Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Steve Austin Show Eps. 276/277

Foley is on Austin's latest podcast
Photo Credit:
If youre new, heres 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: Steve Austin Show — Unleashed!
Episode: 276 (Nov. 25, 2015)
Run Time: 1:36:11
Guest: Wade Keller (17:35)

Summary: Austin is at the Broken Skull Ranch and on the phone with Keller. After touching briefly on Survivor Series, Keller explains his concern with wrestlers working only for crowd excitement and the struggles of performing via formula as opposed to being organic, then considers the influence of early 1990s wrestling on today’s young performers. The guys talk about the Divas division, in- and out-of-character confusion, how wrestlers respond to crowds and the difference between NXT and the main roster. After a break, Keller answers Austin’s questions about the idea of “sports entertainment,” then reviews the current disabled list and explains why he wants WWE to allow more performers to appear human on camera.

Quote of the week: “I think the biggest dick thing that you can as a wrestling fan is chant ‘You fucked up’ at a wrestler in the ring. There might be an occasion where somebody’s known for being super lazy, they’re pushing themselves, they’re the son of the promoter, they’re unprofessional and they’re missing spots left and right, maybe on that occasion. But when somebody’s out there working their ass off and they’re trying to do spots — and on occasion, like everybody, there’s a mistake — in the middle of a match saying ‘You effed up,’ completely dick move by fans.”

Why you should listen: This is not officially a two-part episode, but this conversation is somewhat foundational for the Ep. 277 talk with Mick Foley. Keller and Austin (and eventually Foley) are careful in trying to present their opinions with as little invective as possible, allowing the listener to fairly consider the points rather than wonder if there’s a hidden agenda. They cite examples of what they like and what they don’t, and it conveys a sense of educated fans who simply want to better enjoy their passion.

Why you should skip it: Keller is a few paces ahead of Austin, as usual, so some time is wasted by simply rehashing verbatim context most listeners will bring (things like the nature of various injuries or specific moments from recent RAW episodes). There was no need to go back down the “pro wrestling vs. sports entertainment” alley, and although I feel 276 and 277 complement each other, it’s probably fair to say Keller’s thoughts are well known and if you have time for only one such discussion, you should spend it on the Foley talk.

Final thoughts: This alone doesn’t justify listening to the entire show, but Keller’s insight about how wrestlers like Mojo Rawley who grew up idolizing the Ultimate Warrior and Goldberg didn’t understand their appeal was due in large part to their contrast to everything around them is indicative of why he remains a relevant voice, especially as he is able to do so without (near as I can tell, as someone who doesn’t consume his every word) much of the baggage of a Jim Ross or Dave Meltzer. I listened to this episode about a week after it was released and still found it plenty relevant, if only because there’s never enough reasoned criticism from qualified voices.

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Show: Steve Austin Show
Episode: 277 (Dec. 1, 2015)
Run Time: 1:28:35
Guest: Mick Foley (7:00)

Summary: In an appearance set up on Twitter, Austin calls up his old tag team partner to discuss Foley’s recent Facebook post about his frustration with WWE’s current direction. Foley explains why he’s ready for a change from the current Authority-based plots and his feelings about Roman Reigns. The guys discuss the challenges of being overly coached as performers and Austin talks about the importance of wrestlers listening to one another. They also recall the challenges and opportunities of being allowed to work on the fly. Foley details a few specific issues with recent RAW episodes and the guys lament constraints on ring time. Foley dumps praise on Sasha Banks and recalls Vader’s struggles in WWE. They settle a dispute over Austin’s working punches and relish how they were allowed to make mistakes. To wrap up, Foley promotes Sock Tuesday and explains how he’s beginning to slow down on his travel schedule.

Quote of the week: “Leave her alone, let her do her thing. Don’t tell her — you’re 70, Vince. She’s 23. You don’t speak for everybody out there. Just because you don’t get it doesn’t mean it’s not there to be gotten. When you have people chanting ‘We want Sasha,’ it’s not without reason. Like, please Mr. McMahon, please leave her alone. Let her do her thing. If they want her, give her to them. Let her do the thing. Look at the faces, future faces of the company. Here’s one of them. … It makes me sad to see someone work so hard who’s there and who’s being led in different directions.”

Why you should listen: Hearing Foley’s opinion on the current state of WWE in full context is superior to his written thoughts, especially with Austin being able to tease out deeper thoughts, identify the influence of Foley’s personal experience and needle at his various arguments. That probably makes this sound like a more high-minded discussion than it actually is, but whether or not you’ve read Foley’s Facebook post, any WWE fan will appreciate understanding his viewpoint. Further, the digressions off the main topic are entertaining. And where else might you hear Sasha Banks compared to Vader?

Why you should skip it: Whereas the Keller talk in Episode 276 has a bit more of an evergreen feel, this one already lost some appeal before it was released because it was recorded before Monday’s RAW. Given that Foley had made the content of that show something of an focal point of his fan ultimatum, it’s quite unfortunate to not hear his reaction to the episode, especially in light of his appreciative tweets that cry out for richer understanding. Beyond that, Austin hasn’t watched nearly as much recent WWE programming as Foley, to the point he doesn’t have any standing to ask things such as what Foley thought of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament. Also, maybe you’re just tired of nitpicking RAW segments.

Final thoughts: The attraction of these two episodes boils down to how much you care about dissecting what does and doesn’t work about the very recent WWE television product. I certainly don’t agree with all the points made herein, but I appreciate the presentation. Obviously these types of discussions aren’t for everyone, but I’m in a place at the moment where I’d much rather consider the flaws of focusing TV around angles that have little relevance at house shows than the actual issues in the world, so it’s a welcome diversion. At least listeners who have little interest in such topics can feel comfortable in knowing they’re missing little if they take a pass this time around.