Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chad's Problem With Survivor Series

Survivor Series 2014
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

In my “Barely Surviving” blog looking at Survivor Series 2014, I expressed my dislike with the show. After the blog was published I was called out for being too negative and told if I didn’t like it, I should stop watching. Since the blog was quickly written, I think some of my criticism came off as baseless complaining while the reasoning behind the complaint was left out of the thought. I’d like to try and clarify my biggest issue with Survivor Series.

Before I get to that, I’d like to address the “if you don’t like it, don’t watch” comment. I have been a wrestling fan for over 30 years. I have what wrestling fans call “the sickness.” I will watch any wrestling from any promotion because I like wrestling. Because I grew up in a different era perhaps my fandom is a little different than fans whose introduction to wrestling happened during the Attitude Era or later. When I started watching wrestling when it was more SPORTS entertainment instead of sports ENTERTAINMENT. 

Therefore, I enjoy the actual physical wrestling aspect as well as the character/storyline aspect and prefer to see matches that aren’t just signature moves done in order with no rhyme or reason. That’s why right now I see nothing impressive about Roman Reigns. But that’s another blog for another day.

While I enjoy actual wrestling, I do enjoy the storyline aspect and when done well the storyline enhances the emotional attachment to a particular match. Unfortunately this aspect is one that I view as severely lacking in today’s mainstream wrestling and is one of my biggest areas of complaint with WWE. Honestly, I have gotten to the point where I don’t watch RAW in full on a weekly basis due to the lack of compelling story and repetitive nature of the show. Why do I need to see wrestlers fight each other for 3-4 weeks before seeing them fight in a more meaningful match at the PPV?

Just for sake of argument, I haven’t watched a full TNA show is probably at least 9 months. I’ve probably seen one Ring of Honor show in the last year because their product doesn’t appeal to me. I still watch and pay attention to WWE because 1) they have a lot of good talent that I enjoy watching, 2) my123cents was started as a wrestling blog. Even though Kevin writes more about his life now and I’ve started writing about hockey, we built this site on wrestling and will continue to write about wrestling, and 3) I keep hoping for a return to a more enjoyable product.

I will say I hold WWE to a higher standard for entertainment than most other wrestling companies. When you’re the number one company in an industry and have been so for over 30 years, you can’t be making the same mistakes as smaller companies. Is it really sensible to hold Vince McMahon to the same standard as Dixie Carter or Gabe Sapolsky? I don’t think so. That would be like saying Steven Spielberg should be held to the same standard as the guy making local commercials.

Sting helps Team Cena
This brings me to the usage of Sting at Survivor Series. Sting, who had never stepped foot inside a WWE ring before Sunday, was used to show that anything can happen in WWE. I’m not overly excited to see Sting in WWE as most people and I have zero interest in a Sting/Undertaker match at Wrestlemania because I feel that both guys are at least 3-5 years past the point where the match would be good, I understand the appeal of Sting in WWE and have no problem with him having one last run in front of a wide audience. However, his appearance at Survivor Series made zero sense, and that’s my issue with it.

Why did Sting show up? Why did he care if Team Cena won the match? Why was he just hanging out backstage in full wrestling gear? Why did the audio/video guys have a Titantron video and music for him ready to go? Kevin and I have said many times over the last four years that we should stop looking for logic in wrestling. I am willing to accept certain factors simply as “well it’s wrestling.” Stuff like guys bouncing off the ropes on an Irish-whip or not countering signature moves even though they happen in every match and opponents should see them coming are accepted because that’s what makes wrestling wrestling. Some things though just don’t make sense.

