Monday, September 30, 2013

Warrior Dash 2013

The 2013 Warriors
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @mycents on Twitter

In mid 2012 I decided I wanted to do something more than just a typical 5K race. Some of my fraternity brothers invited me to join them in the Warrior Dash.  It's a 5K, but with about 8 or 9 obstacles thrown into the course.  I did it last year and loved it, so naturally I wanted to return in 2013.

I expected the course to be the same or at least similar to last year, but much to my surprise, there were several different, and in my opinion more challenging obstacles.  Probably the most difficult was the muddy hills.  I don't know what the actual obstacle name is, but you start in a pit of muddy water and have to climb a hill of mud.  The process repeats three or four times.  But it's pretty much impossible (at least for an old balls like me) to make it up these hills without help. That's where the brotherhood of Sigma Nu kicked in.  My brothers helped me and my wife get up and over those hills. This was Lisa's first Warrior Dash and she was the only girl in our group.  I'm proud that she got out there and did it.

The rope wall
In addition to climbing the mud hills, there were also monkey bars to conquer over a small trench of water.  There was a new net wall this year that you had to go across instead of over.  There were walls to climb, trenches to crawl through, and fire to hop over.  The event ends with the pool of mud with barbed wire strung across the top.  This is where you truly get down and dirty, and just like last year,  I lost my footing and fell climbing out of the mud and the muck.  Lisa and I held hands as we crossed the finish line, proud of what we'd accomplished.

The medal
Volunteers stood at the finish line and put our medals around our necks.  This year's doubles as a bottle opener.  After spraying off with the hose and changing into a clean set of clothes, we toasted each other with the complementary beer.  It was a great day, and even better we were helping a good cause in St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

I ran the race this year with a WingMan HD camera strapped to my forehead.  I'm sure I looked like a fool, but I think I got some great footage.  Check it out.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fill in the Blank Friday: Hulk Hogan

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Warning: As of September 27, 2013 this blog contains a spoiler alert!

Word on the street is that TNA taped an angle for the October 3 episode of Impact that could potentially be Hulk Hogan's exit from the company.  His contract is set to expire on October 1, and as of this writing, there is no evidence that the Hulkster has re-signed, but who knows.

I'm going to use this Fill in the Blank Friday for your opinions on Hulk Hogan.  Of course he's best known for his time with WWE/WWF, recently being voted greatest WWE champion of all time during the Night of Champions pay per view.  That tells me the fans at least still have some level of admiration for the Hulkster, since he beat greats like John Cena, Shawn Michaels, and even "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in the poll.

Photo courtesy: WWE
Naturally when an icon like Hogan leaves a company like TNA, fans begin to speculate whether he'll head back "home" to WWE.  I've read that some sources within the company say he's not, but again that could be a front.  I'm not opposed to a return for him, but I do not want to see him in the ring.  At 60, the hall of famer is broken down physically, undergoing back surgery recently.

1.  If Hulk Hogan returns to the WWE ring and they decide to put him in the ring again, his opponent should be _____________.

2.  Fifteen years ago a dream match for many fans was Hogan vs. Austin.  If the two were to wrestle, ________ would win the match.

3.  Hogan had many great rivalries through the years.  His best feud was against ______________.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Veggie Pizza Recipe

Veggie Pizza!
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

This is by no means an original recipe on my part, but I made it myself for the first time recently. After posting a pic of the Veggie Pizza on social media, I got several requests for the recipe.  My wife first made Veggie Pizza years ago, but you can find recipes for it all over the Internet now.  So, here's how I  made mine.

2 cans of crescent rolls
1 package of cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 package of dry Ranch salad dressing mix
Vegetables of your choice
Shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 375.

Unroll your crescent rolls onto a baking sheet.  Roll them flat so you've created one giant crust.  Bake for the instructed time on the label.  (It was 13 minutes for the rolls I bought)

While the crust is baking, start chopping your vegetables.  I used carrots, broccoli, red peppers, yellow peppers, and orange peppers.  I went with what my kids like.  I've had it with mushrooms and onions before too, but remember, dark green veggies are really beneficial.

We didn't have any dry Ranch salad dressing mix, so I used some Pampered Chef Parmesan-Garlic Oil Dipping Seasoning instead.  I didn't measure it out, just poured some of it on top of the brick of cream cheese.  Mix the two together, and if you've got it to room temperature it should be pretty easy to mix (I used a wooden spoon)

Once the crust is finished baking, spread the cream cheese mixture on top.  Add your veggies and top with some shredded cheese.  I actually forgot that step when I made it, but I don't think it took anything away from the pizza.

