Sam Roberts Wrestling Show
Release Date: 5/24/18
Guest: Mauro Ranallo
Recap by: Jeff Rush
The show starts with Sam throwing to his interview on Sirius XM with Mauro Ranallo. We’re joined by comedian and co-host, Jim Norton.
This interview touches on some wrestling, but is primarily centered on Mauro discussing his new documentary, Bipolar Rock N’ Roller, a Showtime feature that tells the story of his battle with mental illness. There’s also a lot of great discussion between Ranallo and Norton that gives you an idea of what day-to-day life is like for someone living with bipolar disorder.
It’s a great listen and is highly recommended. Recognizing that those of you visiting this site are primarily here for our coverage of pro wrestling, I’ll provide the highlights of this conversation below. However, I do advise you to give the interview a listen.
The first time Jim heard of Mauro was during his now famous interview with MMA fighter, Mirko Cro Cop 14 years ago. Cro Cop pretends to be upset with a fight he mistakenly believes Mauro to have called before revealing the whole thing is a joke. It’s been played for laughs nearly 270,000 times according to YouTube. Having just seen it for the first time, and knowing of Mauro’s battle, I have to say it’s a painful thing to watch.
Mauro discusses that experience a bit, saying he was nervous to interview Cro Cop and feared he was going to take a kick in the head.
Sam says it’s remarkable that Mauro battles as he does but, at the same time, is at the top of his game as a broadcaster. He says the Bipolar Rock N’ Roller shows you the extreme highs of mania as well as the absolute lows. Mauro says that’s the whole point.
Mauro believes the most successful people in this industry are touched by something. He says the documentary had to be uncomfortable, otherwise there would be no point to it. The stigma is that you need to “snap out of it,” that you’re being lazy or looking for attention. Mauro says the film shows you otherwise.
“I want to just make it ok to not be ok,” he says.
Fascinatingly, Mauro likens his announcing headphones to Linus’ security blanket. The moment he takes them off, he’s wrought with paranoia and fear.
Mauro runs down all the amazing matches he’s called in just the past year and says without the illness, where he’s come from to this point is bipolar in it’s own right. He then notes how worked up he’s getting in the moment, just discussing it.
Norton describes the emotions that come with being bipolar as a chemical dump that starts in your head and washes through your chest. It can be comforting or painful depending on the sort of rush it is. Mauro says he’s describing it to a tee.
Watching A Beautiful Mind was the first time Mauro realized someone got what it was like to be inside the head of someone suffering from mental illness.
Mauro feels the manic part of his disorder is what allows him to achieve his success, that there’s a positive to the negative.
Mauro hasn’t been involved in a serious relationship in 15 years. His last serious girlfriend was Jenni Neidhart, Nattie’s sister. He says he’s always been drawn to either people who get him completely or who want to ride the wave of mania.
Mauro was once drunk for 42 straight days before he sought proper treatment. He’s now a proponent of marijuana as well as more funding for treatment. Sam is surprised he discussed marijuana in the documentary and Mauro says he was surprised they allowed it. He says he’s had unmitigated support from Showtime, WWE, and Bellator.
Mauro labors on again about the stigma of mental health and cannabis, and the need for funding. This is a good time again to mention that this interview is really worth the listen.
Jim asks if Mauro is sexually compulsive and he responds yes without missing a beat, saying it’s a great question he’s never been asked before. He used to phone 900 numbers as a kid as a way to sabotage his parents and spike a high phone bill.
Mauro is single and feels he can’t be in a relationship or have a child, saying he would not wish what he goes through at his lowest points towards anyone.
He says everything he does is impulsive. He loves to take care of everyone regardless of the cost. He dropped several hundred dollars buying dinner for people the other day, and is always that guy. He thanks Frank Shamrock for taking care of his finances, saying without his help, things would get really bad.
Jim and Mauro trade bad 900-number experiences. Jim had an operator admonish him for calling at a weird time of day. Mauro had someone tell him they had an earache and couldn’t go through with the call.
Mauro is insanely active on his phone, particularly with Twitter, having posted over 220,000 times since joining in 2009.
(I wasn’t going to bring it up, but now that Mauro has mentioned Twitter, I guess I will. I have been blocked by Mauro Ranallo on Twitter and have no idea why. This happened over a year ago and has always bothered me, not in any life-altering way of course, but more like how it bothers me that the Ferris Beuller TV series got cancelled after one season. It’s just never made sense to me. I support many of the same causes he does, I love his work, and I never get blocked by anyone.
