Friday, January 19, 2018

Fun Fact Friday: Herb Simmons

Herb Simmons
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Social media has been a powerful tool for years, letting people reconnect all over the world. It's also been a great way to learn more about one of my passions, professional wrestling. It feels like there are more independent companies cropping up, including several within a couple hours of my home in southern Illinois. 

One company I've been able to check out is Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling. Several familiar faces from the Stride Pro Wrestling roster have been on the show, including Heath Hatton, Ax Allwardt and Chris Hargas. 

Abdullah the Butcher and I 

Last year I attended my first show in East Cardonolet. I met the legendary Abdullah the Butcher, long time announcer Larry Matysik and promoter Herb Simmons. He agreed to participate in this week's Fun Fact Friday.

Herb and Ted DiBiase
1. Herb has been promoting wrestling for 43 years. SICW has had many greats on the show; including Dory and Terry Funk, Harley Race, Bushwhacker Luke, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Ted DiBiase, One Man Gang, Koko B. Ware and Hillbilly Jim. He also worked with legends like Bruiser Brody, Dick Murdoch, Crusher Blackwell, Ox Baker, Baron Von Raschke and Gene Kinski. 

2. The company has a monthly show called SICW Wrestling Explosion. You can watch it here. It's based on the classic Wrestling at the Chase from St. Louis. (I grew up on that show.) They just aired episode 360. Congrats! 

3. Herb's day job is the St. Clair County 9-1-1 director. He's also been the mayor of East Carondelet for 33 years. SICW does several fundraiser shows for the police and fire departments in the community. 

SICW returns to the East Carondelet Community Center Saturday (Jan. 20) Bell time is 7 p.m. You can call (618) 286-4848 to reserve tickets. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

3 Things I want in WWE in 2018

@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Despite the freezing temperatures, snow and ice, I like the month of January for a number of reasons. It's a fresh start to the year. People seem to put their differences aside for one day in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. And WWE presents the Royal Rumble and the official countdown to WrestleMania. Since this is a pro wrestling blog, that'll be the topic of discussion and specifically for WWE. There are three things (off the top of my head) that I want to see happen in the world's largest Sports Entertainment company (and in no particular order).

The Hulkster
Courtesy: WWE
1. Make amends with Hulk Hogan. The former WWE Champion and the biggest star of the 1980s was removed from the company's Hall of Fame section online in 2015. It stems from racist comments the Hulkster made years ago on a private recording. I don't want to turn this into a huge debate, but Hogan has served his time. Firing him and essentially kicking him out of the Hall of Fame were extreme measures. 

There had been buzz that perhaps Hogan would return at Raw25 next week and maybe he will. But he has tweeted that he'll be watching the show from home Monday night. It could all be a swerve but in case it's not, Hogan should be a part of WWE in some form. No, I don't want to see him wrestle again, however occasional appearances like other Legends is more than acceptable. 

Vince McMahon has a history of letting bygones be bygones when it comes to doing business. Bruno Sammartino, Ultimate Warrior and Kurt Angle are all recent examples of that. And without sounding like a jerk, no one is getting any younger, in this case, so let's move on and bring back the yellow and red.

Hanging with Neville
2. Bring back Neville. Yes, I am a fanboy for Neville. I know he walked out and is likely not coming back. However, I would pop like Orville Redenbacher (yes, my go to) if he came back. He's a great talent and was helping breath some new life in the Cruiserweight Division. And I'd love to see him kick in Enzo's head... 

I love Bruce Prichard & Conrad
3. Induct Brother Love into the WWE Hall of Fame. Like I mentioned above with the mending fences comment, Bruce Prichard has been invited back after nearly a decade. Brother Love is scheduled to be a part of Raw25. I know I'm jumping the gun, but Brother Love certainly deserves a spot in the HOF. I loved the character from day one and simply enjoy listening to his podcast Something to Wrestle With.

I'm hopeful with the invite there's at least a chance Bruce ends up back in the company. Again, it doesn't have to be a full-time gig, but I would love to see a handful of Brother Love segments in 2018. He still has a great mind for the business too and could be an asset behind the scenes.

These are just a few of the things I'm hoping for this year. What are some things you want to see happen in 2018?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ricocheting from the indies to WWE

Ricochet battles Will Ospreay

@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Earlier this week WWE announced indy star Ricochet has signed a deal to start work at the Performance Center in Orlando. He'll be a part of the NXT brand as he continues to develop and hone his craft. It'll be a nice boost into the NXT system with fresh faces coming in. Additionally, it's been reported the tag team War Machine and women's star Candice LeRae are also NXT-bound.

