. Reading these accounts, you get a sense of just how much she meant to him and the devastation he felt when she was killed while driving a scooter. Further complicating things was Ross’s decision to pull the plug on her.
Although Ross chronicles Tony Khan’s interest in starting a wrestling promotion, Under the Black Hat doesn’t get into the circumstances of AEW’s start or Ross going to work there, essentially reviving his career. It would have been interesting to have seen the behind-the-scenes details especially since the WWE all but wrote off J.R. as useless to them in the announce booth.
Under the Black Hat is an above-average book with some interesting anecdotes but at 320 pages, it is a bit short for covering two decades of someone’s career. Despite these minor problems, it’s a fun read for any fan of “Good ‘Ol J.R.” and Ross doesn’t hold back about his own personal demons (or what he felt were shortcomings). That kind of honesty is rare in autobiographies and a strong reason itself for buying the book.
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