Thursday, November 6, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Ross Report Ep. 38

Dillon has a lot of great insights this week
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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: 38
Run Time: 1:50:39
Guest: JJ Dillon

Summary: After sharing further thoughts on Hell In A Cell (and not much about two weeks of RAW developments), JR brings JJ Dillon onto the show. They open discussing Dillon’s early days in the business, focusing on his part-time status and the importance of his refereeing background. JR peppers in a few Twitter questions, which lead directly and indirectly to talk about John Cena, working with and for the McMahons, the Four Horsemen, War Games, the greatest wrestlers and managers as well as interactions with Mick Foley, the Undertaker, Dusty Rhodes, Eddie Graham, Ric Flair, The Rock and Sting.

Quote of the week: “Vince Jr. basically is an entirely different personality. It’s difficult to compare them because their personalities are so opposite from each other. Vince is into bodybuilding, physique, image, that transitions to what his vision is of a wrestler, and we see that time and time again and probably still see it today. He’s a workaholic. I give him credit for that. I was there almost eight years and learned a lot from him. There’s a lot of things that I don’t agree with, decisions that he’s made and directions he’s taken the business, but the same thing happened with a lot of territories (where) I worked. I never was in 100 percent agreement with every promoter and every decision that they made.”

Why you should listen: If you only know of JJ Dillon as manager of the Four Horsemen or, even worse, just what you saw of him in the Nitro era, this show will open your mind to his vast on-stage and behind-the-scenes experience working all over the country. There is almost none of the “it was better in our day” nostalgia that hangs in the air every time JR interviews an old-timer, and Dillon has a great perspective on the wide range of personalities it takes to make a successful wrestling show. He is self-deprecating when he doesn’t need to be. Ross clearly knows Dillon well, but they don’t have the kind of intimate friendship that tends to color some of his other conversations with veteran characters.

Why you should skip it: The opening monologue is predictably feckless, so there’s 24 minutes saved. Dillon has high praise for the Rock and the Triple H-Undertaker WrestleMania Hell in a Cell match, is unsure why John Cena still generates a mixed reaction from WWE crowds, and is certain Sting deserves a WrestleMania moment. Some of those opinions are logically justified through the context of the interview, but if they rub you the wrong way you might not want to sit around waiting to be enlightened in that fashion. There’s no logic, certainly not chronologically, to the flow of the interview, and that could be troublesome to folks looking to cherry pick certain topics.

Final thoughts: Dillon might be unique among historical figures given he grew up in New Jersey and worked closely with Vincent J. McMahon, and later as a chief Vincent K. McMahon deputy, but also was a key figure in many prominent Southern territories and is best known as the leader of the Four Horsemen. The story of his one match at Madison Square Garden alone is worth the time, even though he refers to it more than once. Anyone on the fence about Ross’ podcasts should definitely give this a listen, though be warned it’s not always this great. Perhaps Dillon historians can better pick apart some of his memories or rose-colored hindsight, but given my level of familiarity I was enthralled without being overwhelmed by being forced to relive glory days.