If you're looking for an easy way to add a variety of vegetables to you diet, this is the way to go.  Like I mentioned, the key is adding the veggies that you and your family will eat.  You could also make mini pizzas and let your kids top them with what they enjoy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Way Back WhensDay: LJN Wrestling Dolls

My collection of LJN stars
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

Yes, I called them dolls in the title.  I figured I haven't written about wrestling all week, so I'd make this week's flashback about the subject that got this whole blog started more than 3 years ago.  I became a wrestling fan in 1983.  Back then, there were no wrestling action figures or dolls, so a kid had to use his imagination.

I was never really into the HeMan figures or GI Joe, but I was crazy about Star Wars.  So naturally, when wrestling went main stream and I became hooked, I would have matches with my Star Wars figures.  Chewbacca was Andre the Giant, the "Endor Forest" Han Solo was Kerry Von Erich,  and for reasons I can't explain, the Emperor was my Hulk Hogan, even though I was a Hulk Hogan fan at the time.

Hulk vs. Andre
I remember it was the end of my 6th grade year and my buddy John (who is probably reading this) told a bunch of us wrestling fans that the WWF was releasing a series of action figures.  I don't know why, but I didn't believe him.  After all, I had all the Apter mags and read WWF magazine and watched Superstars and Tuesday Night Titans every week.  Why wouldn't I know this?  So I continued to have my battles with Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader.

The summer of 85 was underway, and my family headed to Florida for vacation.  We spent part of our time near Tampa with relatives there.  One afternoon my aunt took us to the nearby mall.  We went into the KB Toys and right there was the first series of WWF LJN wrestlers.  I can still remember the pure excitement I felt when I laid my eyes on Hulk Hogan, The Iron Sheik, Andre the Giant, "Big" John Studd, and "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka.  As badly as I wanted all five, I only bought one, Hulk Hogan.  My brother opted for the Superfly.

Savage vs. Steamboat
Of course that dynamic wouldn't last long, as both were baby faces and we could only have so many matches between the two.  A couple days later, we headed north to stay with my aunt and uncle in Live Oak.  We went into the Pick 'n Save and I found the Iron Sheik and promptly added him to my collection.  Before that summer was over, I had Studd and Andre and between me and my brother we had all five superstars.

Then came the waiting game for more figures to be added.  Sure enough, my wishes were granted.  Roddy Piper, Hillbilly Jim, Nikolai Volkoff, and the Junkyard Dog were all issued.  And one by one I added them all as well.  As more dolls (I don't know why we called them dolls) were released, I'd add them to my Christmas and birthday wish lists.  I was also saving my allowance and buying them when I could.  I can recount getting just about every one of the figures, that's how important they were to me.

Mean Gene & the Heenan Family
I collected the figures up until I was in high school, stopping at 43.  I had the ring and the blue cage and would have matches all the time.  I'd play entrance music on my little boom box and put on super cards with matches that have never to this day actually happened.  For special super pay per views, I would throw all of my wrestlers behind me, then reach back and grab two of them without looking.  They would be each others opponent for the night.  I did this countless times.

The last two figures I bought were Slick and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.  Like I said, I was in high school, and this time we were on vacation in Canada.  We happened to go into a store in Montreal and there they were.  My plan then was to leave them in their packaging and I'd cash in as an adult.  However, on the long drive back to Missouri, I broke into the wrappers and had a mini match on the way home.

Warrior vs. HTM
During the LJN years I somehow missed the promotional Sgt. Slaughter figure.  I guess you could order it with the little bonus "coins" printed on the back of the package of the other figures.  I never remember seeing an order form for this.  LJN released a bunch of figures after I stopped collecting, but it got increasingly difficult to find them in the stores.  There were order forms on the back of wrestling magazines, but the figures were more expensive and you had to pay for shipping.  Before they made the Ultimate Warrior though, I recreated one with my Paul Orndorff by using a marker to make the face paint.  It was a fail.  I never got the real Warrior, but luckily a friend of mine, Matt Allwardt has the figure and has loaned me his for some video and photo opps.

I've seen many of the guys I never got on eBay and I'd love to add them to my collection and maybe one day I will just to say I've got them.  I won't lie, from time to time I still break out the superstars and have a quick match.  My ring has long since met its fate with the landfill, but it doesn't stop me.

Who were your favorite LJN stars?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Jim Henson

The Muppets
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

September 24, 2013 marks what would have been the 77th birthday of one of the greatest figures in entertainment, Jim Henson.  Sadly, this master of the Muppets died in 1990, taken way too soon.  But his legacy lives on in his creations.

My first exposure to the Henson foundation was through Sesame Street.  I remember watching the show everyday, enjoying my favorite characters as they taught me more about counting, language, and just being a better person.  To me, no character on the show compared to Cookie Monster.  He was without a doubt my favorite, maybe it's my love of cookies that drew me to him.  As I got older though, I have come to love and appreciate Oscar the Grouch.  More often than not, I feel like I relate to him better than any other character on that famous street.

