Saturday, February 18, 2017

Remembering Ivan Koloff

Ivan Koloff vs. Bruno Sammartino
Courtesy: WWE
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Sadly, I'm writing a second memorial piece in as many days. The legendary Ivan Koloff has died. In the first 48 days of 2017 we've lost Rex King, "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, Chavo Guerrero Sr., George "The Animal" Steele, Nicole Bass and now "The Russian Bear."

The Russians
Courtesy: WWE
By the time I started watching wrestling in the early 80s, Koloff was nearing the end of his career. He was teaming with nephew Nikita and Krusher Kruschev. Together this threesome held the NWA six man tag team titles. Ivan and Nikita were also the NWA tag team champions, feuding with the likes of The Rock 'n Roll Express, Dusty Rhodes and Magnum TA and the Road Warriors. 

When Nikita turned good, Uncle Ivan moved on to team with the Powers of Pain under the management of Paul Jones. That trio would also go on to win the six man tag team championship. Eventually, even Ivan would turn good and ended up reuniting briefly with Nikita to battle the Russian Assassins. His time in the ring ended a few years later when he retired from wrestling.

Ivan's biggest claim to fame though came long before I started watching wrestling. It actually happened before I was born. Koloff pinned Bruno Sammartino to win the WWWF championship. It was a tremendous feat, as Bruno had been the champion for nearly eight years. Granted, his time as champ only last three weeks, but the significance of the ending of Bruno's streak as champ is arguably as impactful as Brock Lesnar ending Undertaker's WrestleMania win streak.

For that feat alone, Koloff should have been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame many years ago. I don't know why he's not there yet. Maybe there were behind the scenes reasons. I know in 2015 he joined the concussion lawsuit other Superstars have filed, so who knows now that he's died if WWE will look past that and ever induct him. 

Ivan Koloff
I must also admit that I was convinced all along that Ivan was really a Russian. He played the character so well it's a testament to the man behind the gimmick, Oreal Perras who was born in Canada. Rest in peace, Russian Bear. You will be missed.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Remembering George "The Animal" Steele

George "The Animal" Steele
Courtesy: WWE
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Another wrestling legend has died. WWE confirmed the news earlier that Hall of Famer, George "The Animal" Steele died Friday at the age of 79. Steele had in poor health recently. 

By the time I started watching wrestling, Steele was nearing the end of his in-ring career. I've blogged before about the night I was flipping channels with some friends and came across Jimmy Snuka (RIP) and Don Muraco battling it out. That same night "The Animal" cut a promo that consisted of him just shouting "YES" a lot. I can't remember who the interviewer was, but George just gave one-word answers. His loud voice boomed, but his hairy torso and bald head also stood out to me. We began mimicking his style long after the wrestling action had come to an end.

Steele vs. Hogan
Courtesy: WWE
Steele would team up with Mr. Fuji and battle Hulk Hogan and "Mean" Gene Okerlund not long after I discovered wrestling. The match was featured on a Coliseum Home video we had rented and watched one summer afternoon. Steele eventually went from the unpredictable monster to a more lovable good guy. He and Capt. Lou Albano worked well together and Steele even managed to work his way to an Intercontinental Title match against "Macho Man" Randy Savage at WrestleMania II.

The Animal & Mine
Courtesy: WWE
He worked a few more years on screen with WWF before retiring and doing some work as an agent. The Animal became one of the first Hall of Fame inductees and I think during his speech it was the first time I hadn't heard his non-sensical way of talking. When I was younger, I really bought into the character, which was memorable due to the hairy body, green tongue, turnbuckle munching and "Mine" doll.

Just a few of years ago Steele commented on a couple of blogs I had posted on a WWE site on LinkedIn. I was honored to know that someone of his stature was reading my work. Rest in Peace "Animal", you will be missed by many.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

These ain't your grandma's dolls

New buddies

@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

From time to time I come across some cool wrestling related products. When a fan is behind the creation it's, even better. I've talked before about Wrassle Roos and Pro Wrestling Tees. Today, it's all about a new line of toys that are sure to catch on with indy fans.

