Written by Mark Henely

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Wrestling Podcast Power Rankings: 5/24-5/30

It was a good week to marathon wrestling podcasts.
The hard part about marathoning wrestling podcasts is the overlap. The interview podcasts have a tendency to all interview the same person over and over again and the podcasts about current events necessarily all have to talk about the same thing.
But, this week, every podcast brought something unique to the table. There were no podcasts that were unlistenable and there were even a couple classics in the mix. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the shows.

1. Art of Wrestling with Colt Cabana – EP303 – Teddy Hart

HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!
Teddy Hart is a lunatic. He is a guy who doesn’t know a good idea from a bad idea until after it has blown up in his face and it is this lack of foresight that has cost him greatly in the wrestling business. But, it has also made him empathetic. The way he talks about all of the hookers he met in his life (hookers seem to have played a prominent role in his life since childhood) is very sweet and understanding. He seems like a good guy that does bad things, but is willing to admit a mistake when he makes one. There is a part in the podcast where Colt reprimands him for using the “R-word” and he immediately apologizes and makes a heartfelt vow to never say the word again. Listening to Teddy Hart discuss all of the crazy decisions he has made in his life with complete calmness (as if they were all reasonable) is very surreal to hear, but I walked away loving the guy. This is a great, sometimes poignant, interview that is really a must listen.
Also, the song of the week, “Prelude to the Screwjob” is fantastic.

2. The Steve Austin Show – Ariane Andrew aka Cameron – EP 327

Wrestling fans were first introduced to Ariane Andrew as the first contestant to be kicked off of the Steve Austin-led Tough Enough when she failed to convince Austin that she really wanted to be in the wrestling business. Now, five years later, Ariane has just been released from the WWE (for real this time) and she is discussing her career and her reputation as a wrestler who “doesn’t love the business” with the man who first exposed the truth, Stone Cold himself.
Austin covers everything from her time on Tough Enough, to Total Divas, to the Funkadactyls, but the question of Ariane’s true feelings about the business pop up all throughout the interview. She seems truly hurt by the abuse some segments of the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community) have given her for being a “poser” and this interview really feels like her one last attempt to win them back by proving that she loves this business once and for all.
But, it doesn’t really work that way. If you have to declare something, it probably isn’t true and the mere fact that Ariane has to declare her love erodes her credibility. She tries to say the right things but the truth tends to come out when people try to say the right things.
Ariane doesn’t love the business and this interview really begs the question, “Is that so wrong?” Should fans hate her for taking advantage of an opportunity to perform? It sounds like she clearly worked hard. Is it enough to work hard even if you don’t love what you are working towards? Austin doesn’t kill her for it, but it’ll be up to the fans to decide how to take this fact. Was she taking up another (potentially more deserving) wrestler’s spot by being on the show? And if she was, does it matter any more now that she is gone?
Five years ago, Austin screamed at her as he booted her from his reality show and supposedly ended her chance to be a wrestler. She then spent five years in the business trying to prove Austin wrong. This week, he gently and affectionately guides her toward the realization that this was never what she really wanted to do and it is OK to let go. This is probably the end of Ariane’s career as a wrestler. Sure, she’ll probably make an indy appearance or two, but she won’t wrestle again on a full time basis. This is your chance, as a listener, to say good-bye to Ariane Andrew. For what it’s worth, it’s a spectacular goodbye to a lackluster career.

3. The Steve Austin Show Unleashed! – Wade Keller – EP328

Anytime Austin has Wade Keller of PWTorch on his podcast, it is a must listen. This is as good as a topical wrestling podcast can be. Keller is a very insightful observer of the wrestling product with an impressive bed of knowledge. At one point, Austin asks him how the WWE house show attendance has been and he can speak to it. In the middle of the interview, Austin himself even becomes a little insecure about how much more keyed into the current product Keller is than he is.
On this show, they talk about the upcoming brand split (I mean, roster differentiation) taking place between Raw and Smackdown. This is news so current that I didn’t even know it until I downloaded the episode. Keller spends most of the time talking about the immense potential upside to this move and it is hard not to get excited about it. He makes a very compelling case for a Roman Reigns and John Cena led Raw that I pray comes through. He ignores most of the down side, but I suppose there are other places to hear that.

