Monday, May 23, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Ringer Wrestling Podcast, Ep. 1

Shoemaker and guest discuss Cena's new hosting gig on the debut episode of The Ringer
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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: Ringer Wrestling Podcast
Episode: 1 (May 19, 2016)
Run Time: 1:26:45
Guest: Dan St. Germain (1:02)

Summary: It’s David Shoemaker’s first podcast at his new professional home, Bill Simmons’ The Ringer. After a brief introduction of his guest, a comedian, the guys talk about John Cena hosting the ESPYs and other news of the wrestling week and then look at Monday’s RAW. Then Shoemaker shifts focus to the past and present of hardcore wrestling, contextualized with their recent experience watching One Night Stand 2006. That eventually bleeds into an Extreme Rules preview. (Like all Ringer shows, the episode guide has time cues for when the hosts shift to new topics — and this one has a ring bell sound, a literal ringer, to denote each segment.)

Quote of the week: St. Germain: “You know when you have a Democratic or Republican convention and they have protest zones? You know, it kinda takes the steam out of the protest if you, like, are like, ‘All right, well this is our carefully planned area where you’re allowed to be mad at.’ That’s what Extreme Rules feels like. It fees like the free speech zone. I don’t get it, but they have to have more pay-per-views.”

Why you should listen: The last time we heard Shoemaker’s voice on a podcast was right after WrestleMania, and it’s good to have him back. He’s written sparingly as well in that interim, which means a lot of the good vibes here are about reconnecting with one of the leading thoughtful wrestling voices just in time to get excited about a big WWE show. Unlike Cheap Heat this is a no-frills wrestling podcast that respects its audience for the entirety of the episode, and St. Germain serves well as a guest co-host — enough so I was somewhat disappointed to hear me won’t be a permanent fixture.

Why you should skip it: To be clear, it’s not without its flaws. For one, flow is inconsistent. During the RAW discussion, Shoemaker keeps trying to change the subject, but in the next breath asks a question to prolong the conversation. Then when they loop back to the present day with the Extreme Rules preview, they’re still focusing on RAW events or, in the case of the top title picture, simply rehashing stuff they’d already discussed.

Final thoughts: Both guys are podcasting veterans, but it’s also clear this show represents some degree of uncharted waters, especially for Shoemaker, who never was the captain on Cheap Heat (much to that show’s debit). While it made sense to tie the legacy of ECW into the Extreme Rules preview, that’s a conceit that might have worked better if the show had already established a better format. As it is, Shoemaker is basically trying to do his own Cheap Heat with a guest instead of a scatterbrained DJ driving the crazy train, but I really wonder how that plays with an audience wholly unfamiliar with Shoemaker’s podcast past. Maybe there are very few such listeners. Ultimately, it’s fair to say we certainly can’t judge the quality or worthiness of a show based on one episode. Frankly, all we do here is try to tell you if a given entry is worth your time, not pass judgment on the overall body of work. Regardless, it’s fair to say we’re going to give Shoemaker’s new effort plenty of attention (he pledged an Extreme Rules follow-up on Tuesday afternoon) while it finds its footing. Aside from all that big-picture stuff, no other podcast in my rotation did a better job looking ahead to Sunday night’s big show, so if that’s all you need to go on, by all means hit the play button.