Monday, January 26, 2015

Royal Rumble: Hits & Misses

Heading to Wrestlemania
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

In the moments that followed the 2015 Royal Rumble, Chad and I recorded a podcast, that's now available on the Jittery Monkey Podcasting Network and iTunes.  For the most part we remained positive in our discussion.  After sleeping on it, I still don't agree with the way the Rumble played out, but I'm going to buckle up for the ride because the Road to Wrestlemania is usually filled with a few twists and turns and a lot can happen in the next 62 days.

Rollins shines
Photo courtesy: WWE

 For me the takeaway from this year's event had nothing to do with the over the top rope match.  Instead, I'm still in awe by the WWE World Heavyweight Title match.  Seth Rollins proved (again) that he's a main event player and is here to stay.  John Cena showed us he's not above getting down and dirty.  And Brock Lesnar reinvented the term Beast Incarnate.  I've never been a huge fan of Brock's, but his return to the ring and the push he received in 2014 and now into the start of the new year has been nothing short of awesome.  I really thought he was down for the count as medics attended to him outside the ring.  I figured we were moments away from Rollins winning his first World title.  Then out of no where Brock returns to the ring with rage and anger.  He walked out with HIS championship.

Brock's a beast
Photo courtesy: WWE

In the process of all of this though I think Brock has become even more of a fan favorite.  I don't think that's a bad thing, as Lesnar rarely displayed the typical heel traits we've come to expect through the years.  He doesn't surrender, he doesn't retreat.  Even though he has Paul Heyman in his corner, they don't cheat.  Fans don't seem to want to hate him just because he's a monster in the ring. Wrestlemania will be interesting if the current plan stays the course.

Get the tables!
Photo courtesy: WWE
The Rumble match itself is typically my favorite event of the year.  I love the surprise entrants, but this year I felt like they fell flat.  Bubba Ray Dudley's return shocked.  I'm curious to see if he sticks around, because as we mentioned on the podcast, he definitely still has gas left in the tank and should be able to go, thanks to his time away in TNA.  I think they did a good job helping him step out of that stereotypical tag team partner role and made him a great solo star.

The yoga works
Photo courtesy: WWE
I speculated in a previous blog that Diamond Dallas Page is Hall of Fame bound in 2015.  I wonder if his appearance in the Rumble helps or hurts my prediction. The Boogeyman never impressed me, and his appearance didn't do anything but make me wish someone else had received that spot.  I do enjoy the legends and past stars coming back for the Rumble, but I was really hoping for an NXT guy to make an appearance.  Truth be told I wanted either Kevin Owens or Adrian Neville to win the whole thing, but I know that's way too much fantasy booking.

Can The Rock help?
Photo courtesy: WWE
Until Daniel Bryan announced his plans to return to the ring at the Royal Rumble, I had picked Roman Reigns to win the whole thing.  I pretty much made that decision right after Lesnar won the championship at SummerSlam.  I knew then that Reigns wasn't ready for that spot, but figured there was plenty of time to get him there.  I think his injury may have hurt him in more ways than one, as I see most of the Internet Wrestling Community collectively voiced their disdain with the outcome of the Rumble.  Even Reigns' cousin, the uber popular Rock couldn't seem to get the crowd to rally behind the new number one contender.

Eliminating Dolph
Photo courtesy: WWE


I'm disappointed at the final four (or five) with Kane and the Big Show lasting so long.  From a storyline standpoint, I guess I get it, but I think there was an opportunity for Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt and Rusev to shine.  Instead, they were mostly treated like afterthoughts, at least in my opinion.  They did the same thing essentially with Rusev playing possum as they did in 2011 with Alberto Del Rio and Santino.  I thought Rusev may have had a chance though...

Rusev-Cena coming soon
Photo courtesy: WWE
After the show they teased a Cena-Rusev showdown at Wrestlemania.  I've already blogged about my opposition to this and can only hope if they execute this feud, Rusev wins the match OR if they end his streak they somehow make him look strong in the process.  Like Chad says in the podcast, it's all about the aftermath booking that's important.

In conclusion, I'm not going to stop watching the product.  I'm not canceling the WWE Network.  This is something that is fixable.  There's still two months before we get to Wrestlemania and a lot can and will happen.  It's similar to the flack WWE got last year, and I know that CM Punk leaving changed the course of some of what happened at Wrestlemania XXX.  Just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater yet. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Shaking Up The Royal Rumble


By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

As I was in the middle of a podcast on the Jittery Monkey Podcasting Network the other night I had an idea about the Royal Rumble.  It really just came to me as I was talking with Nerds United host Greg Mehochko.  Instead of Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns or Bray Wyatt (Greg's pick) winning the Royal Rumble, how about someone who's not even on the WWE roster right now win...

