Saturday, March 31, 2012

Star Gazing

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

One of the cool things about Wrestlemania weekend is all the random wrestling related sightings you experience. Yes, I'm putting my mark side on full display for this post. No matter how many wrestlers I meet, it's still something I like to brag about, especially when the encounters happen away from a wrestling show.

When I arrived in Miami Friday afternoon I fully expected to see a wrestler or two getting their luggage. Last year Travis and I ran into Mean Gene in Atlanta, and earlier this week Chad saw Michael Hayes at the airport. So when I got off the plane and made my way to baggage claim there was a driver standing there with a sign that said Bautista. Seeing as that's how Batista's name is really spelled, I suspected he'd be showing up soon. In the mean time Randy Orton came strolling by and the fans flocked around him. I kept my distance as he told them he was there to get his wife and daughter. Turns out they were on my flight from St. Louis.

Batista finally showed up with his hair cut in a Mohawk. A fan asked for a pic and he said wait until he got his stuff. Then he walked away and chatted with the Ortons. While I was waiting Harley Race arrived with his wife. He got up from his wheelchair and made his way to the luggage carrousel. Fans approached him too and the legend took time to pose for pics and sign autographs. I took the opportuntity to get a quick photo and shake his hand. I thanked him for his time and he seemed very happy to be there and meeting fans. I appreciate him taking the time to acknowledge us.

Friday night I got a chance to talk with Colt Cabana for a quick second. He worked an AAPW show back in January (Main Event is still available on DVD) and he said he remembered me. He seemed to anyway. Saturday afternoon we saw Skip Sheffield at Chilis. Chad is a big fan, but didn't want to interrupt his meal. Who knows who else we'll meet this weekend. WrestleReunion is Sunday and we've got VIP tickets. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mania Memories: Awesome, Kinda

An Awesome Entrance
By Kevin Hunsperger 
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

This will be the final Mania Memories post.  Hope you've enjoyed them, as much as I've enjoyed writing them.  Wrestlemania 27 featured a first ever guest host as the Rock helped kick off the event.  I'm not sure if that helped or hurt overall though, as it felt more like a Raw than a Wrestlemania.  It was just kinda weird.

The best thing about Wrestlemania 27 was the fact that both Edge and the Miz retained their titles.  I'm still not convinced about Alberto Del Rio, so to see him go down in defeat made me happy.  And I'm a big Miz fan, or Miz-fit, so seeing him walk out champion was great.  However, he didn't leave with his head held high, as the mantra with Wrestlemania every year is that the fans go home happy.  The heel retained won the main event (I know it's happened before), but thanks to a Rock Bottom by the Great One, the fans quickly forgot that their hero John Cena had been defeated.

Miz retains
I think the Miz's victory, and heck even involvement in Wrestlemania was overshadowed by the Rock's return.  The next night on Raw it was announced that Cena and the Rock would be taking on each other at Wrestlemania 28.  Talk about letting the wind out of your champion's sails.  Plus all the hype before the event featured Rock, Cena, and at times Snooki.  The Miz was playing fourth fiddle, but that's how the game is played sometimes.  That doesn't mean I have to like it.

Triple H and the Undertaker went at it again, a followup to their match a decade earlier.  I know I'm in the minority, but I've never been huge fans of either guy, but I can appreciate what they've done for the world of wrestling.  They did put on a great show and took each other past the limit.  I tip my hat to them both for getting in their and repeating it inside the Hell in a Cell this year, but I'm still not pumped about this match.

I mentioned Snooki's involvement, yeah she did fine I guess.  It was a short term boost, but did it do anything to further the WWE?  Not really.  It may have lead to the eventual dismissal of John Morrison.  I'm of course speculating on all the Internet rumors, so take that for what it's worth.

It's Cole
The rest of the card was just kinda there.  Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler (in my opinion) should have never wrestled, or at least at Wrestlemania.  However, I'm glad Lawler finally got a match at the big event.  Nearly 20 years with the company, I will say that he at least deserved it, I just think it could have been with a better opponent.

So what did you think of 27?  Post your comments here or on our Facebook wall.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mania Memories: Have a Hart

Revenge (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

Wrestlemania 26 provided two big stories in my opinion.  It was the end of the road for Shawn Michaels and it was a new beginning of sorts for Bret Hart.  Chad and I were on hand in Phoenix for this Mania too. Again, the crowd is always buzzing and Wrestlemania, so the atmosphere helps to make it a great night no matter how lackluster some of the matches may seem.

Hart family celebrates (WWE)
I'll start with Bret Hart.  After several years of a strained relationship, Bret returned to in ring action at Wrestlemania 26, facing the boss, Vince McMahon.  Vince has done a good job over the years of making himself the punching bag of some of the top stars in the company, and even extending the olive branch in a few cases (Hulk Hogan comes to mind immediately)  The Hart-McMahon Street Fight was not pretty by any means, and let's face it, almost 13 years overdue, but it was good seeing the Hitman back under the WWE banner and not harboring any resentment towards the company.  Truth be told, one of my favorite aspects of this match was the sudden development and push for the Hart Dynasty.  Tyson Kidd, David Hart Smith, and Natalya had toiled for a while without getting a whole lot of attention.  Soon after their appearance at 26 and helping in the McMahon beatdown, the duo won the WWE tag team titles.  As you've seen in past posts, their reign was way too short and they should have never split these two superstars up, but for the time that it lasted, I enjoyed the Hart Dynasty and their official launch into superstardom came that night in Phoenix.

