Monday, March 30, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Steve Austin Show Triple Shot

Austin's last three shows detailed here
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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 Unleashed!
Episode: 204 (March 19, 2015)
Run Time: 1:41:46
Guest: Bas Rutten (5:42)

Summary: Austin is in studio with legendary Dutch mixed-martial artist Rutten. After some initial talk about going bald, they dig into Rutten’s childhood as a bullying victim who struggled with asthma. He explains how he would have been a chef if not for his fighting career. The bulk of the discussion focuses on Rutten’s fighting, including how it affected his marriage, his training, injuries and surgeries and the importance of the liver shot. They also talk a bit about Rutten’s decathlon background, his forays into acting, experiences with drugs and when fighting spills over into real life.

Quote of the week: “I never picked a fight. … Once I try to diffuse it, some of them think I’m afraid. … I said, ‘I’m not afraid, I hope you don’t think I’m afraid, I just don’t want to fight. It’s so useless to fight you, why would I want to fight you?’ And then if they say something back, I said, ‘I just don’t like to be the crap out of you. … I really like to enjoy beating your face in right now.’ If I start talking like that, or I say ‘I do not want to beat your face in,’ now I’m calling his bluff.”

Why you should listen: Rutten certainly has an interesting background and comes across as far more traveled and articulate than I’d assume for a career MMA fighter. He and Austin go into great detail about not just fighting techniques but certain memorable moments from Rutten’s career, which are certain to play well with anyone who has seen him compete. And when those stories are balanced against his tales of food prep and his favorite book (The Alchemist), it’s certainly an eclectic experience.

Why you should skip it: Have you ever heard of Bas Rutten before 30 seconds ago? I hadn’t either before I downloaded the show. And though he’s an interesting guy who has natural chemistry with Austin, it just seems Austin is way more into the conversation than the vast majority of his audience. There’s almost zero wrestling talk, so if that’s the reason you download the Austin show, move along. Also, near the end of the show Austin invokes an unfortunate, inappropriate use of the R word. Heads up if that’s a trigger.

Final thoughts: Were I not a completist, I’d have deleted this one out of hand and spent more time thinking about WrestleMania. It’s not a bad show — actually, it’s pretty good by Austin standards because he always does so much better with in-person interviews — it’s just that I couldn’t be less interested in the subject matter. There’s plenty of folks who like pro wrestling and MMA and possibly will love this show, I’m just not in that number. Still, if the alternative is listening to Austin reply to emails about whether he liked working better as a good guy or a bad guy, this is an improvement. And if you’re swimming in to-the-minute WWE news and analysis, this show at least is a completely different pool.

Show: Steve Austin Show
Episode: 205 (March 24, 2015)
Run Time: 1:29:28
Guest: Court Bauer (30:49)

Summary: Austin is on the phone this week with fellow podcaster and frequent guest Court Bauer. Their talk begins with a spillover from Austin’s opening segment about driving around town with his wife, and they segue into the news of the Perro Aguayo Jr. death and how Rey Mysterio is dealing with the situation. That leads into a preview of WaleMania. Finally shifting to WrestleMania, they talk about the numbering convention before moving on to the matches themselves. Side trips included a look at the cosplay fans in Des Moines, the significance of the Intercontinental Championship and whether John Cena needs some time off.

Quote of the week: “You’ve got to start thinking about Bray Wyatt. Are you going to have him get beat two WrestleManias back to back? That’s not the greatest start to someone. I mean, you don’t start these characters down this road with two losses at WrestleMania. People remember these losses at WrestleMania, unlike on a RAW or on another pay-per-view. They remember this. So all of a sudden he just looks like he is not up to snuff, and I think that’s a dangerous thing to have.”

Why you should listen: Need to get in the mood for WrestleMania? Once you get through the extended open and the Bauer plugs, there’s actually a decent look at nearly the entire WrestleMania card, and Austin’s candor is refreshing. He might not be as pessimistic as many fans, but neither is he simply pushing the company line. Bauer’s around to make some decent points as well — certainly getting the chance to expand more on WrestleMania than he did during his too-brief stint on last week’s Cheap Heat.

Why you should skip it: Much like with Jim Ross’ Wednesday show, Austin and Bauer have the misfortune of recording in advance of the Brock Lesnar contract news. They also recorded before the go-home RAW, which might be important depending on how much you’re invested in week-to-week storytelling. The Aguayo death probably warrants its own full episode, but it’s understandable why Austin felt it was more important to focus on the upcoming show. Beyond that, Bauer is at risk of being dramatically overexposed to the point where no guest appearance is special.

Final thoughts: At this point I’m personally more interested in how WrestleMania sets up the next year of WWE narrative, and am quite happy to speculate how Sunday’s events will set things in motion rather than just ponder the potential outcomes. There’s a bit of that angle here, notably in regards to Cena, Lesnar and Daniel Bryan, but I’d have preferred more. Again, I get why Austin might not have wanted to wade too deeply into long-range speculation. If you don’t listen to Bauer’s own shows, you probably will enjoy him here. But this episode is by no means essential.

Show: Steve Austin Show Unleashed!
Episode: 206 (March 26, 2015)
Run Time: 1:41:27
Guest: Court Bauer (1:19:06)

Summary: Stone Cold is getting ready for WrestleMania this week. He shoots the breeze with his wife for about a half hour — mostly RV and LA talk, but he does try to explain to her the significance of the Showdown of the Immortals — and then he takes listener email questions all about his own WrestleMania history. Near the end of the episode he again calls Bauer, primarily discuss developments since they spoke Monday afternoon for the Tuesday show, notably RAW and the Brock Lesnar contract news.

Quote of the week: Austin: “All right everybody, I appreciate all the questions that you sent in. I’ll tell you what, there was a lot of repeat questions that were, you know, kind of the same old same old, but I hope I gave some pretty decent answers to the questions you’ve sent in.”

Why you should listen: If you’re new to the Steve Austin Show, this actually is a perfect episode. The opening banter is on point, and he does answer a lot of questions with candor. Even better, he curated the emails such that they all focused on WrestleMania. That and the fresh check-in with Bauer to cover the topics they couldn’t have hit on the Tuesday show makes this a fine lead-in to the biggest show of the year.

Why you should skip it: Most regular listeners will be able to recite Austin’s answers word for word. The only anecdote I don’t recall hearing on a prior show is how he forgot to pack his signature vest before heading to WrestleMania XV. That story, along with his fuzzy memories of WrestleMania 2000, is a sad window into the reality of the height of the Austin era: he most likely was a high-functioning alcoholic, and the combination of booze and physical abuse has rendered a good portion of the peak of his popularity almost indecipherable in his own memory. So, uh, if you’d rather not be confronted with that, maybe wait until someone he knows from Memphis in the early 1990s.

Final thoughts: As noted earlier, this episode is better suited for the infrequent listener. There’s plenty of other ways to get worked up for WrestleMania — one option is to go back and find the episodes in which Austin provided alternate commentary for his legendary matches against Bret Hart (13) and The Rock (X-Seven). This episode is OK, but it’s nothing more than a good way to burn an hour or two.