Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Black History Month: Ernie Ladd

The Big Cat Ernie Ladd (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger

It's the final day of Black History Month and while I did not get the chance to write about all the wrestling greats this month is set to honor, I do feel like I got to write about many of them.  And I tried hard to not make this sound like a Wikipedia page, I wanted to write about wrestlers I remembered watching as a kid (and adult).  In some cases I had to do some research to supplement, but most of these entries came from memory and from the heart.

Honestly by the time I started watching wrestling, Ernie Ladd was no longer in the ring.  But he was providing color commentary for WWF broadcasts.  That's what I remember him from.  He also came back from time to time to do interview segments.

The King
But "the Big Cat" had quite a time in the ring.  He feuded with the likes of Andre the Giant, Mil Mascaras, and Paul Orndorff.  At one point along the way, he was the King of wrestling too.  Ladd was a great influence to other black wrestlers climbing the ladder.  The Junkyard Dog is among the men he helped along the way.

In 1995, Ladd was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  He had a storied career, and it's an honor he earned.  Ladd was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and died from the disease in 2007.  While he is gone, he's never forgotten and left an impact on generations to come.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Black History Month: Jay Lethal

Jay Lethal
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart on Twitter

I’m filling in for Kevin on this blog to wind up the first Black History Month series on my123cents. I guess because I watched more TNA and ROH than Kevin, he figured I was more qualified to write about Jay Lethal. I don’t know about that, but we’ll see if I can follow in Kevin’s footsteps.

Jay Lethal had been wrestling in Jersey All Prow Wrestling before gaining attention in ROH as “Hydro” a member of the rich kid group Special K. After about a year and a half in ROH, Samoa Joe suggested “Hydro” leave Special K and become more serious. This suggestion lead to the return of the Jay Lethal moniker. Lethal would form a tag team with Samoa Joe while working his way up the ROH ladder.

After a few years in ROH, Lethal headed south to wrestle for TNA. Lethal was part of the X-Division during the days when the division was treated as a joke. This was the time when Kevin Nash was putting the X-Division guys through a series of random challenges as well as a few months of guys doing stupid stunts to promote Jackass 2.



Black Machismo
During an episode of Impact, Jay did a spot on impression of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, which led to Jay transforming into Black Machismo. Black Machismo started aping all of “Macho Man’s” mannerisms and past storylines. Machismo would enter into a relationship with ring attendant So Cal Val leading to a wedding that would be derailed due to Black Machismo’s best friend Sonjay Dutt admitting he was in love with Val.

From there, Jay Lethal moved on to a feud with Ric Flair after doing a Ric Flair impersonation. I’m surprised TNA didn’t try to make Lethal the Rich Little of wrestling and have him doing a different impersonation every week. And yes I realize I just dated myself by pulling out a pop culture reference that even Vince McMahon would say was old. Jay got some wins over Flair and it looked like he was being poised to be move up the card. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be as Jay floundered in the mid-card for months before leaving TNA.

Jay Lethal returned to Ring of Honor and quickly won the company’s TV title. Jay will be defending the title this Sunday at ROH’s 10th Anniversary show live on Ippv.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Black History Month: Men on a Mission

Men on a Mission (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

In the early to mid 90's, the WWF probably hit rock bottom.  At least it did in my opinion.  This was mostly from the fallout from the steroid scandal and for some unknown reason (at least to me) we were given a cavalcade of unusual characters, including the likes of Kwang the Ninja, TL Hopper, and Freddie Joe Floyd.  There was also the rapping group Men on a Mission or MOM.  Mo, Oscar, and Mabel "entertained" the fans with raps and wrestling.  Entertained is the operative word.

While I was never a real big fan of this threesome, I know they were over with some fans at least.  In 1994, the beat the Quebecers fro the WWF tag team titles.  But from what I've read about the incident, it was a fluke victory and the Quebecers soon regained the straps.  Mo and Mabel did all the wrestling, while Oscar provided the rapping.  The three of them wore purple and gold, it was truly a site to see.

Not too long into their run though, Mo and Mabel turned on Oscar, taking him out with a couple of big splashes.  I don't remember exactly what the story line was, as I was in college at this time and not watching as regularly as I liked to.  But now Mabel and Mo were on their own, and despite losing Oscar, the duo kept the Men on a Mission name.

King Mabel
But if I remember correctly, the two of them didn't team for long as Mabel got a singles push and won the 1995 King of the Ring tournament.  (This was, in my opinion, the worst tournament ever, but like I said times were tough back then)  As the king, Mabel appointed Mo as Sir Mo, but I don't remember him being around too much longer after that.  Mabel did go on to face Diesel for the WWF title at Summer Slam 95, which again, IMO the worst Summer Slam main event ever.

With Mo out of the picture, Mabel went on to feud with the Undertaker, even "breaking" the deadman's face with Yokozuna.  Remember that rad face mask 'Taker briefly wore?  Mabel left the WWF the first time around shortly after losing a casket match to the Undertaker.  It was during his hiatus from the company that I saw him at an independent show in Florence, Alabama.  He wrestled Tommy Rich in the main event of the night.  I don't remember much of the match, but recall that Mabel was one huge dude. (as if we couldn't tell that from TV)

Eventually, Mabel was brought back to the WWF, this time as an ally of the Undertaker (who was now heel).  He changed his name to Viscera and wore white contact lenses and black lipstick.  He was no evil, and a part of the Ministry of Darkness.  He paired up with the former pig farmer Phineas I Godwin, but the duo never had a whole lot of success.  He was released again from the company after a brief run as Hardcore champion.  While away, he wrestled on the indy scene and in TNA before coming back to the WWE again.

