Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Steve Austin Show Ep. 331

Austin's chat with Mantell is in part two 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: Steve Austin Show
Episode: 331 (June 7, 2016)
Run Time: 1:37:00
Guest: Johnny Mantell, part two (5:06)

Summary: Steve Austin places another phone call to Johnny Mantell, curtor of the Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame. After breaking down the Ospreay/Ricochet encounter, each guy tells stories about his own training experience, then they weigh in on what constitutes a high spot. Mantell shares some of the advice he has for younger wrestlers about understanding and protecting their body, gives his opinion what makes great teag team wrestling, then tells stories about Andre the Giant before the guys remember Muhammad Ali. Austin talks a bit about the importance of intensity, which leads into memories of Dory Funk Jr. Mantell has a story about a UFO sighting, and they wrap up with tales of “Mormon Giant” Don Leo Jonathan.

Quote of the week: “A couple of fun opponents in my career were Tatsumi Fujinami from Japan, All Japan, and Pedro Aguayo from Mexico. And those matches I had with them, you know, our communication was limited because the difference in languages, but our communication was enough in the wrestling world that we could have these great matches. And I always look back on my matches with the two of them, in particular, that they were always great contests. And I always had this feeling that they were leaning on me like you would get on an amateur mat. And when I had that feeling in the ring, I felt really good because I really felt like I was in a contest and we were in a struggle working with each other.”

Why you should listen: Anyone who enjoyed Mantell’s first appearance certainly should appreciate this talk. Pretty much everything is new ground, and Mantell has a way of not coming off as a crusty old veteran despite clearly having strong feelings about the way things ought to be done in the world of professional wrestling. The respect he has for folks like Andre, Funk and Jonathan shines through, but unlike other old-timers he doesn’t wield his stature as some sort of ring for the peasant newcomers to kiss. Perhaps he’s put on an air for an interview he knows will get wide distribution, or maybe I’m just thrilled to hear a guy who clears the low bar set on Ross Report interviews, but it’s refreshing nonetheless.

Why you should skip it: All that said, does anyone really need one more conversation about Ospreay/Ricochet? The show doesn’t really get going until the Andre road stories, which are at least halfway through. As usual with two-part interviews, between both episodes there’s enough filler that could have been trimmed away leaving one dense, high-quality offering. In this case, a lot of the excess involves Austin covering territory that’s quite familiar to longtime listeners. In his defense, it’s part of a natural conversation with a person he doesn’t regularly speak with, but in this form it does drag down the proceedings.

Final thoughts: I’m way behind on my Austin shows, which perhaps undergirds my appreciation for the more timeless parts of this episode and fatigue with what probably seemed fresher closer to its release date. That shouldn’t keep anyone else away from listening, because the good stuff is pretty entertaining (though certainly not revelatory), just be ready with the skip button and don’t feel bad if you lose interest more than once.