Ricochet, whose real name is Trevor Mann, is actually not far from where I live now. For those who know, I'm a morning news anchor in southern Illinois. Mann grew up in Paducah, Kentucky which is about 45 minutes away. So after learning of his signing, I ran a story on the news about "local wrestler headed to WWE." It's a great excuse to get some wrestling stories on the newscast.

Ricochet vs. Austin Lane
I've had a chance to watch Ricochet wrestle in person a couple of times. The stand out occasion for me was when he faced Austin Lane in the main event of a Cape Championship Wrestling show in August 2016. You can see a portion of that match here (I can't figure out how to post an Instagram video on this blog.)The two put on a clinic in the ring which exceeded my expectations. Not only was I impressed with the guest star on the show, but Lane also. 

Ricochet's signing is welcomed by me and in my 1-2-3 cents, he could also help breath some new life into the Cruiserweight division. I don't know what the future holds for Neville (I'm still hoping he returns) but the man formerly known as Prince Puma would certainly add some sizzle to 205 Live. I can't imagine he'll be on NXT long, but even if he is, it'll be a benefit for both sides. 

Even though I don't know him personally, I'm excited someone from my neck of the woods is getting a break in the largest wrestling (sports entertainment) company in the world. Ricochet's signing should be enough to encourage men and women toiling in the independents to keep pushing. Also, youngsters should see this as a reminder to NEVER give up on their dreams. Heck, it's something even us old timers could use too.

Promo code: MY123CENTS

Monday, January 15, 2018

Goldberg spears his way into the Hall of Fame

Goldberg in WWE (2017)
Courtesy: WWE

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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WWE and ESPN announced Monday morning that former WCW, WWE and Universal Champion Goldberg is going into the WWE Hall of Fame. No doubt he'll be the "main event" of the Class of 2018 when the ceremony is held the Friday night prior to WrestleMania 34. There had been rumors circulating for weeks, maybe even months that Goldberg would go in this year. 

When he returned to WWE in late 2016 it was clear any tensions between he and the company were put aside. That is often the case as we've seen mended fences come between WWE and the likes of Kurt Angle, Bruno Sammartino and The Ultimate Warrior in recent years. Goldberg's induction is well deserved. I know some reading that sentence may be surprised as I've been a pretty outspoken Goldberg critic on this blog and on the My 1-2-3 Cents podcast. Despite not being a fan of the performer, it's hard to argue the contributions he made to the business during his brief run in the late 90s.

Goldberg vs. Kendall Windham
Courtesy: WWE
I actually met Goldberg when he was still using Bill as his first name in the ring. It was at the Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville, Alabama. WCW was broadcasting Thursday Night Thunder on January 21, 1998. I was able to interview a handful of WCW wrestlers, the first being Goldberg. However, my videographer and I recorded some video of the ring being set up that night and Doug Dillinger took our tape and erased it. The Goldberg interview was lost forever, but my interviews with Bobby Heenan, Buff Bagwell and Ray Traylor will live on YouTube. 

Goldberg was a nice guy and treated me well throughout the course of the interview. However, his character never resonated with me. I will admit that's likely a bias on my part as I grew up a wrestling fan but always put WWF first. Goldberg's rise was at the peak of the Monday Night Wars and I was firmly behind Vince McMahon and company.

Rock vs. Goldberg
Courtesy: WWE
Even years later when Goldberg appeared in WWE I was less than thrilled and to no fact of his own. My thoughts were that ship had sailed. I wanted to see the big names from WCW come over immediately, but because many of the top guys had big-time contracts with AOL/Time Warner they opted to stay on the sidelines and continue to get paid. Dream matches like Goldberg vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin never happened.

Courtesy: WWE
Goldberg made a difference in the business and deserves the recognition he receives as a result. The man behind the character appears to be a standup guy and I'm happy he was able to come back and win the Universal Championship in front of his young son who had never seen him wrestle. Congrats to Goldberg as he takes his official place in wrestling (sports entertainment) history.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Roger Matheus snaps

Lane Austin attacked

Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I wish the headline for this blog was referring to Roger Matheus signing up for Snapchat, but unfortunately, that's not the case. The former Stride Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Champion has always been the most intimidating force in the locker room. But his action at Saturday night's show in Carterville sealed the deal on his "Mad Viking" persona.

