Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art of Wrestling Ep. 223

The new SHIMMER Champ is Cabana's guest this week
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
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: Art Of Wrestling
Episode: 223
Run Time: 1:09:07
Guest: Nicole Matthews

Summary: Colt Cabana’s conversation with the new SHIMMER champion opens in medias res, and from there covers a broad range of topics including the attitudes and conversations, all-women’s locker rooms, how Matthews became a wrestling fan and her early days on the road and thoughts about marriage and family. The two discover they have a lot of shared opinions and experiences regarding road life and real life. Matthews discusses her time in Vancouver and ECCW as well as her Wrestlicious experience. After a talk about self promotion, networking, working as enhancement talent and Sara del Rey, the show ends with a look at the issue of intergender wrestling.

Quote of the week: Matthews, on intergender matches: “It’s just like anything in wrestling though. It has to be done right. There’s shitty examples of everything in wrestling. There’s shitty guy vs. guy matches, there’s shitty girl vs. girl matches, there’s shitty intergender matches, there’s every type of weird style, there’s good hardcore matches, bad hardcore matches. So I just think it need to be good. That kind of needs to be the first criteria.”

Why you should listen: Matthews doesn’t have any unique experiences or traits, but she’s a veteran road warrior with good perspective on both being a woman in wrestling and life on the independent scene in general. She and Cabana are friendly but not overly familiar, which leads the chat toward more broad information than deep exposition, so it’s a great way to get introduced to a respected performer. Matthews’ thoughts on her Wrestleicious experience are enlightening, even for those with no knowledge of that organization, and she expertly navigates Cabana’s clear awkwardness regarding the intergender discussion.

Why you should skip it: Cabana struggles at times here to go into areas he feels obligated to discuss but isn’t quite fully comfortable addressing. (The awkardness is mitigated somewhat by listening at double speed.) If you’re fairly familiar with Matthews already, this episode probably doesn’t do much to further enhance your understanding of the person behind the performer, as most of the conversation stays at or near the surface.

Final thoughts: If you come in with a preconceived notion of Cabana as a chauvinist or simply tone deaf on gender issues, this probably will only affirm your opinion. While I’m not sure that’s fair, it must be noted Matthews is the perfect guest for addressing these topics because she’s able to flip the switch and make it clear many wrestlers of both genders openly discuss having families versus staying unattached, and that like any match, an intergender match has to primarily be good work if it’s going to offer any value. Cabana stresses he records conversations, not interviews, and in this episode the conflict stems when he feels he needs to trend toward the latter. The parts where they’re in free discussion and figuring out all the areas where they intersect represent the organic humor that highlight the best Art Of Wrestling outings. It doesn’t strike those notes for the entire hour, but most fans will find something enjoyable or illuminating at more than a few points along the way.