Global Force Wrestling’s first pay-per-view event — New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 9 airs on Jan. 4 from the Tokyo Dome.
Remember the pro wrestling boom of the 1990s? For several years, millions tuned in every week to watch Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment, Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling, or Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling. The competition between these major brands resulted in huge pop culture permeation … arenas were always sold out, T-shirts were everywhere, and some jabroni named “The Rock” even used his popularity to create a nice little movie career.
Fifteen years later, times have changed. WWE bought WCW, ECW went bankrupt, and no one has stepped up to challenge them in years … until now. You might remember Jeff Jarrett as a major star with WWE and WCW. However, you might not know how deep his wrestling roots run or how influential he’s been on the business side of pro wrestling. However, once you see his newest venture, Global Force Wrestling, which present’s its first pay-per-view event — New Japan Pro Wrestling’s “Wrestle Kingdom 9” on January 4th —you’ll quickly realize that the game is about to change.
For those who might only be familiar with your relatively recent in-ring career, tell us about your family’s history in the pro wrestling business.
I am a 3rd generation promoter. My grandmother got into the wrestling business back in the 1940s in Nashville, Tennessee, basically selling wrestling tickets. She worked her way up. She did essentially everything in this business except wrestle. She ran the back office, ran the administration, ran the business side of things for promoters here.
Then my Dad got into the business and actually promoted first. Then he got into the wrestling side and then back into the promoting side so it’s in my blood, it’s in my family. First started in the business summers during high school setting up the ring, refereeing, concession stands, taking tickets, promoting the towns.
Then I had my first match April of ’86 and wrestled basically in the territory system for my Dad in Puerto Rico and Japan for 7 years. Then October of 1993 went to what was then called WWF, now the WWE obviously.
I wrestled there and for World Championship Wrestling, Ted Turner’s Group. Went back and forth, had 2 different contracts for both companies. Went back and forth twice and then when WWE bought WCW in March of 2001, I put my promoter hat on, so to speak.
I knew there was going to be, or there was a huge void in the marketplace. There was an opportunity there, much like there is a huge opportunity today but there certainly was one in 2001. My father and I launched TNA Wrestling in June of 2002 and rocked and rolled there for many, many years. Then last December I resigned from TNA and took a few months and got my vision together. Last April, I launched Global Force Wrestling and we are in the process of the rollout, which brings us to our very first event on January 4th.
You mentioned creating TNA Wrestling, which enjoyed many years on Spike TV before relaunching on the Destination America network this month, as a way to fill a void in the pro wrestling industry. What are you looking to achieve with GFW as your vision begins to take shape?
You can throw any certain numbers around but WWE has 80 percent, 90 percent, 95 percent, 85 percent of the marketplace. I believe, knowing the history of the business, not just in North America but all through Europe and specifically Japan, there is plenty of room for many promotions. What I am doing is launching a brand, putting together a talent roster, putting together the finances, the sponsorships, the venues.
Everything that goes with taking a step-by-step approach. Having patience which is not in my DNA but I know that the professional wrestling audience wants something different, wants something fresh.
At Global Force, we’re going to recognize promotions from around the world. There is AAA in Mexico, there is New Japan obviously in Japan. Here domestically, there is Ring of Honor. We want to help recognize that. We are going to recognize promotion. The world we live in, we’ll call it the YouTube generation. Years ago, I’d be doing an interview and it would go to print … it may get out 4 or 5 days later. In the digital world it’s instantaneous so there are kids today that can watch a New Japan match on YouTube and then click over and watch an AAA match and then click over and watch the WWE Network. The world is a much smaller place and I want to be at the forefront of bringing the fan bases together.
GFW’s first offering is January 4th’s first-ever live U.S. broadcast of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s “Wrestle Kingdom 9,” the biggest historic entity in Japanese wrestling. Their Wrestle Kingdom events, which emanate from the 60,000-seat Tokyo Dome, are Japan’s biggest shows of the year – their version of “WrestleMania,” so to speak, and you’ve even brought legendary former WWE announcer Jim Ross on board to call the action. For those not familiar with Japanese wrestling, what can they expect to see on this event?
I’ve been asked this and Jim Ross has been asked this and several others within. I believe it will be the best pure professional wrestling show of 2015. It may be the best pure wrestling show in history. It’s truly going to be a phenomenal night as it relates to in-ring athletic ability. Being in the Dome, it’s a spectacle with the lights and the pyro and the crazy entrances, theatrical entrances. This is multiple promotions coming together. There are talent wrestlers that are going to be on the show from different Japanese promotions, US-based promotions …even Mixed Martial Arts, former MMA guys.
We know that so many networks and content providers, including the WWE, are moving away from traditional broadcasting outlets in favor of streaming networks and services. Why did you decide to present Wrestle Kingdom 9 (WK9) on traditional PPV?
Believe me, there was much deliberation and discussion how to bring it to market but when you look at big MMA fights, big boxing fights …. they certainly didn’t take WrestleMania straight to the network. It’s still a pay-per-view event. It’s just this simple. If the event is worth spending money on, the audience is there. When you think about the major pay-per-view providers — DirectTV, Dish, In-Demand, Turner, Time Warner, I could go on and on — this time 2 years ago, they probably had 26 professional wrestling pay-per-views a year in the traditional model. Now, one to my knowledge is on the books in 2015 and that’s WrestleMania. The second one is January 4th, New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 9.
Supply and demand, the economics, the ability to advertise it within the cable systems and satellite systems and then I’ll go back to the must-see event. We want to make it available. I think the price is the best-priced pay-per-view that I have ever either been a part of or purchased or watched or whatever. At $34.95, that’s a steal in my opinion.
Then to take it one step further, with technology we’ve partnered with Flipps which is an App that literally wrestling fans from around the globe get the App, hook it up to their television and they will be able to watch it literally anywhere in the world. It’s the most widely distributed live pay-per-view in the history of the business and I think that takes in a lot of ground.
You talked before about bringing Jim Ross into the fold. In the eyes of many, Jim is regarded as the greatest broadcaster in the history of professional wrestling, the greatest broadcaster in this industry. How important is his involvement with this pay-per-view event?
I don’t think you’d be asking that question if you and the rest of the fans didn’t realize just how big it is. It goes without saying … I probably can’t put it into words. We kept the announcement a surprise and that’s hard to do in this business, but it was enormous. It legitimized this presentation of New Japan Pro Wrestling to North America when Jim came on board It won’t just be a satellite feed from the Japanese broadcast. No, it’s going to be JR walking down the Tokyo Dome with a black hat, sitting down, calling four phenomenal professional wrestling hours. Like I said, it’s one of those nights that if you are a wrestling fan you’re not going to want to miss.
For more information on Global Force Wrestling and January 4th’s “Wrestle Kingdom 9” pay-per-view, go to globalforcewrestling.com. For more information on Jeff Jarrett, follow @RealJeffJarrett on Twitter.