If WWE wanted the ending of the Team Cena/Team Authority match to involve a surprise star in order to entice people to order the network under the guise of you never know what to expect, that makes sense. Keep everything the same up until Triple H pedigrees Dolph Ziggler. As Haitch puts Seth Rollins on top for the pin fall cue broken glass and have Steve Austin walk out. Crowd will go crazy as they do when “Stone Cold” shows up out of nowhere. During Survivor Series there were promotions for Austin’s live podcast with Vince McMahon next week after RAW so there’s the reasoning why Austin would be in the building. Austin’s rise in popularity was built on him fighting the WWE authority and having issues with Triple H so there’s a legitimate reason for Austin to have an interest in helping Team Cena win the match. Now, everything that happened at Survivor Series stays the same only this time the story makes sense.

Instead, WWE had Sting show up and if reports are true (btw, I dislike basing anything off of Internet reports. Since I don’t have any sources of my own, unfortunately I have to use unverified reports from time to time.) WWE has no plans for Sting to show up again until maybe the build up to Royal Rumble. So, as was seen on RAW, there was no reasoning given for Sting’s involvement. Sting is just a guy who showed up unannounced, caused havoc and left. To me, this is similar to TNA having Randy Savage, Test or Rikishi show up for a PPV main event and never be seen again. It was done simply to shock fans.

Maybe there is some long term planning here and I’m jumping the gun by being critical. If so, when the time comes, I’ll admit I was wrong. Until then though, I will continue to be critical of gaps in logic in wrestling. Out of curiosity, was there any interaction between Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella or AJ Lee on RAW? You know, since last time he was on TV, Brie was being fired because of her husband and the match at Survivor Series played into AJ kissing Bryan at Wrestlemania 28.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Barely Surviving

Sting has arrived
Courtesy: WWE
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
Given what I’ve read on Twitter, Facebook and various message boards, what I’m about to write once again seems to fly in the face of popular opinion. Survivor Series 2014 was a mediocre show at best and TNA-esque nonsensical mess at worst. Now, maybe it was because I watched the show from 11pm-2am after a long day of walking around Universal Orlando and so I didn’t pay as close attention to the show as I would have normally. 
The one positive I’ll give the show is it did do a good job of playing with the audience’s emotions during the end of the main event. Eliminating John Cena early in the match gave the match an air of unpredictability. Unfortunately, that’s the only positive I took away from the match. I’ll touch on the match a little later. 
Thankfully, due to having some network issues early on, I missed 98% of the opening promo. Unfortunately, because I missed the promo, I didn’t hear what Vince McMahon said and during the course of the show the Three Stooges at the announce table never recapped the John Cena stipulation in a sensible cohesive manner. In fact, the announcing was downright horrible. At least the parts I didn’t tune out were horrible.  At one point Michael Cole brought up Jerry Lawler’s past Survivor Series teams and Lawler seemed to not even remember he competed at any Survivor Series. It’s been said before but more times than not lately, WWE announcers ruin the show more than they help. 
While I like the idea of Mizdow being the tag team champions, I wonder how long it will be before Miz finally snaps and attacks Damien Mizdow. I’m tired of tag team partners not getting along, especially teams that have been around for only a few months. Not to mention that there are only four active tag teams in WWE which means we’ll get weeks of Mizdow versus the same opponents over and over. 
I was falling asleep during the divas match so I can’t really comment on it. I did enjoy Tyson Kidd’s celebration after the match but really, where is that going to go. Are WWE going to allow Nattie and Tyson to have a match against each other? 
Has Dean Ambrose had a PPV match this year that actually had an ending? Dean’s match with Bray Wyatt was nothing but a teaser for next month’s TLC show. We get three more weeks of what we’ve seen for the past three weeks. Yay! 
Speaking of tag teams not getting along, how long will we be subjected to Adam Rose being upset at being upstaged by the bunny? Will anyone from NXT get called up with any type of long term plans in place? 
If rumors are true that AJ Lee is leaving WWE (after being back for what, 4 months?) then I guess giving her the Daniel Bryan Wrestlemania 28 treatment was a decent callback. Otherwise, I’ll try and be patient to see where they go with the Nikki/Brie story because right now it makes little sense. 
This brings us to the main event of the night.  Everything up to Big Show’s quest to have more career turns than Lex Lugar was pretty meaningless. I’ve read comments that Big Show turning on Cena made sense because WWE has established Big Show can’t afford to be out of work. If that’s the case, why didn’t Big Show make sure the Authority actually won the match? Or after Cena was eliminated and Big Show walked out, why didn’t Noble and Mercury and Triple H keep Ziggler on the outside so he’d get counted out? As I stated earlier, the back and forth between Ziggler and Rollins was exciting and did make the outcome of the match in doubt which is something rarely said about WWE matches these days. Then the wheels came off. 
Ziggler lays out Rollins with the Zigzag and Triple H gives Ziggler a pedigree. Then out of nowhere and with no logical reasoning, 13-years after he should have, Sting makes his WWE debut.  Sting has no history with anyone in the match unless there’s some WCW Worldwide match between he and Terra Ryzing out there that I’ve not seen. Corrupt power authorities have run WWE for years so why did Sting choose now to show up? 
My biggest complaint with the ending is how Rollins and Ziggler were on the mat for what seemed at least 10 minutes waiting for Sting to get in the ring and have his standoff with Triple H. The focus was taken off of two guys who should have a good ten years to offer the company and put onto a part time wrestler and a guy who will probably only have a handful of matches over the next year at most. Once again WWE would rather live in the past than prepare for the future. I’m sure others will disagree with me and that’s fine.  
Now, I could be wrong and WWE actually has something big planned to get us to Wrestlemania. I’m not going to hold my breath in anticipation. Unless Stephanie really is pregnant and thus needs to be off TV, I expect Triple H and Stephanie to be back on TV by Royal Rumble. I expect Dolph Ziggler to be back in mid-card purgatory in four weeks. I hope I’m wrong. History, though, as me anticipating the worst when it comes to WWE having any long-term plans.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What If Wednesday: Survivor Series 1985