Bye, bye Shawn (WWE)
The other story of the night was of course the retirement of Shawn Michaels.  He had been obsessed with beating the Undertaker after going down in defeat to the Deadman a year earlier.  Shawn vowed that if he didn't win, he would hang it up forever.  By this point in his career, Shawn really had nothing to prove.  He had come back from back surgery and quite honestly, I think he deserved a break.  He may have lost the match that night, but he gained a bit more respect from me showing that he's not letting ego keep him in the game past his prime.  I didn't think this match was as good as the first Wrestlemania encounter between the two, but it was still a good contest.  It was actually the last match on the show, the first time they've done a non-championship match last on a Wrestlemania in many years.  (Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it was the LT-Bam Bam Bigelow match from WM 11)

Other quick tidbits, John Cena won the WWE title (again) against Batista.  In what may have been the shocker of the night, Chris Jericho beat Edge to retain the world title, only to drop it a short time later to Jack Swagger (who won that year's Money in the Bank match)  I'm still scratching my head on that one...  Randy Orton overcame the odds and beat his former Legacy buddies, Triple H humbled Sheamus, and CM Punk did the job for Rey Mysterio (probably the biggest disappointment of the night for me)

Share your Mania Memories here or be sure to like us on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mania Memories: Silver Anniversary

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

In my post about Wrestlemania 24, I called it my favorite live Wrestlemania experience.  By contrast, I'd have to say 25 was my least favorite.  But keep in mind, anytime you're at Wrestlemania, it's a helluva good time.  But for some reason, I left like the 25th installment of this historic show should have had more pizazz.

Mania was main event by Triple H and Randy Orton.  There are several reasons why I didn't enjoy this scenario, one of the biggest being that these two had wrestled countless times prior to this match.  Not to mention they were in a three way match for the WWE title the year before with John Cena.  Trips came out on top of this contest in one of the most lackluster main events in the history of the event.

Taker finishes off Shawn
Maybe it's not Triple H and Orton's fault entirely.  They were coming off the heels of one of the best Wrestlemania matches I've seen live, the Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels.  As I mentioned recently, I thought Batista had the Undertaker's number a couple of years earlier, but when he came up short, I figured the WWE had fully intended to keep the streak intact.  The thing I like about Shawn being in the match was he was one of the few guys in the locker room who had a fighting chance of beating the Undertaker.  The two put on an amazing show, pushing their bodies past the limit.  With the other title match of the night being Cena vs. Edge vs. Big Show, the Undertaker and Shawn undoubtedly stole the show.

One of the matches I was most looking forward to was the brother vs. brother contest between Jeff and Matt Hardy.  I'm not sure why, but I felt like this one fell short of my expectations too.  I think part of that was my shock in the outcome.  I had really banked on Jeff winning and gaining some revenge on Matt.

Legends vs. Jericho
And of course how can I ignore my legends vs. Chris Jericho match.  Regular readers know my love of old school wrestling, and since it was the Wrestlemania 25, it only made sense to have some old school players.  Who better to fit that bill than "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, and Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat?  All three hall of famers were on the very first Wrestlemania card (Snuka was in the corner of Mr. T and Hulk Hogan).  The only problem with using guys who were on the show 24 years earlier is that they're now 24 years older.  Their age showed as they plodded around the ring against the younger, stronger Jericho.  Even with Ric Flair in their corner, the legends came up short, but I must say Ricky Steamboat really did look great in there.  He had been retired for about 15 years at that point, but really didn't miss a beat.

And I shouldn't admit to this now, but I was very disappointed that CM Punk won a second Money in the Bank match.  I love the guy now, but back in his early days in WWE I could not stand him.  It wasn't until his heel turn and feud with Jeff Hardy that I got to appreciate him, and I think the WWE let him spread his wings a little more as a heel too.  I had been hoping that the returning Christian would win MITB and go on to become world champion.  Eventually he would, but it didn't last (a rant for another day)

Hogan & Piper Jr.
So like I said, even a not so hot Wrestlemania in person is pretty damn awesome.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention our costumes, as a tribute to the first Mania, Chad and I went as Hogan and Piper.  And let me tell you after the show it was pretty chilly outside and I was running around in a tank top and shorts.  Brrr.  At least I didn't have the breeze blowing up my kilt though.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mania Memories: Flair's Swan Song

Michaels vs. Flair (My 1-2-3 Cents)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunperger on Twitter

Of all the Wrestlemanias I've attended, hands down I'm the one that stands out to me the most was 24. There are several reasons, but most notable was the fact that my idol wrestled his last match that night, or at least we thought it was his last match.

Ric Flair had a long and illustrious career in the ring. By 2008, it was decided that Natch needed to retire. I don't know if that was Flair's decision or Vince McMahon's, but the stipulation had been going that if Flair lost a match, it would be his last. The angle played out for months before Flair signed on to wrestle Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 24.

Flair says goodbye 
It was an emotionally charged match, a classic student vs. teacher type scenario. I think most fans knew going in the Shawn would win and Flair's career would end. Sure enough, after a hard fought battle, HBK caught Slick Ric with the Sweet Chin Music and covered the 16 time world champion for the three count. Just like that it was over. Flair wept in the ring as he said goodbye to the fans. As sad as I was that this era was over, I was happy knowing I was there to witness it. Chad and I stayed in Orlando an extra day to witness the send off on Raw live in person. It's another decision I'm glad we made.

Big Show-Mayweather
Sure Wrestlemania 24 featured two big title matches, a boxing/wrestling match with Floyd "Money" Mayweather abs the Big Show, and a Playboy Divas tag team match, but for me that retirement match was all that mattered.

The other thing I enjoyed about 24 was the outdoor aspect of it. The weather was perfect and we were close to the ring. It was a great night, even if Flair didn't stay retired. Then again, wrestlers rarely do.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mania Memories: Streak Over?