"Gentleman" Jervis Cottonbelly
A few years ago I met a guy named Corey Rae Jepsen. He's a huge wrestling fan from the St. Louis area. He'd come to some of the All American Pro Wrestling shows back when I was doing commentary in 2011 and '12. We've chatted in person a few times but have mostly stayed in touch through social media. He recently shared a pic on his Instagram page (@coreyraejepsen) of a Jervis Cottonbelly Fainting Buddy. It's a throwback to the old Wrestling Buddies but features the Chikara Pro legend. 

Corey & Christopher
Corey tells me he taught himself how to sew and makes each of the buddies himself. The Gentleman has signed off on the idea too. Corey is a unique guy with a lot of cool ideas. You can also get a Blue Tobias Bud (from Arrested Development) and an 808S Ye Bud (Kanye West). Check out his site and show him some love on social media. He says more characters are on the way. Oh, he also has a bud in his likeness along with his friend Christopher. 

The buddies come in two sizes. Lil' buddies are 8.25 inches, the BIG BUD is twice the size. Each is made with cotton fabric and polyester stuffing. Perhaps I can convince Corey to make a My 1-2-3 Cents Monkey (still, needs a name) Buddy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Former WrestleMania guest to perform in southern Illinois

Ozzy & Capt. Lou Albano
Courtesy: WWE
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Earlier today (Feb. 15, 2017) I had the pleasure of being on hand for the announcement of a huge concert here in southern Illinois. Ozzy Osbourne will be performing at Walker's Bluff's MoonStock 2017 on Aug. 21. It's part of a HUGE celebration for the total solar eclipse. For those of you not from southern Illinois, this area will be one of the best spots in the country to view the eclipse this summer.

The official announcement
Courtesy: Ashley Smith
Walker's Bluff is a winery that is celebrating with a four-day festival. Ozzy is the main event if you will. After breaking the news on News 3 This Morning on WSIL, there have been hundreds of shares of the story and thousands of people have seen the post. Ozzy is a legend and people here wanna see him perform.

Growing up, I was well aware of Ozzy. My uncle had plenty of Black Sabbath albums. My younger brother was a superfan and attended an Ozzy Osbourne concert in the late 80s. However, I never became obsessed with his music. I liked hits like Mama I'm Coming Home, Crazy Train along with Randy Rhoads and his duet with Lita Ford, Close My Eyes Forever. I know hardcore Ozzy fans are probably screaming at the screen right now.

The British Bulldogs, Capt. Lou & Ozzy
Courtesy: WWE
Here's something else I know and love about Ozzy. He was a guest at WrestleMania II. The Prince of Darkness donned a pink suit (maybe it was salmon) and was the guest cornerman for my favorite tag team The British Bulldogs. Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid were managed by Capt. Lou Albano, but with Ozzy in their corner they ended up capturing the WWF Tag Team Titles from Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine. I don't know the reason, other than they wanted celebrities there and both Ozzy and the Bulldogs are from England.

DX & Ozzy
Courtesy: WWE
Ozzy and his family became household names years later with their reality show. In 2007 he performed on Friday Night SmackDown. And two years later, he and wife, Sharon were guest General Managers of Monday Night Raw. Ozzy is a wrestling fan and that gets points with me. 

But I digress... If you want to learn more about MoonStock, Ozzy's performance and the special Solar Red wine to commemorate the event, click here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When bromances go bad

When bromances go bad...
Courtesy: WWE
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Bromances are awesome. We see them in all walks of life. I even have a couple myself. In the world of professional wrestling, it seems these relationships always end up going south. It's inevitable, so let's take a look at some of the best bromances in the business.

Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens
Courtesy: WWE
Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho's bromance came to a screeching halt on the most recent episode of Monday Night Raw. When the union formed last summer it gave new life to the Jericho's character and helped endear Owens in the eyes of fans. Their SummerSlam victory over Enzo and Big Cass surprised me and I thought for a moment the two would get a run as Raw tag team champions.

The timing of the breakup concerns me, though. My hope was that Owens would retain the Universal Championship against Goldberg later this month with the help of Jericho and then set up a match between the two at WrestleMania. But now I'm worried Goldberg will emerge as champ because of Jericho's interference, still leading us to an Owens-Jericho Mania matchup.

I would have loved to see the two stick it out together longer, but with WrestleMania coming, you knew the fun was going to come to an end. Now I look forward to seeing what both of them can do against each in the ring.

