Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 325

Marella is Cabana's guest
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: 325 (Nov. 3, 2016)
Run Time: 1:05:17
Guest: Santino Marella (9:53)

Summary: He’s identified in the episode title as Santino Marella, but the guest this week is most certainly Anthony Carelli, the man behind WWE’s most recent famous comedic character. After some shared stories about Vladimir Kozlov, Carelli tells Colt Cabana about his earliest days in the business, then goes further back to how he got into judo and rose through the competitive ranks, how having a daughter at age 20 changed his career focus and why he pursued pro wrestling in Japan. After a story about having bodybuilding competition with Cody Rhodes during WrestleMania weekend, the guys have a big picture talk about comedy in wrestling. Carelli talks about getting assigned the Santino character, then how he later built it as a comedy act through house shows, the importance of a good straight man and how comedy is received — both backstage and in the moment by a live audience. After a quick chat about what comedy each guy likes outside wrestling, Marella explains his Battle Arts Academy facility in his hometown.

Quote of the week: I wanted to create the thing that would have satisfied my inner child. To walk in — because I took judo, but I wanted to take more. Like, you can’t cross train; you do one martial art or the other back then. So the kids do boxing and wrestling Thai boxing and judo — they can do everything. You know, you’ll generally pick two or three of those … I remember watching, it was B.J. Penn. He was talking about he had to go to one place for his striking, one place for his grappling, one place for conditioning, I’m like, ‘That’s insane. Why?’ It’s all under one roof here. Not only are we gonna train you and help you work out, we’re going to give you a place to actually perform, too.”

Why you should listen: It probably goes without saying, but anyone who appreciates comedy in wrestling obviously needs to hear a conversation between these two guys — and probably also wouldn’t care if the episode is blatantly a promotional tie-in for Cabana’s newest Wrestling Road Diaries release. That said, the episode does a good job of being about Anthony Carelli and not just Santino. As a parent, I was particularly delighted to hear the story of Carelli getting into judo because he told his mom he wanted to do martial arts to learn ninja kicks and punches but the relatively passive judo was the one that best fit her schedule. In the same light, I also appreciated Carelli’s tales of his own parenting experience and talking with his daughter about how he could help clear a trail for her to be successful.

Why you should skip it: You know what I just wrote about people who appreciate comedy in wrestling? There’s a good chance those folks might see this as somewhat of a letdown if they come away thinking Cabana spent too much time taking a conventional Art Of Wrestling approach and not enough time going deep on comedy. Likewise, such folks might be disappointed to come away thinking Carelli isn’t so much interested in the genre at large as he is able to revisit his own specific experience. That’s not to say their conversation is bad or useless, but listeners definitely need to calibrate their expectations.

Final thoughts: I’m a sucker for stories about the backstage origins of well-known characters as well as post-WrestleMania parties, so this one scores highly with me personally. I didn’t mind the split approach, though I think each half (ish) of the interview easily could have commanded a full hour. The more I listen to Cabana critically — which I’ve stopped doing for a handful of other podcasts — the more I feel let down we haven’t been hit in quite some time with an essential interview. It’s still a solid show (once you come to terms with what you’re getting), but it also seems Cabana is quite content to stay at a certain place with the podcast rather than push to use his platform to more prominently drive growth and change. That might be unfair to drop in response to this one episode, but I walked away from this one thinking, “Well, that was a pretty fun hour, but I don’t think any of my wrestling friends will be better or worse off if they do or don’t listen,” and after more than six years of this thing, is that really the best we can do?