Taker wins, again (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

I should probably not admit this, but I really thought Wrestlemania 23 was going to mark the end of the streak for the Undertaker.  He had been undefeated at 14 manias at that point.  I really didn't think it would go on forever.  Plus, his opponent was the world heavyweight champion Batista.  "The Animal" was on top of his game back then and had been relatively dominate.  Plus, there were backstage rumblings that Batista and Triple H were pretty tight, so I figured it made sense.  Right?

While the Undertaker put his streak on the line, Batista put his gold belt up for grabs too.  And in true Undertaker fashion, he tombstoned the dominate champion and pinned him.  We had a new heavyweight champion and a wrestler who was 15 and 0 at Wrestlemania.  I think it may have been that moment that I realized the streak would never die.  The key would be putting the Undertaker in there with opponents who could at least threaten it though.  And I think since Wrestlemania 23, the WWE has done a pretty good job of that.  Of course, four of those Manias have featured two of the same challengers...

HBK vs Cena (WWE)
The other main event of the evening featured John Cena defending his WWE title against Shawn Michaels in a face vs. face match up.  Triple H had been hurt a couple months earlier as the DX gimmick was red hot again, so HBK went on his own and was in pursuit of the WWE title.  He came up short, tapping out to the STFU.  Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Cena and Shawn hold the tag team titles briefly around this time too?

A couple of other big points from Wrestlemania 23, Mr. Kennedy won Money in the Bank.  Remember when fans thought he was going to finally get the big one in WWE?  He lost out on the opportunity of cashing in as they thought he was going to require surgery for an injury and be off the shelf for an extended period of time.  Edge ended up winning the briefcase and Kennedy took time off, only to find out his injury wasn't as extreme as first thought.  D'oh!  That match also featured a pretty sick spot by Jeff Hardy onto Edge.  I think both men were taken out of the match.

Haircut time (WWE)
Also a part of Wrestlemania 23, no wrestling celebrities, but we did get Donald Trump in another cameo appearance.  This time he was backing Bobby Lashley in his match against Umaga.  Mr. McMahon was in the wild Samoan's corner.  It was a hair match too, with the corner man losing his locks, and of course McMahon lost and got a shave in the middle of the ring.  Stone Cold served as the special guest referee for the contest.  I'm just thankful Trump and McMahon didn't actually wrestle in this match.  The mark in me hoped they'd bring out Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake to do the head shaving, but that didn't happen...

Wrestlemania 23 had some highs and lows (Khali vs. Kane anyone?), but overall I think it was a pretty good card.  This is the only Mania since 22 that we haven't seen live.  So the rest of these Mania Memories blogs will be from the perspective of actually being there.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mania Memories: Popping My Cherry

Me at Mania.  Awesome time!
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

I'll admit the title is probably a bit crude, but I'm reverting to the Attitude Era, what can I say?  Wrestlemania 22 will always hold a special place in my memory.  Why you ask?  Because of the Boogie Man vs. Booker T match of course.  Just kidding.  Wrestlemania 22 was the first mania I ever attended.  After watching the event 21 times before I always promised myself I'd make it to one.

Twenty-two was in Chicago and within driving distance from my home in southern Illinois.  My friends Chad and Jeremy headed up for a weekend of fun and male bonding.  I thought if this is the only one I ever make it to, I'm good with that, but luckily I've been to every Mania since (except for 23).

We got spirit, yes we do
We dressed like the Spirit Squad and popped like crazy when they made an appearance in the Mr. McMahon-Shawn Michaels match.  Strange that one of those guys went on to become Dolph Ziggler.  Who knew?  It was also funny because prior to the show, people in the parking lot waiting to get in actually thought we were members of the Spirit Squad.

The card itself was a bit weak in my opinion.  Back then, did anyone think that Mark Henry really posed a threat to the Undertaker's streak?  I also thought Money in the Bank was a big disappointment compared to what it had been a year earlier.  It just felt like they had a bunch of guys they wanted on the show so they threw them into this match.  And I don't think I really have to say much about the before mentioned Booker T-Boogie Man fiasco.

There were some strong points on the card too though.  Edge and Mick Foley had a pretty good outing.  Edge spearing Mick through the flaming table will forever be burned in my brain (pun intended)  We were on the floor on the other side of the ring though so it was tough to see the spot from our vantage point.  This was another good example though of Foley putting someone else over. He'd done the same thing two years earlier this Randy Orton.  Look at the success both Edge and Orton have enjoyed.  I'd like to think it's due in part Foley's willingness to help get them over.



Rey wins the gold
As much as I hate to admit it, I enjoyed the special entrance that John Cena got that night.  Because the event was in Chicago, there was a mob feel to it.  You may remember Cena talking about CM Punk being an extra for that.  I don't know if that's really true, but it does make sense.  I was pleasantly surprised that Triple H didn't win the title that night and tapped out.  This marked the third consecutive loss for the Game and the fifth consecutive title match at a Wrestlemania.  Rey Mysterio did the unthinkable and broke the "little man" stereotype by beating both Randy Orton and Kurt Angle for the world heavyweight title.  Rey won the Royal Rumble and vowed to win the title in honor of Eddie Guerrero who had died a few months earlier.  While the match was good, Rey's title reign was less than stellar.

Mickie James wins!
The Women's Title match may have been the most memorable for me that night though.  Probably one of the best Divas matches at a Wrestlemania, especially up to that point.  Trish Stratus walked into the match a face, taking on the friend-turned stalker Mickie James.  Honestly from what I can remember, the crowd was more into that match than any other.  But again, this was six years ago and maybe I don't remember it correctly.  Of course part of that is probably due to the lesbian innuendo that was made during the match, and I'm fairly certain that the WWE edited that out of the DVD.

