Monday, July 6, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 257

Mason, a veteran of the English scene, is Cabana's guest this week
Photo via
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: 257 (July 1, 2015)
Run Time: 1:08:04
Guest: James Mason

Summary: Colt Cabana has his second European guest in two weeks. This time it’s his contemporary, James Mason, the veteran British wrestler who has worked literally thousands of matches dating back to 1993. They discuss Mason’s throwback mentality and the influence of Simon Garfield’s book “The Wrestling” on his career. Tracing his life from his days as a young fan with a supportive father to working alongside his idols like Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, Mason discusses his personal work philosophy, sourcing his first gear, a 2004 dalliance with TNA, world travel and working with a variety of opponents as well as aging and the routine he hopes to maintain for several more years in the business.

Quote of the week: “It’s just a living. Every time I get in a car with me kit bag and go do a show, that saves me getting a proper job where I’ve got to go and stack shelves, I’ve gotta drive a car for someone, I’ve got to go around and sit in an office. You know, I’m so thankful for 22 years I’ve never had to do that, and I’m hoping it carries on. I’m making a decent living, I’ve got everything a normal person has, so I’m happy. So that’s what I see, I’m not aiming for anything, I’ve not got a big goal. … I’m just making a living.”

Why you should listen: This is the quintessential episode for the “there’s more than wrestling to WWE” crowd. Mason is a largely overlooked figure, which is a shame given the depth and breadth of his experience, as well as his ability to speak lucidly and candidly about the life of someone who takes pleasure in the job of being a wrestler not because it’s glamorous, but because it’s an honest way to make a living without being jammed in a cubicle under fluorescent lights. He got into the business in an unusual fashion, his connection with his father is endearing and Cabana does a great job letting the guest be the true star of the show.

Why you should skip it: Last week’s Dutch guest spoke perfect English, and by perfect I mean it was easy for my American ears to listen to at 2X. No such luck with Mason, who is perfectly British (born in London, for those who can differentiate amongst British accents). Beyond that, the biggest knock is what’s true of most AOW episodes: it’s a conversation and not a formal interview, so it ebbs and flows and lacks a clear A to Z narrative.

Final thoughts: Some listeners will always skip an AOW if they’re unfamiliar with the guest, but that’s generally to their detriment. Cabana usually does a solid job giving the proper context for why a guest is worth getting to know, and he manages to deftly accomplish the task here without going overboard or inflating himself in the process (read: the opposite of Jim Ross). Mason wasn’t the greatest AOW guest of all time or anything, but something about his mentality really resonated personally and I feel confident in suggesting most fans will enjoy the listening experience.