Wednesday, November 25, 2015

WWE: You're Upping the Game

Shemaus, Triple H, Steph & Rusev
Courtesy: WWE
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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After Survivor Series 2015, I was not impressed with the direction WWE was going. If you listen to the My 1-2-3 Cents the Podcast Episode 52, (cheap plug) you can  hear Kevin and me explain why Sheamus winning the title wasn’t a fulfilling ending to Survivor Series.  However, 24 hours later, I may be changing my opinion. 

RAW opened with the required dull promo by the Authority. This wasn’t enough to even pique my interest. Then towards the end of the promo, after Sheamus and Roman Reigns got involved things started to pick up.  Reigns tried to show he wouldn’t be intimidated by the Authority only to turn around and eat a superkick from a returning Rusev. This set up a main event of Reigns vs. Rusev with Sheamus in the Bulgarian Brute’s corner. 

Sheamus taunts Reigns
Courtesy: WWE 

During the latter part of the match, after Sheamus was kicked to the back by the referee, King Barrett did a run in and attacked Reigns. Sheamus, Barrett and Rusev have had a loose association over the past couple of months before Rusev went out with an injury. It appears that group is sticking together now that Sheamus is WWE Champion. My interest in this group is at a crossroad. 

If WWE wants to push the group as a dominant force and not be the Jobber To The Stars the three Superstars have been over the past year, then I’m interested to see what happens next and could get behind a lengthy Sheamus title run. 

We like this new faction
Courtesy: WWE
If WWE keeps the group as job fodder and use Sheamus as a transitional champion, I don’t have any interest in the group. The Euro-Connection could be compared to the Wyatt Family. Each is comprised of wrestlers who are capable in the ring and who fans, I think, want to support. The problem is how the creative team uses them. 

With all the injuries currently plaguing the WWE roster, now is the time to get behind a new stable and push them to the top. WWE shouldn’t be waiting on John Cena or Randy Orton to come back. WWE shouldn’t rely on bringing in Brock Lesnar or any other former star to carry the company. The crossroads where the WWE currently rests shows this is the time to look forward at who is going to carrying the company into the third decade of the 21st Century. Stop relying on the old and go with the new. 

The pieces are in place for the Euro-Connection to be a formidable force. Will WWE complete the puzzle or will they stay the course they were on before Seth Rollins’ injury? Time will tell. For now, I’m willing to see where the road leads.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NHL Quest for 30: Pittsburgh

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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It’s been awhile since I last wrote. I had planned on writing more this year but then life came along and decided that wouldn’t be the case. Hopefully, over the next few weeks I can get back on track. 


Long time readers with good memories may remember how two seasons ago, I  started a descent into hockey fandom after a friend proposed the idea of going to all 30 NHL arenas.  If you need to refresh your memory or missed it the first time, you can catch up here.  After a season of traveling coast to coast getting baptized into the church of hockey, I tried to determine which team I should pledge my fandom. The team I was leaning towards due to having been an unofficial fan already was the Pittsburgh Penguins. Much to their credit, the Pens twitter operator responded and encouraged me to make my fandom official.  

It didn’t take much twisting of my arm for me to go with the Penguins, though I still consider myself a fan of hockey in general and simply want to see a good game no matter which arena I happen to be visiting. The second season of the QUEST FOR 30 saw trips to Dallas, Florida, Tampa Bay, Edmonton and Chicago. With the 2015/16 NHL season a little over six weeks old, there’s already been a trip to Vancouver that would rank in the Top 5 experiences so far. But this week is the moment I’ve been looking forward to since I fully immersed myself in the idea of the Quest. I finally get to step foot into Consol Energy Center and watch the Penguins battle the St. Louis Blues. Then two days later, it’s a trip to the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio to see the Penguins tussle with the Blue Jackets. 