Overall it was a great night, I think mostly in part because it was my first time being there.  What are your thoughts of 22?  Post your comments here or on Facebook.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mania Memories: Cena Era Starts

The champ is here! (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

Despite the fact that Batista won the 2005 Royal Rumble and went on to defeat Triple H, John Cena emerged the voice the new generation of the WWE.  Cena was in the WWE championship match that night and beat JBL.  I didn't realize it at the time, but it was the changing of the guard.  While Triple H did make a couple of comebacks as champion, his days of dominating with the belt were essentially over.  And JBL never returned to past glory as Cena proved to be much too dominant.

We can argue until the cows come home on the issue, but that was seven years ago and John Cena is still the company's main attraction.  However, this year marks the FIRST Wrestlemania in his history of being on the show that he's not in a title match of some sort.   But I do believe his match with the Rock will likely close the show.  On paper, I think it's bigger than the other two title matches, just my opinion.

Overall I was impressed with the card.  This Wrestlemania featured the first (and in my opinion best) Money in the Bank ladder match.  Christian, Kane, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, and Edge all battled it out for the contract.  I was pulling for Benoit to win the match as I was disappointed his first title run ended so abruptly, but did was not to be.  Who knew that by Edge winning it would catapult him to the main event picture?  I enjoyed how the whole angle worked itself out as well.



HBK vs. Angle (WWE)
Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels stole the show though in my opinion.  But really, could you expect any less from the Olympic Gold Medalist and Mr. Wrestlemania?  Eddie Guerrero (in his last Wrestlemania) and Rey Mysterio opened the show on the right foot and laid the groundwork for the rest of the evening.  Props to all four of the competitors here.

This is also the Wrestlemania with the infamous Big Show-Akebono sumo match.  I think it's safe to say this is also the first Wrestlemania in the modern era to get the whole celebrity involvement in actual matches too.  Someone correct me if I'm wrong.  I know LT wrestled, but I think besides he and Mr. T no other celebs wrestled.  Again, I'm just going by a quick scan of my memory banks.

Austin stunners Piper
The Undertaker laid the Legend Killer Randy Orton to rest in what may have been the biggest threat to the Taker's streak at that point.  And because Bob Orton had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before, he was ringside with his son.  Speaking of the Hall of Fame, it was a strong class that year with major players from the first Mania getting inducted, including Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, Orton, Iron Sheik, Nikoali Volkoff, Jimmy Hart.  Hogan made an appearance at Mania too, rescuing Eugene from Mohammad Hassan and Davari.  Piper had a special Pit with Stone Cold Steve Austin that ended with Carlito interrupting and getting stunnered.  Then the new Hall of Famer got one as well.

Again, this was a great show from my recollection of it.  It's been 7 years since I watched it, but the events of that night certainly changed the course of the future for the WWE.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mania Memories: Big Night for Little Guys

Celebration (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger

Wrestlemania 20 marked another new beginning for the WWE, at least briefly. Smaller superstars Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero walked out the World heavyweight and WWE champions respectively.

Eddie had actually won the title a month earlier by beating Brock Lesnar. He defended the championship against Kurt Angle in a classic contest. These two put on a great show and I loved how the match ended with Eddie faking out Kurt and getting the pin.

Chris Benoit won the Royal Rumble and earned a shot at Triple H. I don't remember how or why, but Shawn Michaels ended up in the match too. Another great matchup with Benoit winning the title on the grandest stage of all. I marked out like hell as I watched Triple H tap the mat and Benoit proudly hold the belt over his head. The classic snapshot of Chris and Eddie celebrating in the ring is one of my favorites. I had hoped both men would have lengthy reigns on top, but it was not meant to be for whatever reason.

Twenty also marked the final matches for Lesnar and Goldberg. Special guest referee Stone Cold Steve Austin stunned both men before the night was over. The Rock returned for one night only to team with Mick Foley as the two put over Randy Orton, Batista, and Ric Flair. John Cena opened the show winning his first title in the WWE. He pinned the Big Show for the U.S. title.

Betrayal (WWE)
There were plenty of other great matches that night and the memory of Trisha Stratus betraying Chris Jericho and kissing Christian is burned in my brain, as is Kane's cool pyro intro that night. ( pun intended). Ultimo Dragon's slip left a bad first impression for many too.



Again, this was a great show and I enjoyed watching it with friends. It's the first mania I watched with fans as passionate about wrestling as me. Well almost.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mania Memories: Like a Boss

Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

Wrestlemania 19 was filled with those so called "Wrestlemania Moments" or at least I thought so.  It featured the last wrestling match for Stone Cold Steve Austin (I don't count some of the gimmicky fights he had with Eric Bischoff as actual matches), the Wrestlemania return of the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, and the near neck breaking of Brock Lesnar after a botched Shooting Star Press against Kurt Angle.

But the mark in me will remember this as the night Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon went head to head.  Certainly it wasn't a pretty match. The two were in a street fight.  And as much as I complain about Hogan these days and my disdain for non wrestler matches, this was on contest that HAD to happen.

I think there's still a debate going on as to who should be credited for the success of wrestling in the mid-1980's.  Was it Hulkamania that took things main stream or Vince's vision and money that did it?  The two tried to settle their differences that night in Seattle, only to have a third factor appear.  Roddy Piper returned to the WWE after a nearly seven year absence to reignite his feud with Hogan.

I'm a mark for old school as I've mentioned, but I also recognized that these two were way past their prime.  But I don't have a problem with the legends coming back and working, as long as their not the entire focus of the company.  I think the WWE played this rekindled feud well.  No one over wore their welcome in my view.

