Jim Ross recounts commentating NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9, telling WWE that Shinsuke Nakamura would be a perfect fit there

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2024/01/13/jim-ross-recounts-commentating-njpw-wrestle-kingdom-9-telling-wwe-that-shinsuke-nakamura-would-be-a-perfect-fit-there/

Nakamura immediately grabbed Jim Ross’ attention. 

For episode #248 of the Grilling J.R. podcast, Jim Ross looked back on his time calling matches for New Japan Pro-Wrestling under the AXS TV umbrella. 

Alongside Matt Striker, Ross was on the call for Wrestle Kingdom 9 in 2015. One talent who immediately grabbed his attention was Shinsuke Nakamura. Ross remembers telling people at WWE that Nakamura would fit perfectly there. It was one year later that Nakamura signed with WWE. 

Speaking about Nakamura present day, Ross feels he has not seen the version that grabbed his attention at Wrestle Kingdom.

And again, the rockstar of the show (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9) to me was Shinsuke Nakamura. He reminded me of a wrestling version of Freddie Mercury. He just exuded charisma and confidence and of course, (Kazuchika) Okada, a little bit younger then… Nakamura mesmerized the crowd. You could tell that the passing of the torch was coming, regarding those two men we just saw on the screen in Nakamura and Okada. You could tell the change of guard was in process. But boy, I never felt a crowd that big that I thought that one guy had the whole crowd in the palm of his hand and I had it that night with Nakamura and I remember telling the guys at WWE back in that era, I said, ‘Man, if you ever get a chance to get this dude, he’s perfect for WWE. He’s got charisma, he’s got a lot of sizzle. He’s a hell of a psychologist.’ 

That was fun as hell (watching Nakamura & Okada back-to-back), because that came at the end of the night so to speak. The Okada and Nakamura inclusion in the card. Their matches were toward the end obviously, main event-level stuff and I was in awe. I hadn’t been around a talent in a long, long time that just captivated the imagination of that many people in one sitting. It was awe-inspiring. 

I haven’t seen that version in WWE yet and I think that might be a missed opportunity somewhere when people look back on it. You can get a lot more mileage out of Shinsuke than maybe he’s getting. That’s just me maybe being sideline booker. 

He went on to speak about him and Matt Striker calling the show. Ross suggested the idea of former MMA fighter Chael Sonnen calling the show with him. Ross had no issue with Striker, but feels he was a good selection budget-wise. 

Yeah, absolutely (I suggested Chael Sonnen to call Wrestle Kingdom 9 with me). Chael Sonnen’s one of the most talented guys I’ve ever worked with, or been around, I’m friends with. We’ve got a great relationship now and did then. I just thought, he’s a winner. He’s gonna make sure he understands the product, he’s gonna do his research, he’s a very cerebral guy and I would have loved to work with him too. A lot of guys I would have loved to work with on that show. (Matt) Striker, I think Striker might’ve been, without sounding mean-spirited, he was a good selection because I would think one of the main reasons, budgets. He was gonna work at a more compatible rate for his payday than a lot of guys. So, I never was involved in that decision. That was Jeff (Jarrett) who said, ‘We’re gonna have Striker help you.’ ‘Cool, I don’t care. That’s good. Yeah, go do it.’

Ross was back on commentary for the ‘Homecoming’ episode of AEW Dynamite. In this same podcast appearance, he expressed that he wants to be on the call for Sting’s final match alongside Tony Schiavone. 

If the quotes in this article are used, please credit Grilling J.R. with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.