Though he's earning rave reviews as the new voice of SmackDown, Maura Ranallo signing with WWE hasn't really been covered like WWE's other talet acquisitions from New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW).
Ranallo was the play-by-play voice of AXS TV's excellent, English-language New Japan show. Airing on Friday night and featuring action from the previous year's NJPW events, Ranallo and co-host Josh Barnett were a big part of the show's appeal, seeing as how the footage wasn't new.
The show undoubtedly served to remind WWE officials that Mauro is a gifted announcer of scripted fights, and his exit could almost be a bigger blow to New Japan's expansion than AJ Styles or Shinsuke Nakamura. There are other wrestlers ready to work main events. The company didn't have another voice ready to replace Ranallo - as the widely panned crew the NJPW World service deployed for Wrestle Kingdom 10 (Kevin Kelly and Matt Striker) proved.
If a new report from MLW's MSL & Sullivan Show is correct, however, New Japan may have hooked a big fish to serve as Barnett's partner on AXS. Mister Saint Laurent and Kevin Sullivan claim that none other than WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross is slated to call the action on New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Before we get too excited, though, good old JR is refuting their story:
Those telling you that I have a new, wrestling gig are jumping the gun as I have NO done deal w/ anyone.— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) January 15, 2016
Ross is careful with his words, however. There's not no talks, there's no "done deal". He also provides hints about who he could be negotiating with by shooting down a fan who claims New Japan announced his signing:
I know nothing about that & it's simply not accurate. @njpw1972 would have nothing to do w/ it anyway. https://t.co/RF34zFjVcg— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) January 15, 2016
Should AXS be able to secure JR's services, it would be one of the better marketing tools they or New Japan has had for luring the WWE audience to try their product.
Keep it here at Cageside Seats, and we'll let you know when the deal is done or truly dead ... either way.