Friday, November 6, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 275

Melissa is interviewed this week on AOW
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: 275 (Nov. 4, 2015)
Run Time: 1:12:08
Guest: Chris Hero (1:42); Cheerleader Melissa (16:34)

Summary: Colt Cabana is still touring Japan, so the open again involves Hero. The tag partners talk about shows loaded with fake versions of wrestling icons and requests they hear about how to get into wrestling. In the main conversation with Melissa, the veteran discusses the struggles of being a woman in professional and amateur wrestling before looking back to her days as an aspiring pro, why she emulated Rick Martel, the importance of discovering SHIMMER, her time in Los Angeles and the influence of her father and uncle, both also pro wrestlers. She explains the development of the cheerleader character, stresses the importance of working in Japan and joins Cabana in recalling shows in unusual circumstances and considering how they are affected by deaths of different wrestling personalities.

Quote of the week: “Cheerleader Melissa is a character that came up kind of on its own. It’s definitely not a character I would have chosen. I was not a cheerleader in high school, I hate those bitches, I hate ’em all. I hate all of you. Like, I was not that. I was not that girl at all. … Dude, the irony. The irony. And you know it’s so funny, because sometimes when I come out, my persona, and like the bitchy attitude or whatever, I’m really making fun of those bitches that I hate that made my life a living hell in high school. Fuck you. You know, it’s almost a character that backfired on me for the positive.”

Why you should listen: It might have been spoiled with the quote, but the brief bit where Melissa and Cabana examine the idea of performing heel characters by playing to the extreme the personality traits of people they dislike easily merits a rich discussion, and there’s none better to cover that ground than veteran performers who have to work in front of a wide variety of crowds. Melissa also has good stories about her father’s influence over gender equality in her training. All that said, perhaps the most illuminating was Melissa’s memories of being a high school wrestler.

Why you should skip it: The good stuff is great, but by a percentage of time spent talking, it represents a minority portion of the overall chat. Cabana is fairly inoffensive here (he’s always somewhat ham-handed when interviewing a woman because he just can’t seem to treat it like any other episode), but again this is an instance of his weakness as an interviewer surfacing when he simply spends too much time allowing the guest to talk about mundane aspects of her life and career.

Final thoughts: Your feelings on this episode will probably be shaped either by your general nature (optimist vs. pessimist) or your calibrated expectations of a Cabana interview. There’s very little depth here, and if you don’t come looking for any you won’t be let down. It’s a quite enjoyable chat and bless Cabana for giving equal time to a performer with little name recognition compared to most of the rest of his guest list (you’ll never hear Cheerleader Melissa on the Steve Austin Show), but as entertaining as the talk might be, it’s also another reminder that while Cabana might emulate Marc Maron’s big-picture style, he utilizes a much different interview approach.