Big Bird was always a favorite too, and after watching the A&E Biography on the show, I have a whole new respect for the Caroll Spinney, the man behind the bird.  Bert and Ernie (say what you will about them) also got a laugh out of me.  Growing up, I had a Bert and Ernie transistor radio.

The Muppets & Henson
My love of Sesame Street naturally transitioned to the Muppet Show, another Henson creation.  We'd watch each week as a different celebrities "hosted" the show which was a kid friendly version of Saturday Night Live.  Kermit the Frog, who was voiced by Henson, lead the way for a group of unique friends, including a joke cracking bear named Fozzie, an egotistical oinker named Miss Piggy, and a hooked nose who-knows-what-he-is, named Gonzo.  I still have the puppet versions of the Muppets I had growing up.

The show lead to several movies in the 80's and eventually an animated series featuring the Muppets before they were famous.  Another Henson project, Fraggle Rock, was another  show that I watched religiously.

A Frog & His Boy
by Seb Mesnard
I was in high school when Jim Henson died.  We had gotten out early that day in May because of flash flooding.  I remember my mom was watching her soap opera when ABC News broke into programming with a special report.  I watched the screen in shock as the anchor announced the beloved Henson was gone.  I was sad for days following the news.  I'm grateful of the times I had as a kid learning and loving ALL of Henson's Muppet creations.  From Cookie Monster to Gonzo to Wembley, Henson made my world (and the entire world) a better place.

Happy birthday and rest in peace.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Thrill of Defeat

Who wears short-shorts?
Cross country my Senior year
By Kevin Hunsperger 
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

When I was in high school I ran cross country, however run is the operative word here.  I more accurately jogged and walked cross country.  While I wasn't the worst on the team, I was definitely at the bottom of the pack.  It's weird to me more than 20 years later I run nearly every day and actually run the whole time.

Probably my biggest moment of glory came my sophomore year.  Each September we traveled two-and-a-half hours south to Sikeston High School in southeast Missouri for their invitational race.  This race was a unique one in that there were four races, one for each grade level.  It wasn't the usual Freshmen, JV, and Varsity races.  Instead, freshmen raced freshmen, sophomores raced sophomores, and so on.  The other cool part of this race was instead of medals or ribbons, the top five runners on the school's team won a trophy.

That year the sophomore class was overflowing with runners.  I think there was probably ten or more on the squad.  So if our team won, the top five would get a trophy.  The junior team that year only had four runners.  Before the meet started and while we were all doing our warmups, I remember Coach Nelson calling me over to him.  He said "Hunsperger, you're running with the juniors today."  At first I thought it was a joke, then Coach explained to me that I was guaranteed a trophy.  It made sense to run one of the weaker sophomores, because the four juniors would place at the top.  Our cumulative five runner score would still be better than any other team.

Part of the sophomore team (1988)
When some of the other guys on my team and their parents heard the news, I remember them asking in disbelief, "Why him?"  I had to explain, it's not because Coach thought I was good.  It was to solely a move to round out the team and quite honestly give a guy who was never going to win a medal or a trophy one shot at it.  I think some were still upset by the decision, but I couldn't worry about that.  I had a race to run.

I was always nervous before meets anyway, but this event made me even more so.  I felt like I had something to prove, fhat I deserved to be with the older group.  I told myself I would not finish last.  I remember running the course (around 3 miles) and ending up neck and neck with a guy who talked to me for what seemed like an eternity. He told me he hated running and was only doing it because his basketball coach thought it would help with his conditioning.  I finally realized that he and I were the last two runners in this race and broke off into a sprint.  Sadly though, he caught me and crossed the finish line seconds before me.  I was last.  It's the one and only time I finished dead last.

It's not much, but it's mine
But just like Coach Nelson predicted, Sean, Clint, Doug, and Tim finished first through fourth, and even with Hunsperger bringing up the rear, we all got our trophy that day.  I still have it.  It's a reminder of that one shot at glory I had during high school athletics.  It also reminds me of the kindness Coach had to give me that opportunity.  It was 25 years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.  Coach, if you happen to read this, thank you.  It meant the world to me then and still does today.

If you're reading this blog other than on the My 1-2-3 Cents page, click here for a look at other blogs by Kevin.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fill in the Blank Friday: Title Vacancies

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Monday night on Raw, Triple H announced he's stripping Daniel Bryan of his newly won WWE championship.  Instead of just handing it back to Randy Orton, he's going to make the two men battle for the belt at the next pay per view in October.

So this got me to thinking about other times when championships were held up.  My favorite memory of this was back in 1988 when Andre the Giant pinned Hulk Hogan with the help of an evil twin referee for the WWF title.  Shortly after the win, Andre surrendered the title to "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.  WWF President Jack Tunney cried foul and declared the title vacant and announced the winner of a special 14 man tournament at Wrestlemania IV would be the new champion.  "Macho Man" Randy Savage went on to win that tournament and cement his legacy in the wrestling business.

