Sunday, July 24, 2016

Battleground predictions


By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Battleground is just a few hours away and will serve as a send off for several Superstars prior to heading to their new shows. We know the Club will no longer include AJ Styles and the new threesome of John Cena, Enzo and Big Cass is over too. Here are my picks for the show. Be sure to listen to the analysis of Battleground on the My 1-2-3 Cents podcast.

Dean Ambrose will retain the WWE Championship only to have Stephanie McMahon present Seth Rollins with the World Heavyweight Championship the next night on Raw. The only way the brand extension can truly work is to have two separate heavyweight champions. At one point I was for just one champ, but if WWE is going all in on the split two champs have to be the way they do it.

Sasha Banks and Nia Jax will beat Charolette and Dana Brooke. Bayley won't be the mystery partner. Sasha will keep the feud with Charolette going strong and the two will face off at SummerSlam. There's no need to throw Bayley into that mix just yet. 

The Miz will retain the Intercontenial title against Darren Young. I just don't see Young as IC champ material, but that's not to say he can't or won't be one day. I do like the pairing with Bob Backlund. Time will tell.

Rusev will beat Zack Ryder. I love Zack, don't get me wrong. But WWE has yanked him around so many times in the past he's not a credible threat to the monster heel Rusev. He needs to stay strong and face stiffer competition at SummerSlam next month. 

The Club and AJ Styles will beat John Cena, Enzo and Big Cass. I'm breaking my own "never beat against Cena" rule. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson can carry on with the feud against Enzo and Cass on Raw and Cena and AJ can wrap things up against each other at SummerSlam on the SmackDown Live side of things.

I like the Becky Lynch-Natalya feud going on right now. Since they're both on SmackDown Live, I'd add the stipulation that the winner of this match becomes the number one seed in the tournament for SDL women's championship, because like I said earlier there needs to be two sets of champs.

The New Day will beat The Wyatt Family. My only reasoning for this is my assumption the Family as we know it is splitting up. Braun Strowman is going to Raw and Erick Rowan and Bray Wyatt will be on SmackDown Live. Plus as the tag team champions, I'd like to see New Day going into the SummerSlam storyline looking stronger.

Despite saying the match is their final battle, I see more life in the Sami Zayn-Kevin Owens feud. I'd rather see this culminate at WrestleMania and if WWE doesn't wait that long than Hell in a Cell with Zayn winning and finally breaking that 'underdog' stature.  

The Usos will win against Breezango. I'm not sure WWE is firmly behind Fandango and Tyler Breeze just yet.

I'm probably mostly wrong with these predictions, which isn't a bad thing. I like when WWE comes up with things I'm not thinking.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Careers saved by tag team wrestling


Breezango
Courtesy: WWE

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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So far I'm pleased that most of the established tag teams in WWE will remain intact after the draft. Of course general managers could split up some of the duos as Chad suggested during our podcast and have the Ascension and the Usos pursue singles careers. 

Selfie time
Courtesy: WWE
I'm particularly glad to see that Breezango was drafted together and Fandango and Tyler Breeze will at least for now continue to function as a team. When both men were brought up from NXT to the main roster, I had high hopes for them. After very short lived pushes each seemed to get lost in the shuffle.

A couple months ago new life was breathed into their careers when they were put together as a team. While I'm not sure they'll become tag team champions, Breezango is no doubt getting more attention from creative than they were as individuals. There have been other floundering singles Superstars saved by getting a partner.

Oh you didn't know?
Courtesy: WWE
The best example of this is the Road Dogg and Billy Gunn. Billy was transitioning out of The Smoking Gunns team and tried a solo career as RockaBilly with the Honky Tonk Man as his manager. The gimmick fell flat. Road Dogg meanwhile had departed Jeff Jarrett as the Roadie and really hadn't done much. In fact I don't really remember him doing anything until the angle with Billy started.

New Age Outlaws
Courtesy: WWE
When the two first teamed up I didn't think it was a good pairing. Then The New Age Outlaws beat the Legion of Doom for the WWF tag team titles and I thought the powers that be had lost their minds. The Road Warriors, one of wrestling's greatest tag teams of all time, had just lost the gold to a couple of midcard no names. It reminded me of when Steve Regal (not William) and Jimmy Garvin beat the Warriors for the AWA straps 12 years earlier. But this was the start of something big and the Outlaws have gone down as one of the most beloved and awarded tag teams in the history of the business. Joining DX didn't hurt with them getting over either.

