Tuesday, July 28, 2015

SummerSlam A to Z: Andre the Giant

Ted DiBiase & Andre the Giant at SummerSlam '88
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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For the next 26 days I plan to write a blog about SummerSlam to go along with a corresponding letter of the alphabet.  I'm starting the series with one of the greatest of all-time Andre the Giant.  The 8th Wonder of the World was a part of the first couple of SummerSlam events, main eventing in the inaugural show.

In 1988, Andre was well past his prime, but was arguably the company's top heel still, feuding with Hulk Hogan for more than a year.  Andre and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase made up the team of The Mega Bucks, set to take on WWF World heavyweight champion Randy "Macho Man" Savage and  Hogan.  That duo was known as The Mega Powers.


Mega Bucks vs. Mega Powers
Courtesy: WWE
The match was pretty basic.  Jesse "The Body" Ventura was the special referee.  Things come to an end when Elizabeth shows some skin (very tame by today's standards) to distract Andre and DiBiase, allowing The Mega Powers to rally and get the win.  I don't think anyone expected The Mega Bucks to win.



Andre vs. Ax SummerSlam '89
Courtesy: WWE
A year later, Andre teamed up with The Twin Towers (Big Bossman and Akeem) against Demolition and Hacksaw Jim Duggan.  Andre's team lost this one too.  And SummerSlam '91 marked the big man's last on camera appearance.  He was in the corner of the Bushwhackers as they battled the Natural Disasters.  


Andre with LOD and the Bushwhackers SummerSlam '91
Courtesy: WWE
Despite his rapidly deteriorating health, Andre didn't get pinned at either SummerSlam he wrestled.  Fans though saw the Giant was ailing as he arrived at his last event on crutches and at one point hit Earthquake with one.  Andre's legacy wasn't made or broken at SummerSlam, but he was a big part of the first one and still missed by fans today.  Rest in peace Andre.



Friday, July 24, 2015

Famer Friday: Lex Luger

Lex Luger
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Earlier this year, on the My 1-2-3 Cents podcast, Chad and I discussed the one person not in the WWE Hall of Fame that we feel should be.  I picked "Ravishing" Rick Rude and Chad picked Lex Luger.  I agree with him on his choice.  Luger's in ring work gets criticized a lot and his connection to Elizabeth at the time of her death is often brought up, but I think his history in the business speaks for itself.  For the record, Lex was ever only charged with drug violations and Elizabeth's death was ruled an accident.

Luger first caught my eye in the Apter magazines when he broke into the business in Florida.  I'd say he was the most physically gifted wrestler I'd seen up to that point and I knew it would be just a matter of time before he was wrestling on the national scene.  His early days in the NWA included a stint with the Four Horsemen.  I liked this version of the group better than the original, as Lex's youth and strength would replace an aging Ole Anderson.

Championship run
Courtesy: WWE
It didn't take long for The Total Package to embrace the cheers of the faces and feud with the Horsemen.  I still can't believe Lex didn't beat Ric Flair for the NWA World heavyweight title at The Great American Bash in 1988.  I was 0 for 3 that night as Sting and Nikita Koloff failed to capture the tag titles and Dusty Rhodes was beaten by Barry Windham in his quest for the U.S. title.   I thought Luger's redemption would come months later at Starrcade, but a cheating Flair came out on top.

The Narcissist
Courtesy: WWE
Lex would eventually have a run as WCW World heavyweight champ.  It was short-lived as he left the company and signed with Vince McMahon's new World Bodybuilding Federation, but a motorcycle accident sidelined him and the WBF quickly folded.  Months later, Luger would take on the persona of the Narcissist after being introduced to fans by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan.  I wish the two would have stuck together as I loved the gimmick.