Hogan vs. Piper
Photo courtesy: WWE 
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Doing a little fantasy booking from my childhood today and looking back at 1985, the year Wrestlemania made its debut.  Of course we all know two years later, Vince McMahon introduced the world to his second pay per view idea, Survivor Series.  Since it's the season for Survivor Series, I figured I'd share some thoughts on how I would have put together the first event, based on the WWF roster in the fall of 1985.

I looked at house show results in late October and November 1985 on the History of WWE website. Interesting notes: King Tonga (Haku/Meng) and Dino Bravo teamed up briefly as baby faces, that's why they're on the British Bulldogs team.  I noticed the heel tag team division was quite lacking that year, as you'll see too.  Wendi Richter lost the women's title three days before Thanksgiving, the night this event would have been held, and left the company.  That's why she's not a part of the show.

Hulk Hogan, Captain                       vs.              Roddy Piper, Captain 
Paul Orndorff                                                       Bob Orton
Ricky Steamboat                                                  Don Muraco
Bruno Sammartino                                               Adrian Adonis
Tony Atlas                                                            Hercules

Andre the Giant, Captain                  vs.              Big John Studd, Captain
Hillbilly Jim                                                          King Kong Bundy
Tito Santana                                                          Randy Savage
Junkyard Dog                                                        Terry Funk
George Steele                                                        Jesse Ventura

The British Bulldogs, Captains         vs.             Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake, Captains
Uncle Elmer & Cousin Junior                              The Hart Foundation
The Killer Bees                                                    The Moondogs
Mike Rotundo & Danny Spivey                           Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff
King Tonga & Dino Bravo                                   Mr. X & The Gladiator

Velvet McIntyre, Captain               vs.               The Fabulous Moolah, Captain
Linda Gonzalez                                                   Donna Christanello
Susan Starr                                                          Leilani Kai
Dawn Marie                                                        Judy Martin
Jean Kirkland                                                      Mad Maxine

Monday, November 17, 2014

Your iPhone Can Improve Your Health

Step it up!

