Monday, October 24, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 323

Gunn sits down with Cabana 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: Art Of Wrestlng
Episode: 323 (Oct. 20, 2016)
Run Time: 1:15:12
Guest: Billy Gunn (10:56)

Summary: After a recent appearance as part of a live show panel, Billy Gunn does a full sit down with Colt Cabana. After a healthy look at the Smoking Gunns era, Cabana asks about Gunn’s predilection for granting pre-podcast era shoot interviews. A question about how Gunn studied his craft in the early days leads Gunn to recall his Florida childhood and rodeo skills, as well as other athletic pursuits. He explains how he found pro wrestling at a time his life lacked any other direction, the influence of the Harris brothers and Eddie Mansfield as well as how he met Bart. Conversation about leanring the wrestling business jumps ahead to the post-Gunns period, then Cabana gets Gunn to open up about getting into his various addictions and how he eventually got clean. Wrapping up, Gunn talks about being released from his most recent WWE position, how much he enjoys coaching young talent and embracing positivity.

Quote of the week: “I was never around that stuff, but then when I get around it, I kind of let myself fall into the trap of a follower instead of a leader. So, and it was, it’s — it’s just a thing that I have. I’m an addict. So once I got the taste of that, and then I started, like, either hurting or being tired or have things that I’m stressing about — because now I’m married, I have a kid at home, so now I stress about that — and what’s the easiest way for me to not think about that? Get all hammered, pilled up and shit like that.”

Why you should listen: Gunn is a strange blend of extreme self-confidence and raw humility. He’s remarkably frank discussing his own life story, and seems to have little need for sugar-coating some of the more salacious details, but part of that openness includes being unafraid to share a strong opinion of his own career and raw talent that might leave some listeners confused. But that dichotomy just makes him all the more fascinating. It’s not like we’re learning anything new about Gunn’s biography, but getting inside the way his mind operates was fairly interesting.

Why you should skip it: I’ve not heard a second of Gunn’s apparently notorious shoot interviews, so I can’t say for certain if this is true, but it seems a person who has so frequently gone on the record about intimate details of his life and career doesn’t have much new to offer in this format (save for the most recent chapter, which in the larger context of the entire episode could be considered a throwaway). Also, while I wouldn’t say we’re in trigger warning territory here, it should be noted Gunn is not at all shy about discussing substance abuse and recovery. The talk doesn’t get too dark, but it certainly is real.

Final thoughts: I listened to this episode while getting my tires changed Friday afternoon and actually brought it up at a small church group session that night because Gunn’s remarks about making amends to those he’d hurt while an addict spoke to me during a conversation about reconciliation. On some level he’s still the big man on campus who had a promising rodeo career, turned his nose up at the sham of pro wrestling and only begrudgingly gave it a shot when he had no other options, then still skyrocketed far past where many devoted professionals could only dream because they lacked his raw physical gifts. But I came away considering him more as a person whose life has taken several interesting turns, most of which carried him through one of my favorite pastimes, and by the time all is said and done I’m interested in learning from how Gunn has learned from his own successes and failures. It’s not such a special story or presentation that anyone should drop all their other options and rush this to the front of the playlist, but overall I found the conversation more compelling than it probably has a right to be given the host and subject.