Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Steve Austin Show Ep. 299

Austin gabs with Wade Keller about the state of WWE
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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: Steve Austin Show
Episode: 299 (Feb. 16, 2016)
Run Time: 1:30:48
Guest: Wade Keller (10:20)

Summary: Austin is on the phone this week getting caught up with Wade Keller, the main man at Pro Wrestling Torch. They spend a lot of time reviewing Daniel Bryan’s retirement, then segue naturally into a look at the current rash of injuries as a factor of WWE’s in-ring style. After a break, they analyze the Titus O’Neil suspension before moving on to predictions for the Fast Lane main event, when leads directly into WrestleMania talk, such as the Undertaker’s opponent and The Rock’s potential involvement. There’s also a decent chat about the presentation of AJ Styles since his WWE debut.

Quote of the week: “Let him talk! I know there’s this — you know, I mean, yes Steve, you have a Southern accent, but it’s that ultra-cool Texas Southern accent. You hear AJ, and all of sudden, Vince McMahon, I think, in an outmoded, dated way thinks, ‘Oh, hillbilly. We can’t do that, that’s embarrassing.’ But I think he’s fighting an old battle. I think Vince is still fighting a 1985, 1986 battle, which is ‘We’re national, we’re cosmopolitan, we’re mainstream, we’re not that hillbilly Southern wrestling’ that he, for whatever reasons he has, including part of his background growing up in the Carolinas, he wants to run from it. I think AJ is a guy — you embrace it. Just like you embraced, they should have embraced more, and the fans ultimately embraced, Daniel Bryan’s quirkiness. You know, that wide-eyed affable innocence, and nice guy ‘I don’t own a TV and I’m a vegan’ type thing that they made fun of.”

Why you should listen: Austin usually goes all-in on WWE for the Road to WrestleMania, and while he’s been a bit slower than usual to get up to speed, so has WWE outside the top title picture. He and Keller have their usual great chemistry, and when Austin asks questions most fans could answer, it comes across as genuine curiosity and not as him being old and out of touch. The second half is generally superior to the first, if only because there’s been a full news cycle since the Bryan retirement. The Styles conversation is solid, and I always respect when people in the know have love for Kevin Owens.

Why you should skip it: Definitely stay away if you are trying to avoid anything resembling a WrestleMania spoiler. That might be too strong a warning, but even semi-informed speculation can be too much in this regard. The Bryan conversation, while welcome and fully respectful, is unoriginal. It requires a careful listen to take Austin as anything but overly deferential to Vince McMahon with regards to the O’Neil suspension, so that might sour some folks.

Final thoughts: Regular listeners are aware of Austin’s recent work and travel schedule, so they know there was no way for him to have this Bryan reaction the next morning, when it would have heard the most impact. Oddly, that portion might hold up better with some distance, because now it feels a bit too much like a perfunctory extra layer. My WWE enjoyment is deeper when Austin is paying close attention because he does a great job (Keller helps) of conveying the inside, experienced perspective without coming off as too much of a corporate hack or grizzled ex-star. If anything, he leans toward the former, which is understandable. Still, Austin and Keller are a perfect balance to fan/blogger Twitter takes and shows like this help get me excited for upcoming shows while also giving me a better understanding of the forces that lead WWE into certain micro and macro creative decisions. All that said, this is a long episode without much that passes for novel insight, so it’s OK to wait for a Fast Lane recap show.