Jim Ross played a variety of roles for WWE throughout his career. Fans will mostly remember the legendary commentary moments of Ross calling Mick Foley falling off the Hell in a Cell structure, Steve Austin winning the WWE Championship, and many others. Ross, however, did even more than the average fan realized. The role of Executive Vice President of Talent Relations would see JR in charge of hiring talent between 1996 and 2003.
Many of the biggest stars in WWE history were hired during Ross' tenure in the role. Both the Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression Era are beloved by fans, with JR having a strong influence on the good times. Not all Ross' signings worked out, however, as quite a few wrestlers flopped as well. We will look at both sides, with the five best and five worst WWE signings discovered by Jim Ross.
10 Best: Mick Foley
One of the most important wrestlers to be hired by Jim Ross was Mick Foley, joining the company with the Mankind gimmick. Ross would reveal that Vince McMahon had no interest in Foley, only agreeing to the signing so that Ross would learn what it was like to have talent break his heart.
Foley would prove McMahon very wrong indeed, becoming a success right away in a feud with The Undertaker. The overall career of Foley would see many accomplishments on the path to becoming a legendary figure in the industry. Ross received more power to hire stars after the success of Foley.
9 Worst: Essa Rios
WCW found great success by hiring international talents from all over the world. The cruiserweight division, in particular, found tremendous success, with wrestlers making their name in North America. WWE tried to do the same and Essa Rios was viewed as a huge signing for the company.
The era of Jim Ross making these decisions would land Rios a good opportunity with WWE wanting to push him. Unfortunately, fans never connected with Rios and the signing turned into disappointment. Lita, managing Rios, was the more successful performer of the two.
8 Best: Edge
Jim Ross played a huge role in WWE’s youth movement, signing talent with potential. The tag teams of the Hardy Boyz and Edge and Christian were among the bigger hires to impact WWE, both short- and long-term. Edge was the biggest of the four stars to get his chance from JR.
The potential of Edge made him a valuable prospect right away, getting involved in the Intercontinental Championship picture. Edge and Christian became the top tag team of the Attitude Era, before Edge broke out on his own as a singles star during his legendary career.
7 Worst: Bull Buchanan
Bull Buchanan had a look that gave him an opportunity in WWE towards the end of the Attitude Era. The various roles of Buchanan would see him team with the Big Boss Man, become a member of the Right to Censor faction and John Cena’s bodyguard throughout the years.
None of the roles would provide an ideal fit for Buchanan. WWE eventually just gave up on him altogether, pushing other talent instead. Not every signing is going to be a home run, and Buchanan was one of the worst from the Jim Ross era.
6 Best: John Cena
Jim Ross’ tenure hiring wrestlers may have peaked in the early 2000s. Many of the young names discovered by Ross would help WWE transition from the Attitude Era to the Ruthless Aggression after names like Steve Austin, Mick Foley and The Rock left the company.
John Cena was the biggest of those names to get his start in the new era. The success of Cena would make him one of the greatest stars in WWE history. Cena’s flaws would improve through the years and Ross certainly saw the potential there.
5 Worst: Dan Severn
The Attitude Era saw the first few crossover stars making the jump to WWE from MMA. Dan Severn was meant to be a big signing, with his fighting background. WWE hoped Severn would make an impact like Ken Shamrock did in his first few years in the company.
It never happened and Severn was a lower mid-carder for most of his run. The managing work of Jim Cornette could not even get him over at the level WWE and Jim Ross expected of him. Severn had some unique and impressive matches, but the overall signing disappointed.
4 Best: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin were scouted by Jim Ross during their college amateur wrestling careers. Both wrestlers joined WWE, with Ross offering them developmental contracts with huge expectations for them to become mega-stars.
Benjamin had a very good career, but Lesnar was obviously the bigger star. WWE pushed him to the WWE Championship after just five months on the main roster. Brock’s return in 2012 has seen him become an even bigger star for the company. Ross was right on the money to see Lesnar’s potential as a top draw.
3 Worst: Scott Steiner
Jim Ross was the one to broker most of the deals for WCW talents joining WWE after the company went out of business. Some of the better deals would see a talent like Rey Mysterio find more success there. However, not all former WCW stars would do well in the new environment.
Scott Steiner joined WWE in the fall of 2002, with plans to get a monster push. The hope was that Steiner would be a top face for years, but he lost all momentum after a horrible feud with Triple H. Steiner’s style just didn’t fit in the WWE landscape; Ross likely regrets bringing him in at the time given the results.
2 Best: The Rock
The best signing from Jim Ross’ tenure hiring talents would have to be The Rock. Ross loved the potential of Rock due to his look, size, football background and pedigree as a third-generation wrestler. Rock struggled in the early months, but a heel turn made him a mega-star.
The accomplishments of Rock would see him achieve just about every realistic goal in a few short years. Rock’s success in Hollywood was part of the aftermath of his success in WWE. Ross made the right call convincing Rock to make his mark on the wrestling world.
1 Worst: Steve Williams
Jim Ross hiring one of his best friends turned out to be one of the more disappointing signings of his time in WWE. Steve Williams’ connection with Ross landed him a contract, along with plans of a major push. The Brawl for All was initially designed for Williams to dominate before becoming a contender to Steve Austin’s WWE Championship.
Williams was surprisingly knocked out by Bart Gunn, losing the tournament and his push. Williams moved to WCW and took part in the embarrassing Oklahoma parody of JR, for the worst-case ending of his career.