While I’m excited to make my second trip to Pittsburgh, the first was back in 1998  when I really could have used a GPS unit to navigate all the one way streets, I have some concerns about the game against the Blues. Over the past two seasons, I have seen the Blues play three games. In those three games the Blues are undefeated. Not only have they not lost, in the first game against the Minnesota Wild, I witnessed TJ Oshie record his first hat trick. In the second game against the Dallas Stars, Vladimir Tarasneko scored thrice to get a hat trick of his own.  A month ago in Vancouver, there were no hat tricks just a solid win for the Blues. On one hand, I am rooting for a Penguins home win. On the other, if the Blues remain unbeaten in my presence,  this could boost my negotiating role when I offer my services to attend all Blues games during the Playoffs. 

The Penguins haven’t gotten off to a great start this season. However there is still plenty of season left. Nevertheless, being in the home arena surrounded by Black and Gold will make the game exciting enough. Add in a quest to get a photo with Iceburgh to keep the streak of mascot photos alive and you’ve got the 
makings for a good night. 

I have heard only good things about the Blue Jackets arena so I’m looking forward to seeing if it lives up to the hype. Whatever the scoreboard says after the games, I’m just hoping my expectations aren’t too high and both experiences will rank high on the list when I get around to compiling my “Best” lists when 
recapping the Quest. Now, where’s Iceburgh?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Surviving This Year's Survivor Series

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I'm not going to lie, I'm kind of disappointed with this year's Survivor Series card.  I've always preferred the elimination style matches that at one time only existed on this yearly pay per view.  WWE has announced there will be one five-on-five match, however the show is less than 30 hours away and no participants have been listed (as of this posting).

The main focus, as it should be, is the crowning of  a new WWE World Heavyweight champion.  As long as it doesn't end a "screw job" I'll be happy with any of the four contenders in the tournament.  If I were to rank them in order, I'd go Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Alberto Del Rio.  I don't think Reigns will win as I believe they've been building him up to capture the title in a more dramatic fashion than winning a tournament.  Will Sheamus cash in and win?  Anything is possible and I do like that unpredictability factor right now.

This year's event also marks 25 years of the Undertaker (and the Gobbledy Gooker).  I wish WWE was doing something more with he and Kane than a tag team match against two members of the Wyatt Family.  This one too could have easily been made an elimination match too, but I digress... I hope they go old school with his costume and even bring Brother Love out for good measure.  However, I don't think that'll happen.

I will watch the show of course and have a delayed podcast with some analysis with Chad.  It'll be interesting to see who survives and goes along the Road to Wrestlemania.  Check out this infographic by Jake Sharpless at the website Rukkus.  He always does a good job capturing the history of a WWE PPV in a visual format.

Created by Jake Sharpless

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Controversy Creates Cash or Cry Babies?

Contract signing
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I realize the title is probably a bit harsh and while I'd like to say it's not my intent to offend anyone, I'm not sure that's totally true.  There's a broad message here, but I'm tying it to a specific wrestling-related event.

Charlotte strikes
Courtesy: WWE
Recently on Monday Night Raw a verbal battle between Divas champion Charlotte and number one contender Paige fired up the Internet Wrestling Community.  Charlotte brought up her brother Reid Flair (not by name) who died in 2013 of a drug overdose.  She told Paige she was in WWE to fulfill his dream.  Paige retorted with "He didn't have much fight in him, did he?" The comment sent Charlotte into a rage and the two Divas brawled around the ring.

The comment seemed to impact fans even more.  The backlash against Paige and WWE has dominated social media.  Fans claimed to be insulted and offended by the remark and that WWE was out of line using another wrestling death to put over an angle.  Some even plan to boycott the company and this weekend's Survivor Series event.

Reid Flair
I don't offend easy.  The remark didn't bother me.  But as a father, I could see where Ric Flair (who says he had no knowledge the remark was going to be made) and Reid's mother Beth are owed an apology.  In my opinion they're the only two who really truly have a dog in the fight.  Considering Ric's relationship with Triple H (WWE COO) I think he was owed the courtesy of knowing the line was going to be dropped.   My question is this: Are fans really offended by the comment or do they feel like they SHOULD be offended?

