It may seem like an obvious statement, but the highlights of most of the shows this week were the interviews. These are all shows hosted by personalities that can hold their own for an hour or two and provide excellent, thought-provoking content, free of having any guests. We did get a feel for that on a couple shows, but terrific conversations with not only WWE stars, but also several International, independent and even GLOW personalities really made this the week of the interview.
This week’s Unleashed podcast was a Listener’s Calls episode. I’m all for conducting yourself like a decent human being when knowing you’re on the air, but it’s totally understandable when most of the folks calling in to Austin’s show spend a minute or two gushing about getting a chance to talk to him before asking their question. He received no less than two calls from his “biggest fan ever” this week. What cracks me up way more than these callers are the ones who go right about their business: “Hi Steve, who was your toughest opponent?” I mean, you are talking to one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time and are a big enough fan to listen to his show and even call in with a question. Can you sound a little excited?
Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, Austin is a great talker. I don’t mean in the cutting promos manner. He will get into the most mundane stuff on his show – planning his lunches or getting his car fixed. It doesn’t matter what it is, but he always makes it a damn good listen. So when he gets solid questions, the show just takes off.
Most times, it seems he goes into detail on his time in the WWF. So what was great this week was how much time he spent on his WCW days – working with the Dangerous Alliance, meeting Sting. Steve even notes that the only time he ever faced Randy Savage was at an Orlando taping.
Of course, he also got into some WWF content as well. Most notable was his famous supermarket brawl with Booker T. The two did a walk through together ahead of time, and he did another of his own. They only had one shot to get it all right, so it was important they knew their spots.
What makes Austin’s show a must listen each week is how genuinely grateful he comes across to have such dedicated fans. This came through with a caller who asked his advice on getting into the business. Rather than toss a thoughtless school suggestion his way, Steve seemed to really want to know where the guy was coming from – did he graduate high school? What position did he play in football? Who on the current WWE roster is he a big fan of? I was happy for Steve that the caller had some quality answers in the form of Luke Harper and Samoa Joe. It made for a good payoff after investing several minutes on the caller, though Austin can take the worst call and milk an excellent segment out of it. Worth the listen!
I love catching Cornette’s podcast most weeks. I’m not an avid follower of GFW, though. In fact, I know more about anyone on their show from interviews I hear in the podcast sphere than watching their product. So when Jim started talking about his new gig with Global Force, I naturally assumed he was taking over as booker. These old school guys, let me tell you. By the end of his show as he was mentioning not wanting to book again and being happy just to be a talent, I was unsure what I’d spent the hour listening to. It’s a quick listen, and if you’re into what GFW is currently doing, you’ll likely enjoy it. Jim was exhausted from a week of travel, however, and promised to be back in form next week. Looking forward to that.
If you were a wrestling fan in the ’80s, Pro Wrestling Illustrated was your lifeline to the industry. There were other magazines, but PWI was the authority. It was legitimately the guide that would take your feeble wrestling fan mind and show you that the landscape consisted not only of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, but also of stars like Eric Embry, Buddy Landel, and Bill Dundee. This publication is what made legions of fans “smart” years before they had a way of accessing “dirt sheets,” and a couple decades before the internet would change everything. 11-year-old me knew that Ted DiBiase was a star in Mid-South and that One Man Gang was a former UWF Champion long before either became property of the WWF, and it was all because of PWI.
Perhaps most famously, now, they are noted for their annual PWI 500 rankings. This began in 1991 and continues to this day. If, like me, you came across this podcast recently, and you have a fondness for the old days, you’ll be happy to know, they’re still very much putting a lot into the PWI 500 rankings.
This week’s show included lots of talk about the upcoming rankings release along with some current events discussion. Co-host, Dan Murphy, most notably talked about not being able to buy into Braun Strowman as a monster heel after watching him stooge for the Wyatt Family for a period. I couldn’t disagree more with him on this. I feel the entire point behind his reintroduction on Raw and series of squash matches was to establish they were starting over with him. It would be one thing if the WWE’s fanbase by and large called bulls**t on the relaunch and reacted poorly, or worse, not at all. But not only are the live crowds eating him up, I am too. His ambulance match against Roman Reigns, the build to it and the aftermath established Strowman as a star (and pretty much turned him face). His showing at SummerSlam cemented his status and it will be interesting to now see how things play out at No Mercy. I don’t see Strowman being beaten clean. WWE has invested too much in him at this point. Regardless of his limited move set and average mic skills, the company has created a genuine home grown superstar. That’s not an easy thing to do in this age and doesn’t happen often. They know what they have and I’m fairly comfortable they won’t screw it up.
