Thursday, July 24, 2014

Killing My Wrestlemania Streak

My first Wrestlemania
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I have been fortunate enough to attend eight of the last nine Wrestlemanias.  The first one I attended with my buddies, Chad and Jeremy, was Wrestlemania 22 in Chicago.  It was a dream come true for this life long wrestling fan.  I'm not going to lie, it was an expensive trip, costing about $1,300.  But, it was something I've wanted to do since I watched the very first Wrestlemania in my neighbor's living room back in 1985.

Wrestlemania 24 in Orlando
(I'm dressed like Hornswoggle)
In 2007, we took break, but Chad and I had already talked about attending Wrestlemania 24 in Orlando. This one was special for me because I knew it would be the last for my all-time favorite "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.  It was another expensive trip, but well worth it in my opinion.  2009 brought us Wrestlemania 25 and I couldn't miss the silver anniversary show, could I?  Of course not.  

Goofing off in Hollywood
Year after year, despite the expense, I justified going.  I knew I was being selfish, but I'd become addicted to going to Wrestlemania and the Hall of Fame.  Then the trips started getting longer.  I went out to Hollywood a few days ahead of Wrestlemania 26 in Phoenix.  Chad lives there, so he took me around town and I did the tourist thing.  The same thing happened in 2013 when I joined my friends in New Jersey.  We hit up the Big Apple too, and spent nearly a week there.  And I did all this while my family sat at home. 

Spicing things up in NYC
I've always known my wife and kids were getting the raw (pardon the pun) end of the deal.  I was leaving for days and spending all kinds of money.  These mini-vacations were a lot of fun, but they were expensive.  When I started this blog and my YouTube channel nearly four years ago, I'd hoped the ad sharing would help offset some of the costs involved.  That hasn't happened yet.  I haven't made enough since becoming a Google partner to even pay for one trip. I'm disappointed and embarrassed to admit this.

Wrestlemania 30
Legends' Beer Bash
We are finally taking a much needed family vacation to Disney World this year.  In addition to that, we've also been hit with higher health insurance premiums.  My son just got a second round of braces.  Our property taxes are going up again.  I'm not complaining, but I've finally seen the light, that the Wrestlemania streak must be stopped.  I finally realized that, and I'm fine knowing that Wrestlemania 30 may have been my last.

I'd love for things to take off with My 1-2-3 Cents, but the reality is, this is still more of a hobby that I'm really passionate about and not a source of income.  I will still watch wrestling and blog and vlog about it.  I'll tune in to Wrestlemania 31 on the WWE Network in March.  It'll be the first time since 2007 that I've done that, but it's time.  It was a helluva ride, a streak that I'm proud to have started officially in 2008.  

Thank you to everyone who continues to read this blog and share it with your friends.  Thanks also for subscribing to and watching my YouTube videos.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Way Back WhensDay: An 11 Year Old's Florida Odyssey

Not the actual bus, but close
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that 30 years ago this summer I embarked on an adventure of epic proportions.  I was 11 years old at the time.  My great-grandma, cousin, and aunt were visiting us from Florida, and someone got the idea that my brother and I return to the Sunshine State with them.  Here's the catch, we would travel by Greyhound Bus.

My cousin Tammy, Aunt Sandra, and I would leave first, because my brother had a week long scout camp to attend. He and great-grandma would join us a week later.  I had a big green suitcase packed as I prepared to spend five weeks of my life with my aunts, uncles, and cousins in Largo.  
My cousin DJ

The bus ride was 32 hours long.  During a pit stop and bus switch in Atlanta, I remember Aunt Sandra telling me to make sure they were putting our luggage on the right bus.  Bleary eyed, I watched the crew members throw my distinctive pea green suitcase into the luggage space under the bus.  A few minutes later I went inside the station and reported back that everything was good to go.  We then boarded the bus NEXT to the bus that was carrying our luggage. I didn't say anything, hoping that I was wrong, but when we got to the station the next day in Florida, my suitcase was not there.  Eventually I was reunited with my clothes.

