Monday, January 19, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Cheap Heat Jan. 15

Did the Cheap Heat gang talk about keeping Reigns strong?
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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: Cheap Heat
Episode: Jan. 15, 2015
Run Time: 1:07:42
Guest: None

Summary: Hosts Peter Rosenberg and David Shoemaker are live in the New York Grantland studio. Things take a while to get going, but eventually the guys focus on Randy Savage’s Hall of Fame induction and discuss travel plans for WrestleMania XXXI. A breakdown of Roman Reigns’ recent on-camera struggles bleeds into a larger talk about RAW and WWE’s current shortcomings. Discussion about what the guys are watching on the WWE Network leads into a chat about where Vince McMahon ranks among those who have picked up a play-by-play microphone for a WWF/E broadcast. The show ends with quick responses to a few emails.

Quote of the week: Shoemaker: “Vince, when he’s doing what he’s good at, is the best there ever is. Right? Vince on Tuesday Night Titans is irreplaceable. Vince turning up the volume and screaming with a wadded-up sock in his mouth to make a match seem like a big deal is the worst thing that ever happened to a big show.” …

Rosenberg: “What’s Vince best at when it comes to on-camera stuff? He’s a wrestler, dude. I know he’s not, but he is. And that means he’s great at playing a character. When he does Tuesday Night Titans, he’s playing this interviewer type for a wrestling show. When he did commentary, he was trying to sell the product. And as we’ve learned, when Vince sells, whether it’s on microphone or ramming $9.99 down our throat, he sells too hard.”

Why you should listen: If you’re consumed by WWE, this is the show for you. The addition of a few audio clips from RAW to highlight specific points is a nice touch for those of us who skipped through the show or can’t remember back to Monday. By pulling back from a segment-by-segment breakdown (which is always better closest to the actual TV show), this episode better serves its intended purpose of looking at larger issues. After all, in the long run the minutiae will be forgotten and the mileposts will stand out. There’s probably some personal bias here, but as someone who lost track of how many times he watched the 1980s and early 1990s pay-per-views that tend to surface, I tend to enjoy those reflections more than a few scattered thoughts on what I just watched on TV earlier in the week.

Why you should skip it: Anyone big into Lucha Undeground or Ring of Honor probably won’t be thrilled to hear those promotions mentioned because it’ll just make you feel blown off as they’re casually passed over to return to WWE talk. Likewise, hearing Shoemaker talk about the research he’s doing for his Royal Rumble preview on Grantland just makes me want to skip the podcast and get to the written material.

Final thoughts: On balance, this was one of the better Cheap Heat episodes. I especially enjoyed how the guys acknowledged most people listen to podcast as background noise to something else at the precise moment I was choosing produce at the grocery store on my lunch break. I’d be shocked if they contacted me for feedback and insight, but I do feel there are signs of improvement over the last few weeks from a show that was threatening to lose any semblance of relevance in October and November. Perhaps that’s because WWE was struggling creatively at the time, but Rosenberg and Shoemaker have proven, in spurts, the ability to deliver entertaining audio independent of WWE current events. They just have to have a bit of focus and preshow planning, and I’d highly suggest bringing back some of the bits that threatened to become running segments, perhaps the eBay find of the week but most notably the one in which Shoemaker gives a deadpan reading of a classic promo so he can reveal the speaker and setting the subsequent week.