Thursday, January 22, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Ross Report Ep. 49

Varon is an opinionated guest for an opinionated host on this week's Ross Report
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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: 49 (Jan. 21, 2015)
Run Time: 1:55:24
Guest: Lisa Marie Varon (36:35)

Summary: After his monologue, Ross and Varon (Victoria in WWE, Tara in TNA) talk about her late entry into the business through the world of fitness modeling and relationships and encounters with Torrie Wilson, Trish Stratus, and Chyna. They cover her training in UPW and OVW and why she wouldn’t advise young women to try to pursue a career in wrestling. Varon shares some of her most prominent WWE memories and also talks about substance abuse she observed and her own ongoing use of mental therapy. Ross asks about Varon’s Squared Circle restaurant in Chicago (her husband is the chef) and then she discusses her high opinions of Charlotte, Paige and AJ Lee. Varon has few good things to say about her time in TNA before the session wraps up with talk about the way Playboy appearances were received in the WWE locker room and Varon’s interest in MMA training.

Quote of the week: (On Dixie Carter) “I just learned how not to treat somebody from her. I’m not a fan. At the time, when I was doing podcasts for the business, of course I was saying, ‘It’s great to have a female boss,’ and this and that. But every time I said that I’d want to vomit in my mouth because I was just saying what I was supposed to say. … Coming from WWE to TNA, it’s a big step down.”

Why you should listen: Varon is not a typical WWE Diva, both in her age (she’s now 43) and especially her pre-wrestling career. But she clearly loves performing and remains a fan — hearing stories about preshow work with Arn Anderson and Fit Finlay it’s easy to look beyond gender. Ross too (at times) reveals an appreciation for women who are wrestlers first, even if both are frank in their assessment of how much physical appearance matters. Anyone who has problems with TNA will be happy to hear Varon open fire on the promotion and especially Dixie Carter. Having visited the Squared Circle and anxious to return, I’m always up for a bit of chatter about one of Chicago’s hidden gems.

Why you should skip it: Will you be outraged when Ross mumbles his way through a deferral and transition after Varon levels heavy accusations against Dixie Carter just a few weeks after he sweet-talked the latter for an hour on the same show? I understand this isn’t actual journalism here, but this might have been a new low for Ross on his show. If he didn’t want to hear the roar, he shouldn’t have poked the bear. Beyond that, the weaknesses here are similar to many other JR shows — he goes broad instead of deep, which means there’s little to learn for a devoted fan of his guest. And he’s really a big fan of his own food products, in case you’re wondering.

Final thoughts: I didn’t expect it going in, but once Varon and Ross started talking about Charlotte I decided I wanted most of the show to be a serious breakdown of these legitimate up-and-coming talents. With a scheduled four-way match for the NXT women’s title in a few weeks, perhaps Ross could bring Varon back for a breakdown of that match and the division at large. Beyond that, it was nice to hear a chat with an Attitude Era star without being overwhelmed with nostalgia, and when they got frank about the realities of life on the road as a female WWE performer, it shed new light (for me) and how the insiders view their roles and responsibilities. It’s definitely worth a listen, but I will have a higher standard for Ross should he have Varon return.