Since January of 2016, legendary pro wrestling commentator and WWE Hall of Fame member Jim Ross has been the lead commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV, alongside UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett. Together, the duo have provided the English soundtrack to the weekly wrestling program, recording all the commentary to the Japanese-based shows in the cable network’s Los Angeles, Calif. studios.
But on July 1, at NJPW: “G1 Special in the USA,” the promotion’s first-ever show in the U.S. at Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Calif., Ross and Barnett will be calling all the action live.
Speaking on the AXS TV conference call to promote the upcoming event along with AXS TV Fights CEO Andrew Simon, Ross went into detail about how much calling the show live will add to the overall quality of the broadcast.
“Well, it will add a lot to the broadcast without question,” Ross told MMA Plus. “It’s a difference of being in a room dotted with television monitors and two chairs and there are two of you in there and the connection to the outside world is through your headset. That’s voice overs. That’s voice overs everywhere. It’s a stale environment and the good announcers can make you think that they are not sitting in a room with two chairs, looking at television monitors talking.
“There’s nothing like being on site for a live event–nothing. If Josh and I don’t sound better July 1, then shame on us. We’ve got no excuse. That atmosphere will jack you up and it will be great.”
“G1 Special in the USA” will take place over the course of two days. The first night will air live on AXS TV at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 1. The second night will air on Friday, July 7 in a four-hour special and will also have an 8 p.m. ET starting time. The headliner for the live show on Saturday will feature Cody Rhodes and IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada. A two-day tournament will also be held to crown the first-ever IWGP U.S. champion.
With a library of legendary matches already under his belt, Ross, who recently returned to the WWE at WrestleMania 33 to call the main event between Undertaker and Roman Reigns, surprisingly said, “I haven’t had my best call yet. Maybe it’s going to be July 1.”
Like a wrestler only being as good as his last match, or a fighter only being as good as his last fight, Ross subscribes to that same theory as a broadcaster. And “Good Ol’ JR,” who likes to keep it moving forward, is indeed up for his newest challenge of calling back-to-back wrestling cards in consecutive days.
“I don’t compare anything to the last one,” said Ross, who has also been a commentator for the NFL, boxing and MMA throughout his 40-year career. “It doesn’t matter. The last one is the last one. I have a style that I like to use. I feel comfortable doing. I’m still a fan, [who is] broadcasting. So consequently, I’m going to call like I feel, like I see, and I hope it’s good enough for everybody. But, boy, being live just gives it that much more gas and it gives you more stamina to make sure … No matter what we do on July 1, probably the last hour of say a three-hour show, that last hour, there is a lot of money to be made in that last hour. You’ve got to deliver.
“There’s no option. There’s no, ‘Well, do the best you can, we know you will be tired.’ Bullsh*t. That don’t work. Nobody wants to hear that. So we’ve got to deliver the goods and thank God it’s in a live event. I will tell you that if we were doing a simulcast back of some sort back at the studio of that event, it would be a whole lot more challenging. That would almost be like work. And God knows nobody wants to work. So I want to have fun and having fun being ringside at that arena.”
Jim Ross on his desire to call more live MMA events
Ross, a huge MMA fan, has called just one MMA event in his career when he was teamed up with Chael Sonnen for the Battlegrounds MMA pay-per-view, which took place in October of 2014. The man who coined such famous phrases as “slobber knocker” and “tougher than a two-dollar steak” was asked if he’d have any interest in calling MMA once again.
“Sure, I’m a broadcaster, a storyteller. I’d love to call live MMA events somewhere down the road more. I did the one pay-per-view with Chael a couple of years ago. Andrew [Simon] knows this. If they got into a jam, someone got ill–God forbid–or a vacation, or whatever, [for] one week I can fill in for anybody. And working with a guy like Pat [Miletich]. You’re just the point guard. Your job is to get the ball to Pat. Pat’s a Hall of Famer.
“Get on the air, get off the air and get the ball to Pat. Simple. And prepare what you are talking about. Yeah, I’d love to do that sometime. It would be fun. That’s why I like doing new projects. I did this NXT Takeover with two UK kids [Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate]. Well, I had never seen them before. I hadn’t been in a live WWE live event environment in a long, long time. It was new. It was the unknown. I was excited to do it.
“And the same thing with doing this live event. It’s new. It’s fresh. Josh and I have never worked a live event together–ever. We’ve practiced–I guess–doing voiceovers, but it’s a different ballgame when you’re sitting there live. New production crew. Even though Andrew’s crew they do a tremendous job in MMA, but this is wrestling. It’s got some nuances. Got a little different flavor to it. So we are all taking maiden voyages, and that’s what’s exciting.”
Always resourceful with using past moments of his career as examples, Ross further elaborated on the possibility of calling MMA once again by turning the clocks back to 1988 when he called Clash of the Champions while a commentator for WCW. And like the great in-ring storyteller he is, tied it all together with the upcoming NJPW “G1 Special in the USA” event.
“My answer to your MMA question, Michael, is that yeah, I’d love to do it one weekend. It would be fun. It would be fun, the preparation, the hype and the build up and then do the live event. That’s what we do. Hey, I would say the same thing if Andrew said, ‘Hey JR, we are going to kickboxing. We are going to do a boxing show. Want to do some play by play?’ Hell yeah, of course. How about football? A baseball game? I’ll do that too. It’s all good stuff and it’s all new. So I’m open to do any of those types of things. Right now I’m somewhat focused on one thing and that’s wrestling and specifically July 1.
“I didn’t expect to have the return to call the last match at WrestleMania. I didn’t think that would ever happen. I never thought that after the first Clash of Champions that I would have the same mystique over an event that I have for this. Because again, the Clash was … [Tony] Schiavone and I worked together, two play-by-play guys, who had never been a team. A production team that had never done live wrestling. It was an adventure. Just like July 1. It’s just one of those great things If you are blessed to be alive and you hang around long enough, sometimes good things come back around. And I think we have something very special coming around on Saturday July 1.”