Austin's last hoorah (WWE)
The other big event from Wrestlemania 19 as I mentioned in the beginning of this piece is that it featured the final match for Steve Austin.  I don't know how many people knew that at the time, one would think if they'd known there might have been some more fanfare behind the contest.  This was the third Wrestlemania battle between Austin and the Rock, with Austin winning the previous two.  However, on this particular night, the Rock got his hand raised in victory and Austin kinda faded away into the sunset.  But he wasn't alone.  It was too long after Wrestlemania 19 that the Rock too took a long break from the business.  Sure he'd be back a year later to tag with Mick Foley, but the sake of argument, the Rock was essentially done as well.

So on one hand 19 was about saying goodbye to heroes we loved and hello to returning stars like Shawn Michaels (I know he'd been back for a few months, but you know what I mean)  It was finally time for the WWE to push other talent, which they slowly started to do.  More on that when we talk about Wrestlemania 20.

Post your thoughts here or on Facebook.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mania Memories: Icons Collide

Icon vs. Icon (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

It's hard for me to pinpoint the "biggest" Wrestlemania match of all times.  I think for a lot of people different criteria are used in the equation.  Star power both inside and outside the ring are the biggest contributing factors to me.  Wrestlemania 18 may have had the biggest main event of all time (I know it was the last match on the card, but it was none-the-less the main event), with Hulk Hogan vs. the Rock.

It was 2002, a far cry from the 1980's, when Hulkamania ruled Wrestlemania.  The Rock was the up and comer here, but in all actuality, he himself was just over a year away from walking away for an extended hiatus in Hollywood.  Hogan was still playing off the nWo high that seemed to breath new life into his character and career.  But even the heel Hogan was starting to get stale.  The fans knew it, and that night in Toronto, instead of booing the villain, they started to cheer on the Hulkster.



Hogan humbled (WWE)
On this night, just like Andre the Giant had done for Hogan 15 years earlier, Hulk passed the torch to the younger, stronger, and better superstar.  It's a tale as old as time.  No matter how big you get in this business, it's essential that you're willing to pass the torch to the next generation.  It's up to them to run with it.  And we all know that the Rock did.  He had been up until that point too.  And with the cheering fans, the two celebrated Rock's victory in the middle of the ring and soon Hulk Hogan was back with the red and yellow, retiring the black spandex and bandanna.

I suspect we're going to see something similar come out of Wrestlemania 28.  It's hard to compare these two matches, because I don't necessarily think the Rock is past his prime (however, he's not a full time wrestler and that's why I think he HAS to put John Cena over)  If the Rock is coming back for good, then I don't have a problem with him winning, but for him to get the victory and then go back and make movies and come to the WWE every few years isn't going to do anything for the long term success of the company.

Champ (again) WWE
Other quick hits from 18, Triple H beat Chris Jericho to once again become the world heavyweight champion.  The Undertaker beat Ric Flair and Stone Cold Steve Austin beat Scott Hall.  Many of these matches at 18 could have and probably should have been done the previous year after Vince McMahon bought WCW, but remember the big names didn't sign right away with the WWE.  Read more here.

Thoughts?  Weigh in here or on the My 1-2-3 Cents Facebook wall.

Wrestlemania: Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart on Twitter

The last installment in the delayed look at the Wrestlemania records of the participants in the top four matches is an interesting look. Not counting their match last year for the United States title, which was bumped off the pay per view, the World title match between Daniel Bryan and Sheamus will make history as being the world title match who’s participants have the least Wrestlemania experience.

Sheamus wrestled Triple H at Wrestlemania 27 in a losing effort. Daniel Bryan will be making his Wrestlemania debut at Wrestlemania 28. Their combined Wrestlemania record is 0-1. By comparison, at Wrestlemania 2 the title match opponents Hulk Hogan and King Kong Bundy had a combined Wrestlemania record of 2-0.

Bryan vs. Sheamus at Wrestlemania 27 (WWE)
By walking into Wrestlemania as Champion, Daniel Bryan joins Sgt. Slaughter and Ric Flair as the only wrestlers to make their Wrestlemania debuts as World Champions. Yokozuna is the only other wrestler to make a Wrestlemania debut in a world title match. I guess technically Lex Luger also made his in-ring debut at Wrestlemania X in a title match, but he had been introduced the previous year when he debuted as The Narcissist.

While the build up to their title match hasn’t exactly been outstanding, given they are fourth on the pecking order and could slip to fifth if the “Battle of the General Managers” continues to pick up steam, it’s understandable the match hasn’t had more of a storytelling element attached to it. As long as they make it onto the actual pay per view and don’t get bumped again to the pre-show dark match, I don’t think Bryan or Sheamus will care how unimportant the build up was to their match and will still go out and deliver what could be the sleeper hit of the night.

With all the major matches taken care of, we can move on to other aspects of Wrestlemania over the next 12 days. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Don’t forget that on March 29, Kevin and I, along with our friends from AAPW will be making our radio debut with “From the Rafters.” More information will be posted the closer we get to air.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mania Memories: Should Have Been a Dream

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

Wrestlemania 17 could have been the greatest wrestling card of all time.  Think that's an exaggeration?  I don't.  It was weeks after Vince McMahon showed up on WCW Monday Nitro via satellite to announce that he had purchased the company.  The possibilities for Wrestlemania COULD have been endless.  The whole invasion could have played out so much differently...but there were other factors involved here. Part of it could be blamed on not all the WCW stars signing with WWE and instead sticking with their contract from WCW/Time Warner.  The other problem in my opinion was Vince's own ego.  This was the one time he should have thrown money at all the top guys and built a dream card.

