Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Ross Report Ep. 40

Jim Ross talks to the Hardy Boys this week
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: 40
Run Time: 1:51:44
Guest: The Hardy Boyz

Summary: After JR’s monologue (fast forward to the 28:54 mark), Ross has a phone interview with Attitude Era legends and TNA mainstays Matt and Jeff Hardy. They start by talking about the brothers’ unusual childhood, working as teens on Raw in 1994, recent improvement in TNA product, Sting, tag team wrestling and its place on the card, the familiar SummerSlam TLC payout incident, early character work, taking chances in the ring, Jeff’s ladder match with the Undertaker, chances of either man returning to WWE, Matt’s stories that played on real-life drama, family life these days and the future of TNA.

Quotes of the week: Jeff, on an upside-down table spot in a recent match with Bully Ray: “I presented it to ’em and they were like, ‘Oh my God. Well, if anybody can get away with it Jeff Hardy can,’ and I’m sure the fans will get into it like, ‘What’s this crazy fool about do to?’ Man, I see these things and thank God they all agreed to let me go for it. The cannon bomb paid off in a way that the vision was in my mind, although I didn’t hit Bully Ray I did smash through the table and hit the floor. It had never been done, and now it’s been done and it’s out of my head. So I’m good to go.”

Matt, on his future career plans: “I was so goal oriented, and that’s part of the thing I think that helped drive myself and Jeff to get to the WWE. I had goals and I had to make it, and I was driven, passion, driven, passion, but you know, also now I’m not because I don’t want these goals to overtake my logic or common sense or let me do things that would be unhealthy. So if the scenario worked out right, yeah, of course. But I don’t have an endgame. If I don’t end up in WWE, I’m not going to be disappointed. I don’t have an endgame. I’ve done everything I want to do. Everything I do from here on out is extra credit.”

Why you should listen: Cliché as it might be, Matt and Jeff Hardy really do have an improbable rags to riches story. As Ross walks the brothers through their career, it’s easy to get lost in the mystery of how each attained success in the face of so many opportunities for bad endings. Ross does a good job talking about their careers from a broad perspective rather than focus specifically on the highlights of the Attitude Era. Neither brother seems especially dogged — during this hour at least — by any of the demons notoriously present over the last 20 years, and Ross is almost entirely free (after the monologue, of course) of any “back in my day” tendencies.

Why you should skip it: Jeff is the more successful Hardy by far, but the podcast suffers from a one-two punch: JR’s decision to focus primarily on the two as a unit rather than individuals and Matt’s predilection for hogging the microphone. In so doing, Matt remains deferential, without being smarmy, to Jeff’s successes and sacrifices as well as the people who still have lots of power over his future career potential. But surely listeners who are fans of Jeff Hardy more than anything will be disappointed there is not more focus on his solo work (for example, I’m not sure I heard any mention of his WWE singles titles). Further, the fact the boys seem to have escaped the aforementioned demons seemingly gives Ross permission to focus almost entirely on the positives. He couldn’t talk to Magnum TA without discussing the car wreck that ended his career, so it remains perplexing how JR could totally skirt the Hardys’ checkered past.

Final thoughts: I have to wonder if JR set out to interview the Hardys from the get-go or if Jeff insisted Matt be involved. The older Hardy clearly listens to the Ross Report — or at least the Bubba Dudley episode — and is not a bad guest in his own right, but a sequel with Jeff alone would be welcome given the amount of uncovered territory. It might seem Jeff is less forthcoming with answers to Ross’ questions, but to me it seemed more of his decision to simply let Matt get his points across. When Ross directed questions specifically to Jeff, the answers were as insightful as I’d hoped.

I don’t want to scare anyone away from this episode. I found it far more entertaining than I expected given some of Ross’ tendencies and my general feelings about the Hardy brothers’ career arcs. This is an instance where I’d welcome a chance to hear the brothers on with Steve Austin just to see how Stone Cold’s background and style might draw out different stories and attitudes from what Ross was able or willing to pursue.

All that said, aside from the monologues, Ross seems to be improving his interview style week by week. It will be interesting to see how he handles the Survivor Series recap next week with Wade Keller, as now I’ve grown accustomed to enjoying his interviews.