Flair wins!
Courtesy: WWE
I'm also reminded of the time three and a half years later when the Undertaker lost the WWF title back to Hulk Hogan at the Tuesday in Texas pay per view in 1991.  Hogan had used the ashes from Paul Bearer's urn to blind the deadman and get the win.  The match was marred with interference throughout and Tunney once again declared the title vacant.  This time the winner of the 1992 Royal Rumble would be the champion.  In what has remained my favorite Rumble of all time, Ric Flair conquered 29 other Superstars to win the gold.

Of course, it's not just been the WWE championship that's been held up before.  The Intercontinental title was vacated after the Ultimate Warrior won the WWF title in 1990.  There have been tournaments to determine new U.S., tag team, and Divas champions too.  So, here's where you get to weigh in.

The Rock reigns supreme
Courtesy: WWE
1.  The 1998 Survivor Series also featured a tournament to crown a new WWE Champion.  In what was a "screw job ending" the Rock beat Mankind that night in St. Louis for his first taste of the WWF title.  But I think _________________ should have won that tournament.

2.  The WWE wasn't the only company to crown a champion in a battle royal type match.  In 1995, Randy Savage won the WCW title in a 60 man battle royal at World War III.  Instead of another former WWF guy, WCW should have pushed _____________.

3.   The best (or my favorite) title vacancy was filled in a match between ________ & __________.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Bully, The Aussie, & The Corporal

Busick, Jack, & Kirchner
Photo by WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

Keep in mind as you read this, I'm writing this from the perspective of a teenager in the late 1980's.  Wrestling was a different beast back then.  I'm exploring three gimmicks that got a lot of buildup on WWF programming, but fell flat with fans and soon disappeared.  And no, I'm not including Beaver Cleavage, but I had thought about it.  These are three characters I was interested in for a short period of time.

In 1991, long before the Be A Star campaign was underway, the WWF had a wrestler on the roster named Big Bully Busick.  His whole gimmick was to pick on wrestlers, announcers, even fans.  Busick and his manager Harvey Wippleman would get heat by popping a young fan's balloon, pushing around smaller wrestlers, and getting in the face of female announcer Mike McGuirk.

Harvey Wippleman & Big Bully Busick
Photo by WWE
I knew of Busick from what I had read in the Apter magazines prior to his arrival in the WWF.  He was a power lifter and an okay wrestler. However, he just never caught on with the fans in the big leagues.  I think he may have been around about three months total before fading into obscurity.  While I wouldn't say I was a fan of the Bully's, I was willing to give him a chance, but unfortunately for him, it was not meant to be.

Someone I had really high hopes for was an Australian wrestler by the name of Outback Jack.  It was 1987, and the buzz of the Paul Hogan (no relation to Hulk) film Crocodile Dundee was at a fever pitch.  So in his infinite wisdom, Vince McMahon tried to capitalize on the popularity.  Vignettes featuring a big, burly man in the Australian Outback started airing on WWF Superstars. He was seen with the Aborigines and told fans he was ready to come and take on the best of the World Wrestling Federation.

Outback Jack
Photo by WWE
When he first arrived, he beat the likes of the typical crop of prelim stars, Barry Horowitz, Steve Lombardi, and Iron Mike Sharpe.  I thought he had potential.  The WWF made a tshirt for Jack and LJN produced a wrestling figure in his likeness. It wasn't long though before Jack was on the losing end to guys like Killer Khan.  I still remember their match on Superstars and thinking this was going to be Jack's biggest win.  I was nearly stunned (remember I was only 13) when Khan blew his green mist into Jack's eyes and eventually pinned him.

Outback Jack lasted longer in the company than the Bully.  I think he was there a couple of years.  I really wanted Jack to succeed, and I don't think he did a whole lot of wrestling after that.  Now I've read that he's legally blind.  Sorry to hear about his misfortune, I really was a fan of his.

After Sgt. Slaughter, the Real American Hero, left the
Cpl. Kirchner
Photo by WWE
WWF, the company needed  a new patriot.  They found that person in the form of Corporal Kirchner.  He was a rough and tumble military man, who was a real paratrooper in the U.S. Army.  Kirchner engaged in battle with Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik, just as his predecessor had.  Only in most cases, Kirchner ended up on the losing end.  I'd say his one big claim to fame was a victory over Volkoff at Wrestlemania II. The two had wrestled each other in a Flag Match.  I remember watching them go at it again on Saturday  Night's Main Event and Volkoff winning.  I would imagine trying to fill the shoes of Slaughter was a daunting task and fans just didn't take to Kirchner.

I've read Kirchner left the WWF for alleged drug use, I don't know if that's true, but I do know he went on to Japan and had a successful career as the sadistic Leatherface.  A few years ago, the WWE made a gaffe and printed an obit for the former Superstar on their website. They later retracted it, after obviously getting some bad information.  He's now on the "Where Are They Now?" section of the site.

