Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Steve Austin Show 327-328-329

WWE said "Girl, bye" to Cameron, so she stopped by the Austin show for an exit interview
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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: 327 (May 24, 2016)
Run Time: 1:36:38
Guest: Ariane “Cameron” Andrew (10:16)

Summary: After she parked her red Mercedes outside 316 Gimmick Street, the artist formerly known as Cameron stepped inside to catch up with her old Tough Enough colleague. Austin asked about Andrew’s educational background and she explained her how her decision to participate in a Diva Search led to “Tough Enough” and a five-year WWE career. They discuss life on the road, her release from WWE and their approaches to acting. Andrew recounts a tumultuous year leading up to her release, then looks back on WWE by discussing nerves, her NXT trainers and being on “Total Divas.” After discussing life in California, Andrew recounts here relationships with other wrestlers, guesses at what might be next and updates her list of favorite matches. They end with a little small talk about music.

Quote of the week: “You hear things and, like ‘Oh, she just wants to be here because she’s famous, she wants to be famous and stuff.’ Just because I didn’t grow up, you know, as a avid wrestling fan, like, when I got into this business, if you don’t love it there’s no way you can do it. And I did grow to have a passion for it, so like, no one had seen for that year, like, all the stuff that I was doing to get back in the game, and just how like, you know, nothing was working out. I’m like, I even — to step back, I feel like that takes a woman to be, like, ‘You know what? I’m willing to give up my spot, to go back down to NXT and to try to crawl my way back up.’ ”

Why you should listen: Like Hornswoggle before her, Cameron is probably not the recently released WWE talent you most want to hear from, but there is value in considering the perspective of someone often maligned for her particular entrance into the company and to consider how such a person has evolved in their personal outlook over half a decade in a wide range of WWE roles. She’s clearly emotional about being let go and not just because she’s adapted to the (low-grade) celebrity lifestyle, but also because she has come to identify as a wrestler. If nothing else, she’s well spoken and in touch with her image, which I might not have otherwise known.

Why you should skip it: Give a wrestler an open mic a few days after their release and you’re going to get one raw, emotional side of the story — for better and for worse. Austin and Andrew have a fun history because of their memorable Tough Enough encounter, but there’s also a component of this conversation that seems somewhat thin because he’s really unable to identify with her professionally. His empathy is endearing, but for some reason the overall connection wasn’t there as much as it was with the Hornswoggle interview, and even that one wasn’t the world’s finest. Also, this is supposed to be the family friendly version, but a few s bombs do slip through.

Final thoughts: On balance, it’s a good listen. Probably a little longer than it needs to be and certainly an example of Austin not organizing his interviews in advance, but a fairly evergreen show and a decent look at a person who is otherwise going to be relegated to wrestling history’s dustbin.


Show: Steve Austin Show — Unleashed
Episode: 328 (May 26, 2016)
Run Time: 1:22:34
Guest: Wade Keller (10:30)

Summary: Austin is on the phone with Wade Keller of the Pro Wrestling Torch — bot to recap Extreme Rules, but mostly to catch up on WWE’s news of the day, namely the looming brand split and Cody Rhodes’ departure. Keller wonders if there really are different kinds of WWE wrestlers and fans, Austin explores why Roman Reigns still isn’t quite connecting, the status on Sasha Banks and missteps with Charlotte and what the future holds for Bray Wyatt and AJ Styles.

Quote of the week: “My language might have a bias in it, so I apologize for that, but the fans who are more into the superficial showmanship, and that’s important to them, they want wrestlers who turn heads in airports, who are big personalities but also physically big, who look like comic book heroes stepping off the page, with — you could just imagine Vince McMahon’s announcing, you know, it’s the Vince McMahon proclivity. It’s what he looks for. But there’s what happened with NXT with, as Vince would say, these little guys running around having these sports-like fights that sold out in Brooklyn, and that sold out and packed other buildings, the damn millennials, as Vince might call them, who have this other vision for what they want wrestling to be. But WWE’s trying to serve them both within the same show.”

