Thursday, January 5, 2017

Podcast Deep Dive: The Ross Report, Ep. 151

Miz doing what to Alex Riley what everyone wants to do
Photo Credit:
Editor's Note: I did not assign Elliot to write about this podcast. I would never force anyone to listen to nearly two hours of two of the most obnoxious voices in pro wrestling bloviate about, what I can only imagine, things that interest only the most boring and privileged peoples who are fans of wrestling. In fact, I am seeking professional help for Elliot as soon as humanly possible, as it is clear he hates himself for voluntarily listening to this show. - TH

Show: The Ross Report
Episode: 151
Run Time: 1:40:25
Guest: Alex Riley

Fellow writer here at The Wrestling Blog, Star of Savage, tweeted that he couldn't think of a worse podcast team-up than Jim Ross and Alex Riley. Old School Wrestling Podcast co-host The Black Cat tweeted that he would rather get a second vasectomy than listen to this episode. And I am. These are the type of life choices that get you straight to the top, people. Inflict misery upon yourself and surely you'll be rewarded, either now or in the hereafter.

The very thought of Alex Riley's presence is enough to make people roll their eyes further back in their heads than The Undertaker. Riley spent the last year of his WWE career obnoxiously advocating for himself on Twitter, posting badly-made images of himself behind prison bars as a way to illustrate how his God-given ability was being squandered by the Creative team that refused to see what was so obvious to him, that he was a born star who just needed a chance. That chance came in the form of an NXT program with Kevin Owens that existed mostly to highlight Owens as a conscience-less bruiser, and to frame Riley as a big-hearted loser who didn't have what it takes to succeed.

With Riley being released in the spring of 2016, one would imagine that he became even more bitter about his misuse as a performer. But his appearance on this week's Ross Report shows a guy who either holds no grudges toward WWE, or sees more value in not burning bridges between a potential future employer.

We learn early on that Riley was hired by WWE because his father was college roommates with Greg Gagne, the walking embodiment of "I'm here because of my dad." John Laurinaitis saw Riley's audition tape due to this connection, and gave him a call for a tryout. So I guess we can thank Gagne and Laurinaitis, two of the more hapless dopes in pro wrestling history, for inflicting the Rage Dude on us.

Riley's most interesting moment on this episode comes when talking about his background as an athlete. He played football all the way through to college (go figure), and he says that while his athleticism came in handy for learning pro wrestling, the mentality of sports did not. "From the moment I was ten years old, people were thinking for me. My opinion didn't matter. It was 'Throw the ball to that guy at that time. You're good. Go. Show up here and eat. Go here to be good. If you don't show up to class, you're bad. If the other guy beats you, you're bad.' So when you become a professional wrestler, these ideas and these characters and these thoughts - no one can tell you these things. For months, I didn't get it. I thought, 'When is someone gonna tell me what to do?'...Wrestling is very much the opposite. In order to be great, you have to have your own beliefs and your own character."

This background in football and intensity in learning are good explanations for why Riley turned out the way he did. He had the requisite look and tools for being a pro wrestler. He could hit a dropkick and run the ropes and do all that stuff. He had "rage" and had a "personality" and he found his "voice," but not to the degree that he became a rousing success. Riley always seemed like a well-meaning jock who had stumbled his way into the locker room and got himself a job. And even later when he was on NXT as a commentator, it felt like he was playing the role of Heel Commentator rather than actually exuding that character.

Riley is going to try to be an actor now. The rumor is that he is on the Netflix series GLOW, which stars Marc Maron as the proprietor of the 80's ladies wrestling TV series. Perhaps Riley will find some success as a D-level actor, and if he does, he will probably feel like he proved everyone in WWE wrong and showed them that he can be a star. Sure, Alex. You keep plugging away out there in Hollywood. Your tan will fit in just fine.