Thursday, August 13, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Ross Report, Ep. 78

Ross interviews authors this week
Photo Credit:
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: The Ross Report
Episode: 78
Run Time: 1:37:17
Guests: Paul O'Brien and Brian Solomon

Summary: Jim Ross puts on his reading cap for an episode featuring interviews with two different authors. His first guest is Brian Solomon, a former WWE employee of seven years who mostly worked on the RAW and Smackdown magazines. His new book is called Pro Wrestling FAQ and it is meant to serve as an all-encompassing history of the business and explanation of its quirks. Solomon didn't want to present much of his own opinion in the book, but rather a popular consensus agreed upon by historians and fans. JR and Solomon discuss how even this popular consensus can be tricky, as Solomon interviewed historians and old-timers who couldn't agree on whether or not pro wrestling was a work back in the days of Frank Gotch.

They also agree that female wrestlers deserve more respect within the history of pro wrestling. After Solomon exits, JR brings on Paul O'Brien, author of the book series Blood Red Turns Dollar Green, which fictionalizes the old territorial system of wrestling into a Mafia-like web of crime and grit. O'Brien is an Irishman with a lifelong love for pro wrestling, and he is quite humbled that his books have been praised by many people within the business, including Mick Foley, as well as fellow Irish countrymen and women like Finn Bรกlor and Becky Lynch.

Quote of the Week: Solomon - "It's a very closed society. They really were not scrutinized in the way that sports or other forms of entertainment were. So they were able to get away with things. In an era of Jackie Robinson and later Curt Flood and things like that in professional sports, those innovations were not touching the wrestling business. They were still in the Stone Age, and they were able to get away with things for the longest time because no one was really watching them."

Why you should listen: This is one of those episodes in which fans of pro wrestling can identify with the guests on a much more personal level. Even though they are both paid professionals, both Solomon and O'Brien still have an almost childlike affection for their subject and still view themselves as somewhat outside the business. Solomon tells some entertaining stories about hobnobbing with Ric Flair and being stuck in a limo with Vince McMahon, which are received warmly by JR. O'Brien is charmingly starstruck by being in contact with pro wrestlers who enjoy his work. By the end of the episode, we are rooting for him to land a possible TV deal based on his books, because he seems like such a swell guy.

Why you should skip it: I'm still relatively new to The Ross Report, and I haven't yet gotten used to Ross' style of going off on his own tangents in the middle of an interview. It's like he's constantly looking for an opening to tell one of his own stories, and maybe this is an episode where his guests actually welcome those stories, but in and of itself it's just not a good method. It especially hurts the interview with O'Brien, as JR talks so much that we never really find out what O'Brien's books are actually about, nor do we find out much about his creative process. It's just an opportunity for an outsider to the business to call in and get educated by the guy wearing the cowboy hat. (By the way, I will bet money that JR actually wears the hat when he records these episodes.) Make sure to skip the first 20 minutes, as it is nothing but ads and JR reiterating his usual points about wrestlers not knowing how to accurately portray a heel anymore.

Final Thoughts: There certainly is a different tenor to this episode, as it is not an inside baseball discussion like last week's episode with Al Snow. It is more of a celebration of the mere concept of pro wrestling, rather than an outright criticism of what's wrong with it (aside from JR's opening rant). The interviews do leave you with a desire to check out the books being discussed, and that is clearly Ross' goal with this episode, so it at least succeeds on that level. And it's always fun (yet depressing) to hear a story confirming that Ric Flair really is a pervy drunk old guy who hits on women 30 years his junior. Flair, you old dog, you.