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

Admittedly, playing Words With Friends, watching old matches on the WWE Network, and sending out hilarious tweets on Twitter are some of my favorite things to do with my iPhone.  This is the third one I've owned, having the 3, 4, and now 6 versions of the Apple product.  When I got the latest, I noticed a new app already installed called "Health."

I didn't give it a whole lot of thought at the time.  I did open the app and mindlessly glance at some of the features on it.  There are a lot of things you can input keep track of, including blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and body mass index.  I'm a pretty healthy guy, so I haven't really messed with it.

The Health app has the heart

The feature I'm now obsessed with though is the "steps" portion of the app.  It tracks how many steps you take everyday.  The key is obviously having your phone with you at all times, which for me isn't a problem.  I don't have it for every step I take, but it's close. My goal each day is to take at least 10,000 steps.  I have a little game I play against myself now that at the end of each week, my daily average has to be 10,000 or better.  Some days I don't get all 10,000 in, so the last two Saturdays I've found myself taking longer walks with the dog to reach my goal.

Adding steps and staying warm...
I've added more steps to my day by walking to the bathroom on the other end of the building at work.  I've always parked my car in the furthest spot from the building, so that helps too.  I have also ramped up my running, despite it being colder than normal here recently.  I know I'm probably not making a huge difference in my health, but I think being more aware and now obsessive about walking those 10,000 steps each day I am having a positive impact.

As I'm writing this, I'm scrolling through the app and finding all sorts of cool functions that I must now explore.  While this may not be the most accurate or best way to gauge your health, it's certainly a step in the right direction (pun intended).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thanksgiving is Still NOT Dead

Kmart opens at 6am on Thanksgiving
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I'm going to start this off by saying, I don't intend to upset, alienate or offend anyone.  Usually when someone says that, that's the first thing they do.  So if you're angry with me after reading this, I understand and respect your opinion.  

I wrote about this last year, and my stance has not changed.  Many stores will be open on Thanksgiving again this year, giving early Christmas shoppers a chance to find low prices.  I've never been caught up in the craze, but I respect those who do enjoy the thrill of the bargain hunt.

Social media has already started with the call to boycott stores that are open on the holiday.  I get it, I really do.  But I don't agree with it and here's why.  I think it's hypocritical for us to say "don't shop on Thanksgiving" because store employees have to work.  There are COUNTLESS professionals that have to work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Kwanzaa, Arbor Day, and everyday in between. I've never once seen anyone call for a boycott on those goods and services.

Working holidays is for the birds...
But it's a part of life
I'm not looking for sympathy or a pat on the back, but in my adult life I have worked every Thanksgiving except for one.  That was Thanksgiving 2002 and the only reason I was off was because Wednesdays and Thursdays were my regularly scheduled days off at that time.  We ate dinner with family in St. Louis and then loaded the car with two kids under the age of three and drove the five hours back to West Lafayette, Indiana so I could be back to work on Black Friday to cover all the people hitting the stores.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Oh, I didn't mention it earlier, I'm a journalist for those of you not familiar with this blog.  It's not just the people you see on TV who are working.  There are directors, producers, camera operators, and other behind-the-scenes people who are away from their families. Many being paid the same or less than a retail employee.  So if you plan to boycott the stores on Thanksgiving because you don't think it's fair that they're working, then leave the TV off all day.  Parade workers, football players, announcers, crew members and more are working too.
Don't listen to the radio on your way to grandma's house because DJs are working. Hope you filled the tank before you left, as the gas station attendants are working too.  Drive safe, because if you're in a crash, don't call 9-1-1. That would mean you're impeding on the police, ambulance workers, firefighters, and other emergency crews who are missing their turkey dinner.

