I'll admit to thinking it was a joke when Beat The Champ's theme was announced, but there's no denying that it's just another that the band manages to make relatable. They've incorporated religion, literature, nerd culture, and historical anecdotes into their past musings so it isn't too shocking to see sweaty guys (mostly) pretending to beat each other up be treated with the same dignity. Points of view alternate between the wrestler, spectator, and the omniscient while the moods are somber, humorous, somber, and nostalgic when they aren't any sort of combination.
The instrumentation also manages to keep things interesting. The piano and woodwinds that drive the opening "Southwestern Territory" gives it an encompassing feel that could make a neat sports montage, "Choked Out" has a heavy punk style, and the double bass percussion on "Werewolf Gimmick" gives further credibility to Darnielle's love for extreme heavy metal.
Overall, Beat the Champ may not be another essential Mountain Goats album but its experiments and overall quality keep it from sounding complacent. The wrestling themes would've failed in lesser hands (I'm honestly surprised some nu metal band or horrorcore rapper didn't beat them to it) but the subject is done justice. I don't see this capturing that demographic but it's a safe purchase for fans and worth checking out once you've heard their more seminal efforts.
"The Legend of Chavo Guerrero"
"Heel Turn 2"
"Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan"