When I first saw this podcast was coming out I was excited. As a kid, when I was very into Pro Wrestling, I rarely, if ever, saw WCW. We didn’t have cable, so Saturday Night’s Main Event was a staple for quite a long time for me.
As I got older I was able to catch up on WCW, but always avoided the “behind the scenes” stories because those never had an impact. However, What Happened When was my opportunity to listen to those stories and get some context, from someone who was there.
It also boasts perhaps the best podcast host other there now, in one Conrad Thompson. I won’t get into it here, but I’ve previously reviewed Thompson’s gifts in another Podcast Review, Something to Wrestle. He does an insane amount of research, asks great questions, all while also keeping things light and adds humor.
The format is typically watching an old event (thank you WWE Network for the library) from WCW, Jim Crockett Promotions, or from Tony Schiavone’s brief time in the WWF/E. The hosts provide alternative commentary, tell stories, and discuss rumors of the day.
The events vary, from WCW’s flagship Monday night show, Nitro, to old NWA pay-per-views. Schiavone will talk over wrestler promos, giving a funnier, light-hearted take on what they were really like, or giving into rumors, which makes it fun.
Thompson, citing wrestling newsletter such as Pro Wrestling Torch or the Wrestling Observer, gives some context to the big storylines and backstage rumblings of the time. It’s a great combination of discussing the source material, while at the same time traveling back to that period.
As previously mentioned, Thompson is a great host, and my praise of him can be found at my Something To Wrestle review (linked above). So for this one I’ll focus on Schiavone.
Before this podcast I never had an opinion of Schiavone, just what old wrestlers said, which you always take with a grain of salt, good or bad. However, after listening here, he’s a challenge to listen to.
He abuses his favorite of excuse of “I was just doing what I was told!” Except, he often contradicts that narrative when he reveals he was told to give away rival WWF/E’s taped results, adding his own insults in, unprompted by his management.
Up until recently Schiavone had been out of wrestling altogether for an extended period, working as a baseball announcer for the Atlanta Braves AAA-affiliate team, Gwinnett Stripers. This didn’t stop him from criticizing the current product, despite insisting he doesn’t have an opinion on it.
What’s most annoying though is how Schiavone clearly plays favorites to wrestlers whom he had, and still has, personal relationships with. This is of course human nature, and he doesn’t attempt to hide it. I also don’t blame him, I speak positively about people I’m friendly with. However, it wears thin after awhile, because it impacts the story they’re trying to tell.
When Thompson starts to bring up rumors, or even well-known stories from that time, Schiavone is quick to shut down any criticism of one of his favorites. Even if Thompson is attempting this for some humor, Schiavone is more concerned with making excuses for his friends.
Schiavone also likes giving short answers, when the question clearly demands more. At first, the pregnant pauses from Thompson were humorous, and typically followed with chastising statements from Thompson about trying to be entertaining. Now they are just momentum killers, and make the podcast difficult to listen to.
If you were a hardcore WCW fan back in the day, you’ll definitely get something out of this one. The stories are solid, and Thompson is great at structuring the show and bringing context to it. Although, the excuses and lame responses from Schiavone grow old after awhile.
You can only hear “I don’t remember,” and “I was just doing what I was told,” so many times before you realize “Why am I listening to this?” After getting a taste of what a historical wrestling podcast (just made that up) can be with Something To Wrestle, this one falls short of the mark