Mark Cuban is stepping into the ring with another high profile billionaire to stake his claim in the world of professional wrestling. The other billionaire is Vince McMahon, chairman and CEO of WWE, which has ruled supreme as the world’s number-one “sports entertainment” company for decades. Cuban’s cable and satellite network AXS TV – formerly known as HDNet – acquired the rights to broadcast New Japan Professional Wrestling in 2015. NJPW, or “New Japan,” as it’s commonly known, is a popular Tokyo-based promotion that some fans view as a grittier, more physically intense alternative to WWE programming. The network airs new episodes of New Japan Pro Wrestling on Friday nights at 8p ET. In 2016, AXS hired legendary WWE announcer Jim Ross to broadcast New Japan matches for the network’s weekly broadcasts. Ross, who is a part-time WWE employee, told us that Vince McMahon gave him his blessing to work for NJPW as well as WWE. Ross is currently promoting the release of his new book “Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling,” which he wrote with Paul O’Brien. In an interview with Business Insider, AXS TV Fights CEO Andrew Simon credited the hiring of Ross with the growth of awareness about New Japan in the US. Although Simon declined to share exact viewership numbers, he said that AXS TV has experienced “double-digit growth every year since launching the series in 2015.” In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Mark Cuban dismissed the idea that McMahon should be threatened by his network’s foray into the squared circle. “No, he thinks we’re just little sh—,” Cuban told Sports Illustrated. “We’re not a threat because of the language. That’s the biggest challenge, the language. But if you’re a purist for wrestling, and you like the action, it’s the best promotion by far. People here aren’t going to connect as directly, but if you really love wrestling, then it’s a no-brainer.” Simon further emphasised the WWE’s dominance in terms of US market share.”Today, New Japan is still a niche player compared to the sheer size of WWE. ‘Monday Night Raw’ and ‘Smackdown’ are doing 3 million-plus, you know, and New Japan is still getting its foothold in the US. “That said, there has been no faster-growing wrestling company in the world.” AXS TV will broadcast New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest show of the year – Wrestle Kingdom 12 – on Saturday, January 6 at 8p E.T. Jim Ross will call the event along with his announcing partner Josh Barnett, a former UFC Heavyweight champion and NJPW veteran. The broadcast will feature a match between NJPW superstar Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho, a veteran performer and off-and-on WWE employee who said he got Vince McMahon’s blessing to participate in the event. Following is a transcript of the video.Jim Ross: New Japan is a wrestling promotion that’s been in business since the early 70’s. It was created by Antonio Inoki. Antonio Inoki fought Muhammad Ali in a mixed martial arts match years and years ago. It’s a very successful wrestling promotion in Japan. The number one promotion in Japan now is New Japan. So, they produce their television show. They have a digital network – all those good things. But their style is, fundamentally, a throwback. [AXS TV broadcasts New Japan matches in the US]It’s on AXS TV. Mark Cuban is the owner of AXS TV. I’m pretty lucky. I don’t have to worry about my checks clearing. I get a check from Vince. I get a check from Mark. And thus far, they have all been good, so I like that. [Ross is a legendary WWE announcer and executive. He still works for WWE on a part-time basis. Ross started announcing for New Japan in 2015.]Working with Mark Cuban has been cool, and, you know, Vince – they’re a lot alike. They’re wealthy guys that have built their own empires. And I so much appreciate and respect that. I think Vince has got all he can say grace over, over his empire. And he’s got complete confidence that his brand is growing, is healthy, and it is. I’m sure that New Japan would love to have the success that Vince has built with the WWE. They obviously want to enlarge their footprint in North America as another territory that they’re gonna conquer. It’s a fun product to watch. It’s very straightforward. And some of our shows have one match on them. So, you can really settle in and tell that story – the strategy and reference back to what happened, you know, earlier. “He hurt his leg, remember? Just after the match started, he got his knee clipped,” or whatever. So, you can bring all these stories forward and you’ve got time to do it. Our directive by the AXS TV folks is to call the match like it was a sporting event and stick to the action.If we start talking about things that are totally unrelated to what you’re seeing, there is a disconnect. There has to be. That would be like Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, in the middle of a live play, while the ball is snapped, talking about what’s trending today on the NFL. They’re gonna talk about the play.
But, the one-hour show is a big difference for me, and the quality is a lot like the old NWA days, you know, when Dusty Rhodes was booking the NWA and Ric Flair was hotter than a firecracker. It’s a very basic formula, and I think that’s what New Japan does very well.So, if you’re an old wrestling fan and have become a little bit displaced because you preferred a more physical, more straightforward approach more often than not, then New Japan might be a real good program to check out, without question.If you like wrestling, right now is probably the coolest time in the world to be a fan.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.