New Day Rocks!
Courtesy: WWE
The current tag team champions, The New Day fit into this category too. Kofi Kingston was on the brink of breaking through to the main event scene but for some reason was derailed along the way. He quickly slipped into the land of the lost. Big E showed potential as a heel, but when he turned face he too got lost in the shuffle. Xavier Woods was working hard to make a name for himself. Then these three Superstars in search of an identity came together and the rest is wrestling history. I never imagined New Day would be as wildly popular as they are. The merchandising alone will put them in the books as some of WWE's greatest Superstars. After all, what other Superstar has had their own cereal? 

What singles stars have you seen saved by becoming a tag team competitor?

Friday, July 22, 2016

I made it on The Rock's YouTube channel...


By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I have been waiting on pins and needles for nine days to find out if I was one of 32 finalists in the Rock the Promo contest on the Rock's YouTube channel. Contestants had to submit a 45 second video with a character and make certain points in their promo. The field was narrowed to the final 32 which were revealed earlier today on YouTube. As I watched the video I got excited for a minute when a quick cut of my character made it on screen. But I was part of the rejects, much like the early episodes each season on American Idol.

My character is one I've actually been wanting to introduce to the My 1-2-3 Cents supporters for some time. His name is LuchaDad. Up until now I had no creative way to make that happen. But thanks to the Rock's contest, LuchaDad and his 10 year old LuchaDaughter are out in the open. Doing this forced me out of my comfort zone (yes I have one believe it or not) and has got my creative wheels spinning for future projects. My 45 second submission is below.



I chose the bathrobe instead of a fancy wrestling robe because I'm a dad. I told a cheesy "dad joke" thanks to my high school friend Jodi for that one. And I used the belt as my intimidating look because who didn't fear a belt spanking as a child? The Padre Island reference is to keep with the dad/Latino gimmick I'm working. 

While I didn't make it into the top 32, I did make it onto the Rock's YouTube channel which not many people will likely ever be able to say. Take a look at the others involved, my one second of fame comes in at 1:28 on the video below. Thanks to the Rock and his team for the opportunity and for using part of my video in the montage. Also thanks to my "LuchaDaughter" for being such a good sport. Also good luck to the final 32!



Finally making an impact


By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

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Towards the end of episode 87 of the My 1-2-3 Cents podcast, I stated Impact Wrestling has been on a roll lately and encouraged listeners to give Impact another chance. Based on this week’s (7/21) episode, I stand by that assessment. Coming off the criticism I’ve leveled at Impact (and yes, I prefer to say Impact instead of TNA) over the past four years on this blog, if I’m now giving Impact credit, it’s done because I firmly enjoy the product.

I don’t know what’s changed since Impact moved from Destination America to Pop earlier this year but the company seems more focused with specific plans in place. Impact has lost several wrestlers over the past year which now seems to be a blessing more than a curse. The loss of top level talent such as Bobby Roode, Austin Aries and Bully Ray, created spots for fresh new talent to take the ball and run. Drew Galloway and Ethan Carter III have been on point to where one has to wonder why WWE didn’t do anything productive with either guy when they were with the company. The biggest shock to me though has been Bobby Lashley.

Lashley
Courtesy: Impact Wrestling
During Lashley’s run in WWE and his first run on Impact, I thought he was nothing more than a jacked up muscle head. Over the past month though something has clicked with him both in the ring and on the mic that engages me when he’s on TV. His current run as badass champ who’ll fight all challengers has me curious to see who’s next.


The Bromans
Courtesy Impact Wrestling
Impact has also done a decent job of re-building the X-Division and Tag Team Division. The mid-card also features fresh talent who if given a chance, I think can become long term players. Most off all, as I mentioned earlier, there seems to be long term planning to story lines. There’s not as much just throw something at the wall and see what sticks then do something different next week.

The Knockouts
Courtesy: Impact Wrestling
The Knockouts Division features a mix of new and established talent who are all doing a good job to keep the women’s revolution going. I would like to see more talent brought in, as right now there are only five competitors.

"Broken" Matt Hardy
Courtesy: Impact Wrestling
Shockingly the biggest asset to Impact right now is “Broken” Matt Hardy. When Matt first started with the "Broken"character, I doubt anyone saw potential in what he was doing. Now, maybe because it’s so different or just so out there and Matt plays it 100% serious, I can’t wait to se what he’ll do week after week in his quest to belittle and rule over the “Obsolete Mule” Brother Nero (Jeff Hardy). I will also stand by my critique the WWE ripped off Matt and Nero’s “Final Deletion” match with the compound battle between the New Day and Wyatt Family. Only WWE’s version wasn’t half as entertaining.

Of course not everything Impact is doing is praise worthy. They still run too many gimmick matches for my taste. My personal dislike of the American Wolves also has me wishing Davey Richards’ recent injury had lasted longer. Although I will give credit to Eddie Edwards for his matches against Bobby Lashley the past two weeks as being two really good title vs. title bouts.

