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Tragedy nearly stopped Jim Ross from finishing ‘Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling’

Cover of Jim Ross' book "Slobberknocker: My Life

Cover of Jim Ross' book "Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling" Credit: /

Just the process of writing Jim Ross’ book, “Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling” was filled with enough tragedy to fill a book.

After working for months on the autobiography, Ross’ first co-author on the project and longtime friend, Scott Williams, died unexpectedly from a heart attack in August 2016. Six months later, Ross suffered another loss when his wife of 24 years, Jan, was killed.

“She was run over on her Vespa coming home from the gym,” Ross said. “This young man at a top of a hill apparently didn’t see her and ran over her, killed her.”

The death left Ross, 65, heartbroken, and left the future of his book very much up in the air, he said.

“I really thought in March, ‘Maybe I’ll just call off the dogs, because it’s not worth it,’” said Ross, recalling the anxiety he felt over the prospect of having to promote the book in October and November, over his late wife’s birthday and their wedding anniversary. “I tried to make something that’s very straightforward and simple complicated, which is a lot of our problem in society — overthinking stuff. And I thought, ‘She’d hate this.’”

Despite his grieving, “Good Ol’ JR” pushed ahead with the help of his second writing partner, Paul O’Brien. The finished product, “Slobberknocker,” released Tuesday, offers a detailed and candid account of Ross’ journey from a “cherub faced, fat kid” from a poor part of Eastern Oklahoma to becoming one of the most respected broadcasters in pro wrestling history, and a bona fide power broker in the business.

Ross writes about developing a passion for pro wrestling while watching it on television as a child, and later finding himself “sitting under the learning tree” of Mid-South Wrestling booker Bill Watts. He would go on to become lead announcer for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling — and occasionally Ric Flair’s drinking partner.

Ross’ path through the wrestling business eventually brought him to WWE, where he would provide the soundtrack to some of the most legendary bouts in history. The book concludes with Ross fighting back from a bout with Bell’s Palsy to call the main event of 1999’s WrestleMania XV between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock.

Ross said he’s already begun research work for a second book, which would delve more deeply into his last two decades in the business. “I love writing,” Ross said. “It’s great therapy for me.”

“Slobberknocker” also tells the love story between Ross and his late wife — a story that was difficult for Ross to recount, especially when narrating the audio version of the book, he said. “I didn’t crack, but I came very close,” said the WWE Hall of Fame inductee. “It’s a very real read.”

Even though she didn’t live to see the book’s release, Ross said his late wife’s presence is “indelible” in everything he does, as is that of Ross’ friends and fans in the wrestling community — a community he has clinged to closely in recent months. Ross returned to the broadcast table at WrestleMania 33, weeks after Jan’s death, to call the main event of Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker. And he recently shared the broadcast booth with Lita for WWE’s first Mae Young Classic women’s tournament.

“In times of stress and turmoil and tragedy, we often gravitate and migrate to family. And the wrestling fans have been a big part of my family for decades. So I just felt that it was good for me to stay busy,” Ross said. “I wanted to walk with some pride. I’m proud of my story and how I navigated this journey. And my story is still ongoing.”

New York Sports