Matheus was in a rematch against new champion Jay Spade. There wasn't a whole lot of wrestling going on as Matheus attacked early and often. He choked Spade in the corner and on the ropes several times as referee Lane Austin started the five count. Each time, the wily veteran would break the hold as Lane reached four.
Matheus snaps
The matched continued and the former champ cornered Spade again and was relentless in his attack. As Lane began the count, Matheus shoved the referee in a fit of rage. He shoved him hard too, Lane, who is built like a bulldog, hit the mat as if he was a ragdoll. Finally sick of Matheus' actions, Lane called for the bell indicating the challenger had been disqualified. That's when things got scary. Matheus grabbed Lane and delivered an End of Days to him, leaving Lane lifeless on the mat. The look in Matheus' eyes was downright frightening. 

Me and Lane before the show
Allow me to show a little bias here. I'm speaking as Lane's friend, but also a wrestling fan. Matheus' actions are inexcusable. It was bad enough he punished Spade throughout the match. But assaulting a referee is crossing the line. I don't know what implications will come from Matheus' attack, but it seemed clear he was more intent on hurting Spade than winning the championship. Be sure to stay tuned and join Stride Pro Wrestling once again on Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Illinois Star Centre Mall in Marion.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Stride Pro Wrestling changes venue

@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Thursday afternoon the Stride Pro Wrestling front office received word that the usual venue for shows, the Illinois Star Centre Mall, would not be available for this weekend's event. The mall has served as Stride's home base since the company's inception in March 2016. For those who live in southern Illinois or who have ever been to the mall in Marion knows the building is a shell of its former self. Most recently there have been heating, water and other safety issues crop up, hence the need to find a new venue for wrestling.

120 N. Greenbriar Rd.
Carterville, IL 
Within 90 minutes of the news, we were able to find a new place for tonight's (Saturday) show. The opening round of the Stride Cup Tournament will now be held at the Carterville Community Center. It's located at 120 N. Greenbriar Road in Carterville. If you're familiar with Cannon Park, it's the building at the park's entrance. Click here for the map. Thanks to Khrissy Hollister and Mayor Brad Robinson for working with us to make it happen.

It'll be an interesting set up as pro wrestling has never been done there. However, I'm excited about the new place and look forward to seeing how fans receive it. Tonight's settings may be different, but the same great wrestling action will be there. The Stride Pro Wrestling heavyweight champion Jay Spade will defend against Roger Matheus, the Legacy Title is on the line as Chris Hargas defends against Tony Flood and Joey O'Riley and Arron Brooks get a shot at the tag team champions, the DR Party. Heath Hatton, Ax Allwardt, JD Wilk, El Magnifico and all your other favorites are scheduled to be there too! And don't forget referee Lane Austin and GM Sam Hunter.

Bell time is still 6:30 p.m. The doors will open at 6. Please be patient as we will be working hard to get the area set up for the show. Share this with your wrestling fan friends so they know our venue is different.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fun Fact Friday: Ace Hawkins

Ace Hawkins
Courtesy: MegaSlam Wrestling 
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Ace Hawkins. He was a part of All American Pro Wrestling and eventually Pro Wrestling Collision. He and Brandon Espinso were a successful tag team, winning the championships in both companies. Despite having known him for years, I don't feel like I "know" Ace. So I asked him to participate in this week's Fun Fact Friday.

Cartoon Ace
1. Ace is an avid Marvel comics fan. He grew up reading the comic books and watching the cartoons and now he watches the Marvel movies. In his words, he's losing his mind waiting for Infinity War to be released in May. Ace suggests that fandom is what led him into the world of professional wrestling
as it's the closest thing to being a real-life comic book character.

2. Ace wants to write a book one day. He has already written a handful of short stories. This is a hobby that started in childhood when he stumbled upon the idea that WWE was hiring creative writers. It was then that he came up with a backup plan in case wrestling didn't work out. But so far, things are going well for the high flyer. Ace also went to college for creative writing.

3. Looking for a partner for trivia night? Call Ace. He fancies himself a random trivia buff. He knows "stupid" info on everything from history to vocabulary to pop culture. For example, did you know in Ireland they have a festival where they marry a local girl to a goat for three days? His friends call these things #Acefacts

If you want to keep up with Ace on social media, he's everywhere. His Facebook page is here. Look for @Acesaywhat on both Twitter and Instagram too. And look for Ace tomorrow night as he battles Heath Hatton in the Stride Cup Tournament. The venue has changed to the Carterville Community Center (120 N. Greenbriar Road in Carterville). We'll see you there!