If you like to catch a movie after dinner on Thanksgiving, stay home this year.  The crew at the theater works every day too.  Let's not forget about doctors, nurses, troops serving overseas, restaurant workers, truck drivers, pilots, flight attendants, train conductors, bus drivers, and even theme park employees.  I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.  I apologize to those I've left out.

Yes it sucks working on the holidays.   If you're able to, adjust your schedule.  We've done it for years now.  I'm fortunate enough that I work early in the morning and have the rest of the day off. Not everyone has the luxury, but maybe you can celebrate Thanksgiving on a Tuesday or a Sunday instead.  

I'm not saying it's a good or bad thing that stores are staying open on Thanksgiving, but businesses are struggling to stay open. Management has to do what they think best works for them.  If enough people stop shopping on the holiday, perhaps this will end. But since we're back at it this year, I don't think it's going to change anytime soon.  Enjoy your holiday, whether you're at work or home and remember those who aren't with us this time of year.  Things could be much worse.

Friday, November 14, 2014

9 Things You (Probably) Don't Know About Me

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

A friend of mine has challenged me to a Facebook game we played last year where you reveal a certain number of facts about yourself that people don't know.  I like the idea, but decided to take it a step further and blog about it (inside joke).  He gave me the number nine, and one thing he wanted to know is what's my oldest t-shirt.

My oldest shirt
1.  The oldest t-shirt that I have and still wear is my Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff shirt.  I got it as a birthday gift in 1987.  I was in 8th grade.  The shirt fits me, but you can read the newspaper through it.  I wear it now as an undershirt to Wrestlemania, however I did wear it under my tuxedo on my wedding day.  My wife hated that and still hates the shirt.

2.  I cannot stand having my hands wet.  Washing them is fine, but after being in the shower, swimming pool, or lake, I have to put on hand cream.  My favorite kind was Care Deeply with coco butter by Avon, but a few years ago they stopped making it.  Now I use something from Walmart which works pretty well.

3.  Honey mustard is my current favorite condiment.

4.  I had to wait two months to get my drivers license because I failed a quarter of Human Anatomy and Physiology my sophomore year in high school.  Of course this all happened days before my 16th birthday.  Once I brought up my grade, my parents took me to get my license.  I passed on the first try with a 72 (you needed a 70 or better).

5.  One time I dropped the F bomb on live TV.  It's been more than 15 years and I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations has expired, plus the evidence was immediately destroyed.  (I'll go into greater detail soon.)

6.  I have never locked my keys in the car.

How I felt during an art history final...
7.  While taking my final in Art History in college I farted out loud and it echoed in my chair.  The sound broke the silence of the classroom and I turned a bright shade of red as I could feel dozens of eyeballs staring at me.

8.  The one and only time I smoked a cigarette was my senior year in high school  I did it out of curiosity and ended up puking right after I did it.  I really had no desire to do it before and definitely not after.

The night Hulk lost
Photo courtesy: WWE
9.  I cried like a baby the first time Hulk Hogan lost the WWF championship to Andre the Giant on The Main Event.

Wanna play along?  Like this on Facebook and I'll give you a number too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wage Hope: The Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer

Wage Hope!
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents Twitter

November 13 is World Pancreatic Cancer Day.  It's a time to raise awareness about this deadly disease by wearing purple.  I hope that it will spark a conversation because quite frankly, more needs to be done in fighting pancreatic cancer.

Right now the five year survival rate is just six percent.  That blows my mind.  It's a hard disease to detect and once it's found it's often too late.  The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network hopes to double survival rates by 2020. They have just over five years to do that.  Raising awareness about the disease and funding research is critical.  Even still, 12 percent is still a long way from 100, but it's a step in the right direction.