My idea is to have someone from NXT enter the Rumble this year, just as Rusev did last year.  But take that a step further and have that man WIN the event and go on to Wrestlemania to face the champion.  If the champ at that time is Seth Rollins (who I think it will be), then you have two guys who've never main evented Wrestlemania stepping into that spotlight.  It would be an epic opportunity to show the fans that the future is now.


Neville vs. Owens
Photo Courtesy: WWE
So who do you have win the Rumble?  My original thought was Adrian Neville, because if you read this blog you know I'm a mark for "The Man Who Gravity Forgot."  Greg's suggestion was Kevin Owens.  I like that idea if Brock Lesnar is still champion.  It would be a great, hard hitting contest between two beasts in the business.   Neville could be booked into that underdog role if Lesnar is the champion.  But either one of the NXT stars would certainly shine and I have no doubt would put on an impressive main event at Wrestlemania, whether it's Brock, Rollins or even John Cena as the defending champion.  It would be something we've not seen before and the move would give new life to a somewhat stale product.

El Generico vs. Kevin Steen
I know the many in the WWE Universe may not watch NXT and know who Neville or Owens are, but I think there's plenty of time and programming between now and March 29 to tell a compelling story that would get the fans invested in the storyline.  Plus, it's not like Neville or Owens or several other talents at NXT are "rookies", they've been around for years on the independent scene. This story could almost write itself.

PAC vs. El Generico
Photo Courtesy: Wilkey Photography

I love WWE and will always be loyal to the product.  But throwing an NXT guy into the immediate title picture would certainly break up the predictability we've seen through the years.  I'm not giving up on Bryan, Reigns, Wyatt, Rollins or even Dean Ambrose.  I think having an NXT guy in the ring defending against these guys would be phenomenal.  There's a lot of talent brewing in Florida and it's time to share those guys with the rest of the world.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

There's No Crying in Wrestling

Photo taken by @chrisolds2009


By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

A lot of people on social media are talking about an incident that happened at Raw this week, in which Triple H apparently brought a young fan tears.  It happened during the main event when John Cena was battling Seth Rollins, Big Show and Kane.  The young fan, clearly a Cena fan, started crying after Triple H said something to the boy.  I haven't read what caused the tears, but I am going to assume Triple H was playing his heel character role and said something negative about Cena.

I think it's what happened after the comments and the tears that have so many fans talking.  As you can see in the pictures, Triple H breaks character and consoles the boy.  After the show the little guy received several gifts from the company.

Photo taken by @chrisolds2009
Like I mentioned, I don't know what Triple H said to the kid, but I'm sure it was nothing personal about the young fan.  Maybe it was, and if that's the case then I'd be more critical of Hunter. We've gotta remember, he's a heel.  Upsetting the fans is what he and all bad guys are supposed to do.  But I know there are boundaries, especially in the new anti-bully, Be a Star era.  I just can't imagine someone in Trips' position would cross that line.

None-the-less, the move to console the boy in front of the crowd is commendable.  I'm not bothered that he "broke character" to do it.  He did what he felt was right and at the end of the day it was best for business.  It puts him in a good light as the heir apparent to the WWE Kingdom and gets the WWE a ton of PR in a week that the company has been slammed over a concussion controversy on Good Morning America.

My bottom line with this is I don't have a problem either way with what Triple H said/did.  The comments were likely character driven, so he was doing his job.  His actions later were corporate and went a long way to make this young boy and his family feel better about their WWE experience.  I'm sure they'll be repeat customers as a result.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Don't Crush Rusev

Rusev & Lana
Photo Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

There's been a lot of buzz on different wrestling websites that Rusev's streak of not being pinned or forced to submit will come to an end at Wrestlemania 31.  While I don't want that to happen, it's the man people are saying will end that streak that bothers me: John Cena.  I have nothing against Cena, but I think making him the man to beat Rusev is not "what's best for business."

Dominating Big E
Photo courtesy: WWE
Again this is just a rumor, and even if it's not true, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about one of the fastest rising stars on the main roster right now.  I'll be honest, I wasn't a big fan of Rusev's in NXT.  I was disappointed when he ended up being the pick to represent the brand in the 2014 Royal Rumble.

Winning the U.S. Title
Photo courtesy: WWE
But over the last 12 months Rusev and his manager Lana have grown on me.  In fact, they've become one of the highlights for me on Raw each week.  I've enjoyed the dominance Rusev has displayed, eventually beating Sheamus for the United States Championship.  Having John Cena end that doesn't benefit anyone, at least in my opinion.  Who should end Rusev's reign?  I'm not sure that I have an answer right now, but I don't see anyone on the current roster I'd like in that role (including Ryback).