So there you have it. Three wrestlers. Three gimmicks.  Three shots at glory that never really went anywhere.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Way Back WhensDay: Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong
Oh the memories
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Growing up, three video games stand out to me the most.  I've written about one of them already, Pac-Man.  The other I will tackle today, Donkey Kong.  I'll save number three for a future post.

I still remember playing the arcade version of Donkey Kong at our local skating rink like it was yesterday.  Quarter after quarter, I tried in vain to get Mario up the platforms to the top floor to save a female character named Lady from the clutches of the angry ape.  Back then, Mario was known as Jumpman and players had to maneuver him up ladders and dodge flaming barrels that Donkey Kong would toss.

I remember there being a sledge hammer involved in the higher levels and parts of the floor opening up during the rescue attempt too.   When Jumpman would finally defeat the evil ape and find his love, Donkey Kong ended up upside down on his head.  It was reminiscent of King Kong falling to his death from the Empire State Building.

Eventually, Donkey Kong was available on the Atari and like Pac-Man, I played it all the time.  After saving Lady, it was time to find new adventures in the arcade world.  That's when a spin off game was created, Donkey Kong, Junior.

Donkey Kong, Jr.
This time the tables are turned and Mario plays the bad guy.  The player of the game controls Junior through a series of levels in an attempt to rescue his father, Donkey Kong. Junior climbs different vines and feasts on fruits and vegetables to maintain his strength through the journey.  After a successful rescue, the primates punt Mario into oblivion.

Because they were popular, there was Donkey Kong cereal, a cartoon, and trading cards.  It seems like anything back then that had success had plenty of marketing opportunities tied to it.  Those were fun times indeed.

I'm not much on the gaming world, I just have fun playing these more simplistic games.  Today, I'd say Mario and Donkey Kong have made amends, as they appear in Mario Kart and other video games together.  But no matter how the technology evolves, I'll always have a place in my heart for that old school version of Donkey Kong and Mario.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Where is the Board of Directors?

Who's in charge, and why?
Photo by WWE
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

In my last blog, I wrote about how I couldn’t really get into the Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton feud due to the way Daniel Bryan was being presented and the WWE track record over the past few years in regards to pushing new talent. After last night’s RAW, there’s a new reason I am not interested in the story being told. That reason is one we’ve often complained about here at My 1-2-3 Cents, the lack of attention to detail.

It wasn’t but about two years ago when Triple H, then a face, was relieved of his title of COO because the WWE Superstars were claiming an unsafe work environment due to Mark Henry running wild on anyone he felt. During this time, I believe Vince McMahon also had his power stripped and the Board of Directors stepped in to, well, I honestly don’t remember because I got tired of Evil Management/General Manager storylines ten years ago and think they need to never be used for at least 20 years.

Steph vs. Dusty Rhodes
Photo by WWE
The point I’m trying to make is recently the WWE Board of Directors removed Triple H from power due to problems perceived by the wrestlers. Why then, after three weeks of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon belittling talent, ordering wrestlers to attack “innocent” people and all around evilness, hasn’t the Board stepped in to remove Hunter and Steph from power and put Booker T in charge so he’ll at least have a logical reason to be hanging around backstage? 

Dancin' Homer
I’m not asking for Chikara level of detail where something trivial happens one week and you find out five years later the reasoning, but is it too much to ask for some continuity in the WWE Universe?  Or should we as fans look at WWE more in terms of a cartoon than a serialized show? How many jobs has Homer Simpson held, yet each week he’s still employed by the Power Plant and no one questions why he isn’t a boxer, mascot, astronaut, baby proofer, imitation Krusty, truck driver, hippie, plow driver, food critic, conceptual artist, grease salesman, carny, mayor, grifter, body guard for the mayor, country western manager, garbage commissioner, mountain climber, farmer, inventor, Smithers, Poochie, celebrity assistant, fortune cookie writer, beer baron, Kwik-E-Mart jerk, homophobe, or missionary anymore. Should we just accept that on a weekly basis, WWE will tell whatever story they feel like telling at this moment in time and it has little to nothing to do with any previous story that’s been told? 

Maybe if I can change my way of thinking regarding WWE programming, I will be able to enjoy the show more because the actual wrestling parts have been really good lately. If I can’t get past the bad storytelling, at least I can still be entertained by NXT.  

The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, & 'Rassling

Curled up with a good book
By Kevin Hunsperger 
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I'm glad to see that the WWE has been doing a public service in trying to get more kids to read.  I know the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge has been going on for years, and I would imagine it's turned some kids on to books who may have never had much interest in reading in the past.

