Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
November 17, 2014
Last week, Global Force Wrestling announced that it had landed Jim Ross, the greatest pro wrestling play-by-play man of all time, to provide English commentary for its live pay-per-view presentation of New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 9 event on 1/4/2015. To say that I'm ecstatic about this would be an understatement.
I've waited many, many years for New Japan to have a live, English language presence in the United States. New Japan has the best pro wrestling product on the planet, with its strong style matches and world class level performers blowing away the formulaic WWE, which is suffering from overexposure of its top stars (besides Brock Lesnar) combined with a very thin talent roster.
It would be great if NJPW would produce an English language version of its weekly television program, but first things first. In the early 1990s, New Japan teamed up with the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling for co-promotional events, which led to some great matches involving American and Japanese talent.
They even had Starrcade '95 (which I attended in Nashville) as a WCW vs. NJPW show, though in typical WCW fashion they did almost nothing to properly get over the New Japan talent before the event. Kevin Sullivan has explained in a series of recent podcasts on MLW Radio why that happened and the politics involved.
If you're not familiar with the Japanese "strong style", here's just a glimpse of it from Scott Steiner, hitting his very dangerous Steiner Screwdriver move on Hiroshi Hase in a 1994 match.
It has been many, many years since I purchased a stand-alone pro wrestling pay-per-view event, in large part because of how disappointing the product has become in the U.S. since 2001. But this one I'll buy. Props to Jeff Jarrett and the GFW guys for making it happen.
Without a weekly TV show, promoting the event will be a challenge. But Jim Ross has more than one million Twitter followers as of this writing and a podcast that typically draws in excess of one million downloads per episode. Signing him means that he'll be spreading the world, further maximizing the value of what couldn't have been an inexpensive business move for GFW.
Presenting the New Japan show makes sense on several fronts for GFW, not the least of which is that it's an incredible product that already exists. You don't have to hire guys and balance politics and put up with the colossal volume of headaches involved with running a pro wrestling company. Any inklings I had on wanting to do that evaporated after hearing some of Court Bauer's stories about the nightmare of being a booker during his time running Major League Wrestling more than a decade ago.
If you want to learn more about New Japan Pro-Wrestling, this article written in July by Austin Heiberg should provide you with a strong primer. I really hope Wrestle Kingdom 9 is a financial success in the U.S. because that would, at least in theory, encourage more English language distribution of the product beyond just a one-off PPV event.
As for past NJPW matches? They're all over YouTube and Daily Motion and the like. You could watch the many 4-to-5 star matches from this past August's G1 Climax Tournament alone and be thoroughly entertained for hours. Give it a shot if you have some time to kill -- I suspect you won't regret it.