Tuesday, August 9, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 312

It's the Funker!
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: Art Of Wrestling
Episode: 312 (Aug. 3, 2016)
Run Time: 1:00:47
Guest: Terry Funk (10:13)

Summary: Colt Cabana opens his conversation with living legend Terry Funk by trying to bond with him as a fellow independent spirit. Funk talks about how his 25 years running a promotion developed a personal ethos, then recalls the evolution into national promotions and his first run working for Vince McMahon. Then Funk shares memories of his father and other famous shooters. Cabana asks Funk about being an innovator, and death matches in particular, which leads to talk about being NWA Champion and working hour-long broadways. There’s a lengthy segment on Japan and Funk’s notorious album, then he weighs in on the evolution of business and the importance of finding ways to make fans suspend disbelief. At the end, Cabana asks about Over The Top and Beyond the Mat, which of course leads to fond memories of Dennis Stamp.

Quote of the week: “It always evolved. But it always evolved to what the people, you know —wrestling has always been what the people want it to be, and that’s what it is. It’s what turns that turnstile, you know, it’s what buys the ticket, what makes people buy the ticket. So today, wrestling is what it is not because it’s what Vince wants it to be — he might think it is — but it’s not. It’s what the public wants it to be. They are dictating.”

Why you should listen: Because it’s Terry Funk? Seriously, Funk remains a great interview, and even if you think Cabana is trying a bit too hard to make a connection, it’s impossible to deny this is a different interview than Funk’s earlier appearances with Jim Ross (a debacle, predictably) and Steve Austin (so long ago I wasn’t doing write-ups) because of Cabana’s approach. Funk of course has excellent stories of his childhood and lifelong love of doing what his daddy did, but it’s also balanced with the practical wisdom of seeking out acting work in order to get his Screen Actors Guild membership, insurance and retirement. He’s a self-deprecating legend who loves to see how fans force pro wrestling to evolve, and for longtime Cabana admirers it’s just plain fun to hear “our” guy get a chance to sidle up to such an iconic figure.

Why you should skip it: You’re probably not going to learn anything about Funk in this interview. He’s not exactly an underexposed figure in wrestling history, and Cabana isn’t exactly wired to plunge new depths. It’s a friendly, respectful conversation, but if you thought perhaps Art Of Wrestling would unlock some new aspect of the Funker, it just isn’t happening.

Final thoughts: I was wrong when I proclaimed last week’s Sabu interview as the last “normal” AOW before Cabana heads to Scotland for August, so seeing Funk’s name pop into iTunes Thursday morning was an unexpected treat. That one and this will most definitely give you a healthy dose of Cabana’s upper level output before the quality drops off for the next few weeks. It won’t change your wrestling life or anything, but it’s a great little chat that flies by. What more would you need?