4. Talk is Jericho – EP 250 – Ric Flair

There is no shortage of Ric Flair podcast interviews. The legend himself just finished up a 48 episode run of his own podcast on Podcast One about a month ago, so while this isn’t an exclusive by any stretch of the imagination, it is the first time the Nature Boy has been on Jericho’s podcast. Jericho spends most of the interview quizzing Naitch on all of the legends of the pre-WWF era, when magazines were the chief news source and the boys kicked the shit out of each other for real backstage. The stories have a fun, swashbuckling quality, but they tend to rely on having a large wrestling knowledge of pre-1980s wrestling figures. Flair also seems to have trouble talking into the mic and he talks very fast, so it is a little hard to understand. There is also a very un-PC part where Flair brags about all of the little person wrestlers he got laid. Dedicated fans with a large body of historical knowledge of the business (and lack of empathy for little people) will love this for sure. For everyone else, it might be more work than it is worth.

5. Talk is Jericho – EP 251 – Jim Breuer

It might sound strange, but in my head, Jim Breuer is a legendary podcast guest. His episode of WTF with Marc Maron is the one where he gets Maron to come to terms with his famously disastrous meeting with Lorne Michaels and his appearances on other shows like You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes never disappoint. While this could never reaches the levels of his WTF appearance, Jericho and Jim have a good time. Jericho dips into his vast knowledge of hard rock music to discuss Breuer’s new music CD and their discussion of AC/DC’s new line-up change is interesting and topical. As a comedian, Jim knows how to be a good podcast guest and he brings some unique stories to this episode of Talk is Jericho. It is worth a listen and is probably one of the few wrestling podcasts this week that non-fans would love (Along with the Teddy Hart episode).

6. The Ross Report – with Andrew Goldstein – Ep119

In a typical, yet solid, episode of The Ross Report, Jim Ross interviews Andrew Goldstein about his thoughts on his time as a writer for Smackdown in the mid-2000s and his current thoughts on the product. It gives a good window into the frustrations of being a part of the WWE creative team. Wrestling is one of the most critiqued shows on TV and it was oddly comforting to hear that the people who write the show share the same frustrations that the fans do.

7. WWE Network Exclusive: Shane McMahon – Tell All Podcast Hosted by Mick Foley

Can something be called a podcast if it doesn’t exist as an audio file? The WWE Network has been airing a series of video taped “Podcast specials” over the past couple years and this newest entry into the series is maybe the most disappointing. Steve Austin started the series in December 2014 with his fantastic, yet controversial, Vince McMahon interview. The interview was a massive hit, but Austin’s no bullshit, “asking the tough questions”, style of interview has given WWE more trouble than they are probably worth (See Triple H’s comments about Chyna in the series’ 2nd episode). They tried to give the reigns to Chris Jericho, but fans reacted very negatively to Jericho “taking Austin’s spot” and what was perceived as a “soft ball” style of interviewing. Since that point, Austin has unofficially remained the host of the show. And that’s just one of the things that makes this interview so strange.
The trouble with Mick Foley as a podcast host on the WWE Network is that he doesn’t host a podcast. He does a good job of establishing that Austin is not upset to not be hosting the interview, but it is impossible to not watch this interview and think about what could have been. For years, fans have wanted to know why Shane left. And as a fan, I would have wanted Austin to do this interview because,even though Foley asks the questions, I, right or wrong, believe that  Austin would have really gotten to the bottom of this story.
Podcast hosts have a special relationship to their listener base. Foley has a closer relationship with his fans than most wrestlers because of his books, but that doesn’t compare to a podcast host’s relationship with his or her fans. Foley speaks directly to his fans every couple of years when he writes his autobiographies. Austin speaks directly to his fans twice a week. When Austin got the opportunity to interview Vince on the WWE Network, fans were happy for him because they knew how hard he worked on his podcast every week. Fans don’t root for Foley in that way because he doesn’t have a podcast. This is a one off gig and it seems like he is just there to set Shane up to say the things WWE wants Shane to say. They know Shane’s story needs to be told and they weren’t willing to wait until Austin got better.
The podcast starts to gain some momentum after the first half hour. There are some interesting parts where Foley really tries to connect with Shane about their relationships with their fathers and their Hell in a Cell matches, but he never quite breaks through. This podcast is probably a skip, but there are some good things in there for extra patient fans.
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****Thank you for reading! If you want to know who Mark Henely is and who he thinks he is, then follow him on twitter: @MarkHenely. If you want him to put his money where his mouth is and make a podcast of his own, then check out Introducing… the First Appearance Podcast. https://soundcloud.com/first-appearance ****
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.