Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Steve Austin Show Ep. 217

Carter sits down for a one-on-one with Austin this week
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: 217 (May 2, 2015)
Run Time: 1:17:35
Guest: Dixie Carter (15:40)

Summary: Steve Austin invited TNA boss Dixie Carter to sit down with him in the PodcastOne studio. They bond over their shared Texas heritage and love of SEC football (Carter is an Ole Miss grad and booster). Carter explains her early wrestling fan days and recounts her experience promoting USWA shows while in college. She talks about her public relations career and move to Nashville, which leads to a diversion into country music and how it relates to pro wrestling. After a break, Carter explains how her family came to invest in TNA, her learning curve as a wrestling executive, the evolving media climate, success in the face of disbelief, balancing marketing and creative direction, the Monday nigh head-to-head experiment, TNA’s United Kingdom popularity, finding new talent, touring and Jeff Hardy’s recent injury.

Quote of the week: Carter, on the similarities between country music and pro wrestling: “Is it the song or is it the singer? Is it the character or is it the talent? I feel like there’s some people who may not be as gifted in one area. Somebody may not be as great a wrestler as the next person, but that Hulk Hogan sure turned that charisma into quite a little career. I think it’s the same thing with Garth Brooks. I think Garth Brooks is not the best vocalist out there, but he had, and has, such a talent for picking great songs and connecting. That’s what our business is about, too, it’s connecting with the audience, and it’s the performance and ultimately the character that’s creating that performance.”

Why you should listen: For two people who allegedly never met before this interview, Austin and Carter work very well together. Carter gave a concise (if one-sided) professional biography and was more frank about the past, present and future challenges of running TNA than in her overly optimistic interview with Jim Ross. Austin doesn’t fawn over Carter like Ross did, and while Carter always leans toward spin control (as in defending TNA’s TV ratings), here she’s also bluntly honest (such as explaining why it was important for TNA to fail at running live TV on Monday nights). Also, it’s nice to hear her through the Jeff Hardy story how much she genuinely cares about her employees and their families.

Why you should skip it: There’s very little talk about actual wrestling. Carter is a businesswoman who loves pro wrestling, but she is clear about the separation of church and state. Any hardcore TNA fan won’t learn a thing here — there are plenty of other episodes where Austin shares more of his own (often high) opinion of actual TNA wrestlers. Carter is far too kind in her desire to not bury Jim Cornette, and while it’s possible the football and music talk are important in terms of context, they also made my brain go on standby almost immediately.

Final thoughts: This episode is tailor-made for someone in the same boat as myself regarding TNA: Aware of its existence and the broadest strokes possible over the organization’s history, zero emotional investment or passion for week-to-week or even yearly narratives. I’m no more interested in watching TNA than I was before this episode, but I have a greater appreciation for Carter’s approach and understanding of her organization’s place in the entertainment world. I’m not sure how Austin’s going to squeeze a second episode out of this interview, but it was conducted after the Billy Corgan news broke, so there’s a chance for fresh information that should be of value.