Instead of getting big matches like the Rock vs. Sting or Stone Cold Steve Austin against Hulk Hogan, we got the Rock & Austin: Part 2. This was also the match where Austin turned heel at the end and won the world title back. I wasn't overly impressed with that, and I've mentioned before I don't like repeat matches at Mania.

X-seven as they wrote it, also featured a street fight between Vince and Shane McMahon. The match wasn't bad nor was the buildup, but again instead of focusing on the new wrestlers coming in, the focus was back on the McMahon family dysfunction.

The Undertaker and Triple H met in their first of 3 Wrestlemanias. Taker of course won that one. Chris Jericho and William Regal wrestled for the Intercontinental title, Eddie Guerrero won the European title from Test, and Edge and Christian reigned supreme in a TLC match against the Dudleys and Hardys.

Kane won the hardcore title in a match against Big Show and Raven. Chyna beat Ivory, Kurt Angle beat Chris Benoit, and the APA & Tazz got the best of Right to Censor. There was also a gimmick battle royal on the card, which I'll admit I loved simply because I'm a fool for old school.  While some of these matches were great, I still think adding big names from WCW to the event would have been historic.

Imagine....
Unfortunately either Vince wouldn't pay or the big name guys would sign at the time. Hogan, Ric Flair, Goldberg, Scoot Hall, Kevin Nash, and Scott Steiner all eventually ended up with the WWF. Too bad it didn't happen for this event, not to mention bringing in Sting and Randy Savage too.  I know by 2001 many of these guys were past their prime, but heck, it still would have been great to see them all on the same card, wouldn't it?

What are your thoughts?  Was X-Seven the best of the best, or would an invasion angle worked better that night?  Post here or on Facebook.http://www.facebook.com/my123cents

Tweet, Tweet. Enough with Twitter

What's trending?
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart on Twitter

I sat down to watch the Impact Wrestling/TNA pay per view, “Victory Road” last night. I haven’t regularly watched TNA since “Bound for Glory” but I have tried to keep up with results and have a general idea of what’s going on with company. I knew James Storm had a title shot at next month’s “Lockdown” so Robert Roode was taking on Sting in a non-title match and AJ Styles was still feuding with ex-stable mates Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian. Other than that, I didn’t know what to expect other than online reviews of recent Impacts have been mostly positive and TNA was allegedly on an upswing. I went into the show with an open mind ready to be entertained. After 3 minutes I was ready to turn off the show.

Within seconds of the show, Mike Tenay and Taz started hitting the Twitter promotion hard and heavy. The Twitter pimping has taken the wrestling world by storm in the last six months. WWE announcers have been promoting Twitter and spending more time talking about what’s trending than actual matches for several months. As I wrote about in the Ring of Honor Ippv blog, Kevin Kelly kept asking for fans to tweet, then would read the tweets during the matches. TNA took it to the next step during the pay per view when Austin Aries actually stepped out of the ring during his match, grabbed a phone and tweeted before returning to the match. Yes, for some reason, 140 characters on a webpage are more important than the product actually being sold to customers.

What’s even more frustrating is these are the same companies (WWE and TNA) who, whenever online fans criticize the shows or wrestlers, continually say the online fans are a small portion of fans and thus their opinions should be ignored. So when critical of the product, fans are meaningless. When fans can help show the slightest bit of popularity, they are important. Another reason why this annoys me is because have you ever looked at the list of trending topics? Usually it’s lame phrases or borderline racist topics. How often do you look at the trending now list and actually click on one of the items? I know some people get paid to send endorsement tweets but do companies make money from having trending topics related to their brand? I don’t know. All I know is when I’m watching wrestling I want the focus to be on the wrestling.

If you take out the Twitter mentions, (which in a 45-50 minute span I counted 21 references) the wrestling at Victory Road was entertaining. My only complaint with the show was the tag team champions are a thrown together team. They faced another makeshift team who haven’t really gotten along since becoming a team yet was still together. I say were, because during the match Crimson walked out on his partner, Matt Morgan. Two matches later the Knockout title was defended in a match between former partners. Add to that the Lockdown main event of Robert Roode vs. James Storm is yet another match between former tag team partners. Dear TNA writers/bookers/whatever you call yourselves, can you please come up with a new way to build a feud?

The ending of the show was also baffling. Robert Roode has Sting down, and drags Dixie Carter into the ring as well. Then he proceeds to threaten to beat Sting with the chair while Dixie covers Sting to protect him. And then,… that’s it. Where was James Storm? Why didn’t he come down to stop Roode and start the build to their title match next month? Did the rest of the TNA roster leave the building before the end of the match? Was no one watching the events backstage? Does no one care about the owner or authority figure of the company? And why is Eric Bischoff still on camera? Didn’t he lose power at Bound for Glory?

I know I’m focusing more on the negatives of the show while there were several positives. I think I’ve reached by breaking point when it comes to the little things in the wrestling world. If you watched Victory Road with the mute button activated, it was a solid pay per view outing.

Now with all that said, be sure to follow @my123cents on Twitter.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mania Memories: Sweet 16

Triple H & Stephanie (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

I kind of ragged on the WWE and the Attitude Era in yesterday's post about Wrestlemania 15.  When Wrestlemania 16 rolled around in 2000, the company had a pretty tight choke hold on the competition and was less than a year away from a wrestling monopoly.

The event featured the first ever Fatal Fourway elimination main event for the world heavyweight title.  The combatants featured champion Triple H defending against the Rock, Mick Foley, and the Big Show.  Certainly not a bad lineup for a Wrestlemania main event.  My problem with this show was the involvement of all four members of the McMahon family.  Stephanie of course was in the corner of Triple H.  Shane supported the Big Show, Linda was with Mick, and Vince got behind the Rock as the chairman had recently turned face.

