One of the reasons I fell in love with professional wrestling, as I’ve discussed in many forms here at New Age Insiders, is the larger than life aspects. Much like their comic book contemporaries, there are heroes, villains, and the epic battle betwixt the two. However, unlike the superheroes on the page and screen. . .
Wrestlers don’t last forever.
Unlike Superman, whose history can be retconned (or recast), the heroes and villains in our squared circle universe are one-shot deals. Sure, we can see renaissances (HHH as an Authority figure post-wrestling, whatever the hell Ric Flair was doing when he held the IC title back in the mid 2000’s), but careers are fleeting. Before the advent of podcasts and social media, for the vast majority of sports entertainers, they faded into relative obscurity, save for the occasional convention or nostalgic appearance.
That’s not quite the case now. . . . The crux of this Musing Monday, the first in what might become a weekly segment, is this, my friends. . .
This idea has been percolating in the caverns of my cerebral cortex for quite some time now, looking back on it. There’s a reason (as I described on episode 2 of the NAIborhood podcast) why I don’t listen to a lot of professional wrestling podcasts, outside of NAIpod.
I don’t like who these heroes have become.
Jim Ross? I find him to be a rambling, bitter old man who can’t seem to help situating himself on a pedestal above the rest of us mere mortals.
Chris Jericho? I don’t mind him as much as some of the others, but he does tend to toe the corporate line just a bit too much for my liking. He’s the alumni fratboy who can’t help showing up at keggers now and then, trying to be “Mr. Cool” on one hand while knowing he needs to brownnose the right people now and then so that he can keep getting invited back each year.
(Ok, so I may have gone a little overboard with that analogy. It’s been a while since I’ve written a column for visual consumption, I’m rusty!)
Ric Flair? Oh boy, I’m not even daring to try that one.
Tazz? I’ll give him a try. He’s young enough and outside the business, plus he was always a fairly “real” announcer, even if he did abuse the “Holy ______” line a bit too much.
The other MAJOR ‘wrestler’ podcast that I can think of is Steve Austin’s, and his is the one that, back a year or so ago, I listened to with the most regularity. Much like Tazz, Austin seemed to be very much in the “I’m being me, and to hell with you if you don’t like it” camp, and I can respect that, even if I didn’t always agree or relate to what he was talking about, having never hunted, rode a 4 wheeler or had a need for “male enhancement”.
As life got busy and NAI and their podcast entered my life, I stopped listening to everything else, wrestling wise. Just not enough time or energy in my brain for THAT much sports entertainment. I saw Austin’s work on the WWE Network, which I’ve enjoyed, and I keep tabs on the topics and opinions of the Texas Rattlesnake.
Now, I was just a young teenager during the dawn of the “Austin 3:16” era, and being a fairly spoiled only child, I didn’t identify much with the “anti-hero” mythos. I had never wanted to attack my bosses with a bedpan or anything like that, except for the rare time that one parent caught wind that I had already borrowed money from the other, so I couldn’t walk out the door with $40 instead of the usual $20.
So, I never found Austin to be my hero, outside of respecting him for being a legitimate tough guy who overcome a lot of adversity to succeed in the world of pro wrestling. Plus, when he wants to be, he’s hilarious, and I love that.
Regardless, in the last few months, I’ve found myself starting to sour on Austin. It began with his issues with John Cena’s use of the Stone Cold Stunner. I understood the major point of his argument, that such a famous ‘finisher’ not be used as a ‘setup’ maneuver, but it still seemed silly to even talk about. Over the years, we’ve seen countless moves make the transition from match-ender to mid-match spot, and I haven’t heard a lot of people complaining (though perhaps I’ve just missed it - Correct me if I’m wrong). The DDT went from being world-shaking to Just Another Move, as did the leg drop, top rope elbow and powerslam. This is how wrestling works.
So I was perturbed by that, but I got over it, figuring that since I hadn’t heard the podcast, perhaps it was taken out of context. I felt the same way about a couple other issues and opinions that Austin has taken to the airwaves, and while I once again overlooked them for the most part, it started to slowly sour my perception of one of WWE’s all-time greats.
Which brings me to today’s news, which served as the inspiration for what has been a fairly rambling column. Roddy Piper claims that his podcast (yet another one I dare not listen to, for having heard enough of his promos, I know will be borderline incoherent) was taken off of the airwaves of Podcast One at the request of Steve Austin. Apparently Piper had former Mad TV star and wrestling fan Will Sasso on his show, who did an Austin impression. Steve didn’t take kindly to that, and according to Piper, made enough noise to get Roddy’s podcast off the ‘network’.
Now, as with all rumors and issues like this, there are certainly 2 sides to every story, and we definitely don’t have all the facts. Piper’s podcast undoubtedly wasn’t doing as well in the download ratings as Austin’s, and for all I know was a train wreck from episode 1. The decision to cut his show might have very little to do with Austin altogether.
But it continues to paint this picture, one that goes against the mystique of one of wrestling’s great heroes.
Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Texas Rattlesnake. The toughest SOB in the WWE universe. The inspiration for countless balding blue collar workers the world over.
Steve Austin. The guy who walked away from WWE because he didn’t like the hand he was dealt, booking wise. The guy who couldn’t help but comment (or was it complain) about “his move” was not being used properly. The guy who (APPARENTLY) couldn’t handle some tongue in cheek impressions, so got a fellow “brother” pulled from the Podcast One airwaves.
Unfortunately, in the fantasy world that is professional wrestling, our heroes aren’t immortal, despite what recent video games might portray. They get hurt, they grow old, and they change - from the Mythical Heroes we cheered for and adored to . . . well. . . to people. Outside that squared circle, they become human beings once more.
What hurts the most, perhaps, is that we are reminded, time and time again, that the sport we all love is merely entertainment, and can be fleeting.
Clark Kent never yelled at kids to get off his lawn. Bruce Wayne didn’t lament some other hero using insignia laden tools. Those heroes are forever.
I just wish ours were, too.