When a billionaire like Mark Cuban starts talking publicly about a fellow billionaire like Vince McMahon, it’s liable to get a lot of attention. While Cuban isn’t in the professional wrestling business (or sports entertainment business) the way McMahon is, he does have a strong connection to pro wrestling.
Cuban is the Chairman of AXS TV, which airs New Japan Pro Wrestling shows on Friday nights in the United States. Prior to that, when AXS was HDNet, it was the very first cable home for Ring of Honor. So while Cuban is far and away best known as the entrepreneur owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a core component of Shark Tank, he has those wrestling ties.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Cuban said that he doesn’t believe Vince McMahon views New Japan as competition to WWE in the United States. But that doesn’t mean Cuban isn’t a big fan of the product that AXS TV is translating for the American audience.
“No, he thinks we’re just little sh*ts. We’re not a threat because of the language. That’s the biggest challenge, the language. But if you’re a purist for wrestling, and you like the action, it’s the best promotion by far. People here aren’t going to connect as directly, but if you really love wrestling, then it’s a no-brainer.”
The language, of course, is much less an issue if you do choose to get your NJPW via AXS (or Fight Network in Canada). On those broadcasts, you can hear WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross calling the action alongside MMA legend Josh Barnett. Cuban said sometimes he tunes in to hear Ross, and also added that the show is more focused on in-ring action, rather than glitz and glamour.
Cuban added that they want to do more with NJPW on AXS including special events.
“We’re looking to expand it on Friday nights. We want to do more live, as opposed to the delay, and we’re talking to them about special events.”
The NJPW special that aired from California in July was very well-received, and the fact that Cuban said they are talking to NJPW about more special events is a great sign. Cuban went on to say that NJPW’s ratings on AXS keep going up, so obviously they’re happy with the product.
AXS TV will air the NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12 show featuring Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho for the IWGP US Championship and Kazuhika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on January 6, two days after the show airs live on New Japan World.