Jim Ross recently discussed his current status with WWE, where he is under contract and also doing work for New Japan Pro Wrestling under AXS TV while a guest on the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast.
"Yeah, it's a different deal," said JR. "I never really thought of it in the scope, but others have posed the same questions and made comments about it. They say, you know, JR is doing some work for New Japan. Somebody said that the reason the New Japan in Long Beach was not the way everybody would have wanted was because, I don't want to say hospitality, but communication may be a better word, that they were not comfortable, allegedly that I signed with WWE again, but honoring my contract with AXS TV."
Ross re-signed with WWE after returning to the company at WrestleMania 33 in April to call The Undertaker's retirement match. It's a two-year agreement. Meanwhile, he has a contract with AXS TV to provide commentary for their weekly NJPW program. That included him calling the G1 Special shows in Long Beach, California earlier this summer. His agreement with AXS TV is good through January 2018.
"The issue is quite simple: I never worked for New Japan; I don't work for New Japan. I don't get paid by New Japan," said Ross. "I do voice overs of their matches that they record in Japan that AXS TV edits and airs on their network and they pay me for their services; it's really a simple, straightforward deal.'
Ross explained to Roberts that some have said New Japan Pro Wrestling was counting on him being the voice of their product's expansion in the United States. The problem is, he was never included in those conversations.
"They were counting on JR to be the voice of their expansion. The irony of that is, nobody mentioned that to me," Ross revealed. "Not that it would have made any differences. That conversation that others had about my status never included me in on the conversation. I never knew this information, so I'm enjoying the opportunity to fulfill my contract and obligations - to keep my word. I believe that is very valuable in this world to keep your word. Finish my obligations with Mark Cuban's company [AXS TV]; they are great people. I work with Josh Barnett calling their matches, in which I enjoy. It is a very 'old-school' product, very fundamentally sound by and large, especially their singles matches. I wanted to fulfill this deal, but I don't know how it is going to go going forward."
"I don't know if WWE is going to continue to allow me to continue my deal with AXS, we never discussed it quite frankly," Ross continued. "We will just have to see, but I enjoy staying busy."
JR's wife, Jan, was killed suddenly in March 2017 in a car accident. He revealed this changed things for him and he's been trying to stay busy.
"When my wife, Jan, got killed back in March, it really changed the game for me in many ways; one was to simply stay busy, and I am accomplishing that," said Ross. "I am in a unique situation. The WWE has no issues with my podcast; my book is coming out in October, and they are going to help me promote my book, so it's been very good so far. They were really close to Jan as well. Her wishes in the last days was to 'go home' and get my jersey back with my 'old team.' We got to do that, and I just wish she would have been there to see it, but it wasn't meant to be I guess. I enjoy staying busy."
Ross told Roberts he was willing to wait and sign with WWE after his deal with AXS TV expired next year but that WWE wanted to re-sign him immediately.
"I have a contract with AXS TV, and WWE wanted to re-sign me. I was more than willing to wait until my contract ended, they were not; they wanted me to sign, and I did," said Ross. "I am very happy with my deal."
Jim Ross worked for WWE from 1993 to 2013, a departure that came following a WWE 2K14 roster announcement event over SummerSlam weekend in August 2013. Some accused Ross of being intoxicated, while he stated an insult to the sponsor of the event is what resulted in his release. WWE presented it as Ross had "retired," a claim Ross was quick to debunk. His new deal with WWE is for less dates than a weekly television personality.
"I am working 40 dates a year; I did six of them for the Mae Young Classic in Orlando, and I will do more days probably for SummerSlam week in New York when I am there for SummerSlam week," said Ross. "I have a lot of post-production to do for the Mae Young shows. I love the current schedule. I enjoy working for companies that are good to me; I got the best of both worlds, it's just funny how things have come full-circle for me sometimes, to try and stay positive and not get the 'woe is me' deal. I enjoy it because I am a wrestling fan. I get to be around some good wrestling products, which are different and unique."
Ross expounded on the New Japan situation later in his interview with Roberts.
"People have talked about my apparent role; or what my role was going to be with the expansion of New Japan here in the States. Again, I had never heard that dialogue," revealed Ross. "I support New Japan, try to get their product over; I enjoy watching their matches, but we are AXS TV guys."
As noted, Ross, alongside Josh Barnett provided commentary for NJPW's live G1 Special that aired on AXS TV in early July. He was criticized by NJPW's Tama Tonga, who tweeted the "commentating sucked." Also adding, "At least @realkevinkelly knows the storylines and OUR F#CKING NAMES." Ross addressed the criticism in his talk with Roberts.
"Part of the issues that we had in Long Beach was poor communication," Ross revealed. "How things are positioned was not quite accurate. I felt bad for Kevin Kelly and Don Callis because they were flown to Long Beach, and were telling guys that they weren't really booked. I wasn't part of booking them; I'm not a booker. I don't even work for their company, but we got a lot of the backlash on it because we were 'bogarting the airwaves' so to speak. We found out after the fact that the Saturday night feed for New Japan that featured Okada and Cody Rhodes, our call was part of the New Japan World app that night. Nobody had told us, but it wouldn't have mattered because nobody told us anything."
Ross explained the decision was made by NJPW, something beyond his control.
"That was the decision that was made by the New Japan people when they were given the option for that option they said that they wanted Josh Barnett and myself so there was heat on that," said Ross. "It was such 'Mickey Mouse' sophomore bull-s**t, and it's unfortunate that it had to manifest itself. Of course, the Social Media world had to eavesdrop and take a look and express themselves with what little information that they had."
"The irony is that I have supported Don Callis and Lance Storm's podcast, and still do, still will on Social Media, still do and still will. Kevin Kelly has been a friend of mine for over 25 years," said Ross. "If they got there and said to us that we were going to do the live show on Saturday and Callis and Kelly do the live show on Sunday, I wouldn't have cared, it would have been fine, but for some of the guys on the roster to start; I admire that they are loyal to 'their team' to Kelly and Callis, which I admire, but they didn't know all the facts when they started flapping their gums and it created a negative environment that was necessary."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast with a H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.