Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Ross Report Ep. 35

The man behind this drawing and more was one of Ross' guests this week
Art Credit: Rob Schamberger
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: 35
Run Time: 1:34:47
Guest: Brian Shields (29:18), Rob Schamberger (56:30)

Summary: It’s two shows in one this week as JR has separate interviews with Shields, author of 30 Years of WrestleMania, and Schamberger, the renowned wrestling portrait artist — three if you count the unwelcome return of JR’s 25-minute monologue to get things rolling. Both interviews focus on how each man started working with WWE. The talk with Shields tends to stay close to the subject of his career, books and writing in general, while the Schamberger sessions gets more into his dealings with personalities like the Ultimate Warrior and less the nuts and bolts of life as an artist.

Quote of the week: Harris, on life as a writer: “You can’t give up, you can’t take no for an answer. I don’t mean when someone maybe rejects a concept or you don’t get a job you were hoping for, I don’t mean start flipping out and start acting unprofessionally, I mean the idea of getting back at it. … Not every day is going to be a great day. You’re going to have your ups and downs. But you’ve got to stick with it. And if it’s something that you truly love, something that you want to do, that’s part of it.”

Why you should listen: There’s something to be said for the story behind the story, both in the way these creative personalities came to be connected with WWE, as well as the nature of their actual works. With Schamberger it’s easier to see his glorious paintings as the work of a talented individual, but when it comes to written word with the WWE seal of approval it’s easy to assume the author is a corporate stooge tasked only with regurgitating the company line. Harris makes a strong case for his own skills as a writer. Of the two, Schamberger comes off as the more genuine fan. And though he’s not an unexamined character in this medium, he’s a genial subject and a good listen.

Why you should skip it: Remember what I just said about being a corporate stooge? The skeptics out there will listen to Harris and say things like, “Of course Linda McMahon gave you two hours of her time to tell the story she wanted about her company.” Also, his advice to aspiring writers is frustrating. “Just get published, get your foot in the door” is a great concept, but it always leaves the unpublished wondering how to actually find the door with room for a foot. Schamberger has good stories about his interactions with Warrior leading into WrestleMania XXX, but those are only tolerable to the degree the listener is comfortable with their views on Warrior himself.

Final thoughts: I applaud JR for getting outside his comfort zone on this week’s show. Perhaps the fact he wasn’t going to be talking much (or at all) about ring action with his two guests made him feel the need to come back to the monologue, but he again offers predictable commentary on recent WWE shows and stories. That’s his right, as he asserts, because it’s his show, and anyone who doesn’t like it can skip that part or not listen at all. It’s free, after all. But past that, this show is a refreshing change for those who may have grown weary of JR over the last several weeks. I probably won’t be able to say the same about next week’s interview with Mark Madden, so get this fix while you can.