Squeal like a pig (WWE)
Briefly, he was Viscera before an incident turned him into a likable love machine, known as Big Daddy V.  There was a mini angle going with Lilian Garcia at the time, where Big Daddy was trying to win her love. He wore silk pajamas to the ring and played the role of a ladies' man.  It was comedy relief, but clearly not going to elevate his career.  He and Val Venis teamed up for a while, getting a few shots at the tag team titles, but never going anywhere.  Of all the characters played by Nelson Frazier, Jr. (his real name) I think I actually did enjoy this one the most.  However, I like his persona after he turned heel and paired up with Matt Striker as his manager.  He was that big, monster heel type that I think wrestling needs more of, but he just wasn't all that dominate this time around either.

Viscera has been gone from the WWE for a while now, competing once again on the indy scene.  And while I wasn't a huge fan of all his personas or characters, I can admit that he did get out there and entertain the fans the best that he could.  I hope this post wasn't too negativity, I really didn't intend for it to be.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Black History Month: Jazz

Jazz vs. Trish Stratus (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

Jazz is another one of those Divas I don't think the WWE quite knew how to use.  She came to the WWE at a time that women's wrestling was on the rebound and starting to boom again.  Ivy, Molly Holly, Victoria, Trish Stratus, and Lita were all on the roster too.

But before she got to the WWF (it was still F back then), she wrestled briefly for ECW.  She event mixed it up with the guys too.  But the company went bankrupt, and that left her without a place to go for a while.

She came to the WWE as a dominant heel Diva.  Jazz rolled through the competition, eventually beat Trish for the Women's title but didn't hold it long as she was injured and had to take several months off to recover from a torn ACL.  When she did return, she was paired with Teddy Long and he led Jazz to another run as Women's champ.  But again, she was hurt with a shoulder injury and needed time off to recover.  When she came back the third time, she was used as a manager for Rodney Mack, who happens to be her husband too.

But the couple got the "creative has nothing for you" line and they were released in 2004.  Since then they've worked in the independent scene and had a couple of children together.  Jazz still wrestles from time to time, but devotes a lot of time to her family and the gym she owns in Louisiana.



Jazz wins the title
Her time in the WWE was brief, now would be a great time to see her back with the company.  I think Beth Phoenix, Natalya Neidhart, Tamina Snuka, and Kharma could use some competition like Jazz.  I think there's a definite place for women's wrestling, and it doesn't have to just be Barbie doll divas in high heels and low cut tops to get fans interested.  Jazz was part of the upswing in women's wrestling once, I think she could be a part of it again and help this generation of Divas take it to the next level.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Black History Month: S.D. Jones

Special Delivery Jones
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

Of all the jobbers I watched in the 1980's, I think S.D. Jones may have been my favorite.  He only ever won a handful of matches (if even that many) when I started watching wrestling in 1983.  In fact, my first house show was a WWF event in late 1984, he was in the opener against the spoiler, and you guessed it, he got pinned.

But I liked SD.  Oh yeah, SD=Special Delivery in case you didn't know.  Anyway, I always felt bad for SD because I knew what his fate was going to be.  A few of my favorite memories of him include one in 1984 when he and Andre the Giant teamed up against Ken Patera and Big John Studd.  This was the infamous Andre haircutting incident.  I think the WWF was still on the Superstation TBS back then.  Jones got knocked out of the ring and hit the guardrail, while Studd and Patera double slammed Andre and cut his hair.  Since Jones was a jobber, there wasn't much he could do to help his fallen partner.

Then of course probably his biggest match of his WWF career came at the first Wrestlemania.  Howard Finkel, Gorilla Monsoon, and Jesse Ventura claim Jones was pinned in 9 seconds by King Kong Bundy, but the match is a bit longer than that (it's closer to 23 seconds)  No doubt the promos and ring entrances lasted longer than the match.  Poor SD.


SD Jones in toy form
But he must have had some fan appeal as he was the only true jobber the LJN made into an action figure.  And yes, I still own my SD Jones "wrestling doll".  Die hard fans will know that there are two versions of this figure, one with the red shirt and one in the Hawaiian shirt.

Sadly SD never climbed the ladder of success in the WWF, but he did an excellent job of making other wrestlers look their very best.  That's the role of a jobber after all.  I got to see him induct his friend and former tag team partner Tony Atlas into the WWE Hall of Fame back in 2006.  It's something I'm glad I got to see as Jones died in 2008.  By the way, Atlas and Jones held the USA Tag Team titles, and Jones was a three time coholder of the NWA Americas Tag Team titles.  If the WWE ever does our idea for a jobbers wing of the Hall of Fame, Jones in my opinion should be in the first class of inductees.  Rest in Peace Special Delivery.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Looking at Chikara's 11th Season

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart on Twitter

This is a week overdue. Good thing we don’t have deadlines here at the my123cents offices. Anyway.  If you’re been reading the blog for at least the last four months, you’re probably well aware that I am a huge Chikara mark. I don’t deny it or try to hide it. Even to non-wrestling fans, if they find out I enjoy wrestling I am much more likely to talk freely about Chikara while downplaying enjoying WWE or TNA. There’s just something magical about Chikara.

Four weeks ago Chikara kicked off Season 11 with a show entitled The Thirteenth Hat. I’d read some reviews of the show that said while it was entertaining it wasn’t a home run show. After seeing the show for myself, I would agree it may not be a home run, but then Chikara didn’t need to hit a home run with the show. Unlike their first Ippv last November, which was a home run, which wrapped up season 10 and served as an introductory show for new fans, The Thirteenth Hat’s job was to set up the new storylines for Season 11. In that regard, I think Chikara did a fantastic job.  Several stories were set up and I am excited to see how they all play out over the next 10 months.

The show opened with Green Ant finally getting the better of his trainer, Mike Quackenbush.  After defeating Tursas as the Season 10 finale, High Noon, Green Ant continued his ascension up the Chikara ranks with this match. Quack’s reputation isn’t hindered by ending up on the losing end of a back and forth contest while Green Ant shows he is a force to not be taken lightly. Solid opener.

