Jim Ross, AXS TV ready to make history with New Japan Pro-Wrestling's U.S. event

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Kazuchika Okada (right) delivering his rainmaker clothesline to Kenny Omega during New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom 11 back in January.

There have been few times in Jim Ross’ career that he has been so excited to provide play-by-play commentary for an event, but that is the case for the event he is set to call July 1.

That event is New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s first live show in the United States, G1 Special in the USA, which will emanate from the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Calif.

The event will air live on AXS TV, beginning at 8 p.m. EST, and will run with no commercial interruptions during the matches.

Although the event is still more than two weeks away, Ross’ anticipation for it is already at a fever pitch.

“By the time Saturday night comes, I’m going to be so full of piss and vinegar it’s not even going to be funny,” he said during an AXS TV conference call Monday. “This is big to me.”

Being chosen to call the matches alongside former UFC Heavyweight champion Josh Barnett takes Ross back to other exciting times in his career, specifically when he was preparing to call the first Clash of the Champions for Jim Crockett Promotions back in 1988.

That event, which also aired live on cable television, was a milestone for Crockett Promotions, much like July 1 will be for New Japan, who is using the event as the launching pad for its expansion into the United States.

“If [the expansion] is successful, it can obviously have economic advantages for New Japan and if it’s successful it would provide additional, enhanced competition to all of the other promotions of the genre,” Ross said. “If successful, it’s a good thing and hopefully they will be successful.”

“I think it’s good for the business in general for as many promotions to be as successful as they can,” he added. “It gives the talent more places to work. That allows younger talent to get a shot at being really good on a higher level earlier. I think that’s good so I’m all in favor of any company expanding and growing and becoming more profitable.”

New Japan is not the only entity involved in this event entering new territory. So is AXS TV.

The event will mark the first time AXS TV has ever produced live professional wrestling in its history and the chances of the network doing more of these in the future hinges the on what happens July 1.

If all goes well, AXS TV Fights chief executive officer, Andrew Simon, said that the network is open to move forward with more live productions of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

“I think if we see an increase in the audience overall — obviously from our weekly taped show — that we see the increased social interaction, the excitement leading up to it, if we see blowout results, if we see the advertisers come in on the limited breaks between matches, if we get additional sponsorship, all of those pieces that make it up, but more importantly, if it’s an unbelievable experience for our fans to get a live multi-hour broadcast,” Simon said.

“This is our first time in the history of the network going live with pro wrestling,” he added. “Is the audience there? Do you sit there for four hours on a Saturday night and will they stay for the whole thing and I, as a fan, would in a second.”

“I have been a combat sports and pro wrestling fan since I was born and to me, there’s nothing more exciting we’re doing on the network right now than New Japan Pro-Wrestling on July 1.”

Although the show will air exclusively on AXS TV in the United States, the event will be available to fans around the world on New Japan’s streaming service, New Japan World. It will also air on TV Asahi in Japan later that night.

Simon said that event will look slightly different from what fans may be used to seeing from New Japan, as AXS TV will primarily use its own production team, which means AXS TV will use its own graphics and techniques.

The in-ring action will be very familiar to fans of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. The main event of the show will be for the IWGP Heavyweight championship, as Kazuchika Okada will defend his title against former WWE star Cody Rhodes.

Because the match is headlining such a historic event, Ross believes that there is a lot of pressure on both men to deliver a quality match.

“Okada is a master,” Ross said. “He’s absolutely phenomenal. He’s a main-event guy in any promotion anywhere in the world. I know that’s an old cliché, but damn it’s true. He’s just had great match after great match.”

“For Cody Rhodes, he’s not a made man yet. Okada is. Cody takes one more step in that direction, but based on how he performs July 1,” he added.

Also on the card will be first-round matches in a tournament that will crown the first-ever IWGP United States champion. When asked who his favorite to win the tournament was, Ross pointed to Kenny Omega, who has already had a pair of legendary matches this year with Okada.

But Ross also noted that because of those highly acclaimed matches, Omega might be destined to win the IWGP Heavyweight title in short time.

“It would shock me if Omega is not the IWGP champion sooner than later,” Ross said. “He’s got so much momentum and smart bookers always jump onto the guy that’s got the momentum and right now Kenny Omega is very topical.”

Whether Omega wins or not, Ross and AXS TV are hoping that the G1 Special Live in the USA is topical amongst fans and pundits, and makes a historic mark on the landscape of professional wrestling.

Vaughn Johnson has a podcast with Nick Piccone called the Straight Shooters on WildfireRadio.com. Check it out here HERE.