Kozlov vs. Shawn Michaels
Photo courtesy: WWE
I realize I'm being quick to judge, but I'm reminded of other guys who were first brought into the WWE as dominate monster heels.  Lord Tensai and Kozlov immediately come to mind.  In fact, at one point I was so convinced about Kozlov, I thought he could have been a serious threat to the Undertaker's Wrestlemania streak several years ago.  Kozlov then turned face and joined Santino as a comedic tag team before he was eventually "future endeavored." Tensai picked up some key wins on TV against Cena and Triple H, but it wasn't long before he was dancing in the ring with Brodus Clay before disappearing only to resurface on the announce team of NXT.  

The Rock lays the smack down
Photo courtesy: WWE
I don't want to see Lana and Rusev subjected to a similar fate. I believe he's still got a ton of untapped potential and  I fear that if Cena or anyone else on the current roster (or a part-timer coming back) ends Rusev's streak, he'll be lost in the shuffle.  Eventually the time will come for him to lose, but who that person is to pick up the win is critical to the future of Rusev and the man who wins the match.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What Does the Fox Say? Ring-Ding-Ding You Suck!

An example of the Kids Club Coordinator 
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

Twenty years ago I was a senior at Southeast Missouri State University.  Even though I had a major, Mass Communication, I had no idea exactly what I would be doing once I graduated later that year.  I wanted to go into TV or radio, but because there was no broadcasting major at the time, I wasn't sure how to reach that goal.

The actual ad from the Southeast Missouri
August 1995

The Summer of 1995, I came across a job opening at the Fox affiliate in Cape Girardeau.  KBSI was looking for a Kids Club Coordinator.  It was an on air position, paying $7.00 an hour plus benefits.  Remember, it was 1995.  I was a college student, working as an assistant manager at Chuck E. Cheese making $5.50 an hour and no benefits.  I was one the verge of graduating and getting married less than two years later.  Plus, this was going to give me a chance to get my foot in the door in the world of broadcast journalism.

You can see the job duties in the ad.  I thought I could relate to kids because I loved cartoons.  I was writing for my college newspaper, The Capaha Arrow and thought, even though I lacked the on-air experience, I'd be able to pick it up easily.  I sent in my resume and cover letter and eagerly waited to hear back.  I was so excited that day when the creative service director called to set up an interview.  After a quick trip to the mall for a sports coat and tie, I was ready to claim my new job, or so I thought.

I went through the interview and thought things were going great. Then we headed to the studio.  This was my first time visiting a TV station studio, so I was in awe for a few moments.  Then I was humbled after he turned on the camera.  My future boss (as I was thinking) stood beside the camera with cue cards in hand.  He told me to read what they said and they'd be recording me.

Cindy Brady tripped up by the camera.
The little red light mesmerized me much like it did Cindy Brady decades earlier on episode "You Can't Win Them All."  My nerves got the best of me and my brain and mouth couldn't agree.  I remember finishing up thinking it was horrible, even though the director shook my hand and said nice job.  In my heart of hearts I knew it was far from a nice job, and the reality set in a few weeks later when I got a rejection letter in the mail.  Looking back now, since I had experience dressing like Chuck E. Cheese, I could have totally been the guy in the fox costume who worked with the Kids Club Coordinator.  

One of the foxes on Fox
It was that experience that opened my eyes to what it's like to be on camera and the struggle it is to perform.  There were parts of that script I felt foolish reading and instead of getting into the role, I let my insecurities get the best of me.  I certainly had a better appreciation for the men and women I had watched for years on the news.  It also made me determined to get better and step out of my comfort zone if I was ever going to achieve my dream.  


Nine years after that audition, I returned to this market and became a co-anchor on the morning news.  While far from perfect, I've come a long way through the years and hope to continue to improve.  If only I could have gotten my hands on a copy of that audition...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Destination Impact Review

Lashley vs. Roode
Courtesy: Impact Wrestling
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents

First off let me say that due to not getting Destination America, I had to watch an online stream of Impact. Unfortunately, the feed was choppy at times and had a couple times froze during major action.  The worst part (or maybe best) was whoever was feeding the stream had their TV to autotune to the news at 11pm so I missed the last 5 minutes of the show. Before I get into my thoughts on the show lets look back at my “10 Things I Want From Impact” to see if I have any influence with the Impact booking team.