The new Throwbacks
Following the opening match was the introduction by Dasher Hatfield of the newest member of the Throwbacks, Mr. Touchdown. Dasher is a fan favorite and is thankful for the fans supporting the Throwbacks. Mr. Touchdown on the other hand refers to the fans as, NERDS, and doesn’t seem too concerned with their cheers. With the third member of the Throwbacks, Sugar Dunkerton, taking a sabbatical from Chikara, it will be interesting to see how Dasher and Touchdown work as a team. Will Mr. Touchdown come around to respecting the fans the way Dasher does, or could Mr. Touchdown’s attitude rub off on Dasher forcing a rudo turn for the popular technico? 

After a 14-month hiatus, Gran Akuma made his return to a Chikara ring to face his former teammate, Icarus. I thought it was too soon for these two to meet in a one on one match, so the double count out ending made sense. What did surprise me was the involvement of Greg Iron. Iron had feuded with Icarus over the course of last season and was Icarus’ opponent at High Noon. After Icarus defeated Iron, Akuma made a surprise appearance and while trying to get to Icarus, Akuma accidentally kicked Iron.  Apparently Iron took offense at Akuma’s accident because instead of going after Icarus, Iron got in Akuma’s face at The Thirteenth Hat. Now Icarus has gotten Chikara Director of Fun, Wink Vavasseur to make Akuma go through a trial series of matches in order to get another shot at Icarus.  At the same time Greg Iron wants a piece of Akuma. By the end of the season, Akuma may be dreading his decision to make his Chikara return.

While 3.0 started their quest for three points with a victory of former BDK teammates Tim Donst and Jakob Hammermeier, the real story is the dissension between team HammerTim(e). During a pre-match promo Jakob talked about BDK leader Ares coming back. After making the comment, Donst slapped Jakob then said Ares was gone and Tim was the leader of BDK 2.0. After losing the match, Tim attacked Jakob blaming him for the loss. I’m going to make a prediction and say by the end of the season Jakob Hammermeier will be one of the most popular technicos on the Chikara roster.

Archibald Peck had another victory stolen from him by an unscrupulous opponent.  The loss caused his lovely valet, Veronica to leave ringside without Marchie Archie in disgust. The heartbroken lothario is none too pleased about his misfortune. What will it take for the leader of the band to get back on the winning bandwagon?

Ophidian debuted a new look and vowed to collect more “souls” (masks) on his way to redemption. I felt the match with Hieracon went about twice as long as it should have given the pretty predictable outcome. But I am intrigued on where Ophidian goes now that he has taken the “souls” of his Osirian Portal teammates. I also feel like we haven’t seen the last of Amasis.
Before the main event, Vin Gerard ran in unannounced leading to a pull apart brawl with Chikara Grand Champion Eddie Kingston.  Once security got Vin Gerard out of the venue, Eddie demanded Wink reinstate Vin into Chikara so Eddie could dish out a beating.  Since the show, Vin has been reinstated and this Sunday, Eddie and Vin will meet in a Title vs. Career match up. This intrigues me since it is Eddie’s first defense so I can’t see him losing. At the same time, I can’t see Vin coming back for just one match. I have faith in the Chikara brain trust to have something awesome planned for the match. 


In addition to these stories that were told during the show, the DVD of The Thirteenth Hat included an opening where Ultramantis Black and Hallowicked went looking for Delirious. Delirious stole the Eye of Tyr from Ultramantis then proceeded to destroy it before running off screaming, “I remember everything.”  What implications will that have on Ultramantis’ quest of power or Mantis and Hallowicked’s shot at the Campeonatos de Parejas this weekend? 

 

In one show, Chikara set up or advanced eight stories. Not too bad for a kick off show. Plus the show didn’t have Sara Del Rey, Chuck Taylor and Johnny Gargano, Brodie Lee or Frightmare. As well, the Colony, The Batiri and Jigsaw were involved in matches with no immediate meaning on the foreseeable future.

 

As I said in the opening paragraph, I know I’m a Chikara mark. With that said, I can’t wait for future Chikara shows. I am excited for what Season 11 has in store and am counting the days until April 28 and 29 when I will get to see my first live Chikara shows in seven years.

 

Normally I would shill smartmarkvideo.com and tell you to order this show either on DVD or as an .mp4 download. But Chikara does pay me to shill for them so I won’t do that. I will however tell you if you aren’t following my123cents on Twitter or haven’t “liked” us on Facebook, you’re missing out on some fun interactions.

Black History Month: Jacqueline

Jacqueline (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

My first memories of Jacqueline come from her days of working in the USWA as Miss Texas.  By the time she arrived on the scene, my cable provider didn't carry USWA, so I read about her in Pro Wrestling Illustrated.  In fact, I believe it was in one of the issues that she was ranked in the Top 500 and it caused a bit of controversy that a woman made the list.

However, I think Jacqueline has proven she can hang with the ladies and the men of the ring.  After leaving Texas and working briefly in WCW, she ended up in the WWE.  Jackie, Terri, and Ryan Shamrock made up the trio PMS, Pretty Mean Sisters.  Jackie also feuded with Sable as she offered Marc Mero a shoulder to cry on after he and Sable split.


She won the WWE women's title from Harvey Wippleman of all people.  Don't ask if you don't remember.  Then she dropped the title to Stephanie McMahon.  Again, don't ask.  All told, she held the title two times while in the WWE.  She is also only the second woman in the company's history to hold a "man's title" when she beat Chavo Guerrero for the Cruiserweight title.  (Chyna of course held the WWF Intercontiental title, Madusa and Daffney also held the Cruiserweight title, but in WCW)

PMS & Meat
Another tidbit about Jackie, which I had forgotten, she was a referee for a time in WWE.  If my memory serves me correctly, she may have been the first female main stream referee.  Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Despite her successes, unfortunately for Jackie, creative claims they had nothing for her character and she was released from the company.  She ended up in TNA and managed Beer Money as "Miss Tennessee."  She's come and gone from the company over the last few years, most recently teaming up with ODB to take on Velvet Sky.  But she once again left TNA in late 2011.

