Under The Black Hat is the second volume of a two-book series detailing the life and career of Hall of Fame pro wrestling broadcaster, Jim Ross.
I’ve yet to read Jim Ross’ first book, Slobberknocker. No real reason other than the fact that I haven’t yet gotten around to it. While I do plan to still read that one, I jumped at the chance to read Jim’s new book when it was offered to me for review from the publisher.
The second part of Ross’ story covers the year 1999 all the way to present day. Given that timeline, you get stories about the Attitude Era, the failed launch of Vince McMahon’s XFL and the many repeated attempts to remove Ross from commentary and replace him with someone else. The latter being the most frustrating. I’m not about to victim blame here because let’s face it, we all have to eat a little crow once in a while during our careers, but the way in which Ross had been treated over the years by McMahon and the WWE came across as sociopathic at times – hazing and bullying at its finest. While he doesn’t appear to hold any ill will, I can’t understand the way in which Vince’s mind operates.
Ross also tells of the infamous Summerslam fiasco that resulted in his forced “retirement” from WWE. Ross had been tasked with moderating a panel in which fellow Hall of Famer Ric Flair had a few too many resulting in several non-PG stories. For those plugged into the online wrestling chatter, you may already be familiar with this story and Ross’ telling of the event pretty much matches up with what was reported. Fortunately, this would lead into Ross beginning his podcast and exploring speaking tours.
Outside of the more unsavory moments in Ross’ WWE career, I liked reading about the various hats (pardon the pun) that Jim had worn for WWE over the years. Not only was he responsible for some of the most iconic calls in the history of wrestling itself, he had also been placed in charge of scouting and developing prospects who would blossom into bonafied superstars (John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar and Dave Bautista, just to name a few). Also, as weird as it sounds, I really enjoyed Jim’s breakdown of how payroll and WWE’s bonus structure is worked out. I’m a geek for stuff like that.
The most painful aspect of the book deals with the loss of his wife, Jan. Jan was Jim’s anchor through the toughest and most difficult moments of his life as well as the person whom he shared his highest of highs. Losing your partner is beyond difficult, but to lose them suddenly and without warning can only be a level of grief I can not even begin to imagine.
If you’re looking for some AEW (All Elite Wrestling) stories, you’re not going to find them here. Jim rarely speaks at all about his new role, but he’s only been in this new role since Spring of 2019 and you have to imagine the book had to have been mostly written by that point.
I think in terms of learning new information, I can’t say that I feel like I learned a whole lot. Then again, I’ve read countless books written by wrestlers, historians and industry professionals that cover this same time period. That said, I can’t say I was bored at any point. For lapsed fans from the late 90s to modern fans alike, Jim Ross’ Under The Black Hat is a smooth and easy read that tells the story of one of wrestling’s most valuable players.