What a fascinating time it is to be a fan of professional wrestling, both past and present. Over the course of the last ten days, we got to listen to two legends of the business discuss their feud from a quarter century ago when Bret Hart paid a visit to Dinner With The King. We also got to listen to one of the greatest tag teams of the ’90s, Edge & Christian, have a conversation with one of the best tag teams in wrestling today, the Usos.
Interviews aside, we were given perspective by any former wrestler with an MLW or PodcastOne login on the Sexy Star/Rosemary intentional injury situation. Wrestling aside, we even got to hear the various experiences of individuals dealing with the natural disaster that was Hurricane Harvey. This sort of insight did not exist even five years ago. Podcasts are the most progressive aspect of the wrestling industry today, and as always, it was one hell of a week to be a listener.
What could’ve easily been a week off, or at least a phoned in 45-minute episode, turned into something special. With Bruce unable to record due to his dealings with Hurricane Harvey, Conrad decided to piece together a “Best Of” edition of the show. Interspersed with conversation between Conrad and some behind-the-scenes folks at the show were audio tributes by listeners of the show, largely from the wrestling world. Hornswoggle got to weigh in on his favorite story from the show. Drew McIntyre had some words for the listeners, as did Shane Helms and others. Everyone also took a minute to wish Bruce and Houston well. Conrad also used the episode to raise awareness and donations to those affected by the hurricane.
What really put this episode over the top, though, were the short clips from each of the first 20 or so episodes. If you’re a new listener to the show or a long time listener who had some favorite stories they wanted to revisit, this was great. Personal highlights were hearing the story of the creation of the Million Dollar Man character, and the tale of an elaborate prank inadvertently played on Rick Rude.
It was also cool to go back and listen to the difference in chemistry between Conrad and Bruce from then to now and how many little things they touched on momentarily at the time that would go on to be huge parts of the show’s identity.
This sort of episode would feel self-indulgent by most shows standards, but for a show as unique as Something To Wrestle, it was an out of the park edition.
The Mothership took a break from it’s 4+ hour routine this week to deliver a tidy two-and-a-half hour episode dedicated to Houston wrestling. If wrestling history is your thing, and man do I love it, this show kicked ass.
The golden-voiced Brian Last was joined by David Bixenspan and the two shared a number of interesting stories regarding the glory days of the Houston territory. They even managed to bring things full circle by discussing how Mattress Mack, Houston furniture store giant Jim McIngvale, was opening all his locations last week to serve as shelter to those who lost their homes in Hurricane Harvey. McIngvale, himself, was a staple on Houston wrestling programs for years in the ’70s and ’80s, often plugging his stores on the air while talking with promoter Paul Boesch.
The highlight of the episode, though, was a replaying of Brian’s interview a year ago this week with longtime commentator and promoter for Houston wrestling, Peter Birkholz. The two discussed huge names from the territory that modern fans may have never heard of like Whiskers Savage and “Wild” Bill Curry, and also shared the perspective of the little guy during the ’80s, when Vince McMahon was forming his eventual monopoly. This conversation culminated in Birkholz story about calling Vince and conceding, with one final request.
One of the things I enjoy most about listening to Dinner With The King is, given Jerry’s old school tendencies, you can actually feel a sense of being worked, and I mean that in a good way. It’s funny because Jerry will admonish his co-host, Glenn Moore, for using “insider terms” one minute, but then openly discuss the behind-the-scenes plans behind angles he was involved in the next. The King is truly still adapting to a world without kayfabe, and it’s fun to watch him evolve week-to-week.
Jerry had attended the Days Of The Dead horror conference in Louisville, KY earlier in the week and had some fun stories to relay. The highlight was the King’s encounter with a fan who had images of wrestlers tattooed up his left leg. The art work included life-like images of several stars of the Attitude Era and beyond. Jerry said at the very top of the leg was an image of Triple H. When he jokingly asked if it went any higher, the guy told him it did indeed. On his left butt cheek was an image of Vince McMahon. Jerry said he took a photo and texted it to Vince. Vince replied with “OMG.” Glenn was surprised Vince would send that as a response, and I have to agree, it seems a bit out of character. Though I now have no doubt that Vince takes great joy in the subtle humor of the poop emoji.
In a week where the majority of podcasts were focused on either Harvey or Sexy Star/Rosemary, it was great to hear Lawler and Moore get into other hot-button issues, such as Sasha Banks and her issues with fans in Brooklyn during SummerSlam weekend. Banks had lashed out on social media regarding fans tracking her down at airports and waiting outside her hotel. Bubba Ray Dudley tweeted later that Banks should not worry about fans intruding on her, but should worry when they no longer cared. The King said he largely sided with Dudley on the matter, but admitted that he could not fully relate to what Banks experiences as a woman in this position.