I'd like to see Jackie used again in the WWE as a trainer type, as she had a lot of success with helping on Tough Enough.  She had a different look than all the other Divas in the WWE during the Attitude Era and had a lot of talent.  I think she may be one of the most under appreciated females in the history of the company.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Black History Month: Virgil

The Million Dollar Champ!
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

Virgil had a price for the Million Dollar Man.  For years, he played the "manservant" to Ted DiBiase's evil millionaire character.  While that's the character he's best known for, Mike Jones started off under the name Soul Train Jones and held the AWA International Heavyweight title and the AWA Southern tag team titles with Rocky Johnson.

After his brief stint in Memphis, he headed north to the WWF.  There, Jones was paired with DiBiase.  In the beginning, he did very little wrestling, which I didn't understand, as he had been successful elsewhere.  By the time he really started becoming active in the ring though, he and DiBiase split.  Virgil was aided by Roddy Piper in getting his freedom and winning the Million Dollar belt from DiBiase.  It was the only gold Virgil would hold in the WWF.

Everybody's gotta price
He played the role of the flunky well I thought.  He could always take a bump and was intimidating as DiBiase's body guard.  I wasn't a big fan of the face turn and the start of his wrestling career in the WWF.  That may contradict what I said earlier, but to me, he had been on the outside of the ring for so long, it didn't seem natural for him to be wrestling.  It was like a manager was getting in there.  In my opinion, he just did hold up against legit Superstars.

After the feud with the Million Dollar Man, Virgil pretty much became a jobber before leaving the WWF.  He came to WCW and worked as the head of security for the nWo.  Oh yeah, they changed his name to Vincent, a direct jab to WWF owner Vince McMahon.  Never the less, the I don't remember Vincent doing much wrestling there either.  At one point toward the end of his tenure in WCW, he joined the West Texas Rednecks as Curly Bill.

Back in 2010 (WWE)
Since then, Jones has showed up on indy cards and at conventions around the country.  In 2010 he reprised his role as Virgil and joined Ted DiBiase, Jr. briefly.  The two lost a tag team match to the Big Show and actor Mark Feuerstein (who was guest hosting Raw that night)  DiBiase fired Virgil soon after and started his relationship with Maryse. I don't know if we'll ever see him on WWE TV again, but it was a nice stroll back down memory lane when he returned.  As they've always said, anything can happen in the WWE.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Black History Month: Bad News Brown

Bad News Brown
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

My first memories of Bad News Brown are actually when he was Bad News Allen and wrestling in Stampede for Stu Hart.  I had never actually seen him wrestle, but I read about him in magazines like "The Wrestler" and "Pro Wrestling Illustrated."

Then in early 1988 he entered the WWF.  Same bad ass look, but with a new last name.  Allen became Brown.  I'm not exactly sure why, but he had a real mean streak.   One of his first appearances (it may have been his debut) he won the battle royal at Wrestlemania.  He and Bret Hart teamed up to eliminate the Junkyard Dog, then Brown turned on Hart and nailed him with his finisher, "The Ghetto Blaster" and tossed him out of the ring.  With the victory came a giant trophy that Hart smashed into bits, thus setting up a feud with Brown.  Bad News went over in the battles they had, which was sorta surprising to me considering what Bret came to accomplish in his career.

Like I mentioned, Brown was billed as a tough guy and a loner, never being able to get along with his Survivor Series teams.  If memory serves me correctly, he walked out on both his teams in 1988 and 89.

Brown vs. Piper
Besides the time against Bret Hart, other notable feuds Bad News Brown had included a brief battle with Randy Savage for the WWF title.  Brown and Hogan also had some heated contests.  At Wrestlemania 5, Brown and Hacksaw Duggan had a fight for the ages.  They battled to a double DQ, and at the end of the match, Duggan ended up with a big snot rocket in his beard.  Jesse Ventura nearly puked doing the commentary.

But for me, one of the most memorable moments of his career came at Wrestlemania 6.  He and Roddy Piper were feuding after things got out of hand between the two at the 1990 Royal Rumble.  Brown believed Piper was a racist in the storyline and to prove that color didn't matter to him, Piper wrestled with half his body painted black.  It was a site to behold, and only fueled the fire for Bad News.  The two wrestled to a double count out.



Later that summer Brown engaged in a feud with Jake "the Snake" Roberts, promising to bring his sewer rats out to take care of Jake's snake Damien.  I don't remember there ever actually being a rat, maybe just a picture, but I could be wrong on that account.  Shortly after their match at SummerSlam, Brown left the company.  He stayed on the indy scene for a while before retiring in 1999.

Sadly, Brown died in 2007 of a heart attack.  He was 63 years old.  While he didn't gain the gold in the WWF, he did get a lot of notoriety playing the role of Bad News Brown, and the man behind the character, Alllen Coage was an accomplished Judo star.  He won the bronze medal for the U.S. Olympic team in 1976.  More than 30 years later, he's the only American heavyweight to have won a medal in Judo. (That's according to Wikipedia)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Black History Month: Koko B. Ware

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

When I was a kid, I remember the flash and pizzaz associated with "the Birdman" Koko B. Ware.  He was probably the most popular lower mid card guy in the WWF in the late 80's.  But before Koko landed in the WWF, he was a nasty heel in the Midsouth, Memphis, and World Class regions.

Pretty Young Things with Percy Pringle
The first time I remember Koko Ware (there was no B) he was wrestling with Norvell Austin as the PYTs (Pretty Young Things)  The duo came to the ring sporting red Michael Jackson jackets.  But unlike their tag team name, they were far from pretty.  They were heels and wrestled the likes of the Fantastics, the Fabulous Ones, and the Youngbloods.  They held several regional tag team titles back then.

Koko eventually flew the coop and headed north to the WWF.  In 1986, he added the B. and a bird to his character.  Frankie the macaw became as popular as Koko himself.  Despite losing in his debut on Superstars (he and Paul Roma were beaten by the Hart Foundation) Koko was loved by the fans.  I remember watching the match and the reaction fans gave him.  After the loss, he dropkicked both Jim Neidhart and Bret Hart, much to the delight of the crowd.



