In a recent edition of Grilling JR, Jim Ross discussed Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund leaving WWE for WCW, the duo reuniting at WrestleMania X-Seven, and much more. You can view his comments below.
Jim Ross on Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund leaving WWE for WCW: “I thought they were lifers in WWE. I never envisioned them leaving. They were so good at what they did. There was not a better color analyst on TV in my opinion than Bobby Heenan. He motivated you to watch and to listen because you didn’t want to miss anything. One of my favorite shows is The Sopranos. And I hear things I missed the first time around because it’s so much great dialogue. So sometimes, I didn’t get to process what I heard the first time. I go back again and I hear things in the diolague that I missed. You didn’t want to do that with Bobby because you were gonna be laughing at what he said. I just thought he was a staple. But things change.”
On why Vince McMahon wanted Okerlund to leave for WCW and the reasoning surrounding Heenan’s exit: “Vince goes – when Gene’s contract was coming up – ‘Just so you’ll know because it affected the broadcast side, I’m not gonna renew Okerlund but he doesn’t know it.’ But I’m gonna help him get a lot of money. I said well how are you gonna do that? He said I’m gonna let the other guy steal him. He said his contract is gonna lapse and he’s gonna be able to go wherever he wants, and if I know they think they’re stealing one of my primary faces and voices, then they’ll pay him a lot more money than I’m gonna be able to pay him here. And it’ll be a great payday for Gene doing the same job. I don’t know if that was the same case for Bobby, but Bobby was getting increasingly more challenging to work with for some people in the company – not for me, when the light came on he never phoned shit in. He was always on top of his game – that’s why even though we were only together for a few short months, they were as memorable a few short months as I’ve had in my entire career. It seems like we worked together forever because it was that good.”
On Heenan and Okerlund returning for the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X-Seven and the duo’s chemistry together: “I thought it was absolutely amazing in Houston. That was such a magnificent event. I’ll argue WrestleMania 17 in its total, from start to finish, with the atmosphere and ambiance and all the intangibles, was one of the best WrestleManias I was ever able to take part in. But the battle royal was strictly built for comedy. And I remember this – we were asked what do you wanna do during the battle royal? The one thing I wanted to do was to make sure I could hear the commentary. Because it might be something in there we could bring up later in the show if it was applicable. My deal was I wanted to stay at ringside to listen and see these two geniuses who had great chemistry.
“Some of the most entertaining stuff on McMahon’s television when Bobby and Gene were there was the stuff they did – like those wraparound shows. I used to go into work to watch them tape their show like a kid. I did, I sat in the control room and laughed my ass off. Everything was off the cuff. Okerlund knew how to follow Heenan – Okerlund was so good as the point guard that he allowed Heenan to lead the show, and he would fill in the blanks or he would feed Heenan a line to create a segway to something else. I thought they were absolutely amazing. It was wonderful to have them back. It was very heartwarming, and it was really, really cool.”
If using any of the above quotes, please credit Grilling JR with an h/t to 411mania.com for the transcription.