Friday, September 19, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Ross Report Ep. 31

Watts gabs about tons of history
Photo Credit: Pro Wrestling Illustrated via
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: 31
Run Time: 2:11:59
Guest: “Cowboy” Bill Watts

Summary: After another JR monologue of little significance, he gets to the business of a long chat with his pro wrestling mentor, a veteran wrestler and promoter most famous for his time running the Mid South territory as well as a tumultuous stint as the head creative force in early 1990s WCW. The talk is wide ranging and relies heavily on Ross’ personal experience with Watts. There’s a little chatter about the modern WWE product and approach, but the bulk of this episode is first-person history. A topic rundown would demand too much space here — suffice it to say few stones are left unturned.

Quote of the week: Watts, regarding people critical of Ross’ belief Brock Lesnar does not need to be live on WWE TV each week: “People are going with their feelings, not their brains, because they don’t really understand the business anyway. They think they do. Remember how many guys always used to tell me they could run a business better than I could? I said, ‘Great! Go out and buy your own office and run it any damn way you want and report back. Don’t let me hold you back.’ But none of ’em ever did it. Not one, not one of these geniuses ever did it. There’s a hell of a difference in saying you can run a business and going out and running it. Most of these people that are doing their bitching don’t understand the business. You do.”

Why you should listen: Watts is a far more important historical figure than last week’s guest, Vince Russo. After hearing about Watts on the majority of episodes of this and Steve Austin’s podcasts, it’s about time we hear from the horse’s mouth. There’s just the right amount of cranky old man from Ross and Watts (it would be dishonest for either to subdue that part of their personality) and for a 75-year-old, Watts is a great thinker and talker. I’m not aware of Watts doing a great many other interviews, so almost everything I’ve heard about him has been secondhand at best.

Why you should skip it: If you love Ring of Honor, definitely skip the monologue. Beyond that, this is a long show, and it’s not for those who have little interest in the old-school mentality Watts made famous. Most of the talk focuses on promoters and the business side of pro wrestling, so don’t expect to hear it described in glowing terms as an art form. Ross this week does as good a job as he ever has in laying back and letting his subject actually answer questions, but inevitably there are moments where JR can’t resist interjecting his own views, even though they’re both familiar to regular listeners and more or less in lockstep with Watts.

Final thoughts: This is not journalism or a documentary, it’s sycophant Jim Ross chatting up Bill Watts, so you’re going to get the Cowboy’s side of every story. For some, this will be either old news (in regards to Mid-South legend, 1992 WCW booking decisions, allegations of Watts’ racism and so on) or a refreshing confirmation of who deserves your wrestling scorn (read: Eric Bischoff). But since this show is literally dripping with history, find a grain of salt or two and dig in. After two hours, you might still shake your head at follow-ups Ross didn’t ask or the breezy manner in which Watts brushes off heavy subjects, but you’re certainly going to be made to think and reflect, which is more than can be said for most podcast episodes in the last month or so.