Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 263-264

Nikki Storm was part of Cabana's cavalcade of Fringe Festival guests
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
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: 263 (Aug. 12, 2015)
Run Time: 1:06:23
Guests: Brendon Burns (7:58); Sha Samuels (23:11); Carl Hutchinson (34:22); Grado (48:48)

Summary: Colt Cabana is back at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, and recording multi-guest live podcasts each week. The first installment opens with Burns, an Australian comedian who serves as Cabana’s cohost. They mostly riff on the Hulk Hogan racist revelations. Samuels, a wrestler, talks about his native Essex and Iranian heritage. Hutchinson, a comedian who trained as a wrestler to bolster his stage act, tells a story about his encounter with John Cena. After Cabana jokes about the way Grado walks, Grado talks about YouTube and American fans, Samoa Joe and entrance music as well as his acting career.

Quote of the week: Grado: “I’ve wrestled in America, but I don’t know if they’ve adopted me.”
Cabana: “Yeah, they shit on you a lot.”
Grado: “Oh my God, YouTube comments! ‘Grado is a cancer to wrestling.’ ‘Grado has given AIDS to the X Division.’ ‘Grado is the worst wrestler I’ve ever fucking seen! He’s like a Vince Russo gimmick from 2000.’
Cabana: “That kind of makes you proud though, doesn’t it?”
Grado: “Fucking love it.”

Why you should listen: Can’t get to Scotland? This is the next best thing. Unlike last year’s Fringe episodes, Cabana here has dropped virtually everything that would be totally lost on the home audience — at least the portion he released via his podcast feed. Burns has sharply-honed criticism for WWE in regards to its portrayal of ethnic characters, Hutchinson knows the third verse of “(I’m An) Ass Man” and Grado is, well, Grado.

Why you should skip it: The same reasons you’d bail on any live Art Of Wrestling: Cabana doesn’t have enough time allotted to play to his strengths as a host, so nearly every interview is played for as many laughs as possible, and many jokes fall flat, or aren’t quite as funny unless you’re part of the studio audience. Samuels especially gets lost in the shuffle — he’d make a great full-episode guest, but seemed overwhelmed by the room.

Final thoughts: The first AOW I wrote up for ILSYDT was during the 2014 Fringe Festival. In many ways there’s not much different this time around. It would seem the raunchiness is subdued, although that’s in large part to not doing (or airing) the 15 minutes of “improvised comedy” at the end. Still, I have a hard time recommending these to anyone but the most ardent AOW fan — and those folks probably listened sooner than I did anyway.

Show: Art Of Wrestling
Episode: 264 (Aug. 19, 2015)
Run Time: 1:14:00
Guests: Dylan Gott (5:39); Nikki Storm (23:42); John Robertson (36:53); Damo (53:24)

Summary: It’s week two at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Colt Cabana goes long with comedian Gott, talking a lot about the 1990s, including an obscure Terry Funk tape, Gott’s love of ECW and Cabana’s stint as an Undertaker Druid. Storm talks a lot about her wrestling career and especially her time in Japan. Comedian Robertson riffs on the Bret Hart and Dynamite Kid books, the Undertaker and Kane characters and explains his limited in-ring experience. Damo educates Cabana about his native Belfast, cow tipping and testicle injuries. They bond over weird fan encounters and being overweight. Damo ends recounting his global travels and being part of an odd BBC documentary about an octogenarian wrestler.

Quote of the week: Robertson: “This is me finally having an audience to unburden myself… What’s happening, mate, is this is what happens when you’ve completed a thought inside your own head many, many times and you just think to yourself, ‘Well, I’m currently sitting next to the world’s most successful independent wrestler, cover of The Rolling Stone, I’m currently in front of the hairiest audience at the Ed Fringe, and something tells me that somehow or another these little fucking snippets I’ve had in the back of my mind, are going to find a home.’ And they just fucking did, and I’m pretty happy, mate, you know?”

Why you should listen: If you’re used to the Fringe Fest shows, you’re not going to be surprised by the format or content. The comedians this week are particularly strong, at least in their wrestling bona fides. Or perhaps they just speak to my specific interests. And while I’ve got no prior exposure to Damo, I found him to be delightful. Again, not enough praise to Cabana for leaving the “improv” bits off the podcast (if not off the show altogether).

Why you should skip it: Storm is far too reserved (or intimidated) to come off well in this environment. As enjoyable as Damo is, you’ll likely regret you don’t get a full hour of he and Cabana cracking wise about various subjects. And there’s a chance you’ll find the comedians to be more indulgent than funny.

Final thoughts: Robertson especially finally explains what I needed to understand about the comic spots on these episodes. They’re not doing their act, they’re getting out jokes they can’t use because they won’t register with most audiences. As noted above, to some folks that comes off as indulgent. I take it more as a chance to enjoy funny people tapping into some unused creative potential. But yeah, if you come here for the wrestling, it’s pretty safe to wait a week — at least.