Recently, WrestlingINC's Owner and President Raj Giri caught up with legendary announcer Jim Ross. In a wide-ranging interview, Ross talked about whether he would work for Impact Wrestling, calling New Japan Pro-Wrestling on AXS TV, and New Japan Pro Wrestling's G1 Climax 26 Tournament airing on AXS TV with a special four-week, eight-episode event starting tonight with back-to-back episodes each week at 7 ET and 8 ET.
When asked whether he would work for Impact, Ross indicated that he is not interested in calling a weekly pro wrestling show, but that he would be open to helping Jeff Jarrett retool The Hexagon.
"Well, first of all, I knew that the announcer change was coming because I talk to Jeff, and not about me coming in, just we talk in general. We brainstorm sometimes. We exchange ideas sometimes. It behooves me for Impact and all other promotions to be successful. I'm still in the wrestling business and for wrestling to be on its ass or businesses to go belly up because of poor management, is not great for the genre and I pull for the genre no matter whose banner it's under. So Jeff and I [talked]. I was aware that it was going to be J.B. [Jeremy Borash] and Josh [Mathews] and so all I was doing, based on talking to him, and his suggestion was to throw out that changes are coming. I didn't realize people would pair me into that tweet where, 'oh, J.R.'s going to be [commentating].' Why would we kayfabe ourselves if I was going to be announcing? Why would we notů if I was going to do it, why would we kayfabe ourselves and me just show up? Maybe there is one. I can't think of a good one.
"But nonetheless, I don't really have any desire to do any weekly American wrestling other than what I'm doing and I may do some other projects, internationally, or abroad, or in Britain, but I'm not going to do, I don't think I'm going to do, I don't have the desire, you never say 'never', I get that, but I don't have any plans, whatsoever, to be doing anything other than what I'm doing right now in North America." Ross continued, "so I like what I'm doing. I'm certainly pulling for Impact and if I can help them down the road, in a manageable way, that ain't weekly television, then I'm always willing to help Jeff and his team. I've got lots of friends that work there."
On the subject of calling New Japan matches for AXS TV, Ross said there is a lot to like about the opportunity and that he hopes to call some matches live when NJPW tours California this summer.
"I like the schedule; I love the people I work with; we've got a real good product; and I know that AXS and New Japan are working diligently to enhance and strengthen their relationship. I think that tells me there will be more opportunities down the road for Josh and I to broadcast some of the New Japan product. And, of course, people are going to think, 'well, what about July when New Japan has their live events in Southern California?' Well, obviously! Josh lives out there. It's easy for me to get there. I'd love to be able to say, to get the assignment, 'hey, look, we're going to do a live two or three hour show, whatever the hell it's going to be, on AXS. Primetime.' So that'd be great! I don't know if it's going to happen, but I'm up for it."
Ross acknowledged that he enjoys working with NJPW on AXS broadcast partner, Josh Barnett. The WWE Hall Of Famer noted that he has asked the former UFC World Heavyweight Champion to take on a larger role on commentary than he had working with his previous broadcast colleague Mauro Ranallo.
"Well, I truly enjoy working with Josh. The great thing about working with Josh, for me, is that, and I've had the privilege and opportunity to work with many great partners, is number one, Josh is really skilled at the genre. He is extremely aware of the culture of New Japan. He knows what it's like to be at a main event at a Tokyo Dome event. When they go to ground, submission wrestling, there's nobody better at broadcasting than Josh Barnett to explain why these submission holds are effective and how they best work. So he's the perfect partner for me for this product. And I decided early on that I was going to try to give Josh a bigger role than he previously had on that show. I wanted him to be a little bit more involved because I needed it.
"Mauro may not have needed it because Mauro has got a lot of Japanese culture, experienced Pride, and all these bits that he has done over the years. But I wanted to kind of change it up a little bit because I needed the input, I needed the knowledge, so I think Josh has become a bigger part of the broadcast that I can see, and maybe I'm wrong, than before I came along and I really like it that way. It's a teamwork thing for us and I'm learning from him, he's learning from me, so it's a really good pairing."
G1 Climax 26 will premiering tonight on AXS, kicking off a four-week event. Ross indicated that he has completed his voiceovers and he did not watch the tournament prior to adding his commentary. J.R. went on to explain that tries not to watch matches before calling them for the sake of spontaneity; however, he heard that the Wrestle Kingdom 11 main event between Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada received a six-star rating prior to adding his commentary to the match.
"No, I didn't see it. I like the surprise element. I don't read a lot of the spoilers. You can't stay away from some of it if you're online at all. I knew that Omega and Okada was allegedly the greatest match of all time. I knew that Dave Meltzer gave it six stars and I have great respect for Dave's opinion. So I knew the expectations for the match were going to be extraordinary and that we would need to bring our A-game for sure. But I think we try to bring our A-game every week, so I enjoyed that match and I thought it was a really good presentation."
Ross said, "I think it takes away from the end result and what the show sounds like if I have some sort of preconditioning in my head that I got to watch this spot or 'here's this'. It moves away from being organic, and real, and reality-based to more of a showbiz presentation if I were to watch the matches and then get a feel for the end. It's like doing an audition or doing a rehearsal. I don't know of anybody that would tell you that they embraced doing a rehearsal for a live event. I can't imagine Troy Aiken and Joe Buck rehearsing an entire Super Bowl before they called this year's Super Bowl. It doesn't make a lot of sense."
Check back here next week for more from this in-depth interview with 'Good Ol' J.R.' AXS TV's four-week G1 Climax 26 event kicks off tonight at 7 ET with matches featuring NJPW's most decorated wrestler Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. SANADA and long-time veteran Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. "The Stone Pitt Bull" Tomohiro Ishii; in the second hour, former G1 Climax Champion Hirooki Goto takes on former IWGP Intercontinental Champion Bad Luck Fale and reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada faces returning star Naomichi Marufuji at 8 ET.