I recently spoke with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett, who recently made his Impact Wrestling debut and challenged Bobby Lashley for the World Championship earlier this month. Below is the final part of my interview with Barnett:
I wanted to discuss your match with Bobby Lashley that aired [earlier this month]. How was your experience with Impact Wrestling?
"It was a blast. Everybody was really kind, very easy to work with."
So this was your first match on US soil, as far as a major US promotion. Is that correct?
"This was my first match on US soil ever."
Oh really? So what was that like?
"It was really more about the fact that we were wrestling for TV and that changes things a little bit, but otherwise, same old, same old. It's just a ring."
Was New Japan Pro Wrestling OK with your TNA appearances?
"Yeah, I imagine so. I mean, the thing is, we don't deal with New Japan directly so much as there are two elements to that whole thing. And I'm not wrestling for New Japan, so it's a little different to say, 'oh, don't go off and work'."
I know you wrestled for New Japan in 2003 or 2004, I believe. But has that been approached since then about you possibly wrestling for them again?
"No, we have not had any discussions to this moment, but I wouldn't mind."
You've been doing commentary now for two years for New Japan on AXS. How has that been?
"It has been great. I still believe it's the finest wrestling you'll find anywhere and I think we have the best wrestling show for the most part on TV. So it has been a blast with Mauro and now I've had the opportunity to go from Mauro to the legendary Jim Ross, and different style, but we're still firing on all cylinders, I feel. And it has been fantastic and we got to do Wrestle Kingdom shortly after it had aired in Japan and it's a great success. The sky's the limit."
Yeah, how different is that, working with Jim Ross than Mauro Ranallo? Do you have to change much or do you just kind of go with it?
"You have to, I mean, having a partner in the booth is always a bit of a dance no matter what, but I didn't find it to be too difficult to pick up on his intonations and the way his flow and rhythm is. It was just a small feeling out process and then away we went."
Now, you've been a big part of the Japanese wrestling scene for a while. At least you've been involved with it for a long time. As a fan when you watch, do you prefer watching the American commentary when you have that option or do you like watching with Japanese commentary?
"I would probably… it just depends, I guess. I mean, the American commentary, at least I feel from our perspective, tells a different story than the Japanese commentary, but I think they both have value. But I guess I'm pretty biased."
Yeah, and what are your thoughts on, do you listen to Mauro Ranallo much on SmackDown?
"No, I don't have cable or anything, so I don't get any channels to watch it."
So I actually didn't get to watch the Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada match live. I saw it when AXS sent me the screener that had your commentary with J.R. and I thought it was was outstanding and I thought the commentary was just another level that added a lot to that match as well. Was that the first time you saw that match, was doing the commentary for it?
"Yep. We don't preview any of the stuff that we call because we want to have that live feeling."
So how much, I mean, for something like this, you know the result going in, but do you try to stay away from results for matches before you call them?
"I do. I think that it allows for that surprise to happen. And I think the most that we can offer to make that product come off as live, the better."
Yeah, and obviously Okada vs. Omega, kind of an instant classic, some people are calling it the greatest match they've ever seen. What were your thoughts watching it?
"I thought it was good work. It was definitely a main event type match. I don't know if it's the greatest match I've ever seen, but it was definitely really delightful. I thought it was the best work I've ever seen out of Kenny Omega."
Yeah, what are your thoughts on Omega right now? He's obviously the big talk of the internet and there was some teasing with possibly going to WWE. I'm not sure if he was working the internet or not, but he's going to be staying with New Japan it appears, for at least another year. What are your thoughts of his progression, just over the past year?
"I mean, the kid's very talented. A very athletic, able-minded guy, so he has so much potential to put some amazing stuff together, I feel. He's really in tune with the internet, that's for sure, but I think his best is still yet to come."
Yeah, and do you have a favorite match that you've called so far?
"I don't off the top of my head, unfortunately. But I do always like watching Shibata versus Goto's stuff. That's really up my alley."
AXS TV's four-week G1 Climax 26 event with commentary from Barnett and Jim Ross continues this week with Makabe vs. Ishii in hour one before Goto and Marufuji square off, followed by an epic battle between longtime rivals Tanahashi and Okada in the second hour at 8pm ET.