Ok, not totally true. I’m also blocked by CM Punk, but at least that one I understand. As a huge fan of Yvette Nicole Brown, I once complained that Punk was rude to her on an episode of Talking Dead. Punk acted quickly, and I was toast. I didn’t think it was a blockable offense, but I get why it happened. When I discovered I’d been blocked by Mauro Ranallo, it was a bit of a punch to the gut.
Now Mauro won’t be reading this recap, but maybe someone he knows will. If that’s the case, please let Mauro know I would love to follow him on Twitter once more. In an attempt to curry his favor, I’ve even prepared a haiku:
I love Mauro’s tweets
He’s inspiring and rad
Maybe unblock Jeff?
Ok, back to the show…)
Mauro is obsessed with the 11:11 phenomenon, as well as names and stats. He says it’s a condition that, as a result, has really helped his career. It’s also taken a severe toll on his personal life.
He and Jim compare notes on how they argue. They’re both vicious. Mauro goes from being the sweetest human being to a total asshole. He gives an example of his behavior and says it’s almost like he’s stepped out of his body and can’t stop himself. It’s like watching a movie, except in the end, he’s hurt a real person. He’s even undergone blackout moments such moments.
Mauro has been suicidal and says he’s lost too many people to suicide.
He also says he visualized his career at the age of 4 or 5., being on network television and calling major fights. He says he also envisioned performing comedy on stage and laughs that he hasn’t managed to do that yet.
You might think the previous several paragraphs are a cliff notes version of items discussed during this interview. They’re actually laid out pretty much as they came up. Mauro has mentioned that his condition will cause him to sometimes be all over the place. I think this portion of the interview is a good example of that. He’s covered a LOT of ground in the past three minutes.
Sam brings up Mauro’s departure from WWE in 2017 and says most fans were unaware at the time that he’d had a breakdown or even that he suffered from bipolar disorder. Mauro says he’d worked his whole life to get to WWE and finally accomplished that at the age of 46. He quickly learned that between his position there and his outside work, he wasn’t Superman. He crashed. He says rumors regarding bullying by JBL is bulls**t, but adds that you’re not always going to get along with everyone as well as you’d like.
He says Triple H told him he feels the business is in Mauro’s DNA. He notes that when he was first approached about coming to work for WWE, he asked if it was for NXT, as he loves an underdog. As such, he feels everything worked out for the best.
Shifting gears a bit, Mauro says immediately picks up on mistakes he makes “and it’s f**k off.” He’s never satisfied with the job he does but feels that it’s his therapy. He understands how everything is picked about once it’s out there and even says he knows this interview will be scrutinized, but it’s the sacrifice he makes for the cause. His cause, as I understand it here, is what he mentioned earlier in the interview – to bring attention to mental illness, it’s treatment and funding. He may also be talking about his passion for the wrestling industry and the positive impact his commentary has on so many young wrestlers. See this? Even when he’s being succinct, I manage to turn his thoughts into a paragraph-long rant.
Mauro says Michael Cole followed him on Twitter prior to him getting the call to come work for WWE. He knows both Cole and Triple H are boxing fans, so he surmises that’s how he ended up on the company’s radar.
Jim asks him if there’s a moment he looks back as being the worst. He immediately says yes, and brings up the Tonya Evinger-Gina Carano WMMA fight from 2007. Prior to the bout, Evinger had said “I’d like to make out with Gina, but I am here to knock her out. Either way she wants it, though, is fine with me.” Mauro brought this up with his broadcast partner, Bill Goldberg, during a lull in the fight. Goldberg told him he wasn’t going to touch that subject with a 25-foot pole. In an attempt to be creative with ad-libbing, Mauro commented that if the two were to kiss, he’d like to touch it with a 25-centimeter pole. His intent was that he would like to watch such an occurrence up close. Most people instead thought he was referencing his penis. He was skewered for this. Even running a quick Google search to verify the spelling of the fighter’s names turns up countless links to sites lambasting Mauro for his choice of words that night.
He says he was destroyed by this and was suspended by Showtime. It was his low point as a broadcaster.
Sam mentions the pinhole camera WWE uses at their commentary desks. During Takeover: New Orleans, Mauro was viewed from this camera going berserk calling the broadcast. He jokes that this proves to the haters that he’s the real deal, not just putting on a show.