High Energy with Owen Hart
Koko never really climbed the ranks, even though he was with the WWF for many years.  He was clearly a jobber to the stars, losing to Butch Reed at Wrestlemania 3 and was pinned by Bobby Heenan in a six man tag team match at Wrestlemania 4.  The British Bulldogs and the Islanders were also involved.  But like I said, Koko was over with the crowd.  His singing talent landed him the title song on the second wrestling album: Piledriver.  In 1992, High Energy was born, a tag team with Owen Hart.  The two wore some really outrageous gear, but never really achieved any success in the tag team ranks.

It really wasn't until Koko headed to USWA (still part of the WWF too) and won the heavyweight title there.  Looking back it seems like Vince sent a lot of his guys to USWA who he wasn't really using in the WWF at the time.  Koko beat Kamala for the that championship.  But neither man held any gold in the WWF.

Koko has since retired from the wrestling business, but was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009.  It was a surprising decision I think to many fans, as some (myself included) have questioned why the likes Randy Savage, Rick Rude, and Jake Roberts hadn't been inducted yet.  But the WWE Hall of Fame is unique to say the least.  I'm not saying Koko doesn't have a spot in there, as he provided years of entertainment for wrestling fans.  Kids loved him, adults loved him too.

Building to Wrestlemania 28

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart on Twitter

The four main even matches are now set for Wrestlemania 28. Over the next six weeks, WWE will be promoting these matches in an attempt to get viewers to fork over $50 or more to watch the biggest Wrestlemania ever live on pay per view. The cynic in me thinks by the time April 1 rolls around, I’m going to be tired of seeing the same guys in the ring. So I’d like to use this blog to suggest how I would go about building up the matches.

WWE TITLE: CM PUNK (C) VS. CHRIS JERICHO

This is a relatively fresh match up. I’m sure they wrestled before, but off the top of my head, I can’t remember when they were in the ring together for a one on one match. Given WWE’s track record, it’s probably safe to say Punk and Jericho will be on the opposite side of the ring in some tag team matches over the next few weeks. To me, this is the wrong path to take. Punk and Jericho should never be in the same ring together. In fact, CM Punk shouldn’t wrestle on TV until Wrestlemania. The 30-day title defense clause should be waived (not that it’s ever enforced) and Punk should only cut promos or be on commentary during Jericho’s matches. Punk could claim he’s been a fighting champion and is using the next six weeks to rest up and be closer to 100% healthy for the biggest match of his career.

Jericho on the other hand should be hell bent on proving he is the “Best In The World” by taking on anyone willing to step into the ring. While I don’t necessarily like this idea, given how little value is placed on the US title at moment, I’d have Jericho beat Jack Swagger but instead of pinning Swagger, Jericho pins himself. After the match, Jericho tells Swagger he could have taken the US title, but the only title he cares about is CM Punk’s WWE title. Chris Jericho hasn’t done anything since returning to WWE. If he’s going to be in a high profile match, he needs to be re-established as a threat. Have Jericho tear through the undercard to show dominance and give the audience the feeling Y2J could take the title at Wrestlemania.

I know one of the biggest problems in WWE is the lack of star power and by having Jericho run wild over guys isn’t going to help that problem. But this is the build up to Wrestlemania. If you’re not in a meaningful match on Wrestlemania, you can’t really be damaged any more than you already are at this point in time. After Wrestlemania, WWE should start building up new stars. Now is the time to promote guys in matches fans are going to pay to see.

WORLD TITLE: SHEAMUS VS. DANIEL BRYAN (C)

I’m willing to bet last year’s Wrestlemania United States title match between these two guys won’t be mentioned during the next six weeks. I find it funny and sad that a match not even important enough to make it onto the PPV last year is now being redone for the World Title. I can only think this was a last second decision and not a match that was planned for in advance. I still wish they would have kept the title on Mark Henry and had Daniel Bryan cash in his Money In the Bank briefcase at Wrestlemania to set up a David and Goliath storyline. But I suppose Henry’s injuries changed the plans.

One thing I do not want to see in this match is the addition of Randy Orton. Should Orton be medically cleared to wrestle at Wrestlemania, I’d rather see him and Wade Barrett (if his elbow injury is also cleared) settle their feud or I’d settle for Randy Orton vs. Tyler Reks. Just keep Orton out of the title match. Let Bryan and Sheamus have the spotlight.

I’m not sure how I’d book the build up for this match. One on hand I think Sheamus should look dominant while Bryan keeps his current cocky escape by the skin of his teeth character going to make the fans believe Sheamus will walk out of Wrestlemania as champ only for Bryan to shock the world and keep the title. Just like Punk and Jericho though, I don’t want to see these two in the ring with each other week after week. I want to anticipate them finally wrestling after weeks of hype.

HELL IN THE CELL: UNDERTAKER VS. TRIPLE H

Loyal readers know I’m not fond of this match. I don’t have the desire to re-watch a match I feel was horribly overhyped last year and the way the match came to be was essentially the same way the Undertaker matches for the last 2-3 years have been set up. I find it to be lazy booking. If this ends up the last match for both guys, then I can agree fighting each other is the way to go out, as they are the last of the Attitude Superstars left on the roster. For fans excited about this match, answer me this, the Attitude Era ended 10 years ago, what’s the difference between WWE doing this match and TNA doing Sting vs. Hogan?

Now that the match is set, hopefully we can stop with the way too long and meandering promos. I don’t see either guy wrestling before Wrestlemania and really, all that needs to be said is Triple H. vs. Undertaker in Hell in the Cell. Show some videos putting over their history in the Cell and get comments from Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley to talk about the brutality of the match and then the match sells itself.



