NJPW held a wildly successful show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco Saturday night that culminated in an epic main event between Kenny Omega and Cody
Rhodes for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. However one dark cloud that is hanging over the show and has the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) up in arms is the lackluster and often unprofessional commentary of Jim Ross and Josh Barnett, which is unfortunately overshadowing what was arguably the match of the night between Jay White and Juice Robinson.
Given how much of an emphasis NJPW is putting on a Western expansion, you would hope that one of the greatest WWE commentator’s of all time in JR would be at least trying to learn and help the NJPW product. But straight from the off he proceeds to mispronounce wrestlers names and often call wrestlers the wrong name completely. And the same goes for the wrestlers moves, with JR knowing very few of their finishers. This isn’t unusual, as JR had done the same for the previous live NJPW shows on AXS and he received criticism then from fans and even wrestlers, with Tama Tonga tweeting in July 2017, “Commentating sucked at the #G1Special.. at least @realkevinkelly knows the storylines and OUR F#CKING NAMES”.
There are mixed feelings about Josh Barnett inserting himself into the White/Robinson match, and it all depends on if you believe the spot was or wasn’t a work. As a result of a suplex that White delivered to Robinson into the outside barriers, the 66 year old Jim Ross was inadvertently knocked off of his chair behind the commentary table. From here, Josh Barnett declares that Jay White has “fucked up” and proceeds to go ringside and enter the ring, trying to get hold of White. This is what splits people’s opinions; If it is a work then it is brilliant as it has fans debating the reality of it, and the best moments in wrestling tend to be when we cannot differentiate the real from the story. However if it is not a work then Barnett is extremely unprofessional in inserting himself into the match and essentially “going into business for himself.” Suddenly we as fans have forgotten about Juice Robinson who has just taken a nasty move into a steel barrier and are fixated on Jay White trying to avoid Josh Barnett. For me, whether a work or not, the moment helped solidify White as a devilish heel as he dodged Barnett, although it was perhaps unintentional and just because it happened to reap benefits doesn’t make it any less unprofessional.
Once order resumes and JR/Barnett get back on their headsets, they then proceed to make numerous disparaging remarks about NJPW and the match; multiple times saying that rules are not enforced and that the “officials need to get their shit together.” Perhaps the pair could have drove home the craziness of the match, that both competitors are crashing through steel to win the Championship, but instead they decided to continuously complain about the referees. Credit where it’s due, other than this incident Barnett was good on the headset although he ended the night with a questionable backhanded compliment regarding the change in strong style.
The show ended with a huge twist in the Bullet Club storyline however JR proceeded to essentially whine that the angle was taking too long. Now I’m not privy to the inner workings of the commentary for NJPW, but I’m sure they don’t want this huge storyline being buried because Jim Ross thinks it’s going on too long.
It’s sad that this historic event is being plagued by this negativity, although I can’t help but agree. Given the excellent job that Kevin Kelly constantly does for the shows in Japan that is often bolstered when Don Challis joins him, it’s disheartening to see such a downright terrible job delivered live on American cable TV. We hope that the obvious thing can be done and Kevin Kelly is brought in for the future NJPW shows in USA.
– Ciarán Hayward