The guys also talked at length about the opening created on the Smackdown broadcast team by JBL’s departure. Moore said he’d hoped this would lead to Jerry’s return, but Jerry instead weighed all the pros and cons of the travelling lifestyle. He even gave his thoughts on working on holidays (he doesn’t) in light of WWE’s announcement that Raw will be live on Christmas night this year.
Amidst all this great conversation was Jerry’s interview with Bret Hart. As I’d alluded to earlier, Jerry has come off as reluctant with past guests, seemingly torn on how far to take a conversation and not being altogether comfortable in his role as host. Much to the contrary this week, the King was nervous throughout the show that his guest, Bret Hart, would not call in. When he finally did, Jerry was beyond excited and expressed this to Bret.
What ensued was a terrific conversation focused largely on the feud between the two in the early ’90s and all the insults Lawler had directed towards Stu and Helen Hart. Bret told a story about being at his parent’s house on afternoon when a Raw replay was on. He said, surprisingly, his mom loved Jerry’s routine and his dad loved that his mom was happy. They were thrilled to be a part of the feud. Jerry had worried over the years how Stu and Helen felt about everything and was relieved to hear his comments went over so well with them.
Sam Roberts is two for two with fantastic interviews this month, first with Sasha Banks, then with Big Cass. Both interviews were recorded just before events that would give them a deeper context.
The Sasha interview was held at a live taping on SummerSlam weekend, right before Banks would go on to defeat Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship. During the interview, Banks had expressed disappointment in the recent booking of her character, saying she would prefer to have one lengthy, memorable title run instead of numerous short reigns. She was talking about her three “two week” runs, and how they were shaking her confidence, as it’s leaving her wondering what management sees in her that it doesn’t like. As a listener, I’m cringing because I know she’s a day away from another extremely brief run.
When I saw Sam would be interviewing Big Cass, I assumed we’d be hearing about Cass’s rehab and mindset following his injury. Devastatingly, this interview happened just days before the injury, and it really adds a bittersweet vibe to the conversation.
Sam has an easygoing, familiar presence, which helps make him an excellent interviewer. Cass talked about his ambitions, wanting to headline a WrestleMania ASAP, and what it was like branching out on his own as a singles star. He off-handedly mentioned at one point that he’d been travelling with Kevin Owens. I don’t know if that was a one-time thing or if they are regular travel partners dating back to their time in NXT together, but someone with Cass’s size and ability being mentored by a great heel with the wrestling IQ of Kevin Owens can only lead to very good things.
Cass also spent a minute disparaging wrestling fans who cheer for the heel. Perhaps he was toeing the company line here, but he sounded authentic, so at least the heel role is coming naturally. He feels that people who cheer for heels are doing it just to be different, with no other motivation. I feel this sells short the majority of ticket-purchasing fans these days who take the only opportunity they have to voice their pleasure or dissatisfaction with the product they’re being fed. People aren’t cheering Braun Strowman because they want to be different. He’s being cheered far more often than booed these days because people are genuinely connecting with his monster persona.
Anyway, this portion of the conversation ended on a rich note. Sam asks Cass what he enjoys more, being a face or a heel. Cass says a heel. Why? Because it’s something different. Amazing.
As a listener, I assume the mechanics behind booking guests on a given show vary, depending on the host, the relationship they have with the wrestlers they’re interviewing, and perhaps more significantly, the show’s relationship with the company the wrestlers perform for if they’re actively performing. That said, I’m guessing more often than not, the people hosting the shows have targets in mind, and go from there in their pursuit on landing that guest.
This is all an elaborate way of telling you that Edge & Christian have been absolutely killing it in the guest department lately. A couple weeks back, they hosted a tremendous conversation with arguably the hottest act in pro wrestling, Kenny Omega. Then, this week, they followed up with the Usos, and man, did that make for one hell of a show.
E&C remember the Usos as kids from when their dad, Rikishi, would bring them backstage. Edge points out that he now notices a little white in their facial hair and how crazy that is. He’s quick to clarify that he’s not teasing them for being old, but saying it adds character, that it shows they’ve been on a journey. Good cover.
Christian says, though he had a very successful singles run, he holds tag team wrestling dear to his heart since it’s what put he and Edge on the map. Later, when the New Day comes up, Christian talks about the fine line you need to walk when you’re a heel who plays for laughs prior to the match.
Finally, Edge is speculating on future opponents for the Usos and also reflecting on his time coming up through the tag team ranks. Given his forced retirement, obviously an Usos-E&C match is not in the cards (though Christian hilariously lays out exactly how that match would play out). Edge then says that D-Von Dudley is now “fat and wearing a suit,” so that matchup is out. Remarkably, the one dream match that can still take place is the Usos vs. Matt and Jeff Hardy. All four talk about how much they would love to see that.
There’s so much more to cover from this conversation and it’s definitely worth checking out.