Overall, Impact still has some areas to improve as no company will ever be 100% perfect. Compared to Impact from 2012-2015 though, 2016 Impact is quickly become my must see wrestling show of the week. I hope I haven’t just jinxed them. I don’t know what’s going on backstage and I don’t care. I’m enjoying the product on the TV screen and at the end of the day that’s the most important thing.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Wrestling with politics

Donald Trump & Hulk Hogan
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Through the years there have been staged runs for the White House in the world of professional wrestling. "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan once declared his candidacy for President of the United States on Monday Nitro. Mr. Bob Backlund had done the same thing, even calling out a Bill Clinton impersonator prior the 1996 election.

Trump & Jesse Ventura
Then there's the real side of wrestlers getting involved in politics. As you see by the main picture Donald Trump is going to be discussed, just hang on, I'm getting there. Jesse Ventura served as the mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota and eventually ended up running as the Reform Party candidate for Governor. He won the race and shook up things in the Land of a Thousand Lakes. He's teased runs at the White House in the past, but has never made the move. Most recently he's endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson as he runs for President again.



Ventura is clearly staying away from Trump, who at one time seemed to be an ally of the Body. In 2004 after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Ventura told Trump during a ringside interview "we may need a wrestler in the White House in 2008." Donald told Jesse then that he's support him 100%.

Trump at WrestleMania 23 with Vince McMahon & Bobby Lashley
Courtesy: WWE
Trump is now the Republican nominee for President. But did you know he has more of wrestling connection than his interview with Ventura 12 years ago? Trump Tower hosted back to back WrestleManias in the late 80s. And in 2007 he actually got into the ring and scuffled with WWE owner Vince McMahon. The two each had a wrestler represent them in a match in which the losing billionaire would also lose his hair. Trump and his man Bobby Lashley prevailed and Mr. McMahon looked like Daddy Warbucks in the weeks that followed.

In 2013 I was on hand in Madison Square Garden as Trump was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. If you're not a wrestling fan and still reading this, thank you. But also for clarification, many years ago WWE created a celebrity wing to honor those non-wrestlers who have helped to give the company main stream media attention.

Donald Trump's WWE Hall of Fame induction
Courtesy: WWE
Trump was a good sport that night. You could tell he was a fan of the business or at least WWE. In the past, WWE has done a campaign called Smackdown Your Vote in an attempt to get members of the WWE Universe (wrestling fans) involved in the political process. Candidates have been invited to tape messages to air on the flagship shows. It'll be interesting to see if WWE does anything extra this year since a member of the Hall of Fame has made it to the final ballot.



Others who have served or attempted to serve in politics after life in the ring include B. Brian Blair who served as a Hillsborough County Commissioner in Florida. Jerry "The King" Lawler wanted to rule Memphis politics, but came up short in his bid for Mayor of that city. And Linda McMahon, the now former WWE CEO, ran two unsuccessful campaigns for the United States Senate. She wanted to represent Connecticut in Washington, D.C.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wrestling with the logic of the WWE Draft


By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

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When WWE announced they were separating RAW and Smackdown into separate brands and bringing back the draft, I think most fans were excited at how the rosters would shape up when all was said and done. Then, much like every time WWE seems to be doing something exciting, the draft happened and instead of being excited most fans were left shaking their heads. How could a successful company keep making the perceived dumbest decisions over and over?

I understand criticizing the draft after the fact is pretty easy. Who knows what the WWE creative team had to deal with in making the decisions on where to send each Superstar. Given the stories about Vince McMahon constantly changing his mind up until show time on normal weeks, it’s not out of the realm of possibility there were changes happening during the show. However, the final draft results shows more an incompetence for the teams of Stephanie McMahon/Mick Foley and Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan than it shows a well thought out long term plan for what the two different plans will offer to fans.

Now the draft only factored in Superstars already on the WWE roster. According to rumors, WWE has reached out to former Superstars. If this is true, the draft results don’t reflect the final rosters for each show, which will be more dynamic than they currently appear. With that said, let’s dive into the logic gaps of WWE draft.

One out of four...
WHO’S NXT

Before the draft, wwe.com announced there would be six draft picks from NXT. Naturally this led to speculation over who would be brought up to the main roster. Other than two or three names, I don’t think many fans were happy with the names that didn’t get drafted. The six NXT talents to get the call up are: Finn Balor, American Alpha, Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, Mojo Rawley and Carmella. These are all fine talents who have the potential to be stars in the future however, why were the most popular stars, Nakamura, Bayley, Samoa Joe and Austin Aries not drafted?

