Monday, August 15, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Cheap Heat Aug. 11

Shane-O Mac gets interview time 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: Cheap Heat
Episode: A Very “Maj” Cheap Heat (Aug. 11, 2016)
Run Time: 1:25:33
Guest: Brian Campbell (4:50); Shane McMahon (44:34)

Summary: Peter Rosenberg is beyond excited to promote both his own upcoming live show and, more importantly, the launch of ESPN’s new WWE page. He brings on colleague Brian Campbell to discuss the site and break down RAW and Smackdown, takes a quick FaceTime call from Stat Guy Greg to share thoughts on Conor McGregor and the Cruiserweight Classic, then gets to the main event, an extended interview with Shane McMahon. They talk about the brand split, the feel of the new Smackdown and McMahon’s memories of growing up around the WWWF of his grandfather, his father’s WWF, relationships with other wrestling families and especially Andre the Giant. McMahon ends with a quick look at his own in-ring exploits and a slight eye to his personal future.

Quote of the week: McMahon: “Distinctly different, absolutely correct. Second or on par? Absolutely not. You know, there is a lot of personal, personal pride and you’re already starting to see, as we kind of say internally, Team Blue, which I’m proud to be a part of, we’re out to win. So we want a better show, we want better creative, we want better talent, we want better quality matches and that’s exactly what we’re trying to pull off each week. I mean, it’s a big ship to turn, but I feel we’re, each and every week — well, we’re not going to do a great job every week, even though we try — but we are, we are definitely changing the direction of where Smackdown goes specifically.”

Why you should listen: The Shane McMahon interview is pretty good. It’s interesting to envision a post-Vince era in which Shane and Stephanie are both faces of the company and to listen in Shane for hints of his father’s influence, but also how he clearly has his own identity and approach to the job. Plus it’s incredibly fun to think about grade-schooler Shane rubbing elbows with Bruno Sammartino and “Superstar” Billy Graham, as well as envisioning he and Joey Marella talking with each other about everything they saw and heard in a WWF locker room.

Why you should skip it: The first half is pretty much a throwaway in my book. Maybe it’s because I was just excited about getting to the actual interview, but I don’t find Campbell offers much in the way of useful insight on WWE’s television product, and the Greg segment was so rushed as to be almost completely worthless. Though promoted as a big deal because of the ESPN site, the episode actually focuses very little on what such a presence means for either company, and call me pedantic but I still get frustrated when Rosenberg opens with all the self promotional stuff that ought to get tacked on to the end of the show. It just sets a clear tone that Rosenberg sees himself as the most important thing about the podcast, which he certainly lives up to over the ensuing 80 minutes.

Final thoughts: The new ESPN online commitment to WWE for me underscores the glaring weaknesses of Cheap Heat. Not that it’s a fundamentally bad podcast, but it’s nowhere near on the level of other offerings bearing the ESPN imprimatur, and the fact the show isn’t going to significantly improve going forward — in terms of increased attention to detail, internal editing and professional direction — are an indicator of how seriously ESPN sees professional wrestling coverage as a portion of its overall portfolio.