Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Triple Roundup

Survivor Series is a big point of topic on two of three shows 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: 41
Run Time: 1:43:40
Guest: Wade Keller

Summary: JR skips his monologue this week so he can get to the good stuff — an in-depth Survivor Series recap with Wade Keller of the Pro Wrestling Torch. After that, the guys discuss the current and future prospects of Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling, as well as Ross’ gig doing play-by-play for the upcoming New Japan Wrestling pay-per-view. When it’s Keller’s turn to question Ross, he asks about crafting a biography of Vince McMahon, gets JR to compare Vince and Bill Watts and opens a dialogue about John Cena. The show ends with Keller plugging his various projects.

Quote of the week: “It doesn’t make sense, and I’m for wrestling making sense, because I think you make more money when things make sense. It didn’t make sense, for instance, that Triple H said, ‘I’ve spent weeks trying to knock out and injure anyone teaming with Cena.’ For weeks he was doing that. But then we find out, two days before the pay-per-view on Friday, he has the power to add a stipulation that if Team Cena loses, all his teammates are fired. Well if he has that power, why not just fire them before the show? Why not fire anyone who agrees to team with Cena? I want a structure that makes sense so that when a heel makes a move they’re getting away with something within a system that’s established, not just arbitrarily having power that they sometimes use and sometimes don’t. I don’t get that.”

Why you should listen: A lot of times with JR’s podcast the “why you should listen” segment boils down to “If you were worried it would be like this, well, it’s not all like that.” Neither man rags on Survivor Series as much as might be expected, and although some folks bristle when Ross gets anywhere near ROH, it’s clear he very much appreciates a lot of the performers who ply their trade in that ring and wants promotions to succeed outside the realm of WWE. While discussing the McMahon biography JR has kind words for Gorilla Monsoon, and that’s never a bad thing.

Why you should skip it: As usual, Ross recorded a PPV follow-up show before the succeeding RAW. Compared to earlier months, the most recent RAW was fairly low stakes. But a few stories did progress, and it seems silly to release a show Tuesday night including phrases like, “Well, I guess we’ll see what happens tonight.” The Cena discussion in particular is absent the context needed to fully assess his current standing by focusing almost entirely on the things that are important backstage (look, professionalism, durability, affability) and none of the aspects that frustrate fans of a certain age (the unfunny humor, the refusal to sell on offense, the perpetual against-all-odds narratives he never fails to overcome).

Final thoughts: Neither the Survivor Series breakdown nor the straight Keller interview are essential listening. With the exception of Keller’s attempt at justifying the show-opening McMahon segment, nothing the guys said really made me further consider anything I watched Sunday, and in some cases they were overly dismissive of aspects I’d expected to warrant more attention. I do find Ross becoming more tolerable over recent weeks, even as I listen with a more critical ear. It’s not that I want him to bend to my personal tastes, but there is a detectable evolution that sees him growing more comfortable in the role he’s cast himself as a podcaster. Or maybe it’s just easier to overlook certain things when listening at double speed.

Show: Steve Austin Show Unleashed
Episode: 172
Run Time: 1:30:34
Guest: Kristin Austin (3:16), Ted Fowler (15:47)

Summary: Stone Cold discusses Thanksgiving preparations with his wife before flipping over to a conversation he and Ted Fowler have while driving around the Broken Skull Ranch. Near the end Austin recounts the “story” of he and Fowler engaging in a physical battle with the rats threatening to take over his garage. His Match of the Week is the cage match against Vince McMahon at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre 1999.

Quote of the week: Austin: “Dropping a biscuit is a fart, ladies and gentlemen, for you people that are new to the show and have been fully engaged and intrigued by the first 20 minutes of this clusterfuck.”

Why you should listen: If you enjoy Austin and Fowler’s easy chemistry, or learning some of the details of life at the Broken Skull Ranch, dive on in. There’s some good details about Austin and Big Show during the final segment as well.

Why you should skip it: There’s almost nothing of substance whatsoever, and I personally have zero interest in Austin’s fantasy matches against animals and insects (though, mercifully, this segment was far shorter than his legendary fight with Mr. Fly). Also, the good bits of the Match of the Week simply left me wishing he gave the entire match the full-episode treatment.

Final thoughts: For what it was — an episode released the day before Thanksgiving — it’s hard to complain about this one. But if you haven’t already listen, save your time for the upcoming Bray Wyatt part two and Vince McMahon interview.

Show: Cheap Heat
Episode: Nov. 25, 2014
Run Time: 1:18:45
Guest: Sam Roberts, Laura Stiles

Summary: Shoemaker and Rosenberg are joined in studio by fellow wrestling podcast host Sam Roberts to break down Survivor Series and, to some extent, the following RAW. They talk quite a bit about the Sting return and the women’s title match, take a brief diversion into discussing iPhones learning wrestling terminology and wind up with a few listener questions.

Quote of the week: Rosenberg on the Sting return: “I was very excited. I enjoyed it. I thought it was a moment. That being said, it suffered from the exact same problem that every quote-unquote WWE return now suffers from, which is it’s so blatantly what it is. Like there’s no subtlety or nuance to it at all. It’s like, ‘What’s gonna happen?’ OK, music hits. His picture’s flashing on the screen. Then he comes out. Then he meanders to the ring. Then they stare each other down, practically to wait for ‘This is awesome!’ chants. I just want to see him in the rafters! I want to see him just point the bat! If you’re going to make it what he is, let him be what he is!”

Why you should listen: Unlike The Ross Report, Cheap Heat factors in RAW when analyzing a pay-per-view. Further, this was the most comprehensive analysis I’ve encountered about the mechanics of Sting’s return itself, whereas most writers and podcasters paid more attention to the overall idea of him being an active character. Also, Roberts does what Shoemaker only hints at and presses Rosenberg to defend some of his ridiculous attempts to coin phrases and hashtags.

Why you should skip it: It’s not nearly as comprehensive a Survivor Series recap as I’d hoped, so if you read Shoemaker’s write-up on Grantland you’re almost fully up to speed. Rosenberg hadn’t watched RAW before taping Cheap Heat, which is just asinine, as he’s simply behind the other two for a good chunk of the conversation. That’s problematic for someone who makes sure he’s at the center of the show.

Final thoughts: Again, this show was pushed a bit earlier to get out ahead of Thanksgiving. The quality of the discussion suffered as a result, but the upside is if you value Shoemaker’s insight you can always find it in written form. If Rosenberg doesn’t listen to CM Punk’s appearance on The Art Of Wrestling before Cheap Heat inevitably discusses it this week, it may be time to write off this show for good.