‘Good Ol’ JR’ Jim Ross has discussed how Vince McMahon helped two former employees to make more money signing with WCW in the nineties.
Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan and ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund were two of the most recognisable faces and voices in the WWE throughout the late 80s and early 90s.Heenan, after a hugely successful career as an on-screen manager, had made the transition to the commentary table, where he is one of the most revered colour commentators of all time.Okerlund was the master of the on-screen interview, holding the microphone for many famous promos from Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ric Flair; the list goes on.
As a new era of WWE began in the early 90s, Vince McMahon was looking to make some changes.After deciding that he wouldn’t be renewing ‘Mean’ Gene’s contract, JR revealed that McMahon would help Gene to get a better deal from the upstart competition, WCW. Speaking on his Grillin’ JR podcast, Ross explained:
“Vince helped facilitate Gene going to WCW because Vince had made the decision that he wasn’t going to retain his services.But he didn’t want it to get out so by letting Gene’s contract expire then you have a deal where its as if he’s being stolen.”
Referencing the famous moment when WCW poached a WWE Superstar to appear on the first episode of Monday Nitro, Ross continued:
“Like the (Lex) Luger at the Mall of America thing, he just shows up type of deal.That way it allowed Gene to get, according to what Vince was telling me, more money. (He could) negotiate a better deal from WCW because of the timing.”
JR then explained why he thought the acquisition of two broadcasters would be of benefit to WCW:
“I thought that was a big get for WCW. Gene was a fixture of the glory years, the biggest years of WWE. So to get him to WCW was a coup.Same with Heenan, the same mindset with Heenan.He let WCW, quote-unquote ‘steal’ Heenan.Both of them…both those guys got better deals.”
Not only would Okerlund benefit from what he made as an on-screen announcer.He would also receive money from the WCW Hotline.A pre-cursor to the ‘click-bait’ of the 21st century; Okerlund would encourage fans to call a premium rate number to find out the backstage gossip and rumours.Ross said:
“Okerlund got a huge pop on the hotline, he made a lot of money on that deal.It really was a win-win, both those guys got better deals, probably worked fewer dates…I thought it was an honourable thing that Vince did.”
Jim Ross spoke about a wide range of subjects including his thoughts on spending time with boxing legend, Muhammad Ali.
Credit: Grillin’ JR