Jim Ross on NJPW on AXS, WWE booking and NXT growth

Donald Wood sent this in.

We had WWE Legend and Hall of Famer Jim Ross on the show this week, and it was a great episode with plenty of exclusive content.

YouTube interview: https://youtu.be/AYHNP4vstx4 

Blog Talk Radio Episode: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ringrustradio/2016/02/09/ring-rust-radio-feb-9-w-wwe-legend-jim-ross-and-raw-fastlane-talk–part-1 

Ring Rust Radio: I mentioned your new job as the play-by-play man for New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. What went into your decision to jump back into the wrestling business, and why do you feel now was the right time to join another commentary team?

Jim Ross: I never retired from the wrestling play-by-play. I never found a place that was overly comfortable for hanging my hat, so wrote that off and I moved on and found other things. It’s just that the right opportunity that I felt most comfortable with hadn’t come along. In November we started talking to AXS about doing the Friday night New Japan show. I had done Wrestle Kingdom 9, and I have been watching a lot of New Japan Wrestling, I felt like my style would pair up favorably with their in-ring presentation. The travel was very conducive because I have no desire to get back into weekly travel. I tapped on that deal long ago. Going to LA eight or ten times a year, those can be fun trips. The fact we’re doing three shows a day over a couple day period makes the travel very friendly. I like the fact that Adam Swift and AXS TV are very committed to building this brand much bigger than it is now on their network.

Ring Rust Radio: I appreciate when you give your honest opinion of WWE’s product on the Ross Report and in your blog on JRsBarBQ.com. Do you think fans are justified when they critique WWE as they do or should they be more forgive before judging or criticizing the product?

Jim Ross: I think they should be encouraged to vent all they want. It’s a different day and a different time. You can’t judge the things that are happening in today’s world of pro wrestling by yesterday’s rules. With social media and the information flow, fans have more information on what really goes on than they ever had at any time in the history of the business. It doesn’t bother me. Sometimes it’s frustrating because people pick the strangest hills to die upon. They get on a point and they belabor the same points over and over and over again. We never know with the social media mystique how old these people are saying these things. It could be a 10- or 12-year-old kid talking, but we never know. I always tell people don’t get your drawers in a wad over pro wrestling creative. Don’t get your blood pressure up and ruin your day or affect your life because you are not happy with pro wrestling creative. There are many more things to be concerned about than a finish in a pro wrestling match. Enjoy it, embrace it. I don’t have a problem with people critiquing things. If you are an entertainer and in the public eye, then you should have thick skin. I was told a while ago that I had no entertainment value and I was boring. I don’t have any idea who told me that, but I didn’t even block them. They have their right to their opinion and if they want to share with me that I am boring than have it.

Ring Rust Radio: Something we’ve discussed a lot lately with WrestleMania coming up is predictability within WWE’s booking. We all feel like Reigns vs. HHH at WrestleMania with Reigns coming out on top is a given, and while it’s not a bad story on the surface, the predictability factor is something that could lead to backlash from the fans. So, how does WWE go about balancing unpredictability while still telling a good, logical story as it relates to Reigns vs. HHH or any other feud for that matter?

Jim Ross: Most people have that predictability gene and to be able to see things coming. It’s never been a kick in the nads to be predicable. If you think of any major territory that had a babyface as the star, they won almost 99 percent of every blow off match since I was a little kid watching wrestling. I would say when you have the babyface versus the hot heel in the blow off match, that my money would always be on the babyface. Most promoters like to have the heels get heat and the babyface finally, by never quitting and never giving up on the audience, win in the end. I have fewer issues with predictability than most. I like it when they do throw a curve at us and book something that we are not expecting. Even though it may not be the best thing for the big picture or even though it may be next to impossible to execute, let’s do that. I don’t have big issues on how that can all work out. I booked an angle on my Ross Report this week, just for the hell of it and just for fantasy booking. I had Roman Reigns leave WrestleMania as the champion with a whole bunch of unforeseen things going on, that would launch him to the next level. It would be him aligning himself with Vince, and Vince thinking Triple H is getting too big for his britches. Vince sees Triple H and his hot new brand of NXT taking away some of the sizzle and attention from Raw and SmackDown. So even though Triple H is in line to take over the company someday, it’s not today. Vince sets up a thing for Reigns to very subtly win the Triple Threat match which he is going to get booed out of the building with Lesnar and Ambrose in the same match. It doesn’t take a sage to figure that one out. Then you get to WrestleMania without knowing any of this stuff has been going on since they don’t tape it, it’s like a secret. Surprise. It’s not predicable. Then at WrestleMania, you have Triple H vs. Reigns, Reigns has the Rock in his corner to neutralize Vince and all his henchmen without realizing the biggest henchmen is his cousin Reigns. With Vince backing up Triple H and having him feel confident he is leaving WrestleMania as the champion. During the match, you have Reigns and Vince screw Hunter, Reigns goes over, Rock comes in and says what the hell, Superman punch, spear, down goes the Rock, Reigns is the champion and he kicks the Great One’s ass. Reigns leaves, Vince is left preening over his creation when the Rock makes a little bit of a comeback, and end the show with Vince getting a Rock Bottom and a People’s Elbow. Roman Reigns is Vince’s boy and Roman Reigns is going to be basking off the glow, flying on the corporate plane, being Vince’s right hand man and being the guy that put Triple H in his place. There are endless stories you could continue with from there, but in the meantime you have made yourself a red hot heel people would enjoy booing. That would be one way of doing it that would not be as predictable as some would think. I’m not concerned with predictably. Are you going to watch WrestleMania? I know I am going to, so it doesn’t really effect if people will watch or not. I think the predictability is a topical thing in my opinion as long as they focus on doing things right, fundamentally sound, logical, and based in reality. When you find yourself writing in a reality based atmosphere, then the surprise and little things that some people may want more of come about organically. Their biggest focus should be on getting new talent over and doing things right. They shouldn’t be going out of their way to surprise people whatsoever, that’s just me and my opinion.