But it seems that anytime a McMahon is involved in a storyline the focus leaves the wrestlers and goes onto the family.  This was the case at Wrestlemania 16, as we saw Vince McMahon once again screwing someone out of a title opportunity.  He turned on the Rock, setting up a feud between the Great One and the father son and soon to be son-in-law.  I believe this is the first Wrestlemania (and until last year, the only Wrestlemania) to see the heel win the main event.

Edge & Christian (WWE)
There were plenty of bright spots on the show too.  This Mania featured the first triple threat tag team ladder match.  Edge and Christian won the tag team titles by defeating the Dudley Boyz and the Hardys.  All three teams helped give the tag team division a much needed boost.  The match was filled with plenty of crazy spots and I have to say I respect the fact that these guys would put their bodies on the line in such a way for the entertainment of the fans.  And this wasn't the last time they'd do this style of matchup.

Before his match
Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and Kurt Angle put on a great a exhibition in a two fall, triple threat match.  The interesting thing about this match was that Angle entered it as the Intercontinental and European champion.  By the time the night was over, he was belt less, and fans got a chance to see an incredible match between three of the best competitors in all of wrestling as far as I'm concerned.

T & A beat Head Cheese, Kane & Rikishi teamed up to beat DX members Road Dogg and X Pac, and Bull Buchanon & the Big Bossman beat D'Lo Brown & the Godfather.  Four tag team matches on the card, not a bad showing at all.  There was also a six person tag match as Chyna joined forces with Too Cool to beat the Radicalz of Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, and Perry Saturn.  Hardcore Holly recaptured the Hardcore title in a battle royal, and in the card's only singles match,  Terri Runnels beat the Kat in a Catfight with Val Venis as the special guest referee.  Moolah supported Terri in the match and Mae Young was in Kat's corner.  I'm pretty sure the Undertaker was hurt this year as well and missed 2000.

Sixteen had a different approach for sure with all the speciality and tag team matches.  I don't necessarily think it hurt the show as the matches were pretty good.  But it wasn't like the traditional Wrestlemania either, which is something I missed. What are your thoughts?  Post them here or on our Facebook wall.

Birthday Smackdown

Mmm...chocolate
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

As a wrestling fan, I can't believe I've never had a wrestling themed birthday party.  Of course when I was a kid and still doing birthday parties, the marketing genius that is the WWF wasn't established yet.  So when I recently turned 39, my friends and colleagues with All American Pro Wrestling made that wish come true.

The taping for the season 2 premiere of AAPW Collision happened to fall on my birthday.  The front office staff and other volunteers arrived at the arena early that morning for set up.  By 1 p.m. we were able to take a quick lunch break and marketing director and Ring Posts blogger Adam Testa treated me to lunch at O'Charley's.  It was a nice surprise.

Of course on Facebook, the birthday wishes came flooding in too.  One friend from high school, Brian, included a video on my Facebook wall of the Rock singing happy birthday to Stephanie McMahon.  Even though I'm currently #TeamCena, the video made me smile.

Will you stop!
Another Facebook friend and fellow wrestling fan, Buffblogger, included a picture of the coolest birthday cake I think I've ever seen.  It's the late, great Gorilla Monsoon.  That too added to the enjoyment of my day.

Back to the Collision taping, as the wrestlers started arriving I was greeted with hand shakes, hugs, and happy birthday wishes.  Adam and I made the rounds making sure promos were getting taped and head shots were being taken.  Then it was finally showtime.  Executive producer Chris Hagstrom did his usual "pump up the crowd" pre show talk and introduced me.  I made my way around the ring slapping hands with the fans as they also wished me a happy birthday.  I went to sit down at the commentary table, when Chris called me into the ring.  He informed the crowd that it was my birthday and then called a group of the wrestlers and other staff members out from the locker room.  Head of security Aaron Heller (the Wrestling Roommate), presented me with an AAPW birthday cake as everyone sang happy birthday to me.

Happy birthday to me.  Thanks guys!
It was such an expected surprise.  I appreciate all the thought that went into making my day a little more special.  Getting to spend the day doing what I love was one thing, but then to have everyone recognize it and celebrate with me made it that much better.  I left my house at 7:45 a.m. and got home just after 1 a.m. the next morning.  I was greeted with handmade birthday cards from my kids, $5 in cash, and a homemade birthday cake that we ate for breakfast.

Yes, I'm 39 now and heading for 40.  Some might suggest it's time to grow up, but I don't think I'll be doing that anytime soon.  I'm having the time of my life with AAPW, My 1-2-3 Cents, and the upcoming From the Rafters Radio show we're launching on March 29th.

Thanks again to the fans, friends, and family who wished me a happy birthday.  You guys are the greatest.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mania Memories: Attitude!

Austin wins (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

I think Wrestlemania 15 may have very well been the peak of the Attitude Era for the WWF.  Wrestling was incredibly hot at the time, but because of the competition with WCW I feel like the product may have been damaged in the long term.  What?  How can I say such a thing, let me explain...

Obviously the big story out of 15 was Stone Cold Steve Austin regaining the WWF title from the Rock.  Rock and Mankind has ping pongee the title back and forth in the months leading up to Mania.  Rock won the belt at Survivor Series.  The title changed hands four times before his defense against Austin.  That in my opinion hurt the value of the title and showed fans that it was more of  a prop than a prestigious award for being the best in the business.  The title would change hands 7 more times that year after Austin won it at Mania, including a run with Mr. McMahon as champion and a one day title reign for Mick Foley.

