Justin Roberts Comments on Mauro Ranallo – JBL Incident, Also; His First Meeting With Vince McMahon
Former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts recently spoke to Metro where he talked about a lot of interesting stuff.
Here are some highlights:
Which was why that movie was so fascinating because they were so guarded with that backstage stuff before. Did you get to interact with people when you were there or were you just kind of keeping to yourself?
“Oh yeah. Everybody, because of everybody just kind of hangs out. Vince [McMahon] to Hulk Hogan, I was picking his brain, asking him if he had any advice for me and he said he had some advice and mentioned a conversation with him and Macho Man Randy Savage at the Garden, which was cool. Everybody was so casual, approachable and cool. Jonathan Coachman kind of took me under his wing and introduced me to everybody. The coach was great so it was a lot of fun. A fun couple of days.”
What was it like to meet Vince McMahon for the first time?
“Intimidating. But, he was really cool and nice. Just kind of welcoming. One of the days inside an elevator it was me, John Cena, Shelton Benjamin, Rob Conway and maybe one more, but elevators are pretty awkward, to begin with, and us in there with Vince was very awkward. One of them thanked him for the opportunity, but he said, no, thank you, guys. You guys are the future. Cena really took that to heart there.”
Were you there on the trip where Cena started rapping one day on tour and Stephanie McMahon saw it and it changed his character?
“No. I wasn’t on that, but I know what you are talking about. Then he started with the Halloween episode and took off from there. He was then writing three rap songs at each TV.”
So, you get this dream job. When did you find out that it was going to be a full-time gig? Was it shortly thereafter?
“No, actually it got drawn out for a while. I did two dark matches and then I didn’t hear anything. They brought me out as a commentator tryout and that didn’t go well because I had never done that before. You have to be really good to do that. I was just never really good with that. Even if I had tried it I never really knew how I would do. So, everyone once in awhile they would ask me if I could fill in for Tony Chimel on SmackDown and then it became a little bit more and a little bit more and in 2004 was when I got the call to do it full time. They pulled Howard [Finkel] off the road and would start doing house shows and then Sunday Night Heat before Raw went on the air.”
So, the release of your book. There was stuff with Mauro [Ranallo] leaving WWE, and you are getting a lot of questions about it with the stuff mentioned about JBL. You mentioned that things with JBL happened much earlier than that. Did things backstage get better as time went on?
“Oh yeah, for sure. What JBL said was in 2003 so that is why when anybody just reads headlines like when Booker T mentioned that I wrote a book about bullying, the stuff I mentioned about JBL was in 2003, and I talk about how when a guy like Tommy Dreamer came in, the locker room completely changed. Raw had been a different locker room, to begin with, but when Dreamer came over, that is when the SmackDown locker room became completely different and became a fun place. I talk about Dreamer single-handedly changed an entire locker room and made everything completely fun. We had an entirely different locker room after that.”
What was the first WrestleMania that you worked?
“WrestleMania 23. It was supposed to be WrestleMania 21 in California but it became WrestleMania 23. I did the ECW match in Detroit.”
What was that like?
“It was neat because it had been handed to me and then pulled away a couple of different times. I didn’t really know it was going to happen until I got in the ring and the music started playing. I really didn’t know if that match was going to happen if I was going to be announcing it. When I did it was just really cool to see around 80,000 people in a football stadium and be in the middle of the ring was just really neat, really neat.”
Then you got to announce the main event of WrestleMania 24 with Edge and the Undertaker.
“Yeah, and then next year I did the SmackDown matches for 24 and that happened to be the main event. I went from doing one match in the middle of the show to quite a few matches, including the main event the next year.”
During your time there was much more of an edgy product early on and then it got to become more of a PG product by the time you left. Were there big shifts backstage as well as far as the mentality towards the business and just how things worked backstage?
“There were always shifts. People were shifting every week. Guys would come and go. Rules would come and go, and things were just constantly changing from day to day there. You might be able to do this one week and the next you couldn’t like the girls weren’t allowed to throw punches at one point. Things would constantly change and you never knew what new rules would come up each week.”
Speaking of which, there was that one time with Daniel Bryan. That was the only time I can think of since Howard Finkel where a Ring Announcer got kind of involved physically in a storyline. Did Daniel Bryan say anything to you after that? Because I know it wasn’t a planned spot, and just became something on the fly.
“I talk about it in the book where it was the just being out there from what was supposed to happen. The tie, it was just Daniel Bryan being very smart and went after it. What he did was made for great TV and everybody was happy about it including Vince and Daniel and me, so we shook hands afterwards and everybody was great afterwards, everybody was happy with it and then a couple of days later WWE decided he broke a role that he didn’t know existed and then they let him go. It sucks that he got fired for it, but at the same time, I will always say that it worked out for him because he was working some Indy events and then he caught fire and then came back right into the main event of Summer Slam afterwards so it all worked out okay.”
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