Monday, June 22, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 255

The former Gabriel sits down with Cabana this week
Photo Credit: WWE.com
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: 255 (June 18, 2015)
Run Time: 1:10:04
Guest: PJ Black/Justin Gabriel (10:43)

Summary: Colt Cabana sits down with the former Justin Gabriel. They open by talking about how the former NXT original adjusted to America and a bit about his love of stunt bikes before going back to discussing his youth in South Africa and the pro wrestling scene there, including his famous father, who wrestled as the Pink Panther and taught virtually all of the country’s younger performers. Gabriel recalls his unusual first match, and speaks more about his father, including going into detail about his many brushes with criminals and eventual murder, which Gabriel witnessed. That’s interwoven with stories of Gabriel leaving and returning to pro wrestling, traveling the world and eventually how he came to and departed WWE. They end by discussing the idea of developing new goals as a career progresses.

Quote of the week: “My dad was kind of like, he was a hooker, right? So he was kind of a badass and he lived in a dangerous area. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in a bank while it was being robbed, I cannot tell you how many AK-47s I’ve had held to my head, you know, we just lived in a dangerous area. It was normal, and that still happens in the north of Johannesburg all the time. Nerves come up in the beginning, but then you kind of get used to it.”

Why you should listen: Gabriel is a fascinating character, even outside the tragic circumstances of his father’s death. His South African upbringing is unique among Art Of Wrestling guests — I wish there were time to more deeply explore some of his more interesting personal and professional experiences. The candor with which he discusses his father’s murder is the kind of raw honesty that sets Art Of Wrestling apart from podcasts with corporate connections. Ultimately, Gabriel seems remarkably well adjusted for someone with such an incredible past.

Why you should skip it: There’s no talk of the Nexus or hitting John Cena with the 450. No mention of working with Sami Zayn on modern-era NXT. Nary a whisper of being a three-time tag team champion. WrestleMania gets a passing mention and there’s a good anecdote about getting his foot in the door at FCW, but, by and large, if you tune in hoping for WWE stories, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. And the downside of the candor mentioned above is that Gabriel’s story is going to be very difficult for some people to hear, so it’s best to be prepared for harsh details.

Final thoughts: After two weeks of spotty live shows recorded almost three months before being released, Cabana is back in peak form this week, showing that after nearly five years of podcasting, he can still deliver must-listen performances. Unpacking wrestlers as people while also respecting the art form was always a winning formula, and the way Cabana draws out Gabriel’s story in the context of a friendly conversation shows why he still deserves the attention and respect for his show.