My brother "playing" piano
Once my brother arrived, we with our Aunt Jo, Uncle Harold, and cousins Tonya and DJ.  We had so much fun, soaking up the Florida sun and spending time with all of our extended family. I remember riding a borrowed bicycle up and down Murray Avenue, visiting Aunt Sandra's and great-grandma's houses.  We'd take turns "playing" the player piano too. 

Like a teen or tween back in the 80's, trips to the mall were common during our stay.  There were frequent visits to the Pinellas Park Mall and lunches at the Woolworth's inside.  Ghostbusters was released on the big screen while we were there and of course we went to see it.  I also bought the vinyl 45 single record of the movie's theme song by Ray Parker, Junior.

Uncle Harold working
My Uncle Harold was installing an in ground pool that summer. One morning while he worked, we headed to Tampa to spend the day at Adventure Island.  It was a day filled with water slides, wave pools, and a lazy river, until we heard Aunt Jo's name announced over the speaker system.  She was summoned to the front office where she took a phone call that Harold had fallen into the empty pool and his wheel barrow landed on top of him.  Frantically, we headed back home, worrying the worst may have happened.  

I don't remember all the details, but Uncle Harold ended up with a bunch of stitches in his head.  I took a picture for whatever reason.  The trooper he is, he finished that pool and we enjoyed it for years to come when we'd visit.

That trip holds so many good memories for me.  Spending time with loved ones and gaining a sense of independence right before heading off to middle school.  It was five weeks of fun that I'll never forget.  I just wish I would have taken more pictures...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Planting the Seeds

Plan C in effect
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I don't think there's ever been a time where I'm more optimistic that the WWE is headed in the right direction in terms of helping develop the next batch of Superstars.  Yes, Brock Lesnar, a part timer, has been named the number one contender to the WWE World Title for SummerSlam.  I'm not crazy about part timers getting that kind of rub, but I believe for the story that's developing (at least in my mind) this will all work out in the end.  As wrestling fans, we have to be more patient and enjoy the ride.  The best example of that was the Daniel Bryan story.

Roman rules
Photo courtesy: WWE
The July 21 edition of Raw showed me that the WWE does in fact support younger, developing talent on the roster.  But the seeds that have been planted need time to grow.  Lesnar facing and defeating John Cena at SummerSlam can help that build up the next guy and have the big payoff again occur at Wrestlemania.  If I were a betting man, my money right now would be on Roman Reigns.  I think that's the most logical choice right now.

Lesnar makes sense as the champion too, considering he has done something no one else has ever done, pin The Undertaker at Wrestlemania.  Paul Heyman can do the verbal work on a weekly basis and keep his client in the spotlight, because we all know Brock won't be at Raw week after week leading to Mania.  I don't have a problem with that, as you'll remember in the 80's, Hulk Hogan rarely defended the WWF Championship on Superstars or Wrestling Challenge.

Two more bright spots: Cesaro & Dean Ambrose
Photo courtesy: WWE
With up and coming talent on the roster like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, and Reigns; the future looks bright as far as I'm concerned.  I believe in time all of these men will wear THE gold at some point in their respective careers.  They're young, they're hungry, and they're the future.  Also, don't count out Bryan.  Once he's HEALTHY and able to wrestle, I think we'll find him as champion again too.

He will have the whole world in his hands one day
Photo courtesy: WWE
Bray Wyatt, Rusev, Paige, and even established guys like Cody Rhodes, Kofi Kingston, and Dolph Ziggler continue to impress me too.  And don't forget about the men and women toiling in NXT, like Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, Charlotte, and the recently signed Kenta.  All will be contributing to the main roster when the time is right for them to be called up.  I believe it's a good time to be a wrestling fan and the WWE is on the right path.  Let's have fun and be patient.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Confessions from a Reluctant Boat Owner

Our first boat outing in 2007
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

In March 2007, my wife and I made the decision to buy a boat.  We were so excited to have it, we immediately took it to Crab Orchard Lake and bundled up in jackets and sweatshirts, just to test drive it.  The boat is nothing fancy, a seven passenger Stingray. We bought it in part because we live in southern Illinois and there are several beautiful and scenic lakes within a 45 minute drive of our home.  My wife grew up spending much of her summers at the Lake of the Ozarks and has plenty of experience boating.  I, despite being an Eagle Scout, do not enjoy the water so much.