I’m not sure the line up for NXT: Takeover Brooklyn 2. What I have read is most of the talents who weren’t drafted have matches on the show. If that’s the case, a simple explanation stating NXT General Manager William Regal had petitioned to have those talents ineligible for the draft so as not to mess up Takeover Brooklyn. Making talents unable to be drafted and letting the audience aware of the decision would have tempered expectations and given a logical reason for the top names to not be drafted.

Courtesy: WWE
OVERLOADING DIVISONS

On RAW, Stephanie McMahon announced RAW would be home to the new Cruiserweight division, which could include a Cruiserweight Champion after the Cruiserweight Classic is finished. During the draft, Shane McMahon used the first pick to draft the current WWE Champion. From there, Stephanie McMahon drafted the Women’s Champion in the first round. The second round saw Stephanie take the Tag Team champions before taking the US Champion Rusev as the first pick in the fourth round. After selecting Rusev, Smackdown GM reluctantly drafted The Miz noting Smackdown needed a champion. Why weren’t champions regarded as higher draft picks? Especially since Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan used the second round to pick John Cena and Randy Orton. While being main event stars, both guys are on the verge of being part time performers and have been the focus of WWE programming for almost 15 years. Why not go with Superstars who could be the future of the company?

Based on the card for Battleground on Sunday, there is the chance the US and IC titles could swap brands. Even if both swap that doesn’t do anything to even out the brands. I still stand by my opinion one show should be home to the Women’s division and the other should have the Tag Team division. One should have the IC title and the other the US title as the secondary title to a WWE title and World title.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Unless Stephanie is going to have him work more dates, why did she draft Brock Lesnar with the number eight pick? Picking a guy who shows up a handful of times a year, and may be on the verge of a wellness program suspension, over guys who are there every week doesn’t make sense.

What about Heath?
Courtesy: WWE
With all the talk about splitting up tag teams, the only teams to be split were the Wyatt Family and Social Outcasts. Braun Strowman was drafted to RAW while Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan went to Smackdown. In the case of the Social Outcasts, Stephanie used two picks to for Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel instead of simply taking the Outcasts in one pick and getting Heath Slater as well. This may be leading to a bigger story, as Heath was the only person not drafted. Even if does lead to something for Heath down the road, having Bo and Curtis drafted to the same show four picks apart doesn’t make sense.

Yes! No?! Maybe?
Courtesy: WWE
Given Shane McMahon’s reasoning for returning to RAW because he wanted to change the show and undo the damage caused by Stephanie and Triple H along with Daniel Bryan’s knowledge of the “younger” talent available in the draft, why are the majority of their picks Superstars who have been around for around ten years? If they were choosing talent in any of the four major sports drafts, they would be run out of town after the draft was over.

Now that the draft is over, we’ll have to wait and see what happens to the rosters going forward. Based solely on the results of the draft it seems WWE has their work cut out to make each show feel different and compelling. Given WWE’s track record, I don’t have high hopes but will be willing to give them time to see what they do.

Why Bayley should stay on NXT


Bayley as NXT Women's Champ
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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This is a reactionary piece to the WWE Draft that aired on SmackDown Live Tuesday night. One of the notable names missing is former NXT Women's Champion Bayley. Many had speculated she'd be one of the six drafted from the one time developmental league. 

The Bayley character has really grown on me over the last couple of years. I think she's the perfect baby face and a wonderful example for the underdogs out there, male or female. She doesn't look like the other women in the company and that type of diversity is a welcomed change. Bayley's work in and out of the ring is outstanding and her merchandise sells well. 

Bayley & Asuka
But she needs to stay put. Part of my reasoning, the NXT roster is still recovering from big moves in the wake of WrestleMania. The brand lost Enzo and Big Cass, The Vaudevillians, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin and Dana Brooke just since April. Now with the draft, three more women; Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss and Carmella plus Finn Balor, Mojo Rawley and American Alpha have been called up, further depleting the NXT roster.

We met Bayley at WrestleMania XXX Axxess
The other concern I have with moving Bayley is her gimmick not translating on the grander stage. Many NXT "characters" work in the smaller environment and they can connect with the fans. There are several alumni called up who kept the same gimmick but have struggled to succeed. Bo Dallas, Fandango, The Vaudevillians and even Big E before joining The New Day have had trouble making the transition to the main roster. I fear Bayley could be subject to that too.

Bayley vs. Eva Marie
Courtesy: WWE
It's actually a compliment to keep Bayley on NXT. She's well-established and brings professionalism and stability to the women's division. But even as I type this I realize Sunday she may very well end up being Sasha Banks' mystery partner.

My logic may be a bit off base, but I firmly believe keeping Bayley on NXT is going to work out better for all involved in the long run.