Earlier in the show, Edge also got into tracking the lineage of WWF/E Champion flag bearers, from Bruno to Backlund to Hogan to Cena. He said he did not believe Austin or the Rock fit the same mold as those four, so he didn’t include them. Given their anti-hero personas, I can go with that. Still, I feel that leaves too big of a gap between Hogan, whose reign ended in 1993 and Cena’s, who really blossomed as the face of the company in 2007. I feel those 13 years give room for one, and possibly two more additions to the list:
1. Bret Hart. Though more technically sound than Hogan or Cena, that didn’t disqualify Backlund. Hart absolutely embodied the “prayers and vitamins” aspect of his heroism prior to the Canada vs. US run in 1997. I would say he absolutely belongs on such a list.
2. Shawn Michaels. This is a bit more of a stretch and I could be talked out of it, but it belongs in the conversation. Obviously, the HBK of the ’90s would be disqualified using Edge’s criteria, but the “reborn” HBK from 2002 and on has a case. He was no longer the absolute face of the company by that point, and his actions at times (SummerSlam 2005) were hardly Sammartino-esque, but he did carry the title a couple of times, was always a babyface, and even had a passing-the-torch pair of matches against Cena – one as the final match at WrestleMania, the other an epic hour long battle on Raw a few weeks later.
This brings us seamlessly from Hogan 1993 to Cena 2007. Just my opinion.
Edge’s lineage tracking the high-flyers of wrestling was even more interesting. He began with Antonino Rocca, then Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat, then Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio and RVD, who he feels then inspired Ricochet, Will Ospreay, and Matt Sydal, to name a few.
The interviews continue to make this show stand out, but the dialogue around them is really what makes the Pod Of Awesomeness worth a weekly listen.
The two big names in wrestling podcasting these days are undoubtedly PodcastOne and MLW. Not every good show is on one of these two networks, but pretty much every show on them is worth listening to. That’s what made Unleashed so cool this week, as Steve’s guest on his PodcastOne show was MLW founder Court Bauer.
If there’s any sort of rivalry between the two entities, it never came up. I’ve wondered in the past if there was anything in place preventing a host on one side from appearing on a show on the other, and this has me thinking that’s probably not the case.
This was a fun hour of talk between two great minds. They discussed current events, ranging from Braun Strowman’s push to the Sexy Star incident and also allowed Court to promote the MLW One Shot event coming up in October.
JR hosted a fun conversation with Dan Murphy of the PWI podcast this past week. With PWI’s annual Top 500 having just been released, it was interesting to hear the two dissect this year’s top 10.
So often, those in the business will bring up the PWI 500 for laughs. Dissecting the differences between a wrestler ranked 436 and one ranked 437, or hell, a wrestler ranked 102 or 103 I believe is what gives everyone such a chuckle out of the rankings. So much of it seems so arbitrary, and at the end of the day, no one is winning anything here.
With all this in mind, it was really quite fun to listen to someone of JR’s caliber dissect the top 10 with one of the folks who put it together. To listen to Murphy, a lot of serious thought does go into these rankings. I haven’t looked into the PWI 500 in several years, but hearing this year’s top 3 is Okada, Styles and Owens, respectively, got my attention. I’m looking forward to picking up the hard copy in a couple weeks.
If you haven’t yet caught my recap of this week’s VIP Lounge, I recommend checking it out. MVP wears his politics on his sleeve and isn’t shy about getting into heated discussions of that nature. In fact, he prefers it.
This week’s guests were Shawn Daivari and Ken Anderson, who were on the show promoting their wrestling school in Minneapolis. All three have a history and, thusly, a great rapport. Hearing about the oddball experiences that comes up at a wrestling school on a day-to-day basis were fun and the thoughts these guys have on a number of current event issues was also cool.
MVP’s co-host is former WWE writer Alex Greenfield. On certain episodes, he’s responsible for literally 50% of the show’s content. He took more of a back seat with this conversation, but he’s got a great mind for the business and provided quality interjections throughout.
Must Listen of the Week:
I realize I’m getting repetitive when it comes to talking about this show, but Lilian killed it once again this week. She prides herself on her ability to get a story out of each of her guests that explains that person in a way you’d otherwise never know them. She promises you’ll never look at her interview subject the same way again. It would come across as run-of-the-mill hype fodder were it not so true.
From Batista to Samoa Joe to Sheamus, watching these guys perform each week (or on WWE Network in Batista’s case) is just a different experience once you hear what they’ve gone through to get to where they are.
Now, certainly, not everyone is defined by the tragic moments of their life and, such as in Sheamus’s case, not everyone has a story of tremendous growth and redemption to tell. But more weeks than not, Lilian finds a way to get that story out of her subjects and her conversation this week with Alexa Bliss was, at times gut-wrenching. As a grown ass man riding the subway in NYC, I literally began to tear up at one moment.
I thought Alexa was awesome prior to hearing her story and that part hasn’t changed. My appreciation for her work is something different from what it was a week ago, though, and once again, I’m here thanking Lilian Garcia for making that happen.