Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 280

The Boogie Woogie Man sits down with Cabana
Photo Credit: Pro Wrestling Illustrated via WWE.com
If you’re new, here’s the rundown. We 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 many wrestling podcasts out there, of course, but this feature largely hews to the regular rotation we feel best fit the category of hit or miss. If we can save other folks some time, we’re happy to do so.

Show: Art Of Wrestling
Episode: 280 (Dec. 10, 2015)
Run Time: 1:01:16
Guest: Joey Ryan (3:00); Jimmy Valiant (12:17)

Summary: Colt Cabana has a quick interview with the viral star of the week before the main event, a sitdown with the legendary “Boogie Woogie Man” himself. Valiant talks a bit about his approach to modern technology and staying fit before talking wrestling: the influence of Leo Martinez and how Valiant bounced between working for Jerry Jarrett, Crockett Promotions, the AWA and WWWF, as well as his long-running independent career. Valiant recalls being at the forefront of wrestler entrance music, reflects on creativity and charisma and the importance of Dick The Bruiser. After plugging his book and “camp,” Cabana asks Valiant about comedy in wrestling. That somehow leads back to the beginning of Valiant’s career, and the last bit is about the songs Valiant recorded with Jimmy Hart.

Quote of the week: “Johnny Gilbert and Billy Gills was our first match. You never forget, brother. Hey, I may not remember who I wrestled last night, but you’ll never forget the first match. … I fell right into it. Right away within six weeks I was with Dick The Bruiser, he introduced me to him, Dick took me under his wing. Dick sent me to The Sheik in Detroit, and then Dick sent me to AWA and Verne Gagne, which was 400 (miles) from Chicago — Hammond. The Sheik was 300 in Detroit, he’d send me another 300 this way to St. Louis, Sam Muchnick, but Dick was my main guy.”

Why you should listen: Jimmy Valiant is an iconic character in North American wrestling, and Cabana here guides him through a pretty decent conversation that, if nothing else, inspires the listener to explore a bit more of his guest’s career. Valiant drops names left and right — all in appropriate context and never with a sense of selfish pride — from the very famous to the barely known, which makes this a delightful walk through history absent any of the pretension or angst of a Ross Report.

Why you should skip it: The problem with interviewing Jimmy Valiant is you’re dealing with a 73-year-old man who still occasionally works matches. While he’s a fantastic living history specimen, he’s not exactly able to follow Cabana through the typical Art Of Wrestling format, such as it is. That means Cabana’s attempts to discuss in-ring comedy lead nowhere, and plenty of other potentially interesting conversational avenues encounter unexpected detours. Cabana seems to be having a great time throughout, yet also must have been frustrated trying to lead Valiant along a logical path.

Final thoughts: This isn’t the interview I would have conducted with Valiant — I’d focus much more on his early days working the Midwest circuit, which is something he and Cabana have in common yet that shared experience comes up only briefly near the end. Regardless, it’s a fun way to spend an hour, and to be fair to Cabana I got the sense he was more or less in the presence of a runaway conversational train. Other hosts might have gotten more historical information from Valiant, but that’s all available in his autobiography in far more detail than any podcast would cover. This is an episode that probably defies nitpicking: Just have some fun with the Boogie Woogie Man and leave it there.