Craig Kilborn
Courtesy: World Wide Pants & CBS
I remember the day after Owen Hart, who was dressed as the Blue Blazer, plunged to his death in Kansas City, Missouri Late, Late Show host Craig Kilborn made a tasteless JOKE about the incident.  Fans came unglued, but this was long before social media was around. Kilborn and CBS did apologize and we all moved on.  I bring this up because I feel like the Paige-Charlotte incident wasn't meant to insult or degrade the memory of Reid Flair.  It was clearly being used to create heat for Sunday's match, which I don't really think this feud needs, but I digress.

Today's society is looking for things to be offended by.  Skin color, religion, sexual orientation, politics and heck now even coffee cups seem to have divided many of us online. As Ric Flair said on Woo Nation, this "controversy" is nothing in comparison to the events currently happening in the world right now.  So instead of being butt hurt and offended every time something happens that we disagree with, take the high road, turn the other cheek and do something to make the world (or at least your community) a better place.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Our Survivor Series

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I am a fan of the traditional elimination style matches that made up the first several Survivor Series events. With the 2015 pay per view looking less and less likely to feature this format, Chad and I have come up with the matches he'd like to see this year. 

Note: we did not use any injured Superstars or those who are off for the time being.  That takes a lot out including Seth Rollins, Rusev, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, John Cena and Brock Lesnar.

Chad's teams

WYATT FAMILY                 VS.            DARKSIDE DEMONS
Bray Wyatt                                            Undertaker
Luke Harper                                          Kane
Erik Rowan                                            Viktor
Braun Strowman                                   Connor
Kofi Kingston                                        Jimmy Uso
Big E.                                                    Jey Uso
Titus O’Neil                                           Kalisto
Darren Young                                       Sin Cara
NXT MIZ THING            VS.                 NOVEMBER REIGN
Kevin Owens                                        Roman Reigns
Tyler Breeze                                         Dean Ambrose
Bo Dallas                                              Dolph Ziggler
Miz                                                        Neville
ONE WORLD                VS.                 SWAG
Alberto Del Rio                                    Jack Swagger
Stardust                                              Cesaro
Sheamus                                            Ryback
King Barrett                                        R-Truth

Kevin's teams 

WYATT FAMILY            vs.               BROTHERS OF DESTRUCTION 
Bray Wyatt                                         Undertaker
Luke Harper                                       Kane
Erik Rowan                                        Jey Uso
Braun Strowman                               Jimmy Uso

WORLD POWERS      vs.                THE SUPER SHIELD 
Alberto Del Rio                                      Roman Reigns
Kevin Owens                                          Dean Ambrose
Sheamus                                                 Dolph Ziggler
King Barrett                                           Ryback

Stardust                                                  Cesaro
Tyler Breeze                                           Neville
Konnor                                                   Sin Cara

Viktor                                                     Kalisto 

Big E                                                       Bubba Ray Dudley
Kofi Kingston                                        D-Von Dudley
Xavier Woods                                        Darren Young
The Big Show                                        Titus O'Neil 

MIZ USED                            vs.      AXED TOO SOON 
Miz                                                          Curtis Axel
Bo Dallas                                                Damien Sandow
Adam Rose                                             Fandango 
Heath Slater                                          Jack Swagger 

PAIGE TURNERS             vs.         WOO! NATION 
Paige                                                Charlotte 
Nikki Bella                                         Becky Lynch
Sasha Banks                                     Natalya 

I made the Divas a three on three because the current roster doesn't have enough face Divas and to keep within the rules of only using main roster talent I didn't want to bring Bailey up for this, although that would have been the way to accomplish this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

You've Run a Marathon, So What's Next?