Seven years later, still boating!
Several of our friends have boats too, so it made sense to buy one after our first trip down to Kentucky Lake, via the river.  We didn't have a boat at that point and instead of being passengers on someone's boat, we knew it was time to get our own.  The first few years we spent countless weekends out on Crab Orchard or Kinkaid Lake, tubing, skiing, and just cruising around.  Then as my son's baseball got more time consuming and my wife's work in graduate school intensified, there were a couple of summers the boat sat in the garage and never touched the water.

The last two years, that's all changed and we've been out.  But it's now mid-July and the first real time we've had the boat out was over the weekend to resume our annual trip to Kentucky Lake.  Five years have passed since our last river trip, so our getaway was long overdue.  I mentioned I'm not much for the water, but these trips have made it more fun for me.

Heading back
I call myself a reluctant boat owner because I am still a novice when it comes to operating the vessel.  We've had it seven years, and I think over the weekend I finally mastered the art of starting the thing within the first attempt.  Like I mentioned earlier, there's nothing fancy about this boat and from time to time it has a problem starting.  

The captain...
I also suck when it comes to tying the boat to the dock.  Eagle Scout confession time:  I am awful at knots to this day.  It was the one thing in Scouting that I had trouble mastering.  Over the weekend, I basically made sure the rope was tight and the boat was secure.  It never drifted from the marina, so I guess I did that right.

Tubing fun
I will never love the river or the boating experience as much as my family does. But I do love them and spending time together is always (mostly) fun.  This most recent trip saw much cooler than normal weather, so I stuck to mostly driving.  But at the end, I got wet.  I got out of the boat to go get the van and my feet got stuck in the mud.  I lost my balance trying free my feet, and fell in with quite a splash and several colorful words.  Overall though, it was a fun weekend and a great escape for a few days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wayback WhensDay: The Golden Girls

The Golden Girls
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Go ahead now and take my man card. I am a middle aged man and I love watching Golden Girls reruns.  I have loved the show since it first premiered back in 1985.  I was 12 years old then and I have fond memories of watching the show every Saturday night.  That probably tells you something about my social life back then.

My best memory of watching the original run of the show is spending time with a special woman we all referred to as Granny.  Granny was actually a friend of the family and a grandmother figure to a lot of kids I knew growing up.  We would go over to our friends' house, where Granny lived, and hang out.  It felt like we were there nearly every Saturday night as our parents would be spending time together too.  Golden Girls became almost like a bonding experience across generations.

Story time
Even as I entered high school, I would still watch, but not as regularly, as I did begin to develop a social life.  Then the show went into syndication, and it seemed like Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia were on all the time.  That's still the case today, more than 20 years after the show ended its run.

Picking a favorite is difficult to do.  I say I like all four of them equally, but for different reasons.  Even though I've seen each episode God knows how many times, I still chuckle when I watch.  One thing I never understood though was why they were always wearing long pants and long blouses in Miami.  But then again, the world probably couldn't take a bikini clad Bea Arthur either.

Artwork by Sam Carter
The show is definitely a pop culture phenomenon and I'm proud to say my living room is now decorated with a very unique piece by artist Sam Carter.  My blogging buddy Chad got it for me a few months ago.  I've added that to the Golden Girls t-shirt he bought me a few years ago.  As they say in the theme song, "Thank you for being a friend."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We The People

Ready to Rumble
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I try to keep an open mind when watching wrestling.  I know from time to time on this blog I have been critical of the decisions made in regards to some storylines and angles.  But for the most part, I try to stay positive and enjoy the show.

Now that I have that out of the way, I want to tackle the current feud brewing between Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter, the Real Americans and Rusev and Lana, who have pledged their allegiance to Mother Russia.  I really do like the work the WWE has done with the Rusev, making the once referred to Bulgarian Brute one of the most destructive forces in recent WWE memory.  My criticism comes with the decision to make Swagger the patriotic American to face the monster heel Rusev.

Lana lays the smack down
Photo courtesy: WWE
I don't dislike Swagger at all.  In fact, his gimmick with Colter helped renew my interest in this former World champion who has clearly been lost in the shuffle. But up until three weeks ago, Swagger was one of the last people I would have thought of going toe to toe with Rusev.  To say he's floundered would be putting it kindly.  I enjoyed he and Cesaro as a tag team and thought the duo had a legitimate shot at becoming tag team champions.  But since The Real Americans' split after Wrestlemania, Swagger has done very little to impress.

His most recent "feud" was with Adam Rose.  Swagger lost their first encounter in two minutes and 18 seconds on SmackDown. Their followup match happened on Raw.  Swagger dropped that one in just under three minutes.  I'm not taking anything away from Rose, but I find it hard to believe that Swagger is going to be the man to end Rusev's streak, especially since Rusev handled Big E pretty easily, a man who had given Swagger a hard time not that along ago too.

Patriot Lock!
Photo courtesy: WWE
I will admit that the WWE has done a good job strengthening Swagger, having him go toe to toe in the recent showdowns with Rusev.  I just worry that it may be too little too late.  Sunday evening we'll all know for sure.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ultimate Geek Arena Goal

Trump Tower
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

Over the weekend news broke that come September the Trump Tower in Atlantic City, New Jersey would be closing down. As a wrestling fan this is sad news because Trump Tower is where Wrestlemania IV and V were held. There was virtually no chance of another Wrestlemania being held there unless the business takes a major downturn and WWE can’t get 70,000 fans to fill stadiums.

As I mentioned in a recent blog thanks to a friend who’s a huge hockey fan (@hockeytransplant on Twitter) I have started a series of trips to visit all 30 hockey arenas. Along the way, if given the chance we will often also go to a baseball or football game as well. During the three-day trip to New York in March, we attended a New York Islanders game. Besides crossing another hockey arena off the list, I was geeked up because I was in the arena where the New York portion of Wrestlemania 2 was held. This has lead to unofficially trying to visit as many Wrestlemania arenas/stadiums as possible.

With the news of the Trump Tower closing, I decided to look at the venues that have hosted a Wrestlemania to see how many are still in active use and how many I’ve actually visited. 

Here is the list of the 32 Wrestlemania locations.

Madison Square Garden

WM 1, 10, 20: Madison Square Garden; New York, NY.  Still in active use. Attended the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony as well as a New York Rangers game in 2014.

WM 2: Nassau Coliseum; Uniondale, NY. Wrestlemania 2 was held in three different locations. Since the other two arenas held other Wrestlemanias, I’ll get to them later.  As mentioned earlier, attended a New York Islanders game here earlier this year. Of all the arenas I’ve been to, this is most likely the worst. In it’s defense the arena is over 40 years old. With the Islanders moving to Brooklyn for the 2015-2016 season, I’m curious to see how long the Nassau Coliseum will remain open.

Andre the Giant & Bobby Heenan at Wrestlemania III
Photo courtesy: WWE
WM 3: Pontiac Silverdome; Detroit, MI – The site of the legendary Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant match was closed in 2011 nine years after the Detroit Lions moved to the newer Ford Field.  With no plans to reopen, I don’t see any chance of visiting this historic Wrestlemania location.

Macho Man, Liz, and Hogan at Wrestlemania IV
Photo courtesy: WWE
WM 4 & 5: Trump Plaza (the name of this arena changes depending upon the casino sponsoring the event, technically the name of the venue is Boardwalk Hall); Atlantic City, NJ.  When Kevin and I made our Geek Week trip to New Jersey for Wrestlemania 29 there was talk of hitting up Atlantic City for a night. Plans changed so we never got to see the boardwalk. Had I known then that Trump Tower had potential to close, I would have definitely pushed to head down there and check out the building.  Since I don’t see myself going to New Jersey in the next two months, it’s safe to say unless someone reopens the building this will be another Wrestlemania location I won’t get to put on the visited list.

WM 6 & 18: Skydome (Rogers Centre); Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  With a future visit to Toronto to see a Maple Leafs game on the schedule, I will safely say that a trip to Skydome to see a Blue Jays or possibly an Argonauts game will also be on the itinerary. 