1)    NO AUTHORITY FIGURES: I’m going to give this a push for now. Kurt Angle did come out as the Director of Wrestling Operations towards the beginning of the show. However his promo was relatively short as far as wrestling promos go and he relinquished his position of authority to set up his match with MVP.  We’ll see if Impact names a new authority figure next week or if this was a one-week occurrence.  

Hair cut time
Courtesy: Impact Wrestling
2)    NO IMMEDIATE NEW EX-WWE STARS: Well, one could argue that starting the show with MVP and Angle, while not being new ex-WWE stars, are still seen as ex-WWE stars. Even though this year Kurt Angle will have been in TNA longer than he was in WWE. There were no new additions to the roster. I had forgotten about Brodus Clay being in TNA and was originally annoyed to see him in the backstage segment with EC3. After their segment though, I think Impact may actually use Brodus in a more meaningful manner than he was last used in WWE.
  
3)    NO 20-MINUTE OPENING PROMO: I missed the first couple minutes of the show so I don’t know why there was a huge brawl. The brawl led to the Kurt Angle/MVP promo, which as mentioned was relatively short. 

4)    NO SCRIPTED PROMOS: From my memory there weren’t too many promos. The ones that did happen didn’t seem too forced. The wrestlers seem to have a grasp on their characters and that comes across on TV. 

5)    BRING BACK MANAGERS: Still holding out hope. 

6)    GO MORE THAN 6 MONTHS WITHOUT A FACE/HEEL TURN: Since I missed the last five minutes of the show I missed the seemingly random turns of Samoa Joe, Low Ki and Eric Young. 

7)    HAVE THE COMMENTATORS PUT OVER THE ACTION IN THE RING: Josh Matthews sounded like he was excited to be calling the action and kept the focus on what was going on at the moment, as far as I remember. Seeing Mike Tenay’s interview with James Storm was a reminder how dull Tenay is in the announce booth. After one show the addition of Matthews seems to be a good move. 

8)    DETERMINE A FACE OF THE COMPANY: Verdict is still out on this one.

Angle vs. MVP
Courtesy: Impact Wrestling

9)    NO POINTLESS GIMMICK MATCHES: Well there was a street fight to kick off the show. Given the nature of going straight from a promo where MVP and Angle weren’t dressed to wrestle to the street fight does add some common sense reasoning to the match. 

10) NO MORE REF BUMPS/RUN INS/OVERBOOKING: Again, I missed the last five minutes of the show so thankfully I missed this part of the match. 

Awesome Kong returns
Courtesy: Impact Wrestling
If I discount the part of the show I didn’t see as it originally aired (just watched it on YouTube) overall I’d give Impact a thumbs up. My only real issue with the show was how none of the matches felt fresh. Roode/Lashley was their third match up. Having Austin Aries win the X-Division title felt too much like “been there, done that.”  I was excited to see Awesome Kong make her return. Hopefully the build to a match between her and Havok will have a solid pay off.

While there were some elements of the show I wasn’t too fond of, they were mostly things that I could overlook or chalk up to just my nit picking.  The ending however is something that I can’t overlook. The ending is the epitome of everything I dislike about Impact. Once again I’ll ask, is it too much to ask for clean victories, no turns and no ref bumps? 


I’ll give the new Impact another chance due to Dixie Carter’s comments about how their vision doesn’t really work with a live show. I’m curious to see how they integrate the reality aspects into the show. I am giving the one caveat though that if Impact continues to be Impact, I’ll not make the effort to try and watch. Fool me once, shame on you. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Impact Wrestling: Now Or Never

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

Impact Wrestling debuts on their home, Destination America this Wednesday (January 7, 2015) and in my opinion this is Impact's make or break moment. WWE is beyond stale. While Destination America is in fewer homes than Spike, and USA, thus Impact will most likely not be beating Raw in ratings anytime soon, Impact can use this re-launch to try and gain momentum while WWE continues to rest on their laurels. 
I wish I could say I have faith that Impact will utilize this moment and give wrestling fans a fresher more innovative product. Unfortunately, I’ve been following Impact for the past 12 years and think even if every other wrestling promotion in America shut down it would take Impact five years to become the number one wrestling promotion in America.  
I don’t know what to expect from Impact’s first show. I am hesitant for the first month of Impact due to them taping a month’s worth of shows in three days. While I understand the budgetary reasons for taping shows in a short period of time, it doesn’t help to get a clear idea of what’s working and what isn’t in terms of stories and wrestlers. 
Without knowing what to expect, here are my top ten list of what I’d like to see, or not see in some cases, from the new Impact. 

