Monday, December 12, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 330

Rowe, shown here stalking Matthew Palmer, talks to Colt Cabana
Photo Credit: Kelly Kyle
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: 330 (Dec. 8, 2016)
Run Time: 59:34
Guest: Ray Rowe (9:36)

Summary: Colt Cabana’s guest this week is another Cleveland native, 13-year veteran Ray Rowe. After a little small talk about the idea of softening his tough guy looks with an inviting smile. Rowe then talks a bit about his rough childhood as well as how it took him so long to go all-in with his pro career. Then they go back to his childhood and the importance of amateur wrestling. Rowe explains going straight edge at age 13 and finding his way into pro wrestling. He makes a few allusions to a toxic relationship, then tells the story about how when he finally committed to wrestling it was not 12 hours later that he was in a motorcycle accident that sidelined him for six months. Then he revisits the comeback trail, how he’s been able to travel the world for work, why he got a bad taste from his various WWE dalliances and a quick look at what the future holds.

Quote of the week: “Nobody believes me that I didn’t go out, I didn’t get knocked out. You know, I hit the window with my face. If I would’ve hit the steel, clearly I would have broke my neck or cracked my skull or whatever. But I remember everything, like perfectly. Like there’s no gap in memory, there’s no anything. I never went out. And you know, probably from wrestling, getting dropped on my head and hit all my life. And I’ve got — you know this — but I’ve got a really large neck, from amateur wrestling and playing football and wrestling for 13 years. I don’t know because it happened so quickly. There wasn’t really that conscious thought of bracing for impact or anything like that or going limp. … I didn’t even have time to say ‘fuck,’ … I grabbed on my brakes and I was through the window. So maybe naturally, like, it just happened. But I definitely attribute wrestling to saving my life because my neck was so strong and I was used to impact.”

Why you should listen: The best part of this one is no doubt the accident story, not just the miracle of survival but also how Rowe managed to escape crippling medical debt and the way he eloquently describes the mental apprehension surrounding a full return to the ring. Beyond that, though, Rowe offers a lot of insight as an experienced professional who also perhaps cost himself significant opportunities by not being able to commit to life as a wrestler. When Cabana allows Rowe to explore his mindset and approach to life, the interview shines.

Why you should skip it: There’s a lot more to Rowe’s story we don’t get into, and while that might be what enabled the chat to fit within an hour, it also seems like something of a letdown to not be able to fully consider what Rowe was up against at various decision points throughout his life. In that sense, it’s not so much me saying this interview isn’t worth your time, but more so a caveat that you might end up feeling a sense of being somewhat incomplete and therefore less than fully satisfied.

Final thoughts: As in last week’s interview with Rowe’s longtime running buddy — and onetime adversary — Josh Prohibition, this is a reminder Cabana is best suited to pick away at the brains of the guys who are the bedrock of the independent scene more so than elicit fresh insight from former stars of WWE television. While I wouldn’t say this interview is as strong as the hour with prohibition, I did really enjoy listening to Rowe revisit his life, think through things as he was being interviewed and, for the most part, lay himself bare for the benefit of Cabana’s audience. This is more in line with what I expect Art Of Wrestling to deliver, and I hope we get a few more in this vein going forward.