Friday, August 12, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Masked Man Show Ep. 5

The Daemon's big push is a source of slight consternation for Masked Man's guest co-host this week
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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: Masked Man Show
Episode: Five (Aug. 10, 2016)
Run Time: 1:12:35
Guest: Aubrey Sitterson (co-host)

Summary: David Shoemaker’s guest this week is first-timer Aubrey Sitterson, host of the Straight Shoot podcast. After inevitable small talk about Los Angeles weather, the guys go deep on the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla experience, discussing the venue, crowd, notable headliners of past and present and the merchandise buying process. While contrasting a PWG live show to the WWE TV product, they end up sharing thoughts about the Cruiserweight Classic. Then there’s a hard shift into pondering what it might be like to have pro wrestling in the Olympics. After that, the guys shift to RAW and consider their ranking of the brand’s top talents. At the end, Sitterson plugs an upcoming interview with Cody Rhodes.

Quote of the week: Sitterson: “I’m asking for, you know, angry tweets now, but I’m a big Roman Reigns fan. I think that guy’s really great. I think he’s really, really awesome. And it’s wild — and I understand the reasons why, right? — but it’s wild that WWE took like three years to push that guy into the main event, and people said, ‘Bah, it’s being shoved down out throat! He’s forced on us!’ Finn Bálor’s been there for a night and he’s legit in the main event of the second-biggest wrestling show of the year, and people are OK with it. And this isn’t — I’m not angry about it, but it is fascinating. I think it speaks less to either guy’s talent and more to WWE figuring out how to push guys in the current environment, and Roman Reigns came in at the tail end of an old booking philosophy. And he’s really suffered for it. It’s a shame, because he’s awesome.”

Why you should listen: Going into this episode I was equal parts anxious and nervous. On the one hand, I have been calling for wrestling podcasts to shift focus away from RAW as much as possible, and PWG is pretty far on the other end of the spectrum. On the other, Sitterson comes with a reputation for grating on folks for a variety of reasons, and while I haven’t given him too much attention, I trust the people who say such things and was bracing for the worst. For the most part, the anticipation was rewarded and the fears were unfounded. This was the best Masked Man Show in quite some time precisely because it spent so little time on the same weekly TV shows everyone listening already watched.

Why you should skip it: Conversely, let’s not pretend the episode was flawless. I did pick up on a few instances where Sitterson’s personality shone through enough to prove I’ve been right about not giving Straight Shoot much of my attention. While there’s room for discussing wrestling as a judged competition on par with equestrian and gymnastics event, this clearly was not the forum for such consideration. And while the PWG love was certainly a fresh breath — especially in a week when WWE seems to be going all in on WWE — fans of other promotions are likely to overlook the moments where the guys tried to praise independent wrestling in general and wonder why this is just a love letter to one company. And in general, these shows either need to be an hour or less or tightly focused enough that it holds the audience’s attention for the duration.

Final thoughts: It’s not that talking WWE is bad — obviously that’s what the largest possible audience wants to hear — but to remain relevant, the folks doing the talking must, as Shoemaker and Sitterson do in this episode’s final act, add something to the overall conversation. Any form of commentary is only useful if it adds depth to the fan experience, and simply reminding us that Alexa Bliss beat Becky Lynch on Smackdown isn’t commentary, it’s regurgitation. Hopefully feedback on this outing is strong and encourages Shoemaker to talk more about NXT, the CWC, PWG, Chikara, Lucha Underground and so on. Those conversations can be had in context of WWE and be enlightening even to fans who don’t follow those other promotions. Taking all those things into consideration, this still isn’t mandatory listening or anything, but for sure don’t be scared off by Sitterson’s presence. And if you must live and breathe only WWE, just wait a week when Shoemaker will be in full SummerSlam preview mode.