WWE Hall Of Famer Jim Ross recently spoke with WrestlingInc ahead of his New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) on AXS TV announcing debut. Here are some of the highlights below:
On if he works for AXS TV, New Japan Pro Wrestling or both:
“I’ll put it this way, New Japan is on board with my hiring. New Japan is happy I’m affiliated with their product via AXS. Once AXS made their decision, I think they conversed with New Japan. I’m being paid by AXS. With the relationship between them, they’re on the same page. It wouldn’t have been good business if AXS hired me, then news filtered back to New Japan like ‘Oh, by the way.’ I’m not sure what everyone’s looking for, but New Japan, AXS and TV ASAI are all working together, but my contract is with AXS TV and I’m being paid by Mark Cuban’s company.”
On if he was surprised that WWE signed Mauro Ranallo:
“They haven’t been interested in 40 year olds in the past, so from that regard I was. I thought it was as strategic of a hire as WWE’s made in a while, a very smart hire. You can hear how smart he is if you watch Smackdown. He’s a fresh voice there that’s added energy to the show. Mauro did not fit their description of a WWE broadcaster, someone new. He’s a good hire, he’s going to do a great job. I’m happy for him. Even though he’s had great profile gigs, the Mayweather thing, he’s still a freelancer. You pick one here, one there, increase your payday, it’s still a unique existence. The fact that he’s got a regular paycheck coming in and can still do boxing and MMA, it’s the best of all worlds. Good things happen to good people, and Mauro’s a good person.”
On if he was surprised that WWE signed AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows:
“No I wasn’t at all, because when I got back last year from Wrestle Kingdom 9, I mentioned to both Vince McMahon and Triple H my experience and what I saw. I had AJ Styles on my podcast, and I discovered I had a chance to hire him when he was WCW folded, but he didn’t make the cut. I don’t think I ever saw him. He seemed to be fine without that. I’ve always enjoyed his work. He’s a good kid, a family man and the type of person you want in your locker room.
“The one I came back raving about was Nakamura, because I felt like he had as much natural charisma and uncanny timing. AJ’s timing and agility has a lot of Shawn Michaels’ traits. He’s effortlessly moving. AJ’s right in that conversation with the instinct side. I thought that he could be really good. I found out that a lot of the time that when people say a guy is too small, they’ve never had their asses kicked by a smaller guy, or they haven’t spent much time on a college campus that has a good wrestling program. On college campuses, football defensive linemen don’t want to screw with a 160 pound wrestler. It’s just not a good exchange, and the big guy’s gonna get humiliated more often than not. AJ is good and should have been there before he was hired, but Nakamura is the one I was raving about, because he’s so unique.
“Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson are an excellent team, but they’re not a new team. They’re not something people haven’t seen before. I’m not saying they’re not going to come into the WWE and make an impact, because they can. If AJ stays healthy, he has the chance to be a main event level talent for the next few years, depending on when his bump card expires, and it will. Hopefully he’ll do well and stock some money away.
“Nakamura is unique because he’s Japanese, and has a different look, and is long and lean, and speaks English, and has had MMA training, he’s a student of the game. He posed for pictures with me, and someone said ‘That doesn’t happen much when you go backstage and one of the top stars wants a picture with you, does it JR?’ No it doesn’t, but he’s a student of the game. I think he’ll be just fine. I don’t care what they name him. I understand why WWE wants to own the name. It’s not an exact science, but it make sense to do it when they can. I got so many tweets about that. It’s not like he’s a household word. He’s not The Rock. I’m not knocking him. A name tweak isn’t going to hurt him. His fans are going to follow him no matter what. I’m not suprised. They were very interested and were tuned in to our discussion about those guys last year. Seeing how they’re loading up NXT, these guys might fit right in to the plan. Ironically you have AJ debuting for the Royal Rumble, Gallows and Anderson in the on deck circle, and Nakamura will be a part of NXT Dallas. It’s a good thing to shuffle the deck of the roster, it’s past due. You can’t go with the same people, the same roles without changing things around. For example, John Cena is going to be the incumbent babyface until the cows come home, and that’s fine. To make him more relevant and keep him successful, he has to have more dance partners that challenge him. He has to have people that stretch his creativity and physicality. That’s how you keep talent fresh without changing their uniform.”