Just as it has in pretty much every other niche on the internet, hosting a podcast is exploding among wrestling news websites. As broadband internet capability matures, and streaming services blossom, it’s only natural that—just as how 15-20 years ago with “news” websites—anyone with half a brain, a paycheck and the drive, can start a podcast.
While those who have long-standing pay subscription sites would have you believe that these are bottom-feeding, news stealing fans in love with their own voice, but incapable of offering any original thoughts or content, the fact of the matter is, if you look carefully enough, the tide is changing. There are some very high quality, free podcasts out there every week offering true alternatives to the content many sites offer at an increasingly steep premium in this age of ubiquitous, affordable digital content streams.
As such, it’s becoming a common question among wrestling fans looking for the best and latest news in pro wrestling; pay up and support an antiquated model, or look a little harder, and download freemium content.
Looking at how the playing field has been leveled, particularly with regard to audio podcasts, is a complex issue. Primarily, it centers on what a listener is looking to get out of the content, which can vary so widely that there is no easy answer.
For Call-In Shows & Mailbag Questions, Mail In Your Check (or… PayPal)
For instance, if a listener is looking for call-in, question an answer shows, or “mail bag” shows, where listeners submit their burning inquiries via email to be read aloud by a knowledgable host, quite frankly and transparently, there are very few free options available for that listener. Their best bets remain a subscription to PWTorch, who do call-in shows several times per week, prioritizing VIP members in their call-in queue, even for the free portion, before going into VIP-only overtime segments just for paid subscribers.
Similarly, albeit far more rarely, F4Wonline offers shows where a Dave Meltzer fields questions from listeners via email. This usually happens a couple of times per week, ordinarily to fill time to pad out the hour. This generally materializes as 15 to 20 minutes on Sundays and Wednesdays. For a while, every month Meltzer would be joined by Mike Sempervive for a Wrestling Observer Radio “Sin Limite” (Spanish for “No Limits”) show, which are two to three times the length of a typical WOR show one weekend per month when there isn’t a UFC event. On these shows, one of the hours is set aside for a giant-sized mailbag segment.
It would be unreasonable to suggest that these “rare anything close to “regular” shows, however, since they seem to happen so infrequently that a new subscriber signing up for the benefit of writing in, and listening, would be severely disappointed. But they do recur, from time to time.
Looking for Recaps? Get a Refund. Free is the Way to Be.
On the other hand listeners are part of that growing audience who enjoy recap shows that cover the more high profile wrestling shows, like WWE Raw, NXT, ROH, Impact Wrestling, or Lucha Underground, there are a slew of free options available.
Few, in my opinion, are better than Rob McCarron and Jeff Hawkins’ weekly look at Raw and NXT over at ShakeThemRopes.com. One of the impressive array of podcast over on the Voices of Wrestling Podcasting Network, McCarron and Hawkins have that rare chemistry where they can play friendly rivals poking fun without seeming mean spirited and without detracting from the topics at hand. The audio quality is incredibly good, and the material covered is quite sound. McCarron and Hawkings run down each Raw and NXT with an open, wide-eyed enthusiasm not yet jaded by a decade of watching shows they no longer enjoy in order to maintain a paycheck.
Elsewhere on Voices of Wrestling, for coverage of New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and other shows not covered on STR, the original, self-title podcast of the site, Voices of Wrestling, with Joe Lanza & Rich Kraetsch provides an ample dose, while Lucha of the Hidden Temple covered Lucha Underground.
(Thanks to Joe Lanza for correcting our erroneous information of Dylan Hales hosing VOW).
Unfortunately, since TNA’s move to the obscure cable network Destination America,VOW hasn’t been producing the Impact Wrestling-centric Stipulation podcast. But, let’s face it… no one is paying a dollar, let along 10/month strictly for TNA coverage anyway. So it’s not as though a lack of free alternative to TNA coverage is a deal breaker.
As far as Raw recaps go, there is also the Raw after show over on Afterbuzz TV, for those who want same-night reviews and recaps of the show, and prefer not to wait a night for STR.
Access to Longform Interviews—So Free it Feels Like Stealing
For listeners craving more longform interviews, or exposure to wrestling personalities, there is absolutely no better place that PodcastOne.com, whose slate of shows hosting by former WWE legends has created the biggest glut of free, original wrestling related content in the history of the Internet so far.
From Stone Cold Steve Austin’s twice weekly rants and raves, reviews and periodic interviews, and Jim Ross’s conversations with some of the bigger names in wrestling past and present, to Chris Jericho’s eclectic guest list crossing over from sports to wrestling to music, and Roddy Piper’s batshit lunacy, it’s hard to go wrong with PodcastOne.
Perhaps one of the more encouraging (and ironic) things about many of these PodcastOne shows is how a few of the hosts (Ross, Austin and Jericho in particular) can have pay site moguls like Wade Keller and Dave Meltzer as guests on their respective free shows, and somehow manage to get more out of them, and produce a more entertaining hour or so of content than the pioneers of pro wrestling news coverage manage to maintain on their own sites.
Increasingly, Meltzer in particular, and to a degree Keller, too, have become even more prone to keeping the in-depth analysis provided in the weekly newsletter under wraps. What’s included therein cannot be heard… it must only be read.
It is a baffling, yet true, indictment on how behind the times some premium wrestling news sites have become that refuse to offer their subscribers, as part of their pay services, the ability to access the best content their site has to offer in the ways their members prefer, and instead force them into outdated modes of like a weekly wall of text on a computer or tablet screen, or—better—reams of printed, mailed paper.
Analyze Your Alternatives When Looking at Business-Side Shows
For those who enjoy analysis into the business side of pro wrestling, particularly during the WWE’s quarterly earnings calls and reports, look no further than Voices of Wrestling again. Chris Harrington regularly provides one of the sharpest looks into the numbers each and every time they make headlines with his Wrestlenomics podcast. I’d say, selfishly, that the episodes aren’t produced regularly enough, but the fact of the matter is that these episodes come out when the news and information is warranted. Which is a testament to Harrington’s focus and discipline.
And, while he has been roundly criticized here in the past, an honorable mention is due David Bixenspan, too. It’s far too early (only two episodes in) to call it a bona fide success, but on the topic of business analysis, the his Trade Marks podcast at VOW deserves a serious look for those so inclined.
Yes, Cranky Assholes Have an Alternative, Too!
Lastly, because I know you’re out there, for the bitter, lapsed fan looking for a regular fix of curmudgeonly yearning for tester year, you do not have to pay $10.99/mo. to access Les Thatcher’s thoughts on Wrestling Weekly.
For you, I put forth MLW’s weekly walk with a wrestling mad man, the Jim Cornette Experience. If, that is, you can deal with co-host Alice Radley’s inane chirps from the peanut gallery.
So there you have it; a look at some of the free alternatives to the sorts of audio shows many folks believe they must pay for in order to access.
Check out any of the above shows when you have the chance. While I do recognized that I have not helped you if you’re looking for a free, frequent show with Lance Storm’s perspective on the business, I do hope that you’ve found this useful.