If you haven't got lost in the plethora of professional wrestling programming persistently protruding onto your person, you might have caught the latest Stone Cold Podcast on the WWE Network (available for an unspecified sum of money per month). In this edition, Austin interviews the man who currently sits at the top of the mountain, holding the company's biggest prize, WWE Champion Dean Ambrose.
Many comparisons have been made between Austin and Ambrose and their respective wrestling gimmicks. Both portray themselves as anti-heroes, lovable rebels and trash talkers. This interview really illustrated the great differences in personality of the two men behind the character. Austin came across as loud, brash, and confident when he was in the ring. It's almost as if you don't know where the gimmick ends and Steve Austin begins. Ambrose seems much more reserved with a 'so laid-back he's practically horizontal' approach. When Dean speaks he sounds like he's on some kind of drugs. Either that or he's really, really tired. Whatever it is, there's a lot of mystery surrounding the man known in real life as Jonathan Good.
This interview was definitely awkward. At times, Meg Ryan on Parkinson awkward. Ambrose wasn't exactly the guest Austin was looking for. He'd dodge some of Austin's probing questions, argue with him, and demonstrate the art of no selling when Stone Cold tried to rile him up. I've heard Dean's interviews with Chris Jericho and Colt Cabana and I think they were better than this one as Ambrose had a much better rapport with those two. Austin had his flaws as the man asking the questions. He got several parts of his research wrong, coming across like a man who just read Ambrose's Wikipedia article and took it all as fact. Austin was clearly annoyed he wasn't getting what he wanted out of Dean. Even going as far as accusing Dean of "resting on his laurels" at the end of the interview.
Despite the shaky atmosphere created, there were some real highlights from the interview. Ambrose references doing "some things he probably shouldn't talk about" in his youth. You can only speculate what exactly he's referring to. Though I wouldn't be that surprised if WWE tried to work that little tidbit of information into a future angle.
Ambrose also talks about growing up watching Bret Hart and becoming obsessed with wrestling. He'd watch and re-watch matches and tape trade to get stuff from Japan. A real student of the game as JR might say. Austin manages to get out of Ambrose that he used wrestling to live viciously through the stories he watched play out in the ring. Now the shoes on the other foot. Kids want to live viciously through him.
Dean talks about the day he got the phone call to join the WWE. He thought it was prank by one of his friends until Joey Mercury rang him and it finally clicked that he was going to the big leagues. Steve looked quite perturbed that Dean didn't show more enthusiasm about this moment when he was describing it, coming across emotionally detached from the situation. Dean accused Austin of trying to fire him up and when he just wanted a 'chilled out' interview.
My favourite part of the podcast was when the two were talking about scripted promos. Dean said he thought the idea that WWE had scripted promos was 'a myth' and he was shocked to find out it was true when he got to the main roster. Ambrose cuts a promo on Austin right off the top of his head and it's a pretty great one. He talks about Austin's 'bum knee' and how he'll use it against him in their fantasy match. Austin retorts by stating he'd "kick Ambrose's ass any day of the week and twice on Sunday."
There's a few stories in the podcast about The Shield but it's nothing we haven't heard before. The stable was brought into to be CM Punk's hired guns until that idea got nixed. They all had a chip on their shoulder and didn't care about offending the rest of the locker room. They'd waited years to get their chance on the main roster and they were going to make the most of it.
Ambrose talks about being an awkward third wheel post-Shield breakup. Dean always expected to come out of the Shield as the heel. But he got the babyface role and gave it his all to make it work. It might have took him a bit longer to get to the top than Seth or Roman but he made it in the end.
The biggest talking point coming out of the podcast seems to be Dean's comments on Brock Lesnar. Ambrose said he had tons of ideas for how his big WrestleMania match with the Beast should go down. But Brock didn't want to do a lot of things. Ambrose said it was down to "laziness" on Lesnar's end and he was "pissed off" because his ideas had been shot down.
Dean discusses his boss, Vince McMahon. He calls VInce a "street fighter at heart" and makes the bold claim that he is Vince McMahon's favourite wrestler. Hmm. Not sure about that one.
As far as the brand split goes, Dean Ambrose is a big fan. He feels like the captain of the blue brand with that belt over his shoulder and feels a responsibility to be a leader. But not a John Cena kind of leader. More of a 'lead by example' approach. Dean likes the fact guys will get more of a chance and be less overexposed as a result of Raw and SmackDown having separate rosters.
Since the Vince McMahon and the Triple H interviews, the Stone Cold Podcast has not been must-see programming. I'm not too sure if I like Austin's approach as an interviewer. He probes his guests like he's only looking for that big scoop of news to take from the episode rather than actually taking an interest in the other person. It worked really well in the earlier episodes as we had no idea what the limits were in regards to the questions. Now that we know that no topic is off limits, the novelty of that fact has worn thin.
Some online feel the way Dean Ambrose handled this interview is one of the reasons why he was held back for a while as a performer. If you want to be "the man," it comes with a lot of PR work and if Ambrose acts like this in every interview, it doesn't exactly paint the greatest picture of the company. John Cena can always be relied on as a great PR guy but Dean Ambrose? Not so much, it seems. Still Dean has done many entertaining interviews in the past like this one for Good Morning Acadiana. It's not like he can't pull it out of the bag when required.
Even with those facts in mind, this podcast was still an entertaining hour of viewing. I would have liked it if a few more topics were brought up like Ambrose's brief appearances on Heat and Velocity as a jobber in 2006. But we did get a very revealing insight into what Dean Ambrose is like in real life. And Dean might say he likes to talk but he doesn't seem to like conversations quite as much. Maybe this shows that he's a true introvert at heart and there's nothing wrong with that.