The conversation turns to Robin Williams. Mauro says its weird that it took a “giant of the entertainment industry” to take his life, knowing what he was suffering through, for people to start asking “Are you ok? Are you ok?” He says we don’t need to lose any more; we’ve lost enough.
Bipolar Rock N’ Roller debuted on Showtime on May 25th and is available to stream and download now.
The State of Wrestling
5. The rumored report that, going forward, all WWE PPV’s will be four hours long.
The big shows such as the Royal Rumble and SummerSlam will run five hours, and WrestleMania will go for nineteen hours, Sam jokes. All the other shows will be going from three to four hours. Sam notes that this is still just a rumor, but says the shows would be starting at 7pm instead of running an hour late on the other side.
Sam theorizes that the kick off shows will move to 6pm. He assumes they won’t be getting cut, because he thinks they’re great.
“It helps that I’m sitting at the desk most of the time,” he adds.
Sam thinks a lot more is being put into the build for Money In The Bank than any non-major PPV, certainly more than Backlash. He thinks Backlash suffered from the Superstar Shake-Up and the one-week build. He doesn’t think Backlash is indicative of what the dual branded PPV’s will be, instead saying the show suffered from being positioned so closely after WrestleMania and the Greatest Royal Rumble. Money In The Bank, he says, will give us the best idea of what we have to look forward to with the dual-brand format.
Sam says it’s super important that WWE makes these shows feel like they need to be four hours long. This brings him to the thinking that the three-hour Raw format is too long. He thinks the single brand shows could’ve stood to have an hour shaved off, and that it’s not unreasonable to think each show getting roughly two hours of representation on each PPV will create a loaded show with no fat to trim.
4. Will there be a way for people not in Chicago to watch All In?
Cody Rhodes has said there are not plans right now to run the show on PPV. Sam believes the show will be streamed.
Sam compares Cody Rhodes in this instance to Louis CK. He became so successful that he realized he, as an entity, had become a draw. He was the first person to put out a special on his website, charge a fee, and make a ton of money. After that, a lot of other comedians followed suit.
Sam feels it would be foolish of Cody not to make All In available on some sort of television or streaming platform, considering the amount of interest in it.
3. CM Punk may or may not have been backstage at the All In press conference, leading to speculation of his involvement in the show.
Punk has a relationship with Pro Wrestling Tees, the building where the conference was held, so it makes sense he was there. That said, Punk knew the conference was happening at that time. While it’s likely he was handling personal business, he could have done that any time. Sam feels he was picking up on the vibe of the All In event.
All signs point to Punk doing something at the show, says Sam. He won’t wrestle, but Sam thinks there’s a chance he will enter the ring with a microphone.
To those buying tickets to this show because they feel Punk will be a part of it. Sam says foolish move. He thinks there’s a better than 50% chance he shows up and cuts a promo, but we’re far from guaranteed anything.
Sam point out that the guys handling All In have not promised anything involving Punk, and it wouldn’t be fair to be disappointed if he doesn’t show up. He says it’s extra credit if we get a Punk appearance.
If there’s meaning to find in his presence at the building during the press conference, it’s that Punk is aware of the show and cares.
2. Making sense of the ridiculous Sami Zayn-Bobby Lashley angle on Raw.
Sam says the original interview where Lashley looked into the camera talking about his sisters was “other dimension weird.” The interview was a mockery of wrestling and the whole thing makes even less sense considering WWE just signed a major TV deal with Fox.
That said, Sam says this segment was a casualty of the three-hour Raw format. He points out the good things that happened on the show. This includes the B-Team, who Sam is all about. He thinks their shirts will be flying off the shelves as soon as their made available online. Even though the gimmick is a goof, it allows you to see the passion Axel and Dallas have for what they’re doing.
The main event was incredible. Both Finn Balor and Braun Strowman came out of the match looking better than they did going in. Sam usually misses the second half or so of Raw in real time and catches it the next day. He was in bed by 10:20 and ready to call it a night but got pulled in to watching the main event segment.
He was interested in seeing what the two looked like together in the ring and how the crowd reacted to it. He was buzzed after the match, it was so good. Balor looked stronger than ever. He made a mistake and it was Strowman’s night, but you were left feeling that Balor could take him next time. This match is definitely on the short list of great Raw matches in 2018.
