Jim Ross is regarded as one of the greatest minds in the history of the wrestling industry. Over his nearly 50-year career, he's seen it all and done it all, but perhaps his greatest talent is his eye for talent. He's responsible for hiring some of WWE's greatest legends of all time, including the likes of Mick Foley, Triple H, John Cena, Randy Orton, The Rock, and Steve Austin, to name a few.
Austin, in particular, is probably his most important signing, as it wasn't considered a big move by WWE at the time, yet in developing his "Stone Cold" persona, Austin became the company's biggest star ever and changed their fortunes in the "Monday Night Wars" of the late 90s.
As most fans know, Austin was originally on the WCW roster as "Stunning" Steve Austin and was kept in a mid-card role, unable to ascend to become the main event star he was meant to be. Ross was also with WCW at the time and on a recent episode of his Grilling JR podcast, "good ol' JR" talked about how while he pushed for Austin to be a bigger star in WCW, the company was not receptive of this idea and didn't see Austin as the top star, who would ironically become the man most responsible for their demise.
"Well, he (Steve Austin) hit my radar in Dallas. I said, 'That kid's a star. He's gonna be a star. Just look at him.' The way he moved, and his instincts were great. Very athletic, looked good, and looked believable. Looked like a tough guy. So, he was on my radar then. Then when we all got to Atlanta, the booking committee I was involved in – Steve was one of the guys we really pushed on. I pushed on him and Mick Foley and Brian Pillman – those three guys especially, I recall. Bring them in and let's get them going. He was a star, and you knew he was gonna be a star. I don't know if the other guys did or not. When you have people on the booking committee that are decision-makers and they're active participants, they don't see some of those things as quickly as some of us that have no dog in that hunt. In other words, Steve was not wanting my spot. When you're on the booking committee, you're always protective of your spot. Your spot is more important than the success of the company. That's the ego-centric way that it was perceived back in those days. He was a star from the get-go and I thought he was gonna be great. It seemed like it worked out that way."
So it's pretty well-talked about that quite a few members of WCW's booking committee were active wrestlers themselves, such as Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, Kevin Sullivan, and Dusty Rhodes. In the years after, this would grow to include Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash upon their entry to the company. The problem is, those guys are all veterans and while their knowledge is incredible, they're also still trying to hold onto the main events for themselves, instead of trying to push new young talents, which in those days included the likes of Foley, Pillman, and Austin.
Of course, Ross would move on to become the head of talent for WWE and would make the all-time great hirings I referenced earlier, including Austin. But it's always interesting in any entertainment industry to look at someone you cannot imagine not being a megastar and seeing people look down on them as "not good enough". Wrestling has tons of these stories and it seems a large amount of them in the past 30 years involve WCW misjudging someone who would end up assisting in burying the company afterward.