Battling Yokozuna
Courtesy: WWE
But I think Vince was looking to fill a void created when Hulk Hogan left the WWF for good in 1993.  A month later, Luger body slammed the massive Yokozuna and embraced an all-American gimmick, traveling the country via the Lex Express preparing for a WWF World title match at SummerSlam '93.  Again, Luger was screwed out of the top prize, but continued his feud with the champ.  Yoko beat Lex by disqualification in his final attempt at the gold at Wrestlemania X after a bad call by special referee Mr. Perfect.

The Allied Powers
Courtesy: WWE
Luger worked in tag team matches with Davey Boy Smith before leaving, but I thought this duo would win the tag team titles.  I was wrong again, as gold was never in Lex's future in the WWF.  He would return home to WCW and have a couple runs as champ there again.  


His life took a major turn after he injured his neck and ended up temporarily paralyzed as a result.  I had a chance to meet and talk with Lex in 2011, along with Nikita Koloff.  The two have found Jesus and are spreading His message.  Lex had also mended fences with WWE and was working behind the scenes with the company.  I hope that at some point the two sides work together again and Luger takes his rightful place in the Hall of Fame.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Problem with Crowdfunding



By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Let me begin by saying that it's not my intent to pick on anyone who uses or donates to crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe or KickStarter.  These sites are great ways for people in need to raise money for whatever they deem necessary.  It's up to the public to decide if they want to help.  But recent campaigns have made me want to share "My 1-2-3 Cents" on why I feel disheartened by the sites.

Virgil
Photo courtesy: WWE
Former WWE Superstar Virgil played "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase's bodyguard in the 1980's, before breaking free and having a brief run on his own. Now, some 25 years later, the man behind that gimmick hopes to become THE real Million Dollar Man with a GoFundMe page.  To date though, Virgil has only raised $135 and a lot of criticism online.  

Potato salad
Zach Brown
I'm not bashing the guy.  Honestly, it's not a bad idea and goes to show that anyone can set up a site and find some people who are willing to donate.  The other example that I want to address is the guy who raised $55,000 in a joke KickStarter fund to make potato salad.  But to be fair, Zach "Danger" Brown ended up having a community wide potato salad party and teamed up with other groups to help the hungry.  But the original purpose of the page was to raise ten bucks to buy his ingredients.  Thousands pitched in much more than that.

Ayden Bell & Sheamsu
On the flip side of the coin, I did a story about a little boy in West Frankfort, Illinois who is battling cancer.  Last year he got to meet his favorite WWE Superstar Sheamus, thanks to the folks at the Make-a-Wish Foundation.  But the family needed help with medical expenses and had a GoFundMe page set up for those purposes.  When it was up and running it had only raised a few hundred dollars, a long way off from the $20,000 goal. 

Again, I'm not judging people for making the donations they do, but I think it's sad that a boy fighting for his life can't get the same level of support as a man who wanted to make a bowl of potato salad.  I have donated to crowdfunding sites in the past, including one for WWE legend Kamala.  The wrestler lost both of his legs due to high blood pressure and diabetes.  The money I donated went to help pay for the publishing of his book "Kamala Speaks."  I got a "reward" of a t-shirt, but I also made the pledge because by getting that book on store shelves, Kamala would be able to get an income since he can no longer wrestle.  Others may find that a silly reason to give.

It's a free country.  We can give to whom we deem worthy of our hard earned money. I just hope that after reading this, people will use crowdfunding sites for legitimate purposes and not the latest "get rich quick" scheme.  And for those who donate, consider giving to a family or a cause in need in your community.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Famer Friday: The Midnight Express & Jim Cornette

Cornette, Lane, Condrey and Eaton


By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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One of my favorite tag teams of all time is the Midnight Express.  I'm talking about the "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton, "Sweet" Stan Lane and Jim Cornette version.  Not "Bombastic" Bob and "Bodacious" Bart from the late 90's.  While the Eaton/Lane version of the Express is my favorite, I do appreciate and respect the work that "Loverboy" Dennis Condrey added to the team.  I don't go back far enough in my fandom to remember the original Express of Condrey, Randy Rose and Norvell Austin.


