Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 331

James is the latest AOW 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: 331 (Dec. 15, 2016)
Run Time: 1:08:10
Guest: Bull James (9:14)

Summary: Colt Cabana’s conversation with Bull James starts, predictably, with a nod to the BullFit era of James’ time in NXT as Bull Dempsey. The guys discuss the closed quarters world of WWE developmental and why Dempsey stayed true to his personal values while in Orlando. The chat then dips back to his childhood, and eventually his pro training. He tells a story about earning respect from Jimmy Snuka and his brief attempts at promoting his own shows. After some brief thoughts about Matt Borne, having things still on his wrestling bucket list and Taz’s finishing school, James talks about the connections that helped him get a WWE tryout, his time in developmental and emotions over the last nine months since being released. They wrap up with thoughts about the old Portland scene and James’ appearance on Steve Austin’s podcast.

Quote of the week: “Bill DeMott and myself, we had ups and downs with our friendship, relationship, whatever, coach-talent … I think looking back on it now, I am kind of appreciative of going through it because I know I earned everything I got. And I have no problem working my ass off, so I think, like, now that I look back on it, I’m kinda thinking, ‘Oh, maybe he didn’t want people to think that, like, we were buds or that he knew me from the indies, so maybe he was harder on me in front of guys because of that.’ But maybe I’m overthinking things, too, because that’s just what we do. So it’s just — I don’t know, maybe I’m still mindfucked, but who knows? I don’t know, does it every really leave?”

Why you should listen: While Cabana did just interview Cody Rhodes, it seems like it’s been a while since Cabana had a guest whose WWE run most closely resembles his own — mired in developmental and unceremoniously released. If you’re less interested in the mechanics of being let go (though that is addressed) than the niche of the pro wrestling world that is NXT, especially from a mental standpoint, this definitely is the show for you. Cabana was wise to let James spend a few months outside Orlando before doing his show, and listeners benefit from the perspective distance provides. It’s also a great entry point into learning about James’ life before WWE. It’s not necessarily a riveting backstory, but he is a nice contrast to the so-called “indy darlings” that usuall get the spotlight in Orlando.

Why you should skip it: If you’re a James aficionado, you almost certainly listened to his mid-October interview with Austin. If so, this is going to very much seem like a retread, except that Austin focused more on the in and out of a developmental career, to the benefit of anyone outside the profession, where as Cabana did more probing into James’ personal mental makeup. Largely, where this interview fails it does so not in what it does wrong but more so in where it could have gone but didn’t. James is an interesting guy and a good storyteller, but Cabana tended to move quickly from topic to topic, leaving the impression some good tales went untold.

Final thoughts: this most likely is Cabana’s last conventional show of 2016, and while I thin it dips a little from the two most recent offerings, it’s still solid and another indicator Art Of Wrestling won’t be losing steam as it rolls ahead toward completing seven full years. It was weird to hear Cabana discuss the Austin interview as part of this session — especially since it was near the end and could have been cut — but it’s hard to ignore the comparison. Given a choice between the two I’d favor the Austin session, if only because James had more room to talk, but if you’ve got any affinity for James I commend both as complementary, though that comes with some unavoidable redundancy. With both interviews, I came away liking James more and hoping he finds further success. That seems to be a goal either show should have, and as such each interview ought to be deemed a success, regardless of imperfections.