Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Masked Man Show feat. Kevin Owens

Owens, here shown stretching Bálor, drops by the Masked Man show
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: Masked Man Show
Episode: Channel 33 episode 207 (Nov. 16, 2016)
Run Time: 51:04
Guest: Kevin Owens (1:10)

Summary: David Shoemaker has no guest host this week, but he is joined on the phone by WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens, who tells the Masked Man about his life as champion and traveling the world. Shoemaker brings Owens back to his early days as a fan and then his training as a wrestler and beginning to tour. That leads to a look at his time in Ring of Honor and contentious relationship with James E. Cornette. Shoemaker asks what it’s like to work WWE’s schedule, and Owens explains why it’s so important for him interact with the crowd. He tells the story of getting called up to RAW, how he reacted to the injury of his close friend Finn Bálor and looks ahead to Survivor Series. Owens explains why he wants to wrestle Brock Lesnar, praises Steve Corino and the positive influences at the Performance Center, then answers quick questions from Ringer staff about carrying the title around and what Chris Jericho is like in real life.

Quote of the week: “The thing about WWE is we wrestle more often, but we are, in fact, taken care of a lot better than in independent promotions just by the fact that we get to wrestle in a safe, secured ring. You know, like the rings are always top notch, there’s never a board missing or there’s never a hole somewhere, there’s never a rope that’s too loose. So just that is great for our bodies. I can’t tell you how many rings I wrestled in on the independents that were terrible and dangerous and a real hazard to work in. But not only that, you know, we have trainers here, we have doctors at every single show. We have a massage therapist … they take great care of us. Even though the schedule, as far as how many times I wrestle a week, is more demanding than what I had on the independents, after 16 years of doing this I can only say my body feels better than it did when I was on the independents. … That has a lot to do with the resources that WWE gives us.”

Why you should listen: One of the pre-eminent wrestling journalists interviewing a known good talker at the peak of his popularity is hard to pass up. Owens presents as you’d expect — confident, honest and above all someone who loves professional wrestling as much as the guy on the other end of the phone call and the people listening at home. While I chose as his lead quote a perspective rarely considered when it comes to the health and wellness of WWE stars, perhaps the most intriguing moments were him reflecting on his friendship with Bálor and how the devastating timing of his injury nonetheless presented an opportunity through chaos.

Why you should skip it: Owens in general isn’t known for holding back, but this is certainly not the completely unfiltered Kevin Steen you might have heard on an old Colt Cabana podcast. The chat was arranged because of the WWE video game’s sponsorship deal with The Ringer, and while it in no way comes off as corporate schilling — and this is a much better treatment than the quick hit Goldberg did with Shoemaker after his tie-in with the game surfaced — the air of Titan Towers influence always lurks in the background. Or, put another way, unless you’re a podcast newcomer, you’re not going to hear much you didn’t already know aside from when Owens talks about what’s happened to him in the last few months.

Final thoughts: I love the work of both guys, and while this might not represent the utmost of what each can offer, it’s still about as good as we can expect given the constraints. Owens is a little too excited to talk about Survivor Series and Shoemaker is a little too reluctant to ask the questions we know he’d like to raise, but it’s great to have The Ringer land such a prominent WWE figure and I can only imagine how much worse the experience would have been with Peter Rosenberg involved. Fifty minutes is a nice time to work with because it lets Shoemaker breathe a little bit yet it never drags as inevitably as every Steve Austin and Jim Ross interview. I doubt anyone who gives this a chance will be let down, and I really hope Shoemaker continues to score A-list guests.