I'm one of those kids.  Despite having to read EVERYDAY for my job, I HATED reading with a passion growing up.  I rarely read for pleasure.  It was always a choir to read and then make a book report on the topic at hand.

Just some of the collection
Whenever there were Reading Days at school, (that was when they devoted a 30 minute chunk of time when EVERYONE in the school stops what they're doing and picks up a something to read), I always brought one of the many wrestling magazines from my collection.  Back then I got Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, and WWF Magazine on a monthly basis.  Then I would add to my collection with special issues and quarterlies like Wrestling Superstars (I loved the dream match features they'd do).  So while my class mates were reading actual books or things like People or Time magazine, I'd be thumbing through PWI and catching up on an article I may have overlooked previously.

College was bad too.  Reading for class was a huge choir.  Reading books for pleasure never happened.  But I did continue to grow my collection of magazines. I had brought a milk crate full of them with me and had them on hand in the dorm for backup reading.  I became a lending library of sorts to the other wrestling fans on my floor who wanted to relive some part of the past.  These were the days before the Internet, so it was the best way to find out some forgotten nugget of information.

My "wrestling book" library
Into adulthood and the evolution of the Internet, I stopped buying the magazines.  But then wrestling books became popular.  In all seriousness, the first book I read cover to cover as an adult was Mick Foley's "Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks"  I followed up with "The Rock Says" and then became addicted to stories written by wrestlers.

They didn't have to be biographies either.  I bought a copy of Foley's "Christmas Chaos" for my young son after it was released.  A couple of years later I read his fiction story "Tietam Brown."

It seems that the success of Foley and the Rock's books opened the flood gates for more autobiographies to be published under the WWE banner.  I'm sure they weren't the first wrestlers to write their memoirs, but they were certainly the two who got my attention to reading.  It wasn't just WWE wrestlers churning out their live stories either.  I read "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase's first book as well as Bobby "The Brain" Heenan's "Chairshots", both published away from the WWE banner.  I even bought and read Missy Hyatt's "First Lady of Wrestling."  It's a great read, especially if you grew up watching Missy.  If I wasn't buying the books, I was heading to my local library to check them out, which for a small town, the Tippecanoe County Library had a surprising number of titles written by wrestlers.

All this reading did lead me to read other books as well.  I started reading bios by my favorite journalists and other entertainers.  Then I dove head first in the my first series, Harry Potter.  Those stories captivated me in a way I didn't think possible.  I started the series after JK Rowling had finished writing book seven, so I never had to wait for the next book to be released.  I would also finish a book before watching the movie.  It's just better that way.  Then I got a smart phone and my reading interest plunged because of my obsession with social media, Words with Friends, and now blogging.

Just a few of the covers
When it comes to the wrestling books I've read, I have to say Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, and Bret Hart are my favorite authors.  I think reading Bret's "Hitman" tainted me when I tried reading Shawn Michaels' book.  I just couldn't believe anything Shawn was saying, which isn't fair to the Heartbreak Kid, but what are you going to do?

I know this probably sounds weird, but thank you WWE for opening my eyes to reading, and for continuing to encourage children to read today.  Heck, if there was a chance to go to Wrestlemania on the line when I was a kid, who knows how many stories I would have been introduced to back then?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Wrestling Is...Worth Watching

The chaos at the end of the show
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Over the weekend I had a chance to attend my first ever Wrestling Is Intense show.  It was actually the first of the "Wrestling Is" groups I've seen in person.  I've watched Wrestling Is Fun on iPPV and I've attended a few Chikara shows in the past.

I'll be honest, I don't know a whole lot about Wrestling Is Intense or the Wrestling Is movement.  After Sunday's show, I have no idea where the company is headed, if there is a future at all.  I do know it's entertaining and has quality men and women who work hard to keep the crowd happy.  I've got to tell you, I am really disappointed with the turnout in terms of crowd support at Sunday's show.  At one point, I counted 21 fans in the crowd.  I know this show was heavily promoted with posters being plastered in several different communities near the venue in Carbondale, Illinois.  There was a write up in the local newspaper and a one minute news story that ran on the morning news broadcast two days prior to the event.

Pre show Limbo contest was cool
I don't know if it's because the show was on a Sunday afternoon at the same time people are enjoying an afternoon of football, or if it's that people in this neck of the woods just don't get Wrestling Is or independent wrestling in general.  I've seen a sharp decline in fan support over the last year of local independent wrestling.  It makes me sad quite honestly.  While the fans who aren't coming out to these shows disappoint me, I do have positive things to say.

The wrestlers on the card at the Wrestling Is Intense show came out and performed as if the house was packed.  They didn't let the small crowd dampen their spirits.  I was at the MetLife Stadium this year for Wrestlemania 29.  There were more than 80,000 of us there.  Of course it was a good time.  But so was Wrestling Is Intense.  I honestly felt like we, the fans, were able to make connections with the wrestlers as they headed to the ring and during their matches.  The wrestlers all the way from the opening match to what ended up being the main event came out to the ring with enthusiasm and professionalism.  I think some might have been discouraged, but they didn't let that show as they came out and tore the house down.

