Friday, January 15, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Cheap Heat Jan. 13

Cena's injury gets play this week
Photo Credit: 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: Cheap Heat
Episode: “The Hurt Locker Room” (Jan. 13, 2016)
Run Time: 1:10:18
Guest: None

Summary: Stat Guy Greg is back in studio with David Shoemaker and Peter Rosenberg. After Greg discusses the Owen Hart DVD and Rosenberg explains his inability to remember trivia, they go full bore on the John Cena injury and WrestleMania card, including speculation about what role the NJPW signees and WWE Network’s Japan debut might play. Discussion about RAW bleeds into a State Of The Union spinoff, but they return to wrestling by talking about Kalisto and Daniel Bryan. Speculation about which stars WWE could bring back somehow becomes a sharing of recurring nightmares. Shoemaker runs down Reddit news of the week, primarily Sunny trying to sell her Hall Of Fame Ring. They end wondering if Vince McMahon might wrestle in Dallas, run down Chris Jericho’s tired act, look ahead to the Royal Rumble and inexplicably spend the last few minutes with Rosenberg trying to contextualize the degree to which the name of the Washington NFL team is offensive compared to racial slurs.

Quote of the week:
Shoemaker: “Think of all the times over the past few years that we’ve talked about, like, WWE trying to find that, like, Indian star because their show is really big over there. Only in the past, like, 18 months have they talked about signing Japanese stars, and it’s when the Network is going there.”
Rosenberg: “But I still think that even if WWE is the fourth-most popular product there, Japan is such a culturally evolved place, they are so aware of the product.”
Shoemaker: “Yeah, but that’s not the style! I mean, it’s like a different wrestling — it’s like a totally different kind of wrestling, it’s like people in, like, the ’70s in Mississippi being totally into New York style, it’s just a different thing.”
Why you should listen: This solid effort is perfect for the people who either need to catch up or dive a little deeper into the biggest WWE stories of the last week. The discussion about how WWE plays in foreign markets and practical thoughts about whether a Bullet Club invasion could boost WrestleMania was in good hands. Even the State Of The Union tangent was both topical and well tied to wrestling such that it felt like a fun riff on a potential Shoemaker Grantland column as opposed to Rosenberg seeing something shiny off in the distance. Also it’s nice to have Greg back — it would have been good to hear even more from him about the Hart DVD.

Why you should skip it: There’s a couple of Smackdown spoilers (all with fair warning) and the Redskins bit at the end is both completely detached from the rest of the show and the type of hot take blather that reminds me why I tend to avoid national sports talk. It was a little off-putting to hear so much insistence that Cena’s injury is the biggest story of the week, give how news of that broke before many listened to last week’s episode. But Rosenberg clearly views WWE in the context of his own recording schedule, so there we are.

Final thoughts: The moment I realized this was such a strong episode was during the NJPW/WrestleMania discussion and I felt the urge to call in to make my counterpoint — that it would be significantly easier for WWE to mega-push incoming stars largely unknown to its broad audience than to try to reignite the flames under the Main Event roster they’ve already repeatedly told us is unimportant — at which point I had to remind myself this isn’t three guys on my local sports yakker breaking down Cubs’ roster moves. The urge didn’t come from the usual sense of disagreement, but simply from wanting to join in a thoughtful, multifaceted conversation. Most of us have plenty of thoughts about what we see on TV, and the Internet is ripe with people analyzing the on-screen canon. When Cheap Heat gets a few steps past the “watch and react” model, the hosts chemistry and background can get put on display, and listeners might start to forget the weeks where the entire episode is an exercise in obligation. More like this please.