The late Patrick Swayze
We've seen well known celebrities like Patrick Swayze, Steve Jobs, and Luciano Pavarotti bravely battle, but ultimately die from pancreatic cancer.  I have a personal connection to the disease.  In late 2001 my Aunt Rita was diagnosed with it.  She put up a good fight, but sadly we lost her in January 2002.  She was only 52 years old.
Grandma, mom, and Aunt Rita in 1980 something
Not only was Rita my aunt, she was also my Godmother.  She was always soft spoken and very loving to both me and my brother. We'd spend time with her and my uncle and cousins every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and various family birthdays. When we were younger there were camping trips and adventures to Silver Dollar City.

When I hear the news of someone being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I think of Aunt Rita.  I remember the sadness we all felt when she passed away and how I wish there was no such thing as cancer.  But here's the deal, cancer exists.  Sweet, loving, and caring people, even little kids will die from it.  But there are many survivors too.  We have to talk more about all types of cancer and help the men and women working toward a cure.  Without the hope that one day six percent will double and gradually climb, we have nothing.  I encourage you to wear purple on November 13 and support the cause monetarily if you're able.

Here are a few other resources on pancreatic cancer:
Walk With The Dogs
The American Cancer Society
The Purple Page

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Return of the Voice

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

No, I'm not talking about the singing show on NBC.  I'm sure it's still on the air, but I don't watch.  What I'm talking about today is the big news that Jim Ross is returning to the world of professional wrestling.  Known by this generation as "The Voice" of the WWE (or wrestling in general really), JR is set to call a pay per view after the start of the new year.

Global Force Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling announced that Ross will do play by play for Wrestle Kingdom 9.  It's set for January 4, 2015 in Japan.  People here in the United States can watch through a variety of cable and satellite options at 2 a.m. EST. According to GFW's website, you can also watch via the Flipps app on iTunes and Android.

Mick Foley & JR
Photo courtesy: WWE
I'm excited that JR is going to be involved with the show.  I've missed him on Monday Night Raw and WWE pay per views.  He brings a level of intensity and professionalism to the industry that quite frankly hasn't been close to being duplicated anywhere else.  His ability to tell a story during a match is unbeatable.  Since he's left the WWE, I've been a regular listener and big fan of The Ross Report on Podcast One

This event is still a couple of months away.  I'll be honest, it's been the most exciting news to come from GFW since Jeff and Karen Jarrett announced the promotion earlier this year.  I truly hope that it's a show that focuses more on wrestling and less on the entertainment.  I don't think anyone will knock Vince McMahon and company from the throne, but I'm still waiting for someone to lay claim to the second in command spot. 

Good luck to JR, the Jarretts, GFW, and NJPW.  Fans have something to be excited about in 2015.  Thank you for that.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Harry Potter's Magic Spell on Universal Studios

Outside Flourish & Blotts
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Harry Potter first entered our lives in 2007.  My oldest son had just started second grade when my wife read him "Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone."  I didn't pick up the books until the last one was released, but got hooked quickly.  We'd read the book and then see the movie.  We got caught up by the time Half Blood Prince was released in theaters and actually saw it on the big screen.

Butterbeer break
Four years ago, our family ventured to Universal Studios in Orlando, where we were in awe of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  A portion of Islands of Adventure has been transformed into Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.  Rides like the Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Dragon Challenge add to the excitement of all the shops, including Honeydukes Sweetshop and Ollivander's Wand Shop.  There are places to get your fill of Pumpkin Juice, Butterbeer, and Gillywater.  It's the ultimate place for Harry Potter fans.

Waiting for the Hogwarts Express
Earlier this year, the Wizarding World expanded into the Universal Studios side of the part.  Now, you can hop aboard the Hogwarts Express and take it back and forth, assuming you have a ticket to both parks.  The train ride is reminiscent of the movies, it's by far the most relaxing of the five Potter themed rides at the park.

In the bank lobby 
Speaking of other rides, the only other new ride added with the addition is Escape from Gringotts.  Because it's a new attraction, the wait time was between 60 and 90 minutes (in October), although on our last day there, we went straight to that ride when the park opened.  Our wait time that morning was about 40 minutes.  It's a 3-D thrill ride with twists and turns, but not nearly as jostling as the Forbidden Journey ride.  But a little kid did barf on the way out and right in the path of where people were walking.