Sam gained a new appreciation for the Nia Jax-Ronda Rousey program coming out of this show. He felt Jax asserted herself appropriately and didn’t seem intimidated. Likewise, Sam feels WrestleMania helped Rousey gain confidence in being a fulltime performer for WWE. When this match was first announced, Sam felt it was a given Nattie would get involved in a way that furthered her program with Rousey. He says there’s even a theory Nattie will win Money In The Bank earlier in the night, then cash in during this match. Rousey is too valuable, though, and there’s no way the show ends with her winning and losing the title on the same night.
This show marked the first time Sam felt Rousey could win the title on this show. He says if the match goes on last, there’s no doubt in his mind she’s winning. He points out that Nattie could win MITB and cash in unsuccessfully, furthering their program.
Back to Zayn-Lashley, Sam says sometimes segments are so bad they can make you forget all the good that happened on a given show. He compares this segment to “Bayley, This Is Your Life,” likening Sami to Alexa Bliss in that they were both took really bad material and did the best they could with it.
He says some people felt the segment was transphobic. He disagrees, saying this routine is an old wrestling gag where goofy humor was used to insult Bobby’s sisters. He thinks going so far as to call the segment transphobic is taking pro wrestling way too seriously.
Sam feels this segment played like comedy skits written by people who are not comedy writers. He says he’s not discrediting the writers of WWE. He gets it’s easy to blame “the writers” as an anonymous group, but points out that these people write five hours of live TV every week. He says comedians and comedy writers are a different breed of people and if WWE is going to write comedy skits, they should have people who are trained in writing comedy on board the writing team.
1`. WWE signs a deal with Fox to air Smackdown beginning in Fall 2019.
Sam says this is a big, big win for WWE. He points out the show will air, not on FX or Fox Sports 1, but on network TV. He says it’s unlikely the show will shift to three hours, pointing out that networks air news at 11pm. Local news is the bread and butter of local affiliates. It’s why the Tonight Show always started at 11:30. Fox, on the other hand, airs their local news programing at 10pm. It’s unlikely they would start the show at 7pm.
The heavy rumor is SmackDown will also be returning to Friday nights. He agrees that Tuesday is a better night for television than Friday, but says network is much better than cable, so this is still a win. Sam feels it’s crucial that WWE continue to run SmackDown live, which would force them to change their road schedule. He feels the whole reason Fox is paying roughly $4 Million per episode over the course of a 5-year deal, is to air live programming.
Sam thinks they could possibly do away with the brand extension, but instead feels this would be the time to really ramp it up and put names like Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey on the blue brand. He points out that as a result of the two shows no longer being on the same network, ads will not be aired for one show during the other. He thinks a true brand split could happen.
In response to a complaint that this deal will make WWE so much money that they’ll buy out all the good independent talent and kill off the industry, Sam says that’s a real reach. He believes this deal makes WWE look awesome, as a major network is interested in them. As a result, the whole deal is a huge win for pro wrestling.
Review: The Mauro Ranallo interview alone makes this episode worth the download. Though the content wasn’t as wrestling-based as listeners might like to hear on their wrestling podcasts, it did feature one of the most beloved personalities of the industry, and let listeners in beyond Ranallo’s typical boisterous presence. If you didn’t know a lot about Mauro’s personal life beyond knowing perhaps that he suffered from bipolar disorder, we got an amazing amount of insight into what that means other than it caused him to take a break from WWE last year.
His passion for raising awareness and funding for treatment of those with mental illness is inspiring. That aside, it was also cool to hear Mauro discuss various highs and lows of his life and career. Reading a recap of the interview is nice, and I’m glad you did. But I very much recommend giving a listen to the first thirty minutes of this week’s show.
The State of Wrestling is a favorite weekly segment of mine as well. Sam’s take on hot button issues is always thought provoking. His approach to discussing wrestling is positive to an infectious degree. He manages to do an effective job of showing you why it’s not a prerequisite to be jaded as a wrestling fan.
The only downside this week, if you want to call it that, was out of Sam’s control. While it was a huge news week, given WWE’s new deal with Fox, in particular, there wasn’t really any one item that challenged Sam in a way that required his positive spin. It was mostly “This happened, here’s what I think.” That’s great, and of course, one of the reasons I tune in. It’s always fun, though, to hear Sam work through an item you don’t think could possibly have a silver lining and have him show you otherwise. All in all, this is a highly recommended episode. Rating: 9/10