WM 2 &7: Los Angeles Sports Arena; Los Angeles, CA. The Sports Arena is located on the USC campus. While not regularly used for sporting events, the Sports Arena does host concerts every few months.  Whenever he plays Los Angeles, Bruce Springsteen always plays at the Sports Arena. I saw Springsteen play here in 2012 and Pearl Jam in 2013.

WM 8: Hoosier Dome (Building was demolished in 2008); Indianapolis, IN – Seeing how the stadium was demolished before I had a chance to visit Indianapolis it’s safe to say this goes on the never got to see list.

Caesar's Palace: Wrestlemania 9
Photo courtesy: WWE
WM 9: Caesars Palace; Las Vegas, NV. I have been to Caesars Palace but I haven’t seen the actual venue that hosted Wrestlemania 9. I’m not sure if I should count this venue or not. Maybe I’ll add an asterisk.

WM 11: Hartford Civic Center (XL Center); Hartford, CT.  Once again, the quest for hockey arenas will play a part in visiting the XL Center. Before the Carolina Hurricanes existed they were the Hartford Whalers and the XL Center was their home arena. It has been discussed to travel to Hartford as part of the trip to Boston.

WM 12 & 16: Arrowhead Pond (Honda Center); Anaheim, CA.  As a season ticket holder for the LA KISS arena football team, and having seen a handful of Anaheim Ducks hockey games, I have been to Pond several times. The first time I was here was for the Jonas Brothers concert taped for their 3D film. Yep, I just admitted that. 

Allstate Arena: Wrestlemania 22
Photo courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
WM 2, 13 & 22 Rosemont Horizon (Allstate Arena); Chicago, IL.  Wrestlemania 22 was the first Wrestlemania Kevin and I attended.

WM 14: FleetCenter (TD Garden); Boston, MA. I’ve walked past this building but haven’t been inside. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be attending a Boston Bruins game here next April.

WM 15: First Union Center (Wells Fargo Center); Philadelphia, PA. While in Philly back in May for the return of Chikara, we attended a Phillies game across the street from the Wells Fargo Center. Will eventually attend a Flyers game.

WM 17: Reliant Astrodome; Houston, TX. The Astromdome is another venue that has been shut down due to a new stadium being built before I had the chance to attend an event.

WM 19: Safeco Field; Seattle, WA. If I’m ever in town for a Seahawks game, or if Seattle gets an NHL expansion team then I’ll try and go to a Mariners game.

WM 21: STAPLES Center; Los Angeles, CA. Living in LA, I have been to Staples Center many times. Among the wrestling events seen here, I attended SummerSlam 2012 and 2013. Will be there next Tuesday to see Lady Gaga’s Art Pop show.

WM 23: Ford Field; Detroit, MI. The only Wrestlemania in the past nine years we didn’t attend. May have to try to do a Red Wings/Lions weekend trip. 

WM 24: Citrus Bowl; Orlando, FL 

WM 25: Reliant Stadium; Houston, TX

WM 26: University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, AZ

WM 27: Georgia Dome; Atlanta, GA

WM 28: Sun Life Stadium; Miami, FL 

Our view at Wrestlemania 29
Photo courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
WM 29: MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, NJ

WM 30: Mercedes-Benz Superdome; New Orleans, LA- For the past seven years, Kevin and I have done the annual Geek Week trip.

In the 30 years of Wrestlemania, 24 venues have hosted the event.  Of those 24 venues, three have been closed and another is set to close in the next few months. I’ve been to 14* of the remaining 20 arenas with plans to see events at another four over the next two-three years.

Levi's Stadium
Photo courtesy: WWE
WWE has already announced the location of the next two Wrestlemanias. Wrestlemania 31 will take place at the brand new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA while Wrestlemania 32 will be at AT&T stadium in Dallas. As of now, it is uncertain if I’ll be making the trip up the coast to Santa Clara. If for some reason I don’t make it to Dallas, I can still mark it off the list as I saw George Strait’s final tour stop there in June.

When the idea was pitched to me to visit al 30 NHL arenas, I thought the goal could be fun if a bit unnecessary. Now that I’ve decided to try and visit all Wrestlemania locations, the NHL goal seems less insane.