JOHN CENA VS. THE ROCK

Another match I’m not real excited about. I think John Cena hit the nail on the head on Raw. When April 9 comes around and The Rock is back in Hollywood, WWE will need to focus on the wrestlers who show up every week. While I get the appeal of The Rock returning, that doesn’t mean I agree with it.

I was never a huge Rock fan. To me The Rock was the Hulk Hogan to Steve Austin’s Ric Flair, big on charisma but short on wrestling skill. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It worked for him and non-cynical fans enjoyed his antics. I do think since Rock started making return appearances, he has shown himself to be a one trick pony. He comes out, runs through his catchphrases, makes fun of John Cena’s mangina, and then…. well, that’s about it.

The buildup will be a continuation of long promos in the ring and long videos that seem to put over Cena’s dedication to wrestling and Dwayne’s dedication to promoting his movies. Honestly, I feel this match sells itself the same way Triple H and Undertaker sell their match based solely on the names involved. Listening to Rock and Cena trade insults is going to be annoying since the insults seem to be childish and repetitive.

Given the lack of star power on the undercard, I would much rather see WWE keep Rock/Cena promotion to less than 10 minutes on Raw while building up other matches. But Rock/Cena is the biggest match in Wrestlemania history so it’s going to be talked about and promoted ad nauseum.

Even though I’m less than excited about the last two matches on this list, I know once I step foot into Sun Life Stadium on April first, I will get caught up in the atmosphere and spectacle that is Wrestlemania. I will attempt to lose myself in the moment and have fun with the show. Even if I have to listen to Kevin do his Rock impersonation for four hours.



Are you excited by these four main events? What would you do to promote them over the next 6 weeks? Let us know on our Facebook page.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Black History Month: Teddy Long

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

I've been watching wrestling for so long that I remember when Teddy Long was merely a referee in the old NWA (National Wrestling Alliance that is).  But  a couple of years after the WWF had turned referee Danny Davis into a heel, the NWA decided to try it with Long.  But unlike Davis, Long became a heel manager.

His first charge would be Norman the Lunatic.  Long soon added the Skyscapers to his stable too.  Doom, the One Man Gang, and Johnny B. Badd were just a few of the men he managed.  At one point during his stint in WCW, he turned face and managed jobbers like Jim Powers and Joey Maggs.  In 1999, he headed to the WWF, but returned to his refereeing roots.

About three years into his run with the company, he started the heel managing gimmick again.  D'Lo Brown, Mark Henry, Rodney Mack, and Jazz were among the wrestlers he guided through the mat wars.  In 2004 (I can't believe it's been that long ago) Long became the General Manager of SmackDown! after Kurt Angle was "fired" from the role.  He turned face and worked to even the odds for the other faces in the company with the decisions he made each week.

(Yes, the Undertaker is in the video below, when he was "Mean" Mark)



Is he dead?  No playa, he'll be fine (WWE)
Through the years, Long would be involved in different angles, including one that saw him have a heart attack on his wedding day to Diva Kristal Marshall (remember, wrestling weddings NEVER go as planned)  While he was offer recovering, Marshall and her real life boyfriend Bobby Lashley left the company.  In Long's absence, Vicky Guerrera was named the GM of SmackDown! and when he returned from his heart attack/coma, he was placed as her assistant.

Things didn't work out so well for Long, and he "quit" before being reassigned to ECW.  Eventually, he'd go back to SmackDown! where he continues to serve as the GM.  But with the recent developments on Elimination Chamber, it appears that the WWE is looking to consolidate the role of GM between Raw's John Laurinaitis and Long.  Since Johnny Boy seems to be the focal point right now of story lines, I can't imagine Teddy will be around for (pardon me) very long.

I love his suits
I don't think getting rid of him as GM would necessarily be a bad thing, as I'd like to see him return to his role of a manager.  There is clearly a void in that position in wrestling today.  Since he has already been a successful manager in the past, I think it would be great to see him doing it again.  There's is plenty of young talent on both rosters who could benefit by someone with Long's knowledge.

Perhaps this could be the return to an endeavor that once made Long a household name among wrestling fans.  Only time will tell, but please let's hope there's no "wrestling" matches planned between Long and Laurinaitis anytime soon.

The Curious Case of Santino

The Cobra is ready (WWE)
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart on Twitter

After Randy Orton was taken out of the Elimination Chamber Pay Per View with a concussion, Santino Marella won a battle royale to take Orton’s spot in the Chamber match for a shot at the WWE World Title. After word got out about the Smackdown taping results, a lot of WWE fans were upset Santino was inserted into the match feeling Santino is nothing more than a comedy wrestler who doesn’t have the legitimacy required to be taken seriously as a title contender.

While that opinion has some weight, one fact that became obvious during the Elimination Chamber show was the fact Santino was one of the most, if not the most over wrestler on the show. Maybe it was because he was the odd man out in the match and the crowd was looking for anything to cheer on the otherwise mediocre show, but even looking at his time in the Royal Rumble and the reaction he gets during backstage segments on Raw, there is no denying Santino gets a better reaction than some top level talents.

When I heard Santino was going to be in the Elimination Chamber match, I wondered if WWE would have Santino slip into his Boris Alexiev persona from OVW.


While he didn’t go full on back into that identity, Santino did surprise most of the crowd by being the last man eliminated in the match and gave champion Daniel Bryan a scare by taking him to the limit. After watching that clip of Santino/Alexi, I would be more interested in a Daniel Bryan vs. serious Santino match at Wrestlemania instead of the Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus match we’ll get getting.

Bryan vs. Santino (WWE)
The interesting aspect going forward is what will WWE do with Santino after Elimination Chamber. Will they play into his popularity and give him a serious push? Or will they be upset he got himself over when he wasn’t meant to and cut his legs out from under him the way they seem to have done to Zach Ryder?

While they probably won’t do this because they didn’t know what to do with him while he was on the roster, I would suggest WWE get a Best of Colt Cabana DVD to see how a versatile wrestler can do both comedy and serious at the same time. Given how popular Santino is, I would suggest striking while the iron is hot and try to make money off of Santino. Could he be World Champion? Why not? Maybe not tomorrow, but in six months if used properly I honestly believe the WWE Universe would buy into a Milan Miracle title reign.

