Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review-a-Wai [Weekly Podcast]

The Good
Born out of the success of the LAW (Live Audio Wrestling), John Pollock and Wai Ting (yes, that is his real name), developed this show as an add-on to the weekly LAW show.  Decidedly more low-key then the LAW, John and Wai do simple reviews of all sorts of pro-wrestling content.  Primarily they review old WWF and WCW pay-per-views, but they've branched off into documentaries, movies, music and even pornography with ties to pro-wrestling.  As two twenty-somethings with slightly different backgrounds to their fandom, this show presents views very much in-line with online smart mark commentary.  John pulls in some great sound clips, inserts (or conducts) some relevant interviews and as media production types, they're always concerned with their quality.  The reviews vary greatly, largely based on their interest in the event, circumstances around watching the event and often their health.  I think the greatest strength of this show is their attempt to be objective about pro-wrestling that folks are often nostalgic about.  They have no qualms with cutting down the Attitude Era for nonsensical booking, offensive content and bad wrestling.  Conversely, they will put over things that are entertaining (even if they might be campy or "bad") and they attempt to provide some context for things.  As someone who could listen to shoot interviews day-after-day, I can appreciate that not everyone enjoys that medium because they tend to rely heavily on prior knowledge, refer to all sorts of disjointed rumors and are often ripe with over-the-top storytelling, bullshitting or straight-up lying.  That sort of stuff can be exhausting to listen to, but this is more light and entertaining.  I have a brother who is a devoted fan of this podcast, but will put off my other suggestions of shoots, matches and other podcasts because they're hard to fit into a busy schedule.  Review-a-Wai, however, is always easy to catch.

The Bad
As a huge fan of the DVDVR in its heyday, I find Review-a-Wai to be a slightly less informed, slightly easier to take in version.  The show has some regular banter about their lives at the Fight Network, John's beverage choices, their illnesses and so forth.  As with any podcast, you have to expect some unrelated conversational content and these two certainly do that.  As I stated earlier, the quality varies widely.  Sick and tired guys laboring through a god-awful show can make for some lackluster shows.  Getting feedback from the people is a common theme from the LAW and I rarely think it adds to that show and reading through feedback on hear is not much different.  The show has its regulars, but those comments almost never include extra insight or worthwhile anecdotes.  I can accept Review-a-Wai for what it is and I can understand why people love it, but it is not without flaws.

The Rating: ****1/4

Friday, January 20, 2012

Peach State Pandemonium [Weekly Podcast]

The Good
At a time when I was regularly listening to ten different podcasts, this was always amongst my favorites. The main host changed a few times early on, before settling on Michael Norris. The regular co-hosts are Jerry Oates and Bobby Simmons. Some of you may be asking, who are these gentlemen? Norris worked as a pro-wrestler back in the day and has an amazing knowledge base. Oates was part of a great team with his brother Ted and worked all over the South and a few other places. Simmons worked in the office for Ann Gunkel and Jim Barnett, he also worked and refereed. Though not the most famous trio, these three have great chemistry and can do shows by themselves if need be with no wasted time. The guests they've had on range from the well-known (in their day) like Dutch Savage, Don & Jackie Fargo and Billy Wicks to the somewhat obscure like Sweet Daddy Banks, El Mongol and Jim Lancaster. The are a number of regulars who call in and provide great stories and insight like Joe Turner & Bill Bowman, former referee Charlie Smith and most notably Dick Steinborn. It is an amazingly informative show that covers history often left unexplored in the podcasting and shoot interviewing world. While the show is "supposed to" focus on Georgia, they certain go all over the place. Jerry Oates worked in practically every Southern territory, had several Japanese tours and a notable run in Portland. Norris grew up on Gulf Coast wrestling and regularly focuses on that often forgotten area. The show regularly features a unique theme such as journeyman wrestlers, famous publications or looking back at those who have passed on. They also get into side tangents about things like wrestling boots, pay-offs and all manner of humorous ribs and road stories. This podcast may seem kind of homespun and folksy, but it is among the most insightful and unique out there. A must-listen for any serious pro-wrestling historian.

The Bad
I suppose there are a number of things about this podcast that could drive some people crazy. It is not of the highest production value quality. There is plenty of retelling of the same stories by the hosts and frequent guests. They talk about plenty of non-wrestling issues from the plight of the Atlanta Falcons to Jerry's adventures as a dog-catcher! I think it takes a while before you really enjoy the show for what it is. If you only listen once or twice, you might find it less than impressive.

The Rating: *****

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ernie Ladd [Highspots Shoot Interview] 

The Good
Ernie Ladd is a well-spoken and sharp man whose athletic background and role as top star in pro-wrestling make him unlike anyone else who ever came down the pike. In addition to having an amazing career to talk about, Ladd had some interesting stories of racism in the Deep South, his political views which are interesting as a black man who is a long-time Republican and even his story of being "saved" was unique. I found Ladd to be a great storyteller and while not as over-the-top as his promos (he was in the latter stages of the cancer that would take his life), he really pulled you in. Initially, I was on the fence about whether or not the detailing of his extensive and impressive football career would be a huge addition, but he was so adamant about his greatness, so fiery about Grambling's and the SWAC's legacy of great football players and so passionate about describing the unusual cohesiveness (across racial lines even) of the AFL's San Diego Chargers that you had enjoy it. He even called the question of "how would Grambling have stacked up against the white teams that they couldn't play" out as being "stupid" because clearly they would have crushed anybody! You get some great insight into the greatness of the "Big Cat."

The Bad
I sometimes hold off on listening to a shoot interview in anticipation of it being really awesome. This was one of those and it was good, but it did not blow me away. Ladd is one of my all-time favorite promos and this was not a promo (not that it should've been), so much of his fire and humor were missing. He showed hints of both, but this was the musings of a dying old man, not the rantings of a man in his prime. Clearly Highspots had a two-hour time frame because they seemed to be limited in their depth and it could've easily been twice as long. I think if prompted appropriate Ladd might have delivered a little more strongly, but it was an average interview with an average interviewer and an above-average legend, so they is some disappointment there for me. Especially since Ernie Ladd is no longer with us.

The Rating: ****