Monday, March 7, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 291

A former WCW star is on the AOW this week
Photo via Online World of Wrestling
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: 291 (March 3, 2016)
Run Time: 1:05:50
Guest: Tony Mamaluke (11:18)

Summary: Colt Cabana’s guest this week is a veteran he remembers from a brief WCW run, Tony Mamaluke. After small talk about podcasts and football/baseball pursuits, Mamaluke goes deep on his feelings about the evolution of the wrestling business, as seen through lens of his time in ECW and various reunion efforts. He speaks frankly about the effects of concussions on his career, then goes deep again on his WCW run and problems with the Power Plant and how buying tapes online turned into a teacher-student relationship with Dean Malenko. There’s a bit of talk about his notorious dangerous missed spot in Ohio and then another dip back into his personal history with ECW before the conclusion.

Quote of the week: “Indy groups, since there’s no TV, what you need to do is get your core group of fans that will keep coming to your shows, whatever feeds into their particular liking, you have to just keep giving it to ’em. And, you know, It might be comedy, it might be shoot. I think if the business is to remain relevant long term, we have to become maybe a little bit more realistic to compete with UFC. ’Cause UFC learned kayfabe from us, and then we broke it. They’re holding on to it.”

Why you should listen: Confession - I had no idea what the episode would cover when I saw the guest’s name pop up in iTunes. However, there were pleasant surprises around every corner as Mamaluke had excellent stories about the locker room ethos that fueled ECW, the utter dysfunction of WCW and some big-picture thoughts about the nature of wrestling as an enterprise. And because Cabana is significantly more open minded than other wrestling podcast hosts, his polite differences of opinion with Mamaluke come off as furthering the discussion as opposed to forcing the guest to align with the host’s priorities.

Why you should skip it: This is not a sufficient biography of a guest who could benefit from that kind of approach. The conversation marinates heavily in some aspects of Mamaluke’s career while ignoring others almost entirely (TNA, the ECW reboot, etc.), and it’s in no way sequential. It was a plenty enjoyable conversation, but some listeners might not value Mamaluke’s insight without a contextual understanding of his life and career.

Final thoughts: Sometimes I really enjoy an Art Of Wrestling episode and I can’t quite figure out why. Maybe it’s simply because it was a refreshing change of pace from the hyperfocus on the Road to WrestleMania. Cabana’s not always a great host, but he was on his game here, walking the line between “locker room conversation” and “functional interview” in a way that played to the better aspects of each while avoiding the worst. This is unlikely to go down as one of his best or most important episodes, but it’s a solid, fun hour and sweet baby Jesus is it better for your soul than even one second of Vince Russo.