Dixie Carter
1) NO AUTHORITY FIGURES: Yes, the Mr. McMahon character was entertaining when he feuded with Steve Austin. The reason? It was something new. The McMahon/Austin feud started nearly 17 years ago. 17 YEARS AGO!!!! Since then the evil authority figure has been recycled more times than necessary. Right now WWE has the Authority making their show uninteresting. If Impact wants to be seen as a different type of wrestling promotion, having a show without any type of ruling persona is a good place to start. 

2) NO IMMEDIATE NEW EX-WWE STARS: Rumor has it Impact is trying to get Alberto Del Rio to show up on the live episode of Impact. I don’t know what type of reaction Alberto got at the recent ROH taping but I don’t recall hearing too many people claiming this disappointment when Alberto got fired from WWE. The point being bringing Alberto in isn’t going to make a difference. Look at all the ex-WWE wrestlers Impact has brought in over the last ten years. How many viewers did those wrestlers bring to Impact? Enough to justify sandbagging Impact's original talent at their expense? Probably not.  WWE has done a decent job of getting the next generation of talent in place for when they finally get all they can out of John Cena. Impact has a solid roster of up and coming talent and talent that has been with the company long enough without being properly utilized. Now is the time to Impact to create their own brand and their own stars. If Impact is incapable of creating stars perhaps they shouldn’t be in business. 

3) NO 20-MINUTE OPENING PROMO: Brevity is the soul of wit. Has their ever been a show opening promo that couldn’t have accomplished the same thing in half the time? One of my biggest pet peeves with wrestling shows is how the opening promo sets up the rest of the show based on who interrupts the promo. What would happen if no one came out during the promo? The show should be booked as a complete show and if there are any altercations between wrestlers, those altercations should pay off in a match on a later show. 

4) NO SCRIPTED PROMOS: Give wrestlers bullet points to hit and let them showcase their personality. If a wrestler can’t cut a promo convincingly then either give them a manager or don’t give them promo time. 

5) BRING BACK MANAGERS: If the old adage, everything old is new again is true then it’s time managers made a comeback in professional wrestling. While there most likely won’t ever be another Bobby Heenan or Capt. Lou, surely there’s another Jimmy Hart, Mr. Fuji or James J. Dillon somewhere out there on the indie scene. 

6) GO MORE THAN 6 MONTHS WITHOUT A FACE/HEEL TURN: Pretty self-explanatory. 
Josh Matthews
7) HAVE THE COMMENTATORS PUT OVER THE ACTION IN THE RING: Josh Matthews will be replacing Mike Tenay at commentary. This fixes 50% of the problem at commentary.  The announcers should focus on the action in the ring and put over the wrestlers competing. If the announcers don’t pay attention to the action, why should the viewer?  If the announcers talk about how awful a wrestler is, why should any fan care about the wrestler?  This is broadcasting 101 but for some reason seems to be a foreign concept in wrestling today. 

8) DETERMINE A FACE OF THE COMPANY: Going back to point 2, Impact has never gotten behind one person and made them the focus. Whenever it looked like they might have a face of the company, some new ex-WWE star would show up and take the spotlight. Going forward, Impact needs to pick a face of the company and stick with that person for at least a couple of years. (Disclaimer: This person should not be Kurt Angle)

9) NO POINTLESS GIMMICK MATCHES: If Impact never had another cage match, ladder match, Full Metal Mayhem match for the rest of its existence they would still have had too many gimmick matches. Gimmick matches should be used when necessitated by the story being told. Throwing out a random ladder match for the sake of having a ladder match means nothing.  Having a show full of cage matches, which includes matches between wrestlers who haven’t had one match against each other, negates the purpose of the cage. At the same time, having a random cage match during the rest of the year devalues the point of having an entire show devoted to cage matches. 

10) NO MORE REF BUMPS/RUN INS/OVERBOOKING: To put it in simpler terms: Don’t have Impact style title matches.  If I had the time and resources, I would like to go through every TNA show and see how many title matches/main events ended with a clean pin. I’m willing to bet the total would be less than 5%. If booked properly a clean pin fall will not harm the loser in the long run. On the other hand, a typical Impact title match will get me to turn the channel and find something else to watch.  

I realize this list seems pretty negative. That wasn’t my intent. Thinking about it though, I realize why I stopped watching Impact over the last year. Even though WWE has me bored at the moment, there are enough wrestling alternatives out there that Impact won’t get my viewership simply because they exist. 
The ball is in your hands Impact Wrestling. Show me you want to be different and entertaining and I’ll watch. Show me you have learned nothing from your first 12 years and you’re content to keep doing the same old same old and I’ll seek out other wrestling companies that actually care about not being WWE-lite. Which option do you choose?