New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV 
“World Pro Wrestling” Episode 2
Friday, January 26

New Japan Pro Wrestling returned to AXS TV on Friday night for the second round of 2013 matches, fresh new English play-by-play, and the story of “How Okada Got His Groove Back”. Can the show equal the excitement of the debut show? Will Mauro Ranallo match the fire and passion on the debut? Will the US broadcast of Shinsuke Nakamura and Minoru Suzuki cause my television to explode?

The first hour of the two hour block on AXS TV focused on the finals of the 2013 New Japan Cup at Korakuen Hall. Just like with New Japan’s original build, the show centered on Kazuchika Okada’s climb to regain a shot at IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi at the Invasion Attack show.

We open with the six-man tag between Minoru Suzuki, Taka Michinoku and Lance Archer going up against Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii, and Jado. Mauro Ranallo and Josh Barnett kick things off by putting over Korakuen Hall — did I mention that KORAKUEN HALL is on my television — and the significance of the building to the wrestling world.

Now I am certainly not going to nit-pick over pronunciation of Japanese names, places or holds because Ranallo has brought his A game to the microphone once again. Truth be told I always pronounced Tomohiro’s name as Ishii (E-she) as opposed to Ranallo’s version (E-she-e), but it sounded like he swapped the two at various points of the match.

Secondly, his over use of “pu-ro-res-ew” has got to stop. I know what he is trying to do and it feels like I am nitpicking, but it is kind of like that girl who spends a week in Spain on vacation and is now rolling her “R”s every chance she gets.

Small issues aside, Ranallo and Barrnet take over where they left off from the debut broadcast, name-dropping Daniel Bryan and Karl Gotch and referencing Lance Archer’s and Taka Michinoku’s WWE runs. Ishii pinned Taka to give CHAOS the win in a good *** match, although this was an edited version of the original 14-minute match. After the match, Iishi grabbed the mic.

Hey Suzuki! You guys are weak. Hey let Shinsuke and I challenge you (Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr) in an IWGP tag match.

This challenge brought out DBS who then challenged Shinsuke to an IC title match. Nakamura helped the Japanese in attendance understand what was going on and responded to DBS.

“We’re challenging the IWGP tag match – it’s just been decided. It seems like Smith wants to challenge me for the Intercontinental championship belt. Should I take on this challenge? My answer is…YeahOh!”

We then move backstage for more with Nakamura.

As long as Ishii, no Ishii-san, is with me, Shinsuke Nakamura, we have nothing to worry about. Lets teach those good-for-nothing dummies a lesson on how to wrestle.Ishii-san and I will. YeahOh!

I do understand things get lost in translation but I hope and pray that “good-for-nothing dummiesis used on every single promo.

We come back from commercial break with Kazuchika Okada in studio recapping the events that brought him to the finals of the 2013 New Japan Cup with Hirooki Goto.

“I had a tough match against Yano at the semi-finals. So many things went on in that match. It was my first match after coming back from the United States and I couldn’t perform the way I wanted to.

Until now the New Japan Cup was a tournament that decided the number two guy but I think that changed after I entered the tournament. Miracles happened in January and in February but if I went on as usual, I knew I would win the tournament easily. So my mind was already on the next goal. The winner of the tournament gets to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight (title), so I thought ‘Only two more wins for a belt’. My right to challenge will be decided quickly and the belt would come to me. I’ve fought Hirooki Goto many times in the past so I know a lot about him but he is a difficult guy to face. There are a lot of good and bad sides to him so for me it is both easy and difficult when facing Goto. His Body Avalanche is on my list of top 3 moves that I don’t want to take. I hope I won’t have to take it. If I do, I would probably want to stop fighting.”

So, in the debut show on AXS TV, Okada drops a title challenge to Hiroshi Takahashi and now in episode two we have a short interview that tells the story of how Okada fought his way to the Cup final and is looking to get this win (against a guy who, in his own words, he knows will be a battle ) so that he can once again get a crack at Tanahashi and the IWGP title. It is so simple it hurts…and yet it connects the dots and already pays rewards to the people who invested in the debut show. Did I mention this is the best wrestling show on television?

It is simple (yet powerful) the way Ranallo delivers little nuggets of info and doesn’t beat you over the head with them. Ranallo also ties in the winner of the final getting an IWGP title shot drawing a connection with the Royal Rumble winner getting a WWE title shot.

The Goto/Okada match was very good – The Wrestling Observer gave it **** and I originally gave it the same. Upon watching this broadcast, I felt the commentary helped me love this match a bit more. Ranallo and Barnett sound like they are there in Tokyo at ringside. The crowd noise, ring noise and sounds are natural and organic. The mix is near flawless and you have no idea how much that adds to the enjoyment of the show.

Josh Barnett, while not necessarily having the broadcasting chops that Ranallo has, did a good job of filling in the blanks and adding to the broadcast. He may have had the line of the night with “if it ain’t broke, pull harder” description of Okada working over Goto. These aren’t forced lines, fed through an earpiece. Josh struggles to find the right words at times, but it is refreshing because it is real.

The ending call is a real highlight. Ranallo nearly looses his mind after Okada escapes a duplex and hits a dropkick to the back of Goto’s head, a tombstone and finally the dreaded Rainmaker. Watch it. You’ll get excited about pro wrestling.

“The Rainmaker! The Rainmaker! The Rainmaker…and Okada does it!”

Okada gets the win and grabs the mic to address the crowd.

“Well let’s see. I’ve won both on my debut. What are my thoughts on it now? Nothing in particular.”

The crowd seemed to enjoy that.

Out strolls Tanahashi.

“Okada, you don’t understand do you? Just so you know I’ve never been tired since the day I was born. I’ll say this as many times as it takes. Between “love” and “money” , “love” will win!

This sets the table for hour two’s broadcast. It is what some have said is the greatest hour of televised pro wrestling ever, but the first hour (the second broadcast of New Japan on AXS TV ) delivers in a strong way. Going into the show I knew the in-ring action was going to be great, I had watched many of the matches before, but it is the story that is being built and the early payoffs to viewers that actually have me locked in. That is the real joy. Matches and storylines that are over two years old have a fresh perspective and make you want to see it played out all over again. Having the benefit of Ranallo and Barnett call the action is a huge plus, but it is those short, translated studio interviews that help you become invested. It’s definitely a bridge show that helps set the stage for the second hour, but the Goto/Okada match makes it well worth the time to go out of your way to catch.