Talking Smack was a Poor Man’s Stone Cold Podcast… And that’s not a bad thing

The Miz and Daniel Bryan - Photo Credit: Talking Smack via WWE Network

The Miz and Daniel Bryan – Photo Credit: Talking Smack via WWE Network

That’s a good thing! It was the last bastion of semi-reality on 100% kayfabe programming. A last window into reality in a universe sentenced to life in fakeness throughout the mainstream. Here wrestling fans could revel in their version of Talking Dead to say, ‘Hey, we’re the same deal guys’! We’re hip to the fact we’re watching a performance, a sports spectacle, and watching the cast members discuss it not-in-character. Just like their acting counterparts. Well mostly not-in-character, as close as you’ll ever get out of current WWE programming. It equalled acceptance.

The key here again, is not-in-character. The jig is up, the business has been exposed a million times over. There’s no putting back the top to this pandora’s box. Go on Youtube or Amazon and you’ll find endless wrestling shoots, many times more popular these days than the actual programming. People are listening to the shoots and podcasts. They’re reading the dirt sheets and following TMZ Sports and dabbling in spoilers. All instead of watching the actual programs on the network (outside of the monthly PPVs and even then).

The Current State of Wrestling Fans

Recently, when the Alberto El Patron/Paige incident occurred, I saw a user (FtheOpinionated73p) on wrestling news site LOP comment “why is alberto 100x more interesting off camera than on?”. Sure, meant as a joke but a telling quote of the current state of the wrestling industry. People want real, the thirst for reality isn’t going anywhere. A mirage like Talking Smack or Raw Talk was just a sip.

Now the audience wants the whole damn ocean. Drinking at the fountain won’t suffice any longer. If we can’t have reality then in its place something as close to it as possible. Or the older audience will continue leaving in droves to the UFC once the age arrives. The reason the Stone Cold Podcast was such must-see ‘network’ television was because it felt real, sincere, and fairly no-holds barred in its questioning.

Steve Austin didn’t beat around the bush, he asked the tough questions. During the Dean Ambrose interview (rumored to have put the kibosh on the whole program on the network), Ambrose commented he thought Brock was lazy in the ring.

There’s an eyebrow raiser from a co-worker, and not just The Rock’s. The whole Chyna in the Hall of Fame question to Triple H was another one. Even AJ Styles discussing having the ‘TNA stank on him’ before going to Japan in an exceptional interview was ground breaking.

Talking Smack’s Magnum Opus

When anyone ever mentions the pinnacle of Talking Smack it’s The Miz/Daniel Bryan segment. It was gritty, brutally honest and raw. It was show time, it was magic. What McGregor/Mayweather is now to the general public.

The Miz laid out the facts of Bryan whining about being stuck in the WWE, telling him to go wrestle in front of a handful of people in the indys again. Meanwhile, Daniel Bryan told him he’ll never be anything special as a wrestler because all he could do was talk. The type of stuff you’d expect to read in a dirt sheet or see in a shoot come to life.

A few years before there was a Talking Smack there was CM Punk, and you can travel all the way back to the Monday Night Wars. Scott Hall’s originally debut promo about dubya c dubya, Hogan’s heel turn speech at Bash of the Beach about being bored and the poor reaction when he came out. Shawn Michael’s Sunny Days comment, the Montreal screwjob… These are the things people remember and will continue to remember for a lifetime.

The Reality of Talking Smack

The reason some hardcore wrestling fans are now mourning Talking Smack is more because of what it represented than what it was. In truth, nothing ever topped The Miz / Daniel Bryan segment and it seemed the show as a whole was toned down more than just a bit after the feud. It’s likely the majority of fans really did just leave the network on after the pay per views for Talking Smack (or Raw Talk) the bulk of the time.

People as a whole tend to stay loyal to one great moment and forget the rest as it washes away from shore. One day it could happen again, greatness that is. It’s the reason many fans of anything will continue watching even once a favorite program, game, past time has long lost its luster. Even relationships are mostly built on the honey moon period, and not the wedding’s. The first few months.

Vince Has a Point Too…

A good portion of fans online have taken into this idea Vince McMahon, a self made millionaire and creator of the whole WWE, is stuck in the past. Well like it or not, Vince has a point about letting fans leap too much down the rabbit hole. One episode of Talking Smack that sticks in memory is when Alexis Bliss first won the Smackdown Women’s Championship title.

Her initial appearance on Talking Smack was expressively full of genuine joy and emotion on the journey as well as having her parents attend. It was a sincere beautiful moment that made Alexis look absolutely lovable as a person. Practically a babyface.

A babyface…. Probably the reverse of what the creative team wanted at the time since Alexis was and still is a full-blown heel. Sure, Alexis quickly went back into heel mode for the rest of the interview but all it takes is a moment. Fans have no doubt continued to enjoy Alexis’ current heel run. Yet, at the same time, one could say the truth of Alexis’ personality was revealed on that episode of Talking Smack.

Studying Old Footage

It’s likely why wrestlers always stayed in character in the old days and most recently, Matt Hardy during his original Broken Matt run. Being in-character even on Chris Jericho’s podcast. The reason why Lavar Ball plays up a certain persona in interviews, even when caught off guard picking up his luggage by TMZ.

People have a difficult time separating character from reality even if they know it’s a character inside. Actor Kiefer Sutherland, once commented he gets called Jack Bauer so often on the street he’s started to turn when he hears Jack.

To put it simply, people want to believe. Jim Cornette always says the business did the strongest when fans believed in kayfabe. Lance Storm once said ‘we broke all the rules in ECW and found out why there were rules’.

Talking Smack was a compromise. Although Stone Cold’s monthly Podcast was a much better one. If you’re gonna go non-kayfabe for a show might as well go all the way. The ESPN style pre-shows of pre-booked winners/losers on the network simply can not hold the suspension of disbelief for a viewer.

The Miz/Daniel Bryan segment was based around real world happenings. A worked shoot. WCW’s staple, Vince Russo was ahead of his time on this concept. How many have forgotten Scott Steiner’s semi-shoot on Rick Flair, WCW programming as a whole, and management running Steve Austin out? Not many a wrestling fan.

Talking Smack’s Future

It appears the compromise is non-kayfabe has its place only once a month after pay per views. However, it’s already too late, you can’t put this genie back in the bottle. If fans do not get shoot level programming on the network they’ll simply continue consuming it outside the WWE’s control. And on TMZ, there is no editing/spinning with a bias in the WWE’s favor after the fact.

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