Former UFC Heavyweight Champion and New Japan Pro Wrestling star Josh Barnett has said he covered for The Young Bucks while commentating their matches in Japan.
Barnett is one of few fighters who has successfully made the switch from MMA to professional wrestling. He began competing for New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2003, making a return in 2015 after several years as part of Antonio Inoki’s breakaway IGF promotion. On his return to NJPW Barnett began commentating on the product and was joined for some of his run at the announce desk by WWE Hall Of Famer Jim Ross, with the two men providing coverage for NJPW’s show on AXS TV.
Speaking to Sean Waltman on his Pro Wrestling 4 Life podcast, Josh Barnett has detailed how some wrestlers didn’t always take his commentary on their matches the best way. Barnett singled out his friction with AEW World Tag Team Champions The Young Bucks.
“I don’t know what their deal is. I don’t know who riled them up into thinking that me and JR (Jim Ross) were burying them all the time because we weren’t. One of the things that I think was a problem is they wanted to be cool, but I’m like, you’re heels. You’re constantly cheating, and breaking the rules, and doing heel stuff, so we’re gonna say you’re despicable.”
“We’re gonna say you’re terrible and horrible and you’re bad people. We didn’t say that you sucked. We just said that you’re bad guys because that was your job. Your job was to be bad guys, but it seems like no one wants to be an actual heel anymore. Everyone wants to be the cool anti-hero or cool bad guy. They want to sell all their merch. No, I’m sorry, if you’re a heel, be a heel.”
“Stop trying to worry about whether the fans like you or not. You have a role to fill here, and if you want to run around telling people to ‘suck it’, then people should want to see you get your teeth kicked in. That’s just the way it is, and nobody wants to be a heel and that’s a problem. And somebody riled up The Bucks. I don’t know how, whatever. They used to get into Twitter fights constantly anyways.”
Barnett went onto say that he felt he was covering for The Bucks during their matches when their big moves didn’t always mean the end of the match.
“I’ve never actually had a discussion with them, and yet, I would constantly cover for them in their matches. They go to hit their Meltzer Driver. They do all this crazy stuff that just gets them a two-count. My thoughts are, ‘well, I don’t want this to seem like it was s**t,’ or it’s weak or it’s just a hope spot or it’s just getting their s**t in. I don’t want people to view that. I want to say, ‘well, okay, you can see that Matt, when he came off the ropes, he didn’t get the feet all the way on the help on that piledriver.’”
“I don’t want to belittle what they’re doing. I want them to feel like, okay, if they had hit it perfectly, that match is over, but they’re tired. It’s tough. People are sweaty. Things are happening. This dude’s in the air flipping to give the assisted tombstone. Okay, a lot of things can happen, can miss, and you get guys that always got to knock a dude out the ring. They always got to flip over it. Okay, fine, regardless if this has happened in every match leading up to this, but whatever, I’m not agenting things.”
“I’m only dealing with what’s on television. So even then, I want to be like, ‘oh, you can see in the slow-mo, he only caught a piece of him, and maybe that even caused him some injury too.’ I was always trying to find a way to say that nobody here is weak, nobody sucks. This is just what happens when you go to war. When you’re in combat, things don’t always work out how you want them to. You hit a 450 and boom, but you don’t get the three count. Maybe he just didn’t have the leg hooked enough. It’s not that you aren’t capable. It’s just one little thing, and that’s how close the margins should be between these competitors.”
Most recently Josh Barnett has been a part of Game Changer Wrestling presenting his Bloodsport series of events. At Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 6 in April 2021 Barnett defeated IWGP US Champion Jon Moxley by referee stoppage in the main event.