Monday, October 6, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: MegaMix!

Hopefully, you'll find the latest Ross Report less painful than Magnum TA found this Tully Blanchard headlock
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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: 33
Run Time: 1:29:40
Guest: Magnum TA

Summary: JR has a brief monologue, but the bulk of the show is a walk though the six years of Magnum TA’s pro wrestling career. They talk about the unique way he entered the business and go over his relationships with legendary promoters like Ernie Ladd, Mike Graham, Bill Watts and Dusty Rhodes as well as his historic matches with Nikita Koloff and Tully Blanchard. There also is some discussion about his unusual family life, the days and years after the car accident that ended TA’s career and his stepdaughter’s prospects for success in the ring.

Quote of the week: On starting on steroids with Ray “Hercules” Hernandez: “Ray was about 218 and I was about 230. Ray just had a whole bag full of chemical goodies to make you get big and strong. And he and I, young stallions that we were, decided we were going to be monsters. And in a period of literally less than 60 days, I was up to 270 pounds, and Ray was right behind me. … I had in my mind I was going to 300 pounds. I was going to be as big as the Road Warriors. I walked in the dressing room, I think it was Corpus Christi. I’ll never forget it. It impacted my life like a lightning bolt. Bruiser Brody was sitting there. He looked up at me and said, ‘Kid, you look amazing. … But I’ve got to tell you something. If you become a star based on what you’re doing to look like you’re looking right now, and getting bigger every day,’ he said, ‘you’ve written your own epitaph. Because to maintain that, year round, 12 months out of the year, it will kill you.’ He said, ‘Learn how to work and find a size that you can maintain as naturally as possible year round.’ ”

Why you should listen: One fear when JR brings on an old-timer is there will be copious complaining about the business nowadays, but there’s really none of that here. TA has some fascinating stories about learning his way in the early stages of his career and his speculation about what might have been comes off as insightful given his particular perspective rather than being laden with lament over lost opportunity. For many listeners these will be fresh stories, certainly more illuminating than one more discussion about backstage WCW politics or the Montreal Screwjob.

Why you should skip it: This show is not going to give you a new appreciation for Magnum TA’s wrestling career, especially if you’re wholly unfamiliar with his work. Only watching his matches and listening to his peers will deliver that kind of enhancement. Further, if you’re hoping for a great deal of focus on the car accident, look elsewhere. It’s not ignored wholly, but is part of the conversation only to focus on the short- and long-term aftermath.

Final thoughts: If you buy into JR’s hype about this being the most inspirational Ross Report episode, well, technically it does rise above the previous 32 in that regard. But the only thing close to inspiring comes near the end where Magnum discusses what influenced his mentality during recovery from the accident. Beyond that, it’s mostly just another old wrestler talking about the business in the 1980s. That’s not a complaint — it’s certainly a better way to learn about Magnum’s career than just reading his Wikipedia page. If you’re not a fan of Southern wrestling, none of these stories will have much impact. But if you followed the NWA territories in the early 1980s, or like to lear about them now, the supernova career of Magnum TA is an essential component, and tapping into those memories is certainly worthy of your time.

Show: Steve Austin Show Unleashed
Episode: 156
Run Time: 1:30:05
Guest: Chris Collins

Summary: Stone Cold is finishing his stint in Hartwell, GA, filming the next season of Redneck Island. He’s joined this week by Chris Collins, who works closely with Steve during the run of the show. The main part of the show is a chat between the two about life in LA, working in television, the current football season, social media, television screens at gas stations, shoes, music, Waffle House and shaved heads. About 83 minutes in, Steve gets to his match of the week, Paul Orndorff vs. “Cowboy” Bob Orton from The Wrestling Classic on Nov. 7, 1985, at Chicago’s Rosemont Horizon.

Quote of the week: Austin on Collins’ shoe collection: “Dude, man, I mean, c’mon man!”

Why you should listen: If you want to feel like you’re eavesdropping on a day in Austin’s life, here you go.

Why you should skip it: No offense to Mr. Collins, but he makes Ted Fowler seem like a veteran second banana.

Final thoughts: I’d like to put a little more thought into this analysis, but this is one of the most forgettable episodes in the show’s history. There is almost no mention of wrestling (outside a brief reference to Rick Rude’s pre-WWF entrance music) and the guest is nearly devoid of redeeming qualities. It seems Chris is a decent human who is good at his job, but he’s simply uninteresting. I’d rather listen to another conversation with a contestant from one of Austin’s reality shows (which I don’t watch) or hear an actual in-depth interview about the production side of the business. This is neither, and it’s not good.

Show: Art Of Wrestling
Episode: 218
Run Time: 1:04:39
Guest: Cliff Compton

Summary: Mr. 1859 is back on Art of Wrestling almost four years after his first appearance. Compton starts by discussing the value of wrestlers appearing on the show, his work in Europe and Africa and the recent explosion of wrestling podcasts. Eventually the talk shifts to Compton’s current career, including false starts with WWE since episode 59, private gigs and a long story about being booked to appear at a bachelorette party. They end with a few Andrew Dice Clay-inspired naught nursery rhymes with Cabana as the butt of each joke.

Quote of the week: “It baffles me. People go, ‘Oh, I always envisioned you as just Domino.’ You fucking think I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and go, ‘Hey! How you doin’? Oh!’ I’m playing a character. You think Sylvester Stallone gets up and just starts shadow boxing and thinks he’s Rocky? It blows my mind. They’re like, “Oh, I didn’t know Cliff was like that.’ I go, ‘What did you think I was like?’ … Everyone always says, ‘Oh, my wrestling character is just an extension of my personality with the volume turned up.’ That’s fucking bullshit. You know what I mean? Everyone’s out there playing a character.”

Why you should listen: Compton’s a great storyteller, and he isn’t wrong when he says he’s matured a bit since episode 18. He’s still raunchy and quick to dominate a conversation, but a careful listen here does exactly what Colt’s show is supposed to do: makes you consider what it means to be an independent professional wrestler in every aspect outside the ropes. Shows like this shed light on the lifestyle someone chooses when they decide to make wrestling their career and humanize the performers in a way you’ll likely never get from a Podcast One show interview with a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

Why you should skip it: If the explicit language and dick jokes make you uncomfortable, take a pass. For sure don’t listen with your kids in the car. The “Dice” bit at the end likely isn’t worth your time, though if you’ve made it that far you might as well ride it out to the close.

Final thoughts: I didn’t expect to like this one, and at the outset it wasn’t clicking for me. But once Compton started exploring the difference between himself and his most famous character, it started to become compelling, even though he never really dropped his “always on” personality. The punchline of the bachelorette party story isn’t completely worth the setup, but it did elicit a genuine laugh. Colt is very selective about who gets repeat appearances on the show, and while that makes curating a guest list a much taller order, the variety is much appreciated amongst listeners. But credit where it’s due, this return visit from Compton is one of the stronger episodes in recent memory.