Monday, April 27, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 247

Norton has some stories, sadly none of which have to do with catching that fish
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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: Art Of Wrestling
Episode: 247 (April 23, 2015)
Run Time: 1:05:05
Guest: Chris Hero (1:00); Scott Norton (14:28)

Summary: Colt Cabana is touring Japan, so the open involves his tag team partner Chris Hero, which works well as a setup to the interview with Norton, who realized far more success in Japan than with late-1990s WCW. The interview isn’t chronological, as it starts with Norton’s AWA experience and some Japan stories before going back to his childhood friendships with Rick Rude, Curt Hennig, the Road Warriors and others. Norton goes into detail on his arm wrestling career and how a role Over The Top finally nudged him into pro wrestling. He waxes nostalgic about the Portland territory, revisits his Japan debut, lavishes praise on the time he spent working with Hercules and ends with a look at his time in WCW, including the story of the time he almost obliterated his good friend, Eric Bischoff.

Quote of the week: Norton, on his philosophical difference with Bischoff: “I don’t go by that, but he does, names, I didn’t like that. That’s one thing I don’t agree with him on. … You don’t treat people like that, you don’t categorize people like he does, you know, the bigger the name the better he treats you. That’s bullshit. That don’t work for me. And, you know, he’ll tell you. Eric, he don’t hide nothing.”

Why you should listen: Norton represents one of Cabana’s best types of guests. He has broad name appeal based on his WCW run, which coincided with Cabana’s peak fandom, but he’s also rather unexplored based on being a Nitro/Thunder utility player. He’s got a unique backstory relative to other stars of his age (the Rick Rude childhood stuff is outstanding), and his extended runs in Japan lead to his best stories being fresh for an American podcast audience. Further, you can sense the trust he has in Cabana as a host. It’s hard to imagine him coming across better in an interview with Jim Ross, Steve Austin, Chris Jericho and so on.

Why you should skip it: It’s a great interview, but there is frustration in the way the guys jump around chronologically, especially in regards to the Japanese stories. They’re very entertaining, but some listeners (like me) might get crossed up trying to keep all the names and places straight. And though it’s predictable, Cabana’s indulgence of his Over The Top obsession takes too much focus away from the more interesting parts of Norton’s backstory. That stuff is interesting, but it would almost be better served as a standalone interview so as to allow a deeper dive for those who really share Cabana’s passion.

Final thoughts: I’m probably nitpicking on the negative side. I really enjoyed Norton and would love to hear more from him down the road. Cabana was wise to spend very little time on Norton’s WCW run in order to paint a more full picture, and furthered the benefits by wading in at the end with a hammer of a story that said plenty about Norton’s personality and the Nitro era. For what it’s worth, Hero is by now a much more enjoyable pop-in guest than CM Punk, and that has everything to do with Hero’s natural bent toward optimism and still enjoying the chance to pursue his chosen career. If you’re on the fence about this episode, definitely give it your time.