Cottonbelly vs. Crabtree
My seven year old daughter attended the show with me.  While she's only really seen the likes of John Cena, CM Punk, and AJ Lee (and only on TV), I can honestly tell you she had a great time seeing the Estonian Thunderfrog, "Gentleman" Jervis Cottonbelly, and Darkness Crabtree work their magic in the ring.  Early in the show, she was reluctant to put up her hand and give the wrestlers high fives as they walked by.  But before the day was through, she had her hand in position when a wrestler's music hit.

Meeting the Thunderfrog
There's also that chance at indy shows to get some time to talk with the wrestlers, either during intermission or after the show.  Thunderfrog was kind enough to take a picture with us and give my daughter a tshirt.  These are memories that will last a lifetime for both of us. You can't get that kind of feeling at a big ticket show.  It's impossible.

Daywalkers making a wish
I have worked in other promotions with The Daywalkers (Alexandre Barnabus Castle and Mathis Cage) and Christian Rose.   I know how hard they work training and traveling the country going from show to show.  Their schedule, I would imagine, is similar to that of the others on the show.  They spend a lot of time driving and   while I don't know for sure, I would imagine for very little pay.  But I know they're doing this to earn a big payday.  They wrestle each week, several times a weekend, because they love it too.

Rose kicks Sue Jackson
Independent wrestling is the foundation of wrestling, or dare we say it, sports entertainment.  I know it sounds cliche, but I firmly believe that.  CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Antonio Cesaro are just a few of the guys on the main roster now who spent years trying to make a name for themselves.

I've said it before, I'll say it again.  If you have independent wrestling in your community, support it.  If there's a show within driving distance, attend.  You will not be disappointed.  As fans, we need to be supportive of all levels of wrestling, not just when the flash and glamour makes that once a year (or even less) stop in our hometown.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fill in the Blank Friday: Night of Champions

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Another Night of Champions pay per view is on the horizon.  I'll put this disclaimer out there, I have not been watching WWE as much as I should or would like to.  For some reason this week my dish went out and didn't record Raw at all.  No time to watch online, so I'm going to wing it with this post, and make it a prediction blog too.

Night of Champions dates back to 2007 when John Cena beat Mick Foley, Bobby Lashley, Randy Orton, and King Booker in the main event.  I didn't even remember the tag team match between Deuce and Domino and Jimmy Snuka and Sgt. Slaughter.  I believe that's the one time Snuka squared off against his son, who I think was Deuce, but I'm getting sidetracked.  Sorry.

Back to the original point of this.  I'm disappointed to say that as much as I love Daniel Bryan and as over as he is with the WWE Universe, I don't think Bryan will win back the WWE Championship at Night of Champions.  In fact, I don't think he's going to win it at all and The Big Show will be the guy to dethrone Randy Orton.  I could see Bryan heading back to the upper mid-card and feuding with Dean Ambrose for the U.S. Title.

Speaking of the U.S. Title, I'm curious why it's not on the line at Night of Champions.  I haven't read SmackDown! spoilers yet, so maybe it'll be announced there that it's being defended Sunday night.

Rob Van Dam will challenge Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight title.  I've never been overly high on Del Rio, and it seems lately (again I haven't watched much) that the WHC is just kinda there.  I still don't understand the pairing of RVD and Ricardo Rodriguez either.  I'd like to think RR is setting up RVD and will help Del Rio retain his title.

CM Punk challenges Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman at Night of Champions.  I don't believe this is for Axel's Intercontinental title, that's why I think Punk will beat Axel and finally get his hands on Heyman.  This could lead to Brock Lesnar coming back out to save his man, but I do think Punk will win.

I'd like to see Natalya walk out of the Divas fatal four way with the title, but I think AJ will reign supreme.

The Prime Time Players will win the tag team turmoil match and then go on to win the tag team titles from the Shield.

Now it's your turn to pick...

1)  _______________ will walk out of Night of Champions as the WWE Heavyweight champion.

2)  The team of ________________ will win the tag team turmoil match at the start of the show.

3)  Of the first six NOC PPVs,  _________ vs. ___________  was my favorite match.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

It's Not Easy Being Green: The Estonian Thunderfrog

The Estonian Thunderfrog
Photo from Wrestling is Heart
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I have done some interesting wrestling related interviews through the years.  I've talked with legends like "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, and Lex Luger.  (You can go here to see all of my interviews)  I've done interviews with current stars like The Miz, Antonio Cesaro, and Mickie James.  Recently, I had the pleasure of talkingon the phone with The Estonian Thunderfrog.