The early years
I want to say my first memories of Eaton, Condrey and Cornette are when they came to World Class Championship Wrestling.  The trio engaged in a very memorable feud with The Fantastics.  Their time in Texas was brief, but by watching them I learned quickly these two knew what they were doing in the ring.  Those matches helped establish my love for tag team wrestling.  The three headed to the NWA and had a classic scaffold match against The Road Warriors.  Eaton told me in a podcast interview I did with him that he didn't enjoy it because his team ended up tumbling to the ring below.  


The Express gets sweeter
Eventually Condrey would leave the group and Lane would replace him.  Many times that spells doom (not Ron Simmons and Butch Reed) for a tag team, but I enjoyed this incarnation even more.  Lane brought youth component to the team and in my opinion was more physically gifted than Condrey.  This new duo quickly started collecting championships winning the U.S. tag team titles three times and the NWA world tag team titles once.  

Their feuds with the Rock 'n Roll Express, The Road Warriors and Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson are what defined an era of tag team wrestling.  Lane and Eaton's chemistry as well as their abilities in the ring and Cornette's skills on the mic made them nearly flawless.  


Heel turn
Another one of my favorite memories was during their brief face run and "partnership" they had with the Dynamic Dudes (Shane Douglas and Johnny Ace aka Laurinaitis).  It was at a Clash of the Champions that Corny screwed over the young duo and helped his main charges win their match.  And who can forget when a young Paul Heymen reunited Rose and Condrey to feud with Lane and Eaton over the Midnight Express name?  

The Midnight Express simply never had a bad match as far as I'm concerned.   Their work still holds up more than 30 years later.  Watching their matches reminds me of an era in wrestling that's long forgotten when it comes to putting on compelling tag team matches. So I say Cornette, Eaton, Lane and Condrey all deserve to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hello Ladies

Charlotte, Becky and Sasha join the Divas Revolution



By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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For months fans have been waiting for an overhaul or at least an update in the WWE Divas division.  I think it's fair to say that's exactly what happened on the July 13 episode of Raw.  Three of the best from NXT appeared on the big stage as a part of Paige's Divas Revolution. As I write this Tuesday afternoon, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and NXT women's champion Sasha Banks remain on the NXT roster on WWE's website and are not listed as WWE Divas.

Putting these three young and talented women on the main roster is a breath of fresh air in a often forgotten division.  During the segment on Raw, Michael Cole said "take a look at the future of women's wrestling!"  That statement spoke volumes to me because rarely do you hear the words "women" (it's usually Divas) and "wrestling" (it's usually sports entertainment) on WWE programming.  I don't think the company is abandoning its trademarks, but it was nice to hear a brief break from the norm.

While the presumed transfer of these three women to the main roster is exciting for the division, I do have some concerns.  I hope the moves mean WWE Creative will put more thought into the Divas division, as it seems they focus on just the champion and a particular challenger most of the time.  I also hope that the likes of Natalya and Emma aren't lost in the shuffle.  

Finally, if Charlotte, Becky and Sasha are all leaving NXT, what's next for the few women left there?  Overall that group is so talented but the division is small on NXT.  I understand they're just doing an hour a week as opposed to the five hours the main roster does, plus specials on the WWE Network.  Will Sasha do double duty or drop the NXT Women's title and move on completely?  Time will tell.  I'm going to remain optimistic that it'll be a win-win for everyone involved and hopefully before the end of summer there's a new Divas champion.  Wooo!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Wrestling Gives Back

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Sometimes the men and women involved in professional wrestling are thought of as greedy and heartless.  There are cases of bad people in the business, but the WWE constantly gives back to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Special Olympics and Make-a-Wish among others.  That of course is a billion dollar corporation, but even smaller, independent companies give back too.  I've been a part of shows that have raised money for tornado and fire victims, cancer patients and children in need at Christmas.  