The MegaPowers
Courtesy: WWE
In the late 80s, "Macho Man" Randy Savage was on the verge of turning good when he feuded with the Honky Tonk Man. Then one Saturday night the fans fully embraced Savage after he was attacked by HTM and the Hart Foundation. Miss Elizabeth summoned the help of Hulk Hogan and the two became fast friends. For more than a year the Mega Powers dominated the WWF with their bromance, but all the way seeds of dissension were being planted. It was great storytelling and the Mega Powers exploded prior to WrestleMania V, 18 months after the bromance began.

Chris Adams & Gino Hernandez
I'm going old school for this last bromance. "Gentleman" Chris Adams proved to be anything but when he turned on the Von Erichs in World Class Championship Wrestling. He aligned himself with Gino Hernandez and the two ran amuck on the babyfaces of the company. They were joined at one point by Jake "The Snake" Roberts and won the WCCW 6 Man Tag Team Titles. Adams and Hernandez also had a run with the tag team titles. 

But like all good things, the Gentleman and the Handsome Half-Breed had a huge falling out. Hernandez blinded Adams, which led to his return to being a face. Sadly, Hernandez died shortly after this while Adams was recovering from his injuries. The two never had that much-anticipated feud. Hernandez was just 28 years old and had so much potential. 

Rock n Sock Connection
Courtesy: WWE
Of course, there are plenty of other great wrestling bromances. Edge & Christian, Shawn Michaels & Triple H, The Rock & Mankind and Scott Hall & Kevin Nash just to name a few. These men have all had their ups and downs too, just like history has shown us. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hall of Fame holla!

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

WWE has announced another inductee into the Hall of Fame for the Class of 2017. It's former referee, manager and general manager Teddy Long. I must say the list so far is completely different from the "leaked" list I saw online earlier this year. Long is definitely worthy of going into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Johnny B. Badd & Teddy
Courtesy: WWE
I remember Long from many years ago when he was a ref for NWA/WCW. But similar to what the WWF had done with Danny Davis, WCW moved Long from the stripes to a suit and made him a manager. His stable included guys like Doom (Ron Simmons & Butch Reed), The Skyscrapers (Dan Spivey, Sid Vicious and Mark Callous) Johnny B. Badd and Norman the Lunatic.

He enjoyed moderate success as a manager before heading to WWF in 1998 and once again becoming a referee. After a few years, he returned to his managerial ways, leading the charge for heels like Rodney Mack, Mark Henry and Chris Nowinski. He was managing in an era when managers were falling out of fashion and eventually transitioned into a general manager.

Teddy Long in action as GM
Courtesy: WWE
Long was with the company for quite a while and has made plenty of great memories for fans from several generations. I'm happy to hear he's going in the Hall of Fame and honestly was an unexpected one who had kinda fallen off my radar. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Midwest Mafia mugs Team Triple X

New champs
Courtesy: Tara Dawn
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
For months, “The Hitman” Jake Capone and Red Daniels have said they were going to take the Stride Pro Wrestling tag team titles away from Jay Spade and Joey O’Riley. And on Saturday night, the Midwest Mafia followed up on that promise. The duo dominated Team Triple X on Stride shows leading up to February’s “No Love Lost” event.

That's gonna hurt
Even though they were outweighed by about 300 pounds, Spade and O’Riley put up a helluva fight to retain their titles. The size and strength of Capone and Daniels proved to be too much for Triple X to overcome. The victory is even more special for Daniels, who started his training one year and one day from the title match.

Roger Matheus is ready
Courtesy: Steve Belcher
But the Mafia didn’t just win big as a tag team. Roger Matheus beat Chris Hargas and Ax Allwardt in a triple threat match to name the number one contender to the Stride Pro Wrestling championship. This was a hard hitting brawl among three of the best Stride has to offer. I hope to have Roger on the podcast prior to his title shot. But I can tell you he is the most intimidating member of the Stride roster.

Champion Heath Hatton has a tough road ahead of him. We’ll document that more once the match is signed and ready to go. Be sure to come out to the Stride Pro Wrestling anniversary show on Saturday, March 4 at the CMA Dojo in the Illinois Star Centre Mall in Marion.