Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Ross Report, Ep. 45

The Ross Report is VADER TIME this week
Photo Credit: WWE.com
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: 45
Run Time: 2:02:41
Guest: Big Van Vader (35:14)

Summary: After a lengthy monologue, Ross opens his chat with Vader by talking about how Leon White grew up and became a football star in Compton. They talked about his college and football career and how he transitioned into wrestling. Vader explained the process by which he left AWA and went into great detail about finding fame in Japan, his iconic mask and the eye injury he suffered in a legendary match with Stan Hansen. Ross then led Vader through some quick hit opinions on various wrestling names before talking about steroids and workout routines. They wrapped after discussing Vader’s historic world title loss to Ron Simmons.

Quote of the week: On destroying Antonio Inoki in his Japanese debut: “We had a very short and brutal match. I had hurt him. I caught him a few times, but I was doing exactly what I had been told to do, and ended up with just a simple powerbomb. I think I pressed him over my head and brought him down into a powerslam position and just got some air and covered him up. These people, they went absolutely crazy. … Obviously in a sumo palace they don’t sit on chairs, they sit on pillows. And they cross their legs and that’s the style and custom over there. And they were lighting these things on fire and throwing them at me. I didn’t really know what was going on at first, the seriousness of it.”

Why you should listen: Vader has always struck me as fascinating, perhaps because his personal introspection runs counter to his wrestling character’s tendencies, but it’s also because he’s led an interesting life and crossed paths with most of the important names of the last part of the 20th century. He and Ross have a good connection, and focusing on Vader’s formative years in Japan was time well spent.

Why you should skip it: It’s been quite a while since Vader was on Steve Austin’s show, but even so this talk with JR didn’t seem to raise many new topics. It wasn’t egregious, but there were moments where Ross gave in to his usual inclination to let the show be about him — his time in WCW or his thoughts on how a stronger style would help today’s product. Perhaps the biggest failure was failing to connect Vader’s Japan experience to Ross’ upcoming Wrestle Kingdom 9 gig, but the biggest problem might just be the fact there’s really no high point. It was just an 80-minute chat devoid of nearly any emotion.

Final thoughts: If you love JR’s monologues, you’re in for a treat this week since he felt it made sense to review his feelings on certain WWE performers and also announce, again, his plans to wear a dark suit for the WK9 gig in case he has to wet himself at ringside. If you’ve got extra time during the holidays, by all means give this one a shot. But ultimately a critical listener will come away feeling a person with Ross’ experience should have been able to draw more from Vader, or maybe just arrive at the realization that Ross’ shows will never rise above the level of a friendly phone call between old timers.