Road Dogg vs. Val Venis
Need more proof about the chaos in the title situation?  Consider this then.  The Road Dogg defended the Intercontinental title in a fatal four way, beating Goldust, Ken Shamrock, and Val Venis.  That title ended up changing hands 11 times in 1999.  For some perspective, the IC title was won and lost 11 times over the first 8 years of its existence.  So you get the picture.  And let's look at the tag team title defense at Wrestlemania 15.  Champions Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett didn't defend against an established team, no way, not at the biggest show of the year.  Instead, they faced D'Lo Brown and Test.  Why?  Because the two were the last men standing after a battle royal on Sunday Night Heat to determine the new number one contenders for the belts.  Ugh.  Shane McMahon (nothing against him, but he wasn't really a full-time wrestler) was the company's European champion and beat X Pac to retain.

Undertaker vs. Bossman
The Big Show made his Wrestlemania appearance at 15, losing to Mankind by disqualification.  I think a lot of people had high hopes for the giant, especially after he made such an a strong first impression a month earlier at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  Two big "better to forget them moments" from Wrestlemania 15 came when Butterbean knocked out Bart Gunn in about 30 seconds in their Brawl for All Match.  I think people expected it to be a bit more competitive seeing as how Gunn had beat legit tough guys like Dr. Death and Bradshaw to qualify for the match.  The other groaner of the night was the Hell in a Cell match between the Big Bossman and the Undertaker.  I don't remember a whole lot about it, but I do remember the Bossman being hung from a noose at the end of the match.

Tori vs. Sable
Sable beat Tori (not Torrie Wilson, but the former Terri Powers) to hold on to the Women's title, Hardcore Holly captured the Hardcore title, and Kane beat Triple H by disqualification in a match that saw Trips turn on his DX mates (along with Chyna) and join the corporation.

Six of the ten matches at Wrestlemania 15 were title matches, and only the world title changed hands that night.  The atmosphere that night was chaotic to say the least, and I remember actually thriving on that unpredictably as a fan.  It was what made Raw fun.  I know this post is somewhat negative toward the Attitude Era in general, but I do believe that the events 13 years ago have had a negative impact on the business today.  I also felt like the main event of Austin vs. the Rock was more about Austin's feud with McMahon than anything else.  Remember, I'm an old school fan.  I loved the long title runs for guys and a healthy diet of top contenders.  But no matter what era of wrestling, I have been and always will be a fan of it.

What are your thoughts?  Am I too harsh with my comments?  Share here or on our Facebook wall.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mania Memories: Gold for Stone Cold

The new champ (WWE)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

For several years the WWF was struggling in the Monday Night Wars with WCW.  Ted Turner's deep pockets were able to lure some of Vince McMahon's top talent away.  By the time Wrestlemania 14 rolled around, the pendulum was starting to swing back into Vince's favor.  Mike Tyson, Shawn Michaels, and Stone Cold Steve Austin are a big reason why that happened.

In the main event of Wrestlemania 14, Austin challenged the Heartbreak Kid for the WWF title.  Michaels was cockier than ever, having scored impressive wins over the Undertaker in the months leading up to Mania.  He had also beaten Bret Hart in the infamous "Montreal Screwjob" and fans were still a little bitter to say the least.  Austin was the anti hero, who really picked up steam and fan support the year earlier at Wrestlemania 13.  Having won his second consecutive Royal Rumble, Austin was the number one contender and going to Mania.

1-2-3 
Mike Tyson was brought in as an enforcer for the match.  But weeks before the big bout, Tyson pledged his allegiance to DX (Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna) thus stacking the odds against Austin.  Little did we know, Tyson had a trick up his sleeve and was actually in cahoots with Austin and when the ref in the match took a bump, Iron Mike jumped into action and made the three count.  A new champ was crowned and a new era was about to officially get underway.  When HBK came to from the Stone Cold Stunner he'd received, he argued with Tyson before the former boxing champion cold cocked Michaels and knocked him out.  Fans at the time had no idea this would be the last wrestling match HBK would be in more than four years.

Other talent would soon start rising to the top as a result of the events at Wrestlemania 14.  The Rock was the Intercontental champion and successfully defended against Ken Shamrock.  The Rock was months away from his own run as the WWF champion too.  Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk in a stocking over his head) beat the New Age Outlaws in a dumpster match for the tag team titles, however the decision was reversed.  I don't remember what the technicality was, but it happened the next night on Raw. Triple H was successful in defending the European title against Owen Hart.  These two had a pretty good feud going on at the time.  It was a pleasant surprise.

Painful...
Goldust was going through some changes at that point, and was known as The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust.  He was no longer with Marlena and instead hanging out with Luna Vachon.  The two were feuding with Marc Mero and Sable and came up short in their match against the married couple.  Taka Michinoku beat Aguila in a WWF light heavyweight championship match.  And the Undertaker returned after being in a casket set a blaze to defeat his brother Kane.

LOD 2000 (WWE)
Another surprise at 14 was the return of the Legion of Doom.  This time Hawk and Animal were known as LOD 2000 and their new manager was a bikini clad Sunny.  The legendary team won a tag team battle royal that included 14 other teams including the original Rock n Roll Express and a new version of the Midnight Express (which didn't hold  a candle to "Sweet" Stan Lane and "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton.)

Kane meets Pete (WWE)
The stars were also out at Wrestlemania 14 with former Bill Clinton (alleged) lover Gennifer Flowers and Pete Rose.  This would establish the running gag of Rose and Kane having issues at Manias to come.  It also lead to Rose being the first celebrity inducted into the Celebrity Wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.

Overall, I loved this card.  It was the start of a new era in wrestling.  I think after a lame Wrestlemania 13, 14 definitely gave the company and the business for that matter a much needed shot in the arm which ultimately ended up changing wrestling forever.

What are your thoughts on Wrestlemania 14?  Am I overselling it?  Share your impressions here or on our Facebook page.