James William Ross was born in California and spent most of his life in Oklahoma.
During his Hall of Fame career, he has been to more cities in the United States than most people could name, and has called wrestling matches around the globe.
Although Ross, 63, came into the world in California, bleeds the crimson and cream of the Oklahoma Sooners, and has earned his share of frequent flyer miles, he owes a debt of gratitude to one city in particular: Philadelphia.
Ross is slated to perform his one-man show at the Trocadero Theater at 1003 Arch St. on Jan. 25, a day after putting on one in Sayreville, N.J. at the Starland Ballroom. During his show, Ross will attempt to entertain fans with his thoughts on the wrestling business and interesting anecdotes from his career.
"Stories from that territory era are almost stories that if I had not lived them, then people would very easily say, 'That was a funny story, but it can't be true,' but they are true," Ross told philly.com. "They are that outrageous, that funny."
He also will try to give back to the same fans who pushed him through one of the toughest times of his life 16 years ago.
The story begins during one of Ross' many stops around the world, this time in the United Kingdom, as the WWE was set to produce its Capital Carnage pay-per-view in December 1998. Ross was prepared to perform his duties as the chief play-by-play announcer when he was sideswiped on multiple fronts.
"Many, many years ago, we were doing a pay-per-view in the United Kingdom and I had gotten a call from my wife that my mother, who was only 64, suddenly died of a heart attack," he said. "We had a pay-per-view to do in London and I stayed and I did the pay-per-view and flew back to the States, but during the broadcast, I had my second bout, a pretty severe bout, with Bell's palsy.
"One of my eyes wouldn't blink, I had migraine headaches, I had ringing in one of my ears, I was drooling, my tongue was numb, the pain, the noise was just excruciating, but I was able to finish the show. When we got back to the States, I went right to a neurologist and he said, 'You've got Bell's palsy again.'
"Getting it once is somewhat unusual. It normally heals in about three to six weeks, but getting it the second time is highly unusual and it takes longer to heal."
Because of the severity of his episode with Bell's palsy, Ross took a leave of absence. Among the events Ross was supposed to miss was WrestleMania XV in Philadelphia in March 1999, headlined by a WWE Championship match between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock (Dwayne Johnson).
Although the two men had the biggest spot any wrestler could ever want (the main event of WrestleMania), the two megastars still had one request.
"I had been off the air probably three months, maybe four, somewhere in that neighborhood," Ross said. "I hadn't done any announcing because my face was hanging and paralysis was very, very prominent. My speech was slurred. I had to hold my cheek to talk.
"It was WrestleMania in Philly, where Austin wrestled The Rock for the first time at WrestleMania, and unbeknownst to me, they had gone to Vince McMahon to lobby and see if he'd be willing to let me call that match. He said, 'Well, you know J.R. has got this paralysis and it could affect him negatively,' and they said, 'We don't care because it's not going to affect his passion and he was so instrumental in getting us both here that we want him to call our match.'"
McMahon acquiesced to his stars' request and told Ross to be in Philadelphia for the event with a tuxedo in tow. Once he arrived for the event, Ross found out why he was told to bring a tuxedo: He was going to replace Michael Cole, who did the play-by-play for the rest of card, and call the main event alongside Jerry "The King" Lawler.
"Boy, I was scared to death," Ross said. "I don't think I've ever been as a professional, more scared, more apprehensive, lacking confidence than I had that day because I knew from getting ready and looking in the mirror that appearance-wise, I was not nearly ready to be seen on television. I knew that if I didn't hold my cheek on one side that I would really be slurring."
Ross' fears weren't quelled by the pep talk he received before walking from behind the curtain.
"Somebody said, 'Hey, J.R. Don't worry that when you go out if the crowd boos you because of the way you look, because this is the city that booed Santa Claus' ,'" he said. "I was hoping that wouldn't happen."
To Ross' surprise, when the Philadelphia fans heard the familiar fight song of the Oklahoma Sooners blare through the speakers of the First Union Center and saw his patented black cowboy hat make its way down the aisle, they gave him a standing ovation.
After all he'd been through, from his mother dying to his second battle with Bell's palsy, the reception was the shot of energy and confidence that Ross needed.
"I can't tell you how good a medicine that was because it gave me confidence that they didn't care what I looked like," he said. "They just cared that I was there and that I was going to put my heart and soul into the broadcast and that I had the guts and the courage to walk out there looking sure as heck not TV-friendly.
"I owe that thank you to the fans of Philadelphia," he added. "Their reception and their appreciation for my work, that got me back to where I needed to be and I've never forgotten that story. I would not have had the confidence to come back and work through my issues if it hadn't been for the fans of Philly."
More than what the city has done for him personally; Ross also recognizes what Philadelphia has contributed to wrestling.
"Pro wrestling has always had a home there," he said. "Philly's always been a marketplace where you got to see a lot of product, and some of the biggest stars in the business have done their thing in Philadelphia."
"The Philadelphia fans are always honest," he added. "They know the product."
Ross' one-man shows are one of the many pots he is stirring these days. With his shows, his podcast, and his stories for Fox Sports, Ross has kept quite busy since leaving the announce desk on a full-time basis.
Back on Jan. 4, however, he donned the headset one more time for New Japan Pro Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 9. Despite the lengthy travel schedule, Ross said that the endeavor was a success and that he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
But with more than 40 years of service put into the wrestling business, the inevitable question remains: Was Wrestle Kingdom 9 the last we've heard from Ross during a wrestling show?
"I'm just going to kind of play it by ear," he said. "I want to kind of play it by the event."
Ross did say that he will consider doing special events, but he does not see himself working for a promotion full-time anymore.
"At this stage of my life, I don't know if want to get back into weekly travel," he said. "I'll leave that to the younger guys who are just getting their careers started or they're in the peak of their career.
"I love the wrestling business and I love being around wrestling fans, but I think for me to enjoy the whole process it would be a schedule that I would do when special events came along," he added. "If New Japan has another pay-per-view that they want to do in North America this year, then I would certainly consider it because I had such a good time on this last experience and I'll do a better job next time because I got to study and watch tape, so I'm going to be much more familiar with the talent then I was on my maiden voyage.
"I haven't gotten anything else booked. There's a lot of discussion. There's a lot of people that are seemingly interested, but again, it's going to depend on what's the investment of time, when, where, so I'm not ruling it out, but it needs to be something that I really feel compels me to be involved and not just go out and get a weekly gig just for the hell of it."