Sunday 16 November 2014

The Global Announce Team

A few weeks ago Jeff Jarrett announced that his e-fed would be airing New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom 9 on pay-per-view in the US and Canada. It was a significant announcement followed up by instructions for people to stay tuned for news. 'Double J' has to promise news instead of providing it because he doesn't have a promotion of his own and is reliant on New Japan making decisions before he can release information. It’s a less than ideal way to run a business.

But a week ago Jarrett struck a deal that will see Jim Ross provide English language play-by-play commentary for the show, something he was able to tell the world himself. It was presented as big news when announced on November 11. And it is.

Slobberknocker! Sauce it! Bah GOD! Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!!
As the voice of WWE when it was at its hottest Ross is a known quantity to many lapsed and casual fans, a market Jarrett is probably interested in attracting. He's also an experienced wrestling commentator, with a solid knowledge of moves, an understanding of how to convey a match's story to an audience, and an unparalleled level of passion1. He was the best choice to lead an English language broadcast and, considering his promotion's completely hypothetical status at the moment, Jarrett was lucky to get him.

But 'Good Old JR' is not flawless. Even at his late 90s-slash-early 00s peak he was prone to frequent minor mistakes. This usually took the form of confusing names of guys he was less familiar with who kind of but not really looked alike. Hardly the worst thing in the world but it presents an obvious problem for WK9. NJPW's roster is almost entirely new to Ross, and a lot of the guys he's already familiar with will be using different names.

Obviously there's ample time for Ross to familiarise himself with the roster. And being a professional I'm sure he will. While he's in prep mode it may be a good idea for someone to warn him about the flagrant anti-psychology that plagues Young Bucks matches. Better than him finding out on the air.

The other issue with JR is that he does his best work when being needled by an antagonistic colour commentator2. His work alongside Paul Heyman in 2001 and Jerry Lawler in the years before (but not really after) that was so good because both Lawler and Heyman knew how to interact with Ross's on-air personality to get the best out of him. They knew to prick his ego every so often and provide him with anti-babyface material to get riled about. Basically, they knew how to be very good heel commentators and Ross knew how to be a very good babyface one.

It's not that JR's commentary will be bad without a good heel colour commentator with him but it’s likely he'll be better with one. Thinking of suggestions for the role is pretty much a waste of time because there's no defined Global Force roster in existence to draw names from. The only realistic suggestion to make is Jarrett. He's been established as a heel within New Japan storylines and would be easy enough to accept in the role for an English language audience. I've never heard him on commentary but Ross could coach him and help him prepare. Plus he's already going to be in Tokyo for the show and it would cut down on costs. I’m sure that’s a factor for an imaginary company like Global Force.

Whether they go for Jarrett or a more left field but probably better choice like Colt Cabana or Chris Hero (I would be astounded if they got CM Punk3) I hope the pairing gets adequate time to prepare. If English language commentary is to become a thing4 for NJPW (and less importantly if GFW is to succeed) Wrestle Kingdom 9 needs to be a success in North America. And rightly or wrongly a lot of that is on the shoulders of Jim Ross.


1 I’m particularly looking forward to him shouting “Okada! Okada! Okada!!”

2 Ideally with that colour commentator being fed digs by Vince McMahon over a headset, not that that's an option here5.

3 Though he'd be ideal, obviously. He knows the product and Ross and has a fair amount of commentary experience. Plus he's a big enough name to generate some US interest in the pay-per-view, New Japan, and GFW. But it won’t happen.

4 I hope English language commentary catches on because the lack of it is the biggest barrier for plenty of people (including myself) following New Japan more closely.

5 Although if Vince were to ever to get involved with production of a rival promotion's commentary I'm sure it would be solely to take shots at Jim Ross.

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