Sawyers & Diamond vs. Murdoch & Hills
Fans in southern Illinois, southeast Missouri and western Kentucky have a chance to help as wrestler "Farmer" Billy Hills puts together a benefit show for a boy named Danton.  Danton has autism and is losing his eyesight.  His family wants to purchase a service dog for the boy, but as you can imagine the dogs are expensive.  A night of wrestling is planned on Sunday, July 26 in Harrisburg, Illinois to help with those costs.

Hatton vs. Wyatt
Tickets are just $5 that night.  Doors open at 6 p.m. at Training Daze Gym (104 W. McHaney Street) in Harrisburg.  Bell time is 7 that night.  The card features a main event of Farmer and his partner former WWE tag team champion Trevor Murdoch against Dalton Diamond and Zakk Sawyers.  Heath Hatton (he was on Extreme Rule 2012 against Ryback) will take on Frank Wyatt.  The ladies will be in action too as Sarah Summers and "The Mississippi Queen" BeBe battle Keri Gold and Jennifer Justice.

Murdoch will also work with wrestlers before the show in a clinic for $25.  It'll be a great night of wrestling action, all in an effort to help a boy in need.  Learn more about the show in my podcast interview with "Farmer" Billy Hills.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Famer Friday: "Ravishing" Rick Rude

The Brain and The Ravishing One
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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New feature time on the My 1-2-3 Cents blog.  Each Friday I'll write about a wrestler, manager, announcer or referee who is not in the WWE Hall of Fame who I think should be.  The first selection is "Ravishing" Rick Rude.


As WCCW champion
My first memories of Rude came in the Apter magazines when he was wrestling in Florida.  Living in St. Louis, we didn't get Florida wrestling, but when he signed with World Class Championship Wrestling, he became a regular and one of the men I loved to hate.  He captured the company's championship and each week when he wrestled Kerry Von Erich, Lance Von Erich or Iceman King Parsons, I hoped for an end to his reign.  Rude's manager Percy Pringle usually helped him somehow walk out with the gold. "Gentleman" Chris Adams finally made that happen and Rude left and resurfaced in the NWA (Crockett Promotions).


Rude, Fernandez and Paul Jones

His run in the NWA was short, but highlighted with a tag team title reign with "The Raging Bull" Manny Fernandez.  I thought it was an odd pairing, but I liked them better than the popular Rock 'n Roll Express.  The heels didn't reign long though and Rude ended up in my favorite company the WWF by the summer 1987.  

By this time I wasn't cheering for just the good guys anymore.  I really enjoyed the character that "Ravishing" Rick Rude had become.  He hadn't really changed much from those early days, although I think it's fair to say he was more over the top.  Rick was even ruder than before and having Bobby "The Brain" Heenan in his corner definitely helped.  I loved his air brushed tights, his promos and his trademark finish "The Rude Awakening."


Rude wins the IC Title
Rude had a short run as the Intercontinental champion, beating the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania V.  I think the victory shocked a lot of fans in 1989 as the Warrior had been on a great role.  It was the smarts of "The Brain" that helped Rude get that victory, but unfortunately he dropped the belt back to Warrior a few months later at SummerSlam.  The two would feud again for the WWF Heavyweight championship a year later and I think if that match had happened in this generation, Rude would have no doubt had a run as champ.  


Sting vs. Rude
Rude headed back to WCW and was one of the company's top heels, feuding with Sting.  He held the U.S. championship and the NWA "world" heavyweight title, but never held the top prize in WCW.  After being injured and forced to retire from in-ring competition, Rude ended up briefly going back to WWF.  He was a bodyguard/mouthpiece for Triple H and Shawn Michaels in the original DX.   Through the years he had great matches with guys like Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and Ric Flair to name a few.


DX & Rude
I know his quick departure back to Turner caused a stir in the wrestling world and I don't know if that's what's keeping Rude out of the Hall of Fame.  But as we've seen in the past, fences get mended and fans get to see their favorites inducted into the Hall of Fame (Bruno Sammartino, Warrior and Randy Savage).  Even though the honor would be posthumous, it's still something the Ravishing One deserves.