What do you think? Could you see Santino wearing the 10 pounds of gold? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Black History Month: Kofi Kingston

Kofi Kingston (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

I recently wrote a blog about Shelton Benjamin being one of the most misused guys in the history of the WWE, and I think Kofi Kingston is another wrestler pretty high on that list.   I'll be the first to admit when Kofi first started showing up in vignettes walking the beaches of Jamaica and promising a big debut on ECW, I didn't care about the guy.  Even when he first started, I just didn't buy into the character.  But something happened, and I became a fan of his talent.

Kofi is another one of those guys in the WWE who has seemed to hit the glass ceiling.  He's definitely got the ability, but for whatever reason he seems to be lost in the shuffle.  I know that's hard to defend when he's held the Intercontinental title three times, the U.S. title twice, and two runs as a tag team champion with two different partners.  But again, like Shelton Benjamin, the big prize seems to not even be within Kofi's reach.

Kingston vs. Orton (WWE)
His feud with Randy Orton a few years ago should have gone differently.  It was a time to take Kingston to the next level.  Instead, he ended up on the losing end to a guy who was already over and wouldn't have lost any of his shine by putting Kofi over.  Had that happened back then, I don't think the title picture now would look as bleak as it does.  During the Orton feud, Batista, Edge, John Cena, Randy Orton, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, and Chris Jericho were all still at or near the top of the card.  There were plenty of top guys.  This was also a time when grooming the next generation would have been critical.  It was time to start passing the torch.  Because three and a half short years later Batista is gone.  Edge and HBK are retired, and Undertaker and Triple H are only wrestling a handful (if even that) times a year. 

I think part of the reason the company hasn't fully embraced Kofi is because like Shelton and even John Morrison, he's not the greatest on the mic.  Again, not a legit reason to hold someone back, but that's the only reason I can think of.  And right now is an interesting time in Kofi's career as he was such a big part of the tag team title scene with Evan Bourne, but now that Bourne has been suspended again, Air Boom's future is uncertain to say the least.  I've mentioned before I think Kofi could go it alone, but right now he seems in such limbo, it may be a good time for him to find a new partner and start over in the tag team ranks.  We all know the division could use the help.

One other note about Kofi, I think he got the move of the night for the 2012 Royal Rumble after walking on his hands.  He was facing elimination and saved himself in what may have been the most impressive way yet.  Only Morrison's Spiderman/Parkour leap last year comes close to that distinction in my opinion.



The fans love him (WWE)
Whatever happens with Kofi, I hope he sticks around.  I enjoy what he does in the ring, and he's one of my son's favorites.  He's a true superstar and from what I can tell a good role model too.  Hopefully in 2012 he'll find a way to break out of that mid card funk and bust through the glass ceiling and take a stop at the top of the heap.  Good luck to you, Kofi.

Black History Month: Shelton Benjamin

Shelton Benjamin (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger

Shelton Benjamin may have been one of the fastest rising stars in the WWE in 2004, and in my opinion one of the most misused wrestlers in the history of the WWE.  I really had high hopes for him.  Benjamin had (has) a ton of potential.

Benjamin's early days in OVW saw him teaming up with fellow Minnesotan, Brock Lesnar, as the Minnesota Stretching Crew.  Together they held the OVW Southern  tag team titles three times.  Then in late 2002, Benjamin was called up to the WWE.

World's Greatest Tag Team
He arrived on the scene with Charlie Haas as the World's Greatest Tag Team.  I liked the gimmick.  They were following in the footsteps of Olympic hero Kurt Angle.  The trio worked well together.  Even after they separated from Kurt, the WGTT impressed me.  Then they got split in the draft, and Benjamin went to Monday Night Raw.  He had a couple of really good matches with Triple H, in which he won.  I thought this was the beginning of something good for him.  And it kinda was, he did capture the Intercontinental title three times and the U.S. title once.  And he and Charlie held the tag team gold twice.  But I always thought Shelton would go all the way and win the WWE or World heavyweight titles.


He certainly deserved the opportunity.  His in ring work speaks for itself.  Granted, he wasn't the best on the mic, but I still don't think that needs to be something that prevents a guy from reaching the top of the mountain.

Shelton and his "momma"
After peaking, Shelton got paired up with actress Thea Vidale.  She was his momma in the angle.  I guess the point was she was there to get her son back on track, and it helped somewhat, as he won another IC title during the angle.  I know they also attempted to reunited the WGTT, but that didn't last long either.  Both Benjamin and Haas got lost in the shuffle.  He also at some point went blond and became the Gold Standard, winning the U.S. title during that stint.  So while his WWE resume looks pretty good, I still feel like there was something (or someone) holding him back.

Shelton and Charlie have found success in Ring of Honor as the company's tag team champions.  Shelton still does work in other indies as well and does pretty well.  I'd personally like to see he and Haas return to the WWE and help jumpstart the tag team division there.  Then after some time have him back in the hunt of the WWE title.  But I have serious doubts that will ever happen.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Black History Month: R-Truth

The Brain meets the Truth
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger

I'll be honest, until recently I was not a fan of R-Truth at all.  Ever actually.  Not when he was K-Kwik in his first WWE or when he was just Ron Killings in TNA.  I especially disliked his "What's up?" chant as a face.  But when the WWE turned him heel last summer, he started to grow on me.  I must say I have worked "Little Jimmy" and "I've been a bad R-Truth" into a regular conversation.

It's funny too because for some reason my son loves the guy.  R-Truth was one of his two picks to win the Royal Rumble.  Kofi Kingston was the other.  But remember, my son is 10 and is not a constant viewer of WWE or wrestling for that matter.

Despite not liking the personas he has previously played, there is no denying that R-Truth is one of the most athletic guys in the WWE.  Consider the fact that he is 40 years old and can do things still today that I couldn't do in my 20's, it's impressive to me.


