There was a time when if you wanted to watch New Japan Pro Wrestling you had to track down a tape from a friend. Now, thanks to the New Japan World streaming platform and outlets such as AXS TV, Puroresu has never been more accessible for fans in the United States. Recognizing the growing popularity outside the Orient, NJPW is holding its first-ever U.S. event G1 Special in the USA, Saturday, July 1 at 8/7c.
The milestone show will broadcast live from Long Beach, Calif. on AXS TV, with legendary wrestling broadcaster Jim Ross and former UFC Heavyweight Champion and NJPW veteran Josh Barnett calling the action. They are the regular announce team for NJPW’s weekly show on the Mark Cuban-owned network on Friday night.
“We spent the past 13 years expanding and defining our pro wrestling and MMA strategy,” says Andrew Simon, AXS TV Fights CEO. “History is going to be made on July 1 as New Japan comes to the U.S. for the first time in nearly 45 years, and AXS TV is broadcasting pro wrestling live for the first time…”
During the early stage of the AXS TV and NJPW partnership, Simon said they were interested how the program would be accepted in the United States. They began with finished programs from the company’s finished shows six to eight months earlier, but as time went on the weekly show has become more current.
Despite being in the business for more than 40 years, Ross’ passion for broadcasting professional wrestling remains strong. He takes pride in his work and has enjoyed putting his signature Oklahoma voice to some of the biggest NJPW matches in recent memory. Needless to say Ross is pumped to call the first live show in the States with Barnett.
“I’ve had a great time working with Josh,” Ross says. “In my style and Mauro’s [Ranallo] style, even though we have our similarities, I think we are a little bit different. I wanted to make sure that Josh had a very prominent role on our team. He has a great knowledge of submissions. He has a phenomenal background of New Japan and the Japanese culture in general. He is still an active fighter, actively training. His mind is still keen on the genre, so he has really been great for me.
“I’ve learned a lot from Josh about submissions and Japanese culture,” Ross continues. “I was always a fan of the New Japan product from way back in the ‘70’s, but when they came on AXS TV, it really opened the door for me to sample New Japan a little easier. I’m thinking we are doing some good things. I expect this event to be very unique. New Japan is producing a live event that everybody is talking about. They are going to produce a live event, and AXS TV is going to broadcast it. It’s not a television show tailor-made for the network. It’s a live event no different from a Mayweather-McGregor fight, except our event will last longer.”
Ross recommends viewers set their DVR’s accordingly — and to pack a lunch because the event could easily go four hours. That’s with minimal commercial interruptions.
“It will not be short and sweet,” he saus. “I think it’s going to be great. I think it’s going to be a different presentation, more athletically oriented in our narrative. We have zero control over what we see in the ring and who is wrestling who, all that stuff. Nothing. That’s good. If I don’t know anything about this show as far as conclusions, creative, I’d be tickled to death. I don’t need to know anything. As long as you give me a monitor, I think we will be okay. It’s going to be an exciting weekend. I reminds me of the anticipation I had preparing to do the first Clash of the Champions on TBS…This is big to me. Every opportunity I have at my stage of the game is big. I haven’t had my best call yet. Maybe it will be on July 1.”
Simon is impressed with the response thus far with the event selling out in a matter of hours with zero marketing outside the NJPW show on AXS TV. G1 Special in the USA Night 2 the next night also sold out with AXS TV airing it on Friday, July 7 at 8/7c and New Japan World carrying it live. The first night will feature Cody Rhodes going for the IWGP Championship against Kazuchika Okada, as well as the first round of the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship tournament. When the show begins, you can bet Ross will be ready.
“I’m watching a lot of the product,” he said. “I have a team of people who help me prepare. I’ve got John Pollock up in Toronto who is wonderful. Chris Charlton, Dave Meltzer, who is brilliant obviously. Paul Crockett. I get individual emails. They give me great information, so I study. I study and prepare. I read. I have never watched a New Japan match in advance of voicing it over. Don’t intend to. I’ve got a good crew there that provides me with bullet points and information. I read the hell out of it.
“Then again I got a great partner who has great awareness of that whole dynamic. I think we have done fairly well on our narratives for those matches. I enjoy the prep work. You can ask my partners, the King and probably Paul E., who would tell you that J.R. could be a real pain in the ass when it comes to prep work.
“I made that one shot in the Tokyo Dome in WCW, which was a pretty big deal. We sure had a big crowd. I was out there for Wrestle Kingdom 9. That was really fun and unique. I had never experienced anything like it before or since from a production standpoint. I’ve had good experiences with that. A lot of the talent I’m aware of. Some of these talents I’ve seen in England. So I’ve got a good product awareness. You can always be better but I think we will be fine on July 1…”