Former WWE, Ring of Honor, and now New Japan Pro-Wrestling announcer Kevin Kelly was recently a guest on VOC Nation’s In The Room podcast. During the discussion, Kelly spoke about the G1 Climax Tournament, NJPW losing out on their U.S. television deal with AXS, and how the company differs from places like WWE.
Check out some of the highlights below:
On the G1 Climax Tournament:
This year it’s a little different… There seems to be a lot more strategy. There seems to be a lot more targeting of a body part. Beginning the match with a game plan in mind, and kind of laying the foundation along the way… There’s been a lot less risk taking in this tournament, so the guys are fresher toward the end. Plus, in an effort to keep down headcount…only the wrestlers that are wrestling on the block are on that card… Instead of having to get dressed and suited up and compete 19 times over 30 days, you now cut that number down to 10. So the athletes are a lot fresher down the stretch. It’s been different, the shows are shorter, it’s an easy watch.
On losing the U.S. television deal with AXS:
At the tail end of last year when AXS was bought by Anthem, and the TV deal came to an end, we knew that was going to happen once they had purchased it. They own Impact, so there’s no way they’re going to have a competing brand on. (So we wondered) will we have television in the United States. And everything of course immediately shut down (due to COVID-19) and I would imagine that any conversation that were being had were probably put on hold as well, because there’s not one business that hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19, and the television business certainly has been impacted. So that changes everything… (After a few months of strategizing, we) put together a television show that we could record here in the States, with wrestlers of New Japan that were basically sitting at home, but (we would) bring them in, bring everyone to a closed set, strict testing…and that became the New Japan Strong Show which is airing on New Japan World.
On how NJPW development differs from other wrestling productions:
There’s a lack of reliance on wrestling when you get up to Raw and Smackdown because there’s less emphasis on it (than there is in NXT or the Performance Center). It works in the dojo system because the same things that you do in the dojo system, you can still do when you get up to the main roster… We (New Japan) don’t ignore our history. Tetsu Inada wrestled Kazuchika Okada when they were both young lions, and that was part of the highlight package when they wrestled in the ultimate main event in the second night of Wrestle Kingdom for the first ever double championship…. So that’s really all you need to know about the differences between the two companies.