Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I Listen So You Don't Have To: Art Of Wrestling Ep. 336

Holly 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: 336 (Feb. 2, 2017)
Run Time: 1:05:36
Guest: Molly Holly (11:38)

Summary: Colt Cabana this week sits down with the woman best known as Molly Holly. Though they start by talking about Holly’s decision to pay for some of Beth Phoenix’s wrestling school tuition, the way Holly explains her lifelong approach to living beneath her means takes the conversation back to why she moved from Minnesota to Florida after high school and how that decision led to her awareness of pro wrestling, her backyard training and earliest days in the business, a chance connection that led her into Randy Savage’s inner circle during the end days of WCW, the stark differences of being in a WWE locker room, avoiding temptations on the road, dealing with her compulsive overeating disorder and deciding to ask Vince McMahon personally for a release. Holly then explained how she adjusted to life after wrestling contrasted with some of her peers and talks a bit about agreeing to work as a trainer.

Quote of the week: “There is definitely a draw, number one, to prescription pain pills for the fact that in WWE you’re working all the time, like, your body doesn’t have time to heal and so you’re in constant pain, so of course there’s that temptation. And then as far as, just like, the recreational drug side of things, or just like a more risky lifestyle, a lot of that is just that, um, trying to not be lonely. Like, you’re on the road and you’re separated from your actual family or from other connections that you’ve had growing up, and so you’re, like, isolated into this community, and so in order to feel like you belong, a lot of times you just adapt to whatever the community is so that you can feel a sense of belonging.”

Why you should listen: Holly checks so many boxes. She’s got stories about working matches in crappy rings that got rained on all day to being in the Macho Man’s entourage to performing at WrestleMania to requesting and obtaining personal meetings with Vince McMahon. She’s got a personal struggle with addiction complete with a happy ending. And yet despite being able to compare so many anecdotes to what previous guests offered, there’s something different about her approach to life and the business that really sets her apart. She’s a complete insider but with an outsider’s understanding that doesn’t in any way attempt to delegitimize anyone else. I found it fascinating.

Why you should skip it: I don’t think you should, but there are two things to note. One is that if you’re afraid of Holly coming across as a Bible-thumping churchgoer, you shouldn’t. She does allude to the church giving her a sense of belonging, but there’s not a whiff of preachiness. Second is that if you’re looking for someone to dish dirt on WCW or WWE, to shoot on Vince or to simply express disgust about being chewed up and spit out by wrestling, you’re not going to find that either. This is a remarkably well-adjusted person, definitely a rarity on wrestling podcasts.

Final thoughts: How much you like this episode probably says a lot about what you hope to get from this or any wrestling podcast. Some fans probably will think this is an absolute dud, but I think it’s one of the better offerings in quite some time. We’re let in to Holly’s personality and life in a way I don’t think she expected, and I think there’s something beneficial in not having a story that’s extreme or staggering because the way Holly is able to describe her own biography somehow humanizes hundreds of performers I’ve enjoyed over the years, though she’s clearly speaking only for herself. Intentional or not, Cabana did a good thing by including at the beginning a few seconds that conveyed Holly’s reluctance to even do the show because it illustrated what I see as flaws in other podcasters’ approach to such interviews, and it also set the stage for Cabana leading Holly through a compelling hour that she certainly would not have predicted at the outset. I’m willing to believe other folks will think I’m a loony, but in my book, this is a great episode.