Friday, July 15, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Masked Man/Cheap Heat Doubleshot

Rollins is Cheap Heat's guest this week
Photo Credit:
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: Masked Man Show
Episode: 1 (July 13, 2016)
Run Time: 1:01:44
Guest: Dan St. Germain

Summary: The Ringer’s wrestling podcast is officially named the Masked Man Show, which makes this (I guess?) episode one. David Shoemaker and repeat guest Dan St. Germain open with Brock Lesnar’s win at UFC 200 and looking ahead to his SummerSlam showdown with Randy Orton, ponder the odd timing of the WWE draft just a few days before Battleground, compare and contrast TNA’s Final Deletion to the Wyatt Family-New Day skirmish on RAW, then mention the news about Shane McMahon running Smackdown and make draft predictions. The last 10 minutes or so are kind of scattershot returns to previous topics.

Quote of the week: St. Germain: “So I hope they don’t just go, like, ‘All right, well, Cena on one, Roman Reigns on the other, because those are the two top guys and that’s how it should go.’ I hope that they draft in terms of who complements one another, and it’s not just, like, who are the biggest stars, and it goes in the order of biggest back and forth. Cause I don’t think that helps anybody.”

Why you should listen: This episode perhaps is most appealing to folks who remain enthralled with Lesnar’s UFC career, as well as Randy Orton fans. Shoemaker was wise to slot those topics at the beginning of the show given they’re by far the freshest things in this podcast’s oeuvre. Exploring the awkward timing of the draft and Smackdown shift in context of the larger WWE calendar was a necessary part of considering the brand split that’s largely been overlooked. Also, Shoemaker recorded before Final Deletion aired last week, so here’s your chance to get his thoughts on whatever that was.

Why you should skip it: I might have once suggested St. Germain would make a good permanent co-host, but I’m going to retract that statement. It’s not that he takes anything away from the show, but in yet another visit to the studio it’s not at all clear what he adds that no one else could. Beyond that, the episode struggles for lack of direction. Even when the ring bell sounds to signal a topic change, Shoemaker is apt to immediately double back to his previous point and then all forward progress is lost. Ringer network shows have done well to stick to time cues, clean breaks and logical segues, and this episode hews to none of those conventions.

Final thoughts: Again (and I certainly feel like a broken record) it might be fair to blame WWE’s stagnation as opposed to the podcast itself, but goodness is it becoming a chore listening to these shows each week when all we can do is speculate about what Smackdown and RAW will look like come Battleground and beyond. I’m almost certain whatever Shoemaker writes this week will be more useful as fan preparation for the week to come than the verbal thoughts expressed herein, and next time St. Germain appears he needs to be more than affable and inoffensive in order to validate his presence at the table.

• • •

Show: Cheap Heat
Episode: July 14, 2016
Run Time: 1:28:23
Guest: Seth Rollins (1:20:44)

Summary: After Peter Rosenberg and Stat Guy Greg open by inviting ESPN’s Brian Campbell to become a permanent part of the Cheap Heat team, Campbell talks about his experience covering Brock Lesnar and UFC200. Rosenberg brings up RAW’s New Day-Wyatt Family segment in context of TNA’s Final Deletion, then the guys discuss the rest of RAW, including a look ahead to the return of Randy Orton. After another brand split breakdown, Rosenberg and Campbell conduct a mock draft. At the end, Rosenberg plays an earlier interview with Rollins about his return to Madison Square Garden and the upcoming draft.

Quote of the week: Rollins: “I felt so robbed, you know, when I had to vacate the title last November when I blew out my knee, and I was just waiting, waiting, waiting to come back — and, you know we all know what this is, and like you said, you know, it is what it is — but for me, I’ve always believed that I’m the guy, the best, and I’ve wanted to be the best from the beginning, so I feel like that’s my spot. And there’s always that little chip on my shoulder, when I don’t have the title over that shoulder, there’s a little chip on my shoulder that wants to go out and prove that I deserve it.”

Why you should listen: Campbell’s role at ESPN, and specifically in covering UFC 200, makes him quite qualified to be co-hosting this episode, as Lesnar’s victory is undoubtedly the story of the week. The Orton discussion was measured, and although the Rollins interview was brief, I found it enjoyable as he does a really good job of answering honestly without abandoning his character. Mock drafts are tedious to say the least, but the guys get credit for involving Greg by having him receive each pick via text and announce them, that mechanism helped the flow dramatically.

Why you should skip it: Greg’s part aside, a ten-round mock draft is dreadful. And even with 20 picks no one drafted Sami Zayn? Rather than simply choose rosters for how Rosenberg and Campbell would structure their own shows, why not do what Rosenberg explicitly said they wouldn’t and more fully consider how WWE might evolve its products under the new format? The opening navel-gazing is typical Cheap Heat, and also typical is way too much time being spent on a largely unimportant RAW.

Final thoughts: Having listened to this immediately following the previous day’s Masked Man Show, I was struck by the fact each show had basically the same rough outline, just a slightly different order of business. I’m hard pressed to recommend one show over the other — or either at all, for that matter. Were I producing these shows, I’d have sat the hosts down after Money In The Bank and said, “Look how many weeks there are until Battleground. You can’t expect WWE will give you a lot of material in the meantime, so you’d best get creative. Simply watching RAW and then turning on the microphones isn’t going to cut it. Lucha Underground is wrapping season two, NXT has a series of great matches on its weekly show and the Cruiserweight Classic is launching. Surely there’s something there worth discussing, please don’t record four variations of the same episode and expect your audience to stay invested.” But of course, I’m just some jerk writing about the shows after the fact, so what the hell do I know?