To call Josh Barnett a multi-tasker would be a gross understatement. The former UFC Champion still actively competes at the highest level of MMA, occasionally does pro wrestling and submission wrestling, and had an acting career, with his new film Never Back Down: No Surrender releasing June 6. In addition to all of that, Barnett has received rave reviews for his work as a color commentator for NJPW on AXS.
Barnett's commentary alongside Mauro Ranallo was widely considered to solidify the two as the best English speaking commentary team in wrestling. So good, in fact, that the WWE came calling for Ranallo for their Smackdown program. While Barnett was thrilled for his friend, he was a little nervous for himself.
"Look, Sean, you have no idea how stressed I was when I found out Mauro was leaving," Barnett told me. "Yes, I was excited. In my opinion our work there made him so valuable that the WWE had to have him. It was a win all around. I was glad his skills and abilities were recognized for what they were. He was my number one MMA guy out there. Mauro is the s--t, of course you're going to pay him."
Barnett also wasn't sure about what his role would be moving forward without Ranallo. Fortunately, AXS went after a big gun in the form of Jim Ross.
"Him leaving, all I could say is 'what the hell are we going to do?' I thought maybe I would have to be the lead guy, start being the start and finish of this thing and do a little color too. That was a big, big spot to fill. Instead of trying to fill shoes, they brought in a pair of cowboy boots instead. Finding out JR was going to be the one in the booth with me, it was such a relief. All of a sudden it makes me a little nervous because I had such a groove with Mauro, now I have to find one with JR. We get along, we've been friends for a while, we have very similar thoughts on the sport and the concept of professional wrestling. It's just like, man, he's a legend, try not to be s--tty, Josh. I think so far, so good. Each episode we sit down and do the better it gets," Barnett said.
We'll have the full interview with Josh Barnett here on Wrestling Inc. next week!