The dragon 
On top of Gringotts bank is a giant fire-breathing dragon.  Almost like clockwork every 10 minutes, a ball of fire shoots from his mouth.  There are plenty of stores along Diagon Alley, including Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour,  Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, and the Leaky Cauldron.  We ate lunch at the Cauldron, and although pricey, it was delicious.  I had the Bangers and Mash.  The one interesting thing is there are no basic drinks in the restaurant.  It's all Pumpkin Juice, Butterbeer, or Gillywater (which is a bottle of water with a $4.25 price tag).  You won't find a soda on the menu.  After we sat down and started eating, we were offered a complimentary cup of water.

Working her magic

One of the other really cool parts of the whole Wizarding World Experience now is the interactive wands they sell in addition to the usual collector's wands.  These interactive wands can be used at the various store fronts (that have a special marking in front of them) and the holder of the wand can perform some magical task.  A sensor in the window reacts to the sensor in the wand to make things happen.  There's a cake topper that dances around, a tape measurer that comes unrolled, among other things.  It's neat, but again, an added price of about $50 per wand.

Don't touch wands
Compared to most of the other attractions and experiences at Universal, it's obvious Harry Potter and his posse are breathing new life into the theme park.  They've managed to cast a spell on my family and millions of others.  While not on the same level of Disney's magic, the folks who built this portion of the park have done a great job.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Nerd Behind Nerd Shirt Thursday

Nerd Shirt Thursday
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

This is a long overdue entry, as we've been doing Nerd Shirt Thursday at my work for about six months now.  It's a concept (now former) News 3 This Morning producer Weston "Dub Dub" White came up with.  The premise is simple.  Each Thursday coworkers are encouraged to wear a "nerd" shirt to work.  Because I can't wear tshirts on the air, I always wear mine under my shirt and tie.  After the show each week, we take a pic to share with the world.

Weston as Capt. America
So what's a nerd shirt?  Pretty much anything with a comic book character, movie, or pop culture reference.  The rules aren't too strict, but the nerdier the better, especially if you can accessorize.  It's something that has gained momentum in the newsroom and my Facebook friends wait each week to see who will be featured on our chests next.  As I mentioned Weston came up with the idea and we've carried it out in the weeks since his departure from WSIL.  I'm going to use the rest of this blog to talk more about my friend.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day 2011
I met Weston when he joined News 3 This Morning in July 2010.  It didn't take long to become friends, especially after he professed his love for wrestling and The Simpsons.  He came into the job already "getting it."  He's a natural writer and understands the facets involved in putting together a newscast.  I remember my coanchor Emily Eddington and I came up with a list of things to help ease him into the position, but we never even gave it to him.  He already understood what to do, and this was his first TV gig.

I literally laughed every day that Weston was at work.  Many times it was a loud belly laugh that produced tears.  Sometimes this happened on the air, depending on what he was saying in our ear pieces.  Of course when the work was done, there was always a little time for horseplay.  As I mentioned, he too is a wrestling fan and more than once I found myself getting picked up and flung around the room.  I'd be interested to see if there are any other producer/anchor combos like this in newsrooms across America.

The Shopping Ninja
It wasn't just behind the scenes that we had the fun.  Weston brought new ideas that made for great television as well.  In 2011 he found someone willing to come in and instruct Emily on how to zap me with a taser live on the air.  It's still one of the most memorable moments of my career.  He's dressed like "The Shopping Ninja" in preparation for Black Friday and was the brain child behind "The Morning News Anchor Challenge", a good concept, but unfortunately ended up getting shelved after three days.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...
He created a cartoon character named Humphrey, started doing "Wrestling Banana Art", and even dressed like me for Halloween one year.  Weston is a unique guy, an outstanding producer, and even better friend.  This blog merely scratches the surface.  You can see from the pics, that we always had a good time.  I miss him, but I know he's doing well in the next chapter of his life.  Thanks for the memories Dub Dub.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Don't Pull the Plug on Tag Team Wrestling

The Usos vs. Gold & Stardust
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I'm going to admit first and foremost I have not been paying as close attention to wrestling as I would like to.  Sometimes life gets in the way of fun and entertainment and things get lost in the shuffle.  I do watch Raw on a regular basis and I keep up with the pay per views via the WWE Network.  I even went back and did some research so I'm basing my opinions on facts and not just what I perceive to be the truth.

