Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Ross Report Ep. 34

Jim Ross talks to the man who was paid to mock him in WCW
Photo Credit:
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: 34
Run Time: 1:43:05
Guest: Ed Ferrara

Summary: JR opens by talking about how the WWE will get from early October to WrestleMania XXXI. His chat with Ferrara starts by discussing his early career as a wrestler (who knew?), explores how he get into entertainment, his first WWF job and the highlights of the Attitude Era, his transition with Vince Russo to WCW, including stories about playing the “Oklahoma” character, and his time working with TNA.

Quote of the week: “Back then, when we were pushing the envelope and doing TV-14, we were doing stuff that people were shocked. Nowadays, so much water has passed under that bridge, and I’m not just talking about wrestling shows, just television in general. It takes a lot more to shock people anymore. So I don’t think the TV-14 is the answer to the ills at all. I think that a little bit more, maybe trying to aim the product a little bit away from the younger audience, I think that is what it is, that’s what it needs to be. Because I know there are times when I watch the show when I feel like … my intelligence is being insulted, I feel like, ‘This is so goofy, this storyline doesn’t make any sense.’ Or the storyline is so unbelievable because it’s so over the top and so broad that you’ve already lost my suspension of disbelief going into this story. And I think that has a lot to do with aiming for the younger audience and painting with such broad strokes and bright colors that you’re missing the subtlety and the nuance and some of the maturity.”

Why you should listen: Anyone who missed or skipped JR’s chat with Vince Russo on account of Russo’s abrasive personality ought to try this show instead. Ferrara has nearly the same amount of insight, especially regarding their first moments with WCW, and almost none of the braggadocio that’s become synonymous with his mentor. He’s a thoughtful guy with lots of backstage experience from wrestling’s most popular era. Also, there’s hardly any of the running down of the current pro wrestling scene that’s become an unfortunate (and sometimes unfairly so) Ross Report calling card. JR also continues to improve in regards to letting his subjects talk, as in a formal interview, instead of being a 50-50 partner in a conversation.

Why you should skip it: If you’ve heard Russo say it, either with Ross, Steve Austin or elsewhere, chances are you’ll recognize it when it comes out of Ferrara’s mouth as well. Fans prone to bristle the fetishization of the Attitude Era will most certainly have those feathers ruffled. That’s no slam on either guy — what else are they supposed to talk about? — but simply put, don’t go into this expecting anything other than a positive look back at a period that is most interesting when its flaws are played evenly against its successes.

Final thoughts: I’m not quite sure what I expected from this show. I was indeed surprised to learn Ferrera has a background in independent wrestling and a lifelong fandom dating to the Zybysko/Sammartino feud. But JR has spoken of the “Oklahoma” character so often there was no drama or suspense when the matter arose between the subject and the man who portrayed the parody. Beyond that, JR didn’t do much to portray Ferrera, at least in regards to his wrestling writing career, as anything other than Russo Lite. Again, he’s a much more pleasant personality, so in some regards that label is a credit. It just seems Ross, having recently interviewed Russo about much of the same material, could have done more to more deeply develop the understanding of a relatively unknown figure.