A SnapChat finish
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I'm writing this not to brag or to whine, but instead to reach out to other runners who may be in the situation I find myself in right now.  Just over two weeks ago, I completed my first marathon.  I say first because I do intend to run another, but for the last 17 days I've found myself feeling rather blah about running.

I've run eight times since crossing the finish line on the marathon.  The furthest run to date is just 5.29 miles.  I can't seem to motivate myself to go beyond that point right now.  I have several friends who are planning a 50-mile ultra later this month.  I've been invited to join them, but I have no desire to compete in such an event.

The elusive Disney marathon medal
I have my eyes on other marathons down the road, most specifically the race at Disney World.  Seeing those Mickey Mouse medals has awakened the kid in me.  Plus what better scenery to run through is there than the "Happiest Place on Earth"?  But until that becomes a reality (at least a few years from now) I'll try to find the happiness in running again.  I don't hate doing it, but I do feel different since finishing the marathon.

So if you've felt like this after a big race, how did you cope?  What advice can you give a guy going through a midlife crisis and using running as he way to get through it all?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

We Wish You A Cheesy Christmas

The Night Before Lighted Christmas
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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It's been said that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. We all have different traditions and views, one of my favorite aspects of it all is the chance to spread the spirit the holiday.  Many groups and individuals do that by providing gifts and meals for the less fortunate.  Churches will host living nativity scenes or hold a Christmas pageant to share the reason for the season.  People will put up a Christmas tree, hang lights outside their home and bake lots of Christmas cookies.  I like doing all these things.  But one of my favorite things to do is wear an ugly Christmas sweater.

2014's homemade ugly sweatshirt (w/my buddy Tom Harness)
To be honest these novelty items are not cheap.  I've seen them online for more than a hundred dollars in some places. They're so popular these days you can't pick them up at Goodwill or thrift stores like you used to be able to.  Being a cheapskate, I've either borrowed an ugly Christmas sweater or taken pieces of holiday decor and created a one-of-a-kind design, which truly hold up to the ugly part of the equation.  There's even a day dedicated to these horrendous creations, this year it's December 18.

I recently received a sweater from the British company Cheesy Christmas Sweater.  You can read more about the company here and check out their awesome designs.  When I first opened mine, called The Night Before Lighted Christmas, I didn't realize it lit up.  Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised.


With its glittery popcorn baubles, shiny bows on the gifts under the tree and a peaceful angel perched on top, this sweater had my attention immediately. But then when you switch on the battery pack and the tiny lights embedded in the tree start to glow the cheesy factor increases like Santa's waistline.  Those lights blink and change colors from red, green, blue and yellow.  I can not wait to wear this on Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and to the many holiday festivities I plan to attend.  My family is sure to disown me before December 25.

Inside the sweater
The sweater I received costs $77.56 and is one of three light up sweaters offered by Cheesy Christmas Sweater.  Sometimes when I wear a sweater I find it hot and itchy, but that's not the case with this one.  I do wear an undershirt, but that's out of habit.  Without one, the lights inside are covered with a soft piece of material that didn't bother my skin. The company sent me a medium, which is a bit snug.  But I see it as motivation to not overindulge on Christmas cookies this season.  It did not come with washing instructions, but because of the lights I've already deduced it's hand wash only.

The Twosie: Nutcracker (sold out)

There are regular ugly sweaters that start at just over $44 and Christmas cardigans for less than 70 bucks.  All of the designs are fun and festive and are in line with the cheesy/ugly Christmas theme.   The site offers something I'd never seen until I was introduced to them a few months ago and that's the "Twosie."  As the name suggests, it's a two headed Christmas sweater.  The designs include The Nutcracker and Believe in Magic.  They are by far the most popular as both designs are sold out at this time.

If you're planning to order from Cheesy Christmas Sweater, I'd act fast.  Ugly Christmas Sweater Day will be here before you know it and because the company is located in England, it may take it a little longer to arrive.  Check with them when you place your order.  Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas.