Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Steve Austin Show Eps. 368/370

RVD was Austin's guest over two parts
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: Steve Austin Show — Unleashed!
Episode: 368 (Oct. 13, 2016)
Run Time: 1:27:48
Guest: Rob Van Dam (11:45)

Summary: Rob Van Dam stops by 316 Gimmick Street, and his conversation with Steve Austin opens with the guys acknowledging they know more about their wrestling characters than each other. Van Dam tells Austin how he tries to be a positive person while always evaluating and evolving his personality. Then he reflects on his role in building ECW, the way he and his colleagues struggled to fit into the WWF locker room and whether ECW went overboard in its bid for attention. Turning more personal, Van Dam revisits trying to get into wrestling school and how he hooked up with The Sheik, the ways he developed professional confidence and being a young fan in attendance at WrestleMania III. That leads to talk about personal inspirations, being a nonconformist and how he really got spiritual upon leaving WWE, as well as his thoughts about meditation.

Quote of the week: “I pay attention to my vibration, and the way that my vibration changes when, um, when I’m around, um, other people with different vibrations. Or when I’m around different environments and I get to know myself better. So my goal is to try to, uh, to try to always keep my spiritual vibration tuned at the highest frequency as possible. And what that means is avoiding stress, it means avoiding negativity, and a lot of people don’t do that. A lot of people hate their job, they hate where they live, they hate their family, they hate what they drive, and they’re used to that. I’m not. I’m not good with stress. If something bothers me, it’s like a rock that’s, uh, that’s obstructing the flow of my chi. I look at the yin and the yang like it’s rotating, like it’s a pond with a circular motion of flow, and then you gotta take that rock out because it’s obstructing that flow and then boom. You can’t take all the rocks out. That’d be perfection and we’re human, but you work towards it. I do.”

Why you should listen: There’s some decent stuff in here about Van Dam’s background and early days in wrestling, but the strongest moments are the conversations about the ECW days. This isn’t Tommy Dreamer nostalgia hour, and although Van Dam isn’t quite willing to get deeply introspective about ECW and the boundaries it pushed, he does do a great job explaining the locker room ethos and what it was like to try to translate the things that worked for him in ECW to the mainstream WWF environment.

Why you should skip it: The worst thing about this episode is we don’t get to see Austin’s face as he listen’s to Van Dam’s new age theories about vibrations, positivity and chi. More seriously, this is a bit of a rambler, especially given it’s only half the overall conversation. Further, if you’re a pothead hoping to hear Van Dam’s deep thoughts about hemp farming and cannabinoids, that doesn’t come until part two.

Final thoughts: Van Dam is just an interesting guy. A little of him goes a long way, but it’s something different for Austin while also not getting too far from wrestling to be of broad appeal. Austin’s weaknesses as an interviewer are on display when he fails to really press Van Dam for certain thoughts or offer the kind of context that would really enhance the listener’s understanding. That said, the show pretty much delivers on the promise of what you’ve come to know about Austin over three and a half years of podcasting. If you have any affinity for Van Dam, you’ll find this one to be an enjoyable distraction.

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Show: Steve Austin Show — Unleashed!
Episode: 370 (Oct. 20, 2016)
Run Time: 1:28:14
Guest: Rob Van Dam, part 2 (10:20)

Summary: In part two of the conversation, Van Dam tells Austin about how, for him, a full-time WWE career involves a lot of stress, planning and backstage politics. After a story about skipping a tour to Iraq, Van Dam talks about forays into standup comedy and bike riding, then Austin derails things by scratching off a piece of junk mail implying he’s won a Toyota Prius. Getting back to Van Dam, talk turns to his current wrestling work and then a lengthy discussion on his views about medical and recreational marijuana usage. Wrapping up, Van Dam ponders life after wrestling, then there’s a bit of bonding over Van Dam’s mafia obsession and setting in Southern California.

Quote of the week: “A lot of entertainers, in any field, are afraid to be off the camera. They say, ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ you know? You only got like so much time before they forget about you. I’ve never worried about that. I’m always trying to figure out how to do less. And I appreciate all the love and the affection that I get from the fans, and, you know, I need that positive energy, I count on that. But at the same time, you know, I don’t — I’m not out there, like, looking for work. I have things, creative projects that are important to me that I spend maybe an appropriate amount of time on, maybe not. But I’m the one to judge that. You know, going to ride my bike at Venice Beach, I’m looking forward to that. I don’t want to be in — no offense — but I don’t want to be in Columbus, Ohio, or wherever they are today, you know?”

Why you should listen: The high point of this episode is Van Dam recounting the 1997 backstage drama between Paul Heyman and WWF leadership, but Van Dam also does a good job reflecting on his own personality and how it does and doesn’t mesh with the life of a top tier pro wrestler. He’s remarkably pragmatic about his career prospects and holds very few grudges, except for those who interview him and don’t manage to convey his sentiments with complete honesty. To that end, Van Dam devotees may as well hear thoughts straight from his own brain.

Why you should skip it: Yo there is a lot of talk about pot up in this one. This isn’t a surprise with Van Dam as a guest, and although I was pleasantly surprised to hear Van Dam be much more nuanced with his opinions than I would have guessed, it’s a borderline annoying amount of time spent on one topic given that it’s already a rambling interview eclipsing two hours, and that includes time wasted on a free car scam.

Final thoughts: My kingdom for an editor. Van Dam might be justified in his feeling about the way writers misrepresent him in print or online, but as with most two-part interviews, there’s 45 minutes of great content spread out over two episodes that stretch about three hours factoring in commercials and opening and closing monologues. Because of that, I can’t recommend either episode as a “must listen,” but if you’ve got the time to kill (and a 15-second skip button) there’s definitely stuff worth picking out. Van Dam is a genuinely fun guest so wildly different from Austin the resulting contrast in styles made each guy more endearing.