Canadian sports commentator Mauro Ranallo can be a bit of a divisive figure among fight fans. Mixed martial arts fans know him well from his days as the English language voice of Pride Fighting Championships. Since that organization was purchased by UFC, he's worked for Showtime in all of their combat sports presentations.
Ranallo's roots are in pro wrestling, as he describes in the above interview with our friends over at The Fight Nerd, and fans of scripted grappling are about to get more closely acquainted with him. Starting next Friday, January 16, he and Josh Barnett will provide commentary for the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) "Greatest Hits" show that will be airing on AXS TV.
Love him or hate him, it's easy to tell from the interview that Ranallo is a passionate, knowledgable fan. Check out all three parts to get his perspective on where NJPW fits into the combat sports scene, and a taste of what you can expect from the Friday night show. Here are some highlights:
On who the AXS TV show is targeting, and what everyone watching should get out of it:
With all due respect to to the passionate hardcore fanbase...it's more of an introduction for people who've never seen New Japan Pro Wrestling before. And at the same time, even if you are hardcore, if the matches were that good - and they really were that good - I'm hoping that the U.S. commentary will enhance it even more with some facts and the insight of a guy like Josh Barnett who's actually been in the New Japan ring.
A question about Hiroshi Tanahashi starts the conversation of why MMA fans who scoff at wrestling should check out New Japan:
This is the thing about New Japan Pro Wrestling - it is pro wrestling, but because of the strong style, which lends itself to the physicality which, what I mean by that is those hard lariats and the punches, the elbows - they are connecting. There's nothing "fake" about this stuff. Yes, it is a choregraphed form of entertainment, but the way it is presented is really as pure athleticism as you can find in this regard.
Some further discussion of Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada leads to a comparison between NJPW and what many English-speaking fans think of as pro wrestling (meaning WWE):
You are looking at the very best, vying for the most coveted prize in their industry, their title - and what amazes me by that is how convoluted and how diluted the product has become in North America from the simple fact that you have a promoter who wants to run away from what made his business successful in the first place and that being professional wrestling.
I'm all for character development, but at the end of the day, I'm a professional wrestling fan because of what happens once that bell rings, and you are being served in spades if you are a fan of athletic pro wrestling when you watch New Japan Pro Wrestling.
The Fight Nerd also got The Bi-Polar Rock 'n' Roller to give his review of Wrestle Kingdom 9, which took place last Sunday (January 4, 2015) and has been an integral part of NJPW's push into the English language market for 2015. Ranallo and The Nerd give a fair assessment of the show that also will give you a taste of what to expect when he and Barnett are calling the action on Fridays.
Thoughts on Ranallo as the voice of NJPW in North America, Cagesiders? Or his thoughts about the appeal of the product for MMA fans, or WWE watchers frustrated with what we get on the average Monday night?