Ring Rust Radio: You were a big part of NXT early in its development, and it’s a brand that’s obviously grown by leaps and bounds over the past couple years due to the WWE Network. Looking back, did you ever have any inkling that it would become as big as it has, and also, what do you think the future holds for NXT? What’s the ceiling?

Jim Ross: Paul Levesque and his staff I can’t give enough credit to. William Regal for the scouting and tireless efforts he endures. He is really good at that and facilitates for guys that three or four years ago wouldn’t even have a chance to have a sandwich in the WWE much less to be signed and have a chance to make an impact. Paul has done a real phenomenal job. I think he has looked at it and built it like an old school territory in some ways. When we were first talking about it, my administration was doing open camps out in Louisville, Cincinnati, and Memphis. We had a relationship with Rick Bassman out in LA who did a nice job for us no question. The key was with those schools was they ran live events. If you are in a wrestling camp, that is a great way to learn fundamentals. At some point though, you have to get in front of a paying audience. Even if it’s 50 of them, 25 of them, if they paid .50 or .25 cents, you have to wrestle and perform in front of a live crowd. Going on the road with NXT has been phenomenal and it’s a much bigger deal than people have made it out to be. You got to keep your eye on the Indies and snatch up the best of the Indies as much as you can. You aren’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings because they want to come up anyways and get that chance to make big money and be a part of WrestleMania. You got to keep the Indies scouted and scoured and sign good people. Find the good athletes, the ones that can tell a story, and ones that’s don’t have issues in the locker room. Some of these guys you have in the system now aren’t getting any younger. So what do you do with Balor, with Joe, and all these guys that have been in the Indies for years and now they are in their mid to late 30s? You have to fish or cut bait. Who do you restock the shelves with then they are gone? You have to keep scouting and recruiting those Indies and let Jerry Briscoe go out there and continue to sign some of these amateur studs. If you sign five maybe you get one solid one. If you sign twenty people and you get four or five keeps out of them, you will have a hell of a year. We have had some incredible years there. We had one class that had Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Dave Batista, Randy Orton, and Shelton Benjamin in it. Ironically, the guy’s name I mentioned last was probably the best pure athlete in the group. You can’t get lucky like that all the time but we got lucky that time. Granted we did get some breaks, but we worked our asses off to get them. Hiring The Rock, Austin, and Foley, hiring two cast offs no one wanted anymore. Rock hadn’t even had a match when we signed him. Edge and Christian were indie wrestlers up in Ontario, maybe 200 pounds between them. You have to trust your guts and instincts, look inside someone’s heart, see their talent and wish for the best. They have to keep recruiting and making new stars. The biggest challenge the company has right now, is creating new stars on a regular basis. Then you have to have the next level to roll those new brands out to and show them to the world. You only have one shot to make that first impression. You can’t drop them out of midair otherwise the audience will crap on them. They have to be debuted with some impact and a roll out plan. I think the future of NXT is exceptionally good. They are a great anchor for the network. I would buy the WWE network just for NXT. Even though I watch other things on there like the PPVs and big events, but NXT is worth $9.99 a month to me. I am very high on the brand, the concept, the system, their instructors and coaches, the guest instructors to help get new perspectives and expertise. When the new stars are ready they have to have a plan. You can’t just be drafted to a NFL team with position unknown. Are you a quarterback or a nose tackle? I have to know what you are and what we are going to do with this guy. People have to be ready and sign off on this is what we are going to do with this talent and give them the best chance to impress us. If they can’t, we chalk it up to calculated risk and tell them thank you very much and the next man or woman up.