Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art of Wrestling Ep. 261

Cabana's fifth year anniversary had old audio from Kevin Owens, back when he was still Steen
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: 261
Run Time: 50:46
Guest: Kevin Steen (kind of)

Summary: It's the five year anniversary of Art of Wrestling, and rather than throw a big party with a bunch of guests, Colt Cabana is in a bit more of a reflective mood. Going solo for most of the episode, Cabana thinks back to his expectations of the show back when he started it, and how far it has come since. He acknowledges that the podcast market is now over-saturated, so he remains quite grateful that he still has a dedicated audience. Cabana knows that he is disliked by all the major wrestling companies, so this podcast functions as a way for him to go it alone and carve out his own niche. For the second half of the episode, Cabana pulls out a few clips from a previously paywalled episode featuring Kevin Steen, in an interview from 2012. The interview finds Steen in a very bad place, hopeless and downtrodden, considering total retirement from the wrestling business. He and Cabana work through Steen's options for the future, but the conclusion is that there might not be much reason for optimism.

Quote of the Week: Steen - "You made the right choices, and you did the right things to get as far as you could. You were in WWE for a while, and there's no telling what's going to happen. You could very well go back and probably will. But I literally never made that choice. I made the choice to eat pizza and not work out. And now I'm 27 years old and I really regret it, when I used to not regret it. Even though I love myself and I love what I am in the ring, and I'm fine with what I am, I know that I never made the choice to fully put myself in this."

Why you should listen: Cabana's decision to do some independent reflection is a wise one, as he keeps it at a fair length and doesn't do too much navel-gazing. He talks to his audience with enthusiasm and a passionate connection. It's tough to hear him speak about his five years in podcasting without hoping the best for him. Where the episode really gets good is in the Kevin Steen interview, which Cabana plays for a reason. He says the theme of Art of Wrestling is that we all struggle to get where we want to go, and this struggle is perfectly exemplified in Steen's great depression of 2012. The honesty and frankness in which Steen speaks about his perceived failure in wrestling is shocking, but it's made even more shocking when we view it in light of his meteoric rise in WWE.

Why you should skip it: Cabana acknowledges that anyone who paid a couple dollars in 2012 to hear the Steen interview might be a little upset that a portion of it is being played for free here. Those who are looking to hear a brand new guest will also be let down by an essentially guest-free podcast, but that shouldn't put anyone off from hearing this.

Final Thoughts: This is a really great episode of a podcast that has always functioned as the pro wrestling version of WTF with Marc Maron. Cabana wants us to think about life through the lens of wrestling, not just about wrestling and nothing else. Though Kevin Steen's situation in 2012 might seem foreign to some, since he was a guy who made people bleed and licked their blood, he was still describing a very real situation. He desperately wanted to provide for his family, and he was feeling an overwhelming amount of guilt due to his failure to be that provider. He had basically decided that bigger opportunities in wrestling were never going to knock. Perhaps it was this anger with himself that motivated Steen to turn his life around and step up his game, resulting in his being signed by WWE. We are able to listen to Kevin Steen fat-shame himself in 2012 only because we now know that in 2015, a trimmer Kevin Owens will invade RAW and powerbomb the shit out of John Cena. Hindsight is 20/20, and it is oh so sweet.