Right, so back to the PWI Podcast. Fortunately, host Al Castle was more in line with my thinking on the matter, which led to a solid, balanced conversation. Murphy won me back a few minutes later by mentioning how he awoke one morning thinking about Gary Hart and an Al Perez promo. How can you not like a guy that does that?
They wrapped up the episode airing a previously recorded interview with Chavo Guerrero, who discussed his involvement in Netflix’s Glow series. He talked about finding a balance between filming a period piece, but incorporating a wrestling style that wasn’t around back then. Super interesting listen. The audio quality of the interview segment wasn’t the best, but the perspective offered by Chavo made it worth the listen.
This week’s episode advertised discussion of the King’s involvement with Dusty Rhodes over the years, similar to how they’d covered Ric Flair the week before. Instead, the highlight was an interview with Cody Rhodes, with a little Dusty talk towards the end. The Flair episode was so good; it does a disservice to get people’s hopes up for a repeat. That said, the Cody interview was pretty awesome.
Lawler was in a mood, as he admitted, at the start of the show, and it seemed to affect the overall tone of the first half. He launched into an unfortunate rant about the Cleveland Browns players kneeling during the national anthem, seemingly blind to the irony of his opinion that people aren’t watching a football game to observe the players political views.
Cody was on to promote a match he and the King would be having later that week for the NECW Championship. It started out really weird, with Cody speaking out of character about being thrilled to be on the show, etc. Never one to toss kayfabe to the side completely, Jerry tried to turn it back to promoting the match, saying he’s surprised Cody is being so complimentary considering his actions the previous week. Cody laughed it off and, after he left the show, Lawler admitted his disappointment over the lack of confrontation. He even continued the kayfabe spin, speculating that Cody was trying to get into his head through being so civil.
The majority of wrestling podcasts fall into one of two categories. There’s the variety that focuses on the current product, and then those that get more into the history of the business. As historical podcasts go, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better one that the JJ Dillon show.
The format seems inspired by Something To Wrestle with Bruce Prichard, where a “civilian” host sits down each week with a prominent wrestling figure from the past and, without guests, they dive into a given subject that the wrestling figure witnessed first hand. It’s a great recipe when it works. Co-host, Rich Bocchini, and JJ have been at it for nearly a dozen episodes now and are really beginning to find their groove.
This week’s show focused on the famed NWA 6:05 WTBS television tapings. It wasn’t so much about things that happened at specific tapings, but more a larger picture regarding how they came into existence. To explain this story is to tell one of the most defining tales in modern professional wrestling history, and trust me, you want JJ Dillon to be the storyteller here. It all comes in at a nifty 90 minutes and is well worth the download.
Interview Friday has been a weekly highlight in the wrestling podcast world ever since Wade Keller made the move to PodcastOne and tweaked the format. The Hot Five Topics of the Week is a great feature, and few hosts are students of the interview game to a degree that rivals Wade.
Amongst the Hot Five was an interesting take on the injuries sustained by Big Cass and Asuka, respectively. Wade feels a 6-8 week recovery period by Asuka might be the perfect amount of time to allow her to transition to the main roster while being able to maintain that she never lost the NXT Women’s Championship.
Big Cass, on the other hand, could not have had this injury happen at a worse time. Having gone over in his feud against the Big Show, Cass was clearly moving up. With Baron Corbin appearing to be on the outs, Wade speculated whether Cass was next in line for a program with John Cena. He was coming off the promo of his career and will need to start all over again when he’s finally ready for a return.
The highlight of this episode was Wade’s interview with Lilian Garcia. It was the second part of a two-part interview and Lilian was appearing in an effort to promote her own excellent podcast. It was a nice change of pace to see her on the other side of the conversation.
