Friday, January 30, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Steve Austin Show Eps. 189 and 190

Austin, who knows a thing or two about the Royal Rumble match, talks this year's version on his podcasts this week
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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: Steve Austin Show
Episode: 189 (Jan. 27, 2015)
Run Time: 1:36:37
Guest: Court Bauer (5:30); Wade Keller (18:08)

Summary: Austin is back at the Broken Skull Ranch. While recording his monologue, the cellphone rings and it’s MLW radio’s Court Bauer, who didn’t return Austin’s call in time to be a guest Tuesday and instead will appear on the Thursday show. Eventually Keller joins the show for a lengthy discussion of the Royal Rumble, as well as potential long-range WWE plans, preparing for life after Cena and what’s next for Daniel Bryan.

Quote of the week: Keller on the Royal Rumble reaction: “A lot of this I think, Steve, is because of WWE telling their audience for several years now, and they’ve stopped maybe the last six, nine months, but they used to tell people, their audience, all the time, ‘Did we entertain you? I hope we entertained you.’ John Cena would stand in the ring and go, ‘My most important job isn’t winning matches, it’s did I entertain you?’ And I think that actually gave power to the audience in a way that WWE didn’t anticipate and it’s backfiring now because instead of leaning back and enjoying the show and trusting that they’re on a journey and they’re on for the ride, I think WWE sort of conditioned this generation to think the steering wheel is in their hands, and with social media they’re starting to feel the consequences.”

Why you should listen: Of the shows in my rotation, Austin and Keller did the best job of examining the Rumble, both the event and its build, as well as the larger issue of Roman Reigns, in a way that informs and educates commensurate with each man’s experience and background. While not telling fans they’re right or wrong to feel a certain way, the conversation explained expertly how the careful away WWE products and performers are presented shapes perceptions over time, both in intended and unintended fashions. Rather than get bogged down in the macro creative choices, the men look at the way matches and stories are constructed and how important the micro decisions, some made in the moment, are to the promotions successes and failures.

Why you should skip it: This episode is almost entirely about the Royal Rumble, and outside of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match and the end game of the Rumble itself nothing else on the card is discussed beyond a passing mention. That hyperfocus will be a turn off to some listeners, and anyone suffering from general Rumble fatigue should just move along.

Final thoughts: After a 36-hour Twitter binge, by Tuesday morning, I was more than ready to move on from the Royal Rumble. And though I’m no expert when it comes to Wade Keller, I thought he absolutely delivered in this episode. In much the same way as a television or film critic uses their analytical experience to break down the shows and movies we already saw, adding layers of complexity and understanding, Keller as well as Austin definitely made me appreciate finer points I routinely overlook.

Show: Steve Austin Show Unleashed!
Episode: 190 (Jan. 29, 2015)
Run Time: 1:22:32
Guest: Court Bauer (11:32)

Summary: MLW Radio’s Bauer is on the show for real this time. He and Austin still have plenty to say about the Royal Rumble as well as the Brock Lesnar-John Cena-Seth Rollins match. They discuss what direction WWE might take en route to WrestleMania, look at the future prospects of guys like Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. They also dip in and out of talking about NXT and the most recent Takeover: R-Evolution supershow.

Quote of the week: “You have to be careful with how you present these guys. … Every guy has to be his own guy. You don’t want to have a clone factory of the same type of babyface coming up after John Cena. If Roman Reigns is the next 10 years as your to babyface, he should not be presented in any way like John Cena. He has to be Roman Reigns, and authentic.”

Why you should listen: It’s not as Rumble-heavy as you might think, and instead serves as a good bookend to the Tuesday show with Wade Keller. Austin’s been threatening to watch R-Evolution for weeks now, and his informed opinions are wonderful to hear — especially since he seems just as big a fan as anyone, including love for the women wrestlers and referees — yet can speak frankly about what needs to happen next for certain performers to realize lasting success.

Why you should skip it: It’s hard for me to come up with a thumbs down on this particular episode. There is some repetition of Austin’s thoughts from earlier shows on a few topics, and I don’t especially care which team he or Bauer thinks will win the Super Bowl and by how much. Those issues aside, this is a strong, strong showing.

Final thoughts: With the benefit of hindsight, I kind of wish I’d bypassed social media in the wake of the Rumble in favor of professional expertise. As it stands it could be argued they complement each other. I’d strongly suggest this week’s Austin shows for anyone still hungry for Rumble analysis, and also go so far as to say after listening to these interviews you can feel better about taking a pass on Jim Ross and Mark Madden.