Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Steve Austin Show Ep. 238/239

Mundo/Morrison stops by the Austin show
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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: 238 (July 16, 2015)
Run Time: 1:42:50
Guest: Johnny Mundo (17:25)

Summary: Steve Austin gets a chance to sit down with Lucha Underground superstar Johnny Mundo — a man he knew as John Morrison in their WWE days. They talk about Mundo’s fitness regimen and his time in college before getting into Lucha Undeground: his Spanish skills, working with Prince Puma and how he transitioned into a new working style. They also discuss Mundo’s childhood wrestling fandom, his training (including Tough Enough 3 and time in Ohio Valley Wrestling), what it’s like to work with Alberto el Patron, how and Mundo left WWE and what the future might hold. To wrap up, Mundo discusses his current movie project, acting aspirations and how he fills his free time.

Quote of the week: “I think my work has definitely evolved. And I’ve been doing stuff physically at Lucha Underground that I never even really attempted at WWE, but really more importantly, the confidence is there. I think sometimes when you’re on the road full time and you step away, and you get a chance to marinate on who you were in the ring, the choices that you made and why you did what you did while you were wrestling. And when you come back you have a clearer idea of who you want to be in the ring. And I feel like I have that now with Lucha Underground.”

Why you should listen: Mundo or Morrison, whatever you might call him, is an articulate, optimistic guy who seems to truly appreciate not just his current position, but the many steps along they way and the potential opportunities he might eventually realize. Austin continues to be a strong booster for Lucha Underground, and though his praise for Mundo is effusive, it’s both contextual (in regards to his progress from 2005) and grounded (since Austin specifically explains what about Mundo’s work is impressive). It’s a long chat that doesn’t feel overbearing, and it most certainly inspires interest in Mundo’s career. Beyond that, as Unleashed episodes go, this one is very tame in regards to both language and subject matter.

Why you should skip it: Anyone who doesn’t like Mundo/Morrison and doesn’t want their mind swayed might be better served taking a pass. Likewise, if you’ve written off Lucha Underground as a worthwhile endeavor, then vast swaths of this interview will bore you to no end. But as with the Epsiode 236 interview with showrunner Eric van Wagenen, my biggest problem with this interview is it made me regret all the unwatched Lucha Underground episodes on my DVR.

Final thoughts: If you really want to get inside the mind of Mundo or unpack the foundational elements of his life and career, go track down his Art Of Wrestling appearance. Beyond that, this interview is a great snapshot of an ascendant performer at a crucial time in his career. Austin is the perfect host to draw out those positive attributes, and I wager most wrestling fans are likely to genuinely enjoy this episode.

• • •

Show: Steve Austin Show
Episode: 239 (July 21, 2015)
Run Time: 1:53:49
Guest: Wade Keller (14:35)

Summary: Steve Austin calls up his pay-per-view review cohort Wade Keller of the Pro Wrestling Torch. Before they get to Battleground the guys discuss tech issues, Ryback’s staph infection, sagging RAW ratings and the current Tough Enough season. Ignoring the preshow, they go match-by-match through the Battleground card with tangents into WWE production quirks, Keller’s hope for the quick evolution of the “Divas Revolution,” the role of ringside commentators, why John Cena winning was the right choice, mutual love for The Miz, if a champion should be announced first and why the Undertaker is back at this moment.

Quote of the week: Keller: “They need to get out of Sahsa Banks’ way. They need to get out of Charlotte’s way and let ‘em do their thing. Sash is somebody who will shine and come across as a star and come across as credible and be a huge factor in the women’s division. They need to stop talking about how they wanna revolutionize the division and just start talking about Sasha the way you talk about any emerging star. Same thing with Charlotte.”

Why you should listen: As per usual, Austin and Keller do a great job not only breaking down the pay-per-view, but taking stock of the current state of WWE. Austin in particular hews to the company line, but he also provides sufficient justification for his line of thinking and is careful to present it as the opinion of someone who “had a pretty good run” and not, as Jim Ross might, the absolute truth. The breakdown of the flaws in the construction of the Sheamus-Orton match are illuminating, Keller is on point regard to the infusion of top women and, whether or not you agree, there are plausible explanations for Cena and Undertaker’s Battleground showings.

Why you should skip it: After two shows about Lucha Underground (and one about beer) Austin goes full force in to modern day WWE programming, and that’s a turnoff for some folks. Likewise, there are those who don’t want to hear anyone parroting what might be the current feeling in Titan Towers, even through the Austin filter. And again, as per usual, the chat was recorded before RAW, so any talk of plans going forward from Battleground is premature speculation.

Final thoughts: As per usual (for the third time this post) I dug this show. I don’t consume Keller’s thoughts outside of his Austin show appearances, so everything here is fresh for me. It’s kind of nice to check in with him once a month, and Austin’s show is always a bit more interesting to me when it’s clear he’s at least aware of the current product. Hopefully his endorsement of wrestlers like Banks, Charlotte and Kevin Owens will help those performers’ causes in Stamford. As for if you should listen, this episode borders on essential for anyone actively following current WWE programming with any interest in how or why a show plays out the way it does. If you’re out on WWE, then by all means, idle until Thursday.