The most fascinating aspect of this interview was watching Wade execute his typical no-punches-pulled line of questioning with a subject who epitomizes positivity. So when those questions veered into subjects such as hazing and the sometimes questionable behavior of those in power in WWE, it was fun to hear Lilian’s responses. I genuinely believe she wasn’t dodging anything, but responding with the temperament and thought process that makes her the positive figure she is.
Lilian also provided insight on her time spent in WWE by explaining how differently she approached her first and second stints with the company.
Wade finished up asking Lilian for her best and worst experiences with WWE. In her typical fashion, Lilian simply stated that nothing is tougher than the first day.
Lilian actually began this week’s episode expounding on her experience during her first day with WWE. She says she found out she’d be stepping into the role of lead announcer and replacing a legend in Howard Finkel at around 3:30pm that afternoon. She also talked about learning she could not use queue cards in the ring. It’s a good story.
When Lilian launched this show a month ago, her stated goal was to conduct one of a kind interviews that would give listeners a different perspective on the people she interviewed. I recall a line from the intro of her first episode where she promised you would see these people differently after hearing these conversations. That certainly sums up my feelings regarding this week’s interview with Sheamus.
I, along with what seems like most others, have not been all that interested in watching Sheamus for quite some time. His program teaming with Cesaro has helped reinvent and reenergize him a bit and I’ve been somewhat more open to checking out his matches. To hear him discuss his approach, how it differs now from years ago, and how he now likes to find “the little things” to add to his matches and general repertoire, was really cool.
Just as promised, his match came on this past Monday night and I was way more into him. I came away from this interview with a totally refreshed viewpoint on a guy I’d been bored with for years. That is 100% a testament to Lilian’s abilities as an interviewer.
The most noteworthy item, for me, coming out of this show was Sheamus’ line that Cesaro never having had a World Championship reign was “an absolute disgrace.” That is a strong statement and I have to assume it was heard all the way over in the front office. Let’s hope it doesn’t serve to stall Sheamus’s push now that I’m totally into him.
Must Listen of the Week:
Dueling Kenny Omega Interviews
Arguably the hottest name in all of professional wrestling today is NJPW star, Kenny Omega. That may sound ridiculous if your scope is limited to WWE television, but it’s difficult to listen to a wrestling podcast these days without hearing his name mentioned at least once. His merchandise is available in malls on racks right next to John Cena and Roman Reigns products, and he’s achieving this fame with a fraction of the national exposure that both those guys enjoy.
When Adam Cole attacked Drew McIntyre at the close of NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, there were many fans sitting in my section, unfamiliar with Cole who were asking “is that Kenny Omega?” You can laugh at the relative absurdity of such a thing, but what occurred to me at that point was even fans casual enough not to recognize Adam Cole have the name Kenny Omega on the tip of their tongue.
Both Sean Waltman and Edge & Christian landed interviews with Omega this week, and both were unique. Where E&C ran down a timeline of Omega’s career, Waltman focused on specific experiences. While E&C were able to share a level of Canadian camaraderie with Omega (who, in contrast to his sharp-tongued, abrasive in-ring persona, came off as so “gosh darn” neighborly in both interviews), Waltman’s show served as more of a Q & A, with the panel that regularly appears asking Omega a variety of questions.
A story told on both shows was that of Omega’s time in Deep South, WWE’s developmental territory. Most fascinating to me was the fact that Omega was competing for an opportunity to perform in Japan, when he was instead offered a deal by Johnny Ace to join WWE. Though Japan was where he wanted to be, he felt he’d be foolish not to accept an invite to WWE. It’s a great story, and again, is worth listening to on both shows due to the differing perspectives of the conversation.
If you’re a fan of Omega’s, you’ll obviously love these interviews. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a terrific way to catch up on an individual that has so many wrestling fans excited about the current product.
Jeff Rush is a life-long fan of professional wrestling. He’s attended the last match of both Andre the Giant and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s careers and two of the three matches of the Rock-Austin WrestleMania trilogy. As a child, he was once yelled at by John Tenta for sitting too close to him on a bench at Hershey Park. Jeff listens to way too many wrestling podcasts and watches way too much WWE Network. He also catches as much indie wrestling as he can when it comes through his home of New York City. Follow along @jefflikesstuff