R-Truth will likely never be WWE champion (but I said the same thing about Mark Henry a year ago), but he is quite entertaining.  I think the bat sh!t crazy gimmick works for him.  He's pretty funny on the mic when he's not yelling "What's up!?!"

R Truth in action (WWE)
He has held the WWE U.S. and Hardcore titles.  Truth was also the heavyweight champ in TNA a couple of times and held the tag team titles too.  But let's ignore that reign he had with Pacman Jones, huh?

Long story short R-Truth goes out there and puts on a good show.  He's doing well in the role the WWE has developed for him, and despite my dislike for him in the past, I do enjoy what's R-Truth is doing right now.  And you can bet that's no c-o-n-spiracy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TNA: Russo's Departure

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart on Twitter


The news of Vince Russo leaving TNA is a few days old, I know. I was waiting for more solid information to be released before writing. My123Cents is more of a commentary on wrestling blog than a news blog.  Since Kevin and I have no insider access to WWE or TNA, any news we “report” comes from other more legitimate wrestling web pages. Because of that, we prefer to offer opinions on what’s happening in the wrestling world instead of breaking stories that you can read on any other site. If we simply repeat what we read elsewhere, what’s the point of you reading our blog instead of going directly to the sources we’re copying?  That’s why we do series like Kevin’s on-going Black History Month spotlight or the “What If” posts. So today, I’m not going to simply comment on Russo’s departure and speculate what may have happened behind the scenes. Rather, I’m going to give my take on how his departure is a microcosm of what’s plagued TNA in a viewer’s opinion since TNA began.

I’m no fan of Vince Russo’s. While I feel he was part of the catalyst that triggered the Attitude Era, I’ve felt he’s a legend in his own mind. The opinion I formed of him from reading interviews and his book is he’s a man who is above criticism and fails to accept his limitations when it comes to creative ideas. I have often wondered why Vince was hired by TNA, and how he managed to stay employed for nearly ten years. It’s no secret Vince and Jeff Jarrett are good friends and without Russo going to bat for Double J in both the WWF and WCW, Jarrett probably wouldn’t have become the main event star he was during WCW’s final years. When Jarrett decided to start TNA, it was understandable he’d enlist an old friend to help create an identity for the new company.

After Dixie Carter took over control of TNA, somehow she became a supporter of Vince and has defended him from critics going so far as telling the staff, “the next time I hear a Fire Russo chant, someone else is getting fired.”  (Paraphrased from her YouShoot interview)  


While on one hand I commend Dixie for being loyal to a fault to an employee, her naivety shows a major problem with TNA. Instead of looking at a problem and making changes to fix the problem, TNA has chugged along the same path almost saying to fans, your opinions don’t matter.

In the same video clip, Dixie stated Vince has a polarizing reputation and as a wrestling company that’s what you want in a member of your team. If she honestly believes that and doesn’t understand the difference between a wrestler who fans love or hate, thus evoking a reaction from the crowd, and a writer who fans hate more than they like, then clearly Dixie needs to not be in charge of the company.  Vince Russo is the M. Night Shyamalan of the wrestling world. Vince had a few months of hits because what he was doing was relatively new and different at the time. After that initial success he has relied on the same characters, gimmicks and swerves much like Shyamalan has relied on twists in his film’s plots. The problem is in both cases, the stories being told aren’t good and the swerves and twists are there simply to be there and make little to no sense.  They’re there because they’re trademarks of the writers, and the writers feel they have to be there instead of creating a logical story with a beginning, middle and definite ending. If you’re interested in looking at numerous examples of poor storytelling in TNA, creators of this link have compiled a year by year listing of senseless turns, angles that disappeared and other nonsense over TNA’s first nine years.

Now, is all the bad storytelling solely because of Vince Russo? I don’t know. Maybe he is a better writer than he’s given credit for and all the horribleness is the result of his scripts being tweaked with by management. Either way, my argument here is if TNA truly wants to succeed, Vince Russo should have been shown the door a long time ago.

A company can fail or succeed based on the reputation of the people involved. Vince Russo is probably the most hated person associated with wrestling. That hatred, despite what Dixie may claim, doesn’t entice fans to watch Impact. It has the opposite effect. Over the last nine years, when fans complained about Russo, instead of trying to understand why fans were upset, TNA stuck their fingers in their ears and screamed LA LA LA LA.

With Russo now being gone from the company does that mean TNA will become the best wrestling company on the planet? No.  While TNA has reportedly been on an upswing in terms of storytelling, there are still factors that need to be addressed.  Along with Russo, the hiring of Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan brought about some more fan backlash due to the duos own reputation inside the wrestling world.

In their time with TNA, there has been very little benefit in terms of increased ratings or show attendance.  Whenever Hulk Hogan is doing publicity for any of his other business ventures, rarely if ever does he mention TNA unless directly asked. A few times when he’s been asked about what’s going on in TNA, Hogan has given away upcoming pay per view results. Not exactly a good business strategy. In addition to Impact, Eric Bischoff has a few other TV shows in the works with his BHE company.  If TNA were a bigger company, Bischoff being distracted by other business ventures may not be a big deal, but with TNA having had very little noticeable growth in then years, if it were my company, I’d want someone who was fully dedicated to improving and growing TNA. Not to discredit Eric, as I’m sure he’s a good multi-tasker, simply saying TNA should be staffed by people who are 100 percent committed to TNA.

What does the future hold for TNA? Is the departure of Vince Russo the first step in a positive direction? Time will tell.  Fans on our Facebook page commented that Russo’s being off the creative team would increase their interest in watching TNA. If TNA continues to focus on homegrown talent, put an emphasis of titles and learn to have main events that don’t include ref bumps, I still believe they can become a major player in the wrestling world.

Do you feel Vince Russo’s departure will have a positive or negative effect on how entertaining Impact is in the coming weeks? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.