Why you should listen: If you’re a little iffy on the live Smackdown/brand extension plans, Keller is here to deliver all sorts of optimism. Seriously, after listening to this episode I was ready to add Smackdown to my DVR and relegate RAW to “if I have nothing better to do.” If you skip the monologue and the commercial reads, the episode moves along briskly and is most certainly the best look at recent WWE we’ve gotten through Austin’s filter since WrestleMania.

Why you should skip it: When I saw Keller’s name as the guest I was really expecting an “Extreme Rules” review, as his monthly follow-up episodes are routinely the deepest audio dive on WWE supercards — at least among the shows in my rotation. I also was a bit taken aback at what seemed to be a lack of optimism for Cody Rhodes’ potential when working outside WWE. Further, this episode was released before the most recent RAW and the John Cena/AJ Styles story beginning, which makes both guys’ comments on Styles’ future almost completely outdated in a matter of days.

Final thoughts: As I’ve noted before, outside of tweets that get retweeted onto my timeline, this is the only medium through which I consume Keller’s opinions, and in this small sample I generally find him entertaining and insightful. I can’t imagine anyone who follows Keller’s output would glean anything new from this interview (say what you will, but from what I understand the dude’s output is prolific), so odds are it’s best suited for folks who otherwise don’t consider Keller and can appreciate the dated material for its neo-historical context.


Show: Steve Austin Show
Episode: 329 (May 31, 2016)
Run Time: 1:34:39
Guest: “Cowboy” Johnny Mantell (14:08)

Summary: Austin is on the phone with Johnny Mantell, president of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Wichita Falls, Texas. After discussing the Hall, they get into Mantell’s amateur career, his brother Kenny, breaking in to the Southern California scene, and working under a mask as Mr. USA. Mantell reflects on guys like Leroy McGuirk, Bruiser Brody, Stan Hansen and Bill Watts, addresses his reputation as a prima donna and explains how he came to feel comfortable with his professional skills. A question about issuing receipts in the ring turns into memories of “Gentleman” Chris Adams, and it becomes apparent Austin will need a second episode to cover all the ground he intends.

Quote of the week: “I felt like, again, my dad and I had a thoroughbred racehorse farm, I was breeding, you know, at the farm we were breeding 30, 40 mares a year and we were galloping horses every day on a training track, and there was just a lot of activities going on, and I’d be gone for five to six weeks at a time to Japan and when I got back home, I enjoyed being at home, I enjoyed being at the farm, and I just didn’t feel like I needed to go put my body through the abuse if I really didn’t like who I was working with, what kind of pay they were going to give me, and if we were doing it for the reason to keep myself, my name, sort of in a decent place. … I always felt like I had so much other things going on in my life, it wasn’t about just showing up and being with the boys. I had a daughter to raise and my mom and dad and I had a farm and we were raising horses. There was just so much else to do. I chuckled at you saying prima donna because I admit that sometimes that people sort of felt that way about me.”

Why you should listen: Mantell is a delightful journeyman with nary a trace of the bitterness or overwhelming nostalgia that tends to oversaturate the commentary of his peers. While very much of his time and able to drop names like no one’s business, he also is remarkably humble about his own experience and clearly possessed of a deep respect for anyone who gives pro wrestling their honest best regardless of generation. He does a great job selling the museum, and Austin gives that part enough room to breathe before doing a fair job getting Mantell to share his own interesting story.

Why you should skip it: There’s not much to say against this episode other than it’s nothing special outside the chance to learn a bit about Mantell’s life story. Which is to say if you lack a basic curiosity, or simply don’t have the mental bandwidth to try to take on new information, you may as well wait until Austin spends time adding layers to something or someone with which/whom you’re already familiar.

Final thoughts: A lot of times I wonder how much better a Jim Ross interview might go if the subject drew a less objectionable host. This is a prime example of a best-case scenario, and Austin’s strengths as a host are evident, especially in contrast to Ross’ glaring weaknesses. It was a really enjoyable chat. Perhaps not worthy of a two-part episode that might nudge the total talking time closer to three hours, but this first installment stands quite well on its own.