Unless you're a big fan of independent wrestling, you're probably asking, "Who the hell is the Estonian Thunderfrog?" Well, he's one of the most entertaining wrestlers on the Wrestling Is roster.  I'll admit, I don't know much about Wrestling Is, I know there are several different groups, many use the same wrestlers on there shows though.  I've seen Wrestling Is Fun on iPPV with the Frog, as well as members of the Batiri, Mr. Touchdown, and Dasher Hatfield.  There's also Wrestling Is Heart among the promotions involved.

The Estonian Thunderfrog
Photo from Chaos Pro Wrestling
The Thunderfrog as you might have guessed hails from Estonia.  He is the country's pride and joy, or so he tells me.  He's been wrestling for about a year now and is still searching for his princess.  I hope he finds her one of these days, but in the mean time, I'll enjoy this character.  My favorite quote from the interview I did with him was "Wrestling Is Fun, Intense, Heart, it is all one big juicy pancake.  I love it.  Is very good."  Great stuff.

This Sunday I will see my first Wrestling Is Intense show in Carbondale, Illinois.  The show is at the SIU Student Center in Ballroom D at 3 pm.  I can't wait.  Some of the wrestlers I worked with in All American Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Collision will be at this show and I haven't seen them in months.  It'll be fun catching up with The Daywalkers, Angelus Layne, and Christian Rose.  My dream is to have a photo taken with the Estonian Thunderfrog, Jervis Cottonbelly, and Darkness Crabtree.

Wrestling Is provides entertainment for the entire family.  I hope the show in our area is successful, because I want them to come back.  Get out there and support independent wrestling when it comes to your area.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bah God! JR is Retiring

Good ol' JR, Jim Ross
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

The WWE has announced that long time announcer Jim Ross is retiring.  Although Good Ol' JR hasn't been a regular part of WWE programming for quite some time, this news is sad to me.  I've been following JR since his days in Mid-South/UWF and always found him to be the best in the business.

I watched him as he headed to WCW and brought their announce team up to par.  I have always been a wrestling fan, but the WWF was always my favorite company.  You can imagine my joy when I was watching Wrestlemania IX and Ross came out to call the show.  It was heaven.  This was right before the Internet and the spoilers that came along with it, so seeing JR there was a legit surprise.

His ability to tell a story and call the action of a match is amazing to me.  My former broadcast colleague during our days with All American Pro Wrestling, Chris Hagstrom has idolized JR for years too.  In fact, it was his tweet that I first saw announcing Ross' retirement.  Chris said it online and I agree, not only is JR the voice, but the heart of the WWE.

I had always hoped his current hiatus from the company was temporary.  Michael Cole has evolved and I must admit is so much more tolerable since dropping the heel character, but I don't think the company has anyone on the radar who will ever fill JR's shoes (or hat for that matter).

He's been mocked, fired, and mistreated through the years, but in my opinion JR always persevered.  That's just one more thing I admire about him.  His emotion and passion for his job behind the scenes and on air has inspired me for years.  I still consider him a hero in the business.

In closing, without a doubt, I'd have to say my favorite JR memory (at least the one that immediately pops into my head) is from the King of the Ring 1998, the classic Hell in a Cell match between Mankind and the Undertaker.  JR's emotion that night was off the charts.

JR, thanks for the memories and the inspiration.

Way Back WhensDay: Underoos

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

"Underoos are fun to wear!"  That was the slogan of the popular child's underwear of the 1970's and 80's.  They were a pair of briefs and a tshirt with some sort of character printed on them.  They often came in different colors and made the Fruit of the Loom tighty whities pail in comparison.

Comic book characters, superheroes, even video game icons were printed on the briefs and shirts.  There were a handful of Underoos for girls too, which included Wonder Woman, Super Girl, and Daisy Duke.   DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Archie Comics, and Hanna-Barbera worked with the maker of Underoos,  Larry Weiss.  Eventually, the underwear giant, Fruit of the Loom bought the product and kept the momentum going and adding sets with Star Wars characters, The Transformers, and The Real Ghostbusters.

When I was a kid I had several different pairs of Underoos.  I remember becoming Aqua Man, Superman, and the all knowing Jedi, Yoda.  Back then (and now still) I wasn't much into the superhero genre, but there was something about Underoos that made me feel invincible.  I also had more traditional cartoon characters like Fred Flintstone and Scooby Doo.  Sorry, I do not have any pics of me dancing around in them...

I don't know exactly when Underoos stopped being produced, but obviously they were fun to wear before hitting the teen years.  Now as an adult, you can pick up briefs or boxers with just about any character on them.  I've owned my share of Smurfs, Mickey Mouse, and even WWE boxer shorts through the years.  Now fans of Duck Dynasty can even get underwear in honor of the show.  Again, no pics of me stylin' and profilin' in those either.

Underoos were indeed fun to wear.  What kind did you have?