Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Ross Report Ep. 30

Russo is JR's guest this week
Photo Credit: Pyro and Ballyoo Facebook page
If you're new, here's the rundown: I listen to a handful of wrestling podcasts each week. Too many, probably, though certainly not all of them. In the interest of saving you time — in case you have the restraint to skip certain episodes — the plan is to give the bare bones of a given show and let you decide if it’s worth investing the time to hear the whole thing. There are better wrestling podcasts out there, of course, but these are the ones in my regular rotation that I feel best fit the category of hit or miss. If I can save other folks some time, I'm happy to do so.

Show: The Ross Report
Episode: 30 (Sept. 10, 2014)
Run Time: 1:53:26
Guest: Vince Russo

Summary: After an utterly useless monologue, the interview starts at 29:44. Russo defers early questions about TNA — the interview was taped the day before his termination — before discussing the death of Owen Hart and then getting into his writing strategy, wrestling background and feelings about the current product. There’s plenty of the usual self-defense from Russo (though JR isn’t actually critical) and a hefty dose of Attitude Era nostalgia. Russo explains the difference between his time in WWF and WCW. There’s specific talk about modern WWE, and John Cena in particular.

Quote of the week: “My philosophy was this simple: Do whatever you have to do in the course of those two hours to get as many eyeballs watching your product as possible. End of story. Period. You had a two-hour window to do whatever you had to do to get as many people to watch, because the more people that watch your show, and I’m preaching to the choir, you know JR, ticket sales, merchandise, pay-per-view buys, everything revolves around that audience on Monday night. And that’s why, whatever we had to do, good, bad or indifferent, the goal was to get as many people to watch the show as possible. And that’s all we tried to do on a weekly basis.”

Why you should listen: If you can’t get enough behind-the-scenes talk or theoretical discussion about the best way to produce wrestling, this is the show for you. Ross and Russo are well suited to discuss the topic at hand, and if you’re never heard a Russo interview it’s worth paying attention at least once to get a better understanding for how the guy actually sees the world. Or maybe you have some sort of morbid curiosity and want to know if Russo really is everything you expect him to be (spoiler alert: he totally is).

Why you should skip it: Russo’s two-part interview with Steve Austin earlier this summer was far more insightful. Those shows focused on how Russo got into and advanced through the business and exposed some of the actual humanity behind someone most fans have come to see as a caricature — largely through Russo’s own fault, but still. Further, Russo is absolutely grating. Some people simply can’t get past his harsh personality to possibly access the (fleeting) valuable insight that might bring a new perspective to the way wrestling is perceived.

Final thoughts: Jim Ross is just not a great interviewer. Rather than draw new information from his guest, he often restates his own familiar opinion and seeks his guest’s reaction. He’ll switch the topic, suddenly and seemingly at random, from a discussion of the Rock’s 1998 heel turn to whether Bray Wyatt’s character is an heir to the Undertaker and then quickly to Russo’s departure to WCW. He takes pride in the fact he and Russo didn’t verbally spar on the show despite opposing views on the best way to create compelling television, but this show could have benefited from focusing on those differences instead of falling back on the areas of agreement.