Ten teams do battle at Survivor Series 1987
Photo courtesy: WWE
I love tag team wrestling.  Looking back on the very first (and second) Survivor Series events, there were ten viable tag teams on the roster.  Ten.  I don't know if I could name ten viable tag teams over the past couple of years, much less that would be on hand for one pay per view match.  The days of duos like Demolition, The British Bulldogs, and the Hart Foundation are long gone.  Now we have quick, put together-at-the-last-second combos out there.

Star & Goldust
Photo courtesy: WWE
Right now on the current main roster the Usos and Gold & Stardust are really the only two active teams I see anymore.  Los Matadores are sporadically used and I'm assuming the Wyatt Family will soon be back in action, but let's look back on the calendar year.

Cody Rhodes and Goldust lost the tag team titles to the New Age Outlaws at the Royal Rumble.  Yes, a team that hadn't competed together on WWE programming in 14 years made a comeback.  It was brief and nostalgic, so I'm not complaining.  I'm really not.  

Wrestlemania XXX Kickoff
Photo courtesy: WWE
At Extreme Rules, the now defunct duo of RybAxel beat the Cody and Goldie and the Usos wrestled the NAO.  There was a fatal four way that was the kickoff to Wrestlemania XXX.  Los Matadores and The Real Americans (also no longer together) were a part of that. There was also a six man tag featuring the Shield against NAO and Kane.

There were no tag team matches at Extreme Rules, but another six man with the Shield against Evolution.  Payback saw that rematch and a rematch between RybAxel and Cody & Goldust.  The Usos beat the Wyatts at Money in the Bank and the newly revamped Star and Goldust took on RybAxel (again).

The Wyatts vs. the Usos
Photo courtesy: WWE
Battleground featured a rematch between the Usos and the Wyatts. There were no tag team matches at SummerSlam.  We saw Gold & Stardust take on the Usos at Night of Champions and Hell in a Cell.  

Now that we're up to speed, you can see there's a huge lack of depth in the tag team pool.  Sure there were a few more makeshift teams through the year, including Big Show and Mark Henry who are now enemies, and Damien Mizdow and the Miz seem to be on the verge of a split too.  Reviewing the WWE roster, there are so many guys on it now that aren't on TV, I scratch my head wondering why they're not being put to use.  

Woods, Kingston, Big E
Photo courtesy: WWE
For a bit we were being teased with a faction of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, and Big E.  I think it's a move that would benefit all three men and give fans something fresh in terms of a new team.  I thought Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel had good chemistry prior to Tyson's injury and time away.  I'm reluctant to suggest others from NXT because I fear without the proper introduction, they'll be lost in the shuffle (see Fandango, Big E, and Adam Rose among others.)

I think the tag teams that are currently being used do an amazing job, but week after week of tag team or six man tag team matches featuring the same guys gets a little old after a while.  Let's give the division a breath of fresh air and mix things up a bit.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Life is Too Short for Bad Coffee

The News 3 This Morning gang in 2012
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I still remember the first time I ever stepped into Crossroads Coffee Company in Carterville.  While I don't recall the exact year, I can tell you it was before Dan Gentz and his family bought the place.  The menu didn't even exist back then.  They only had coffee and pastries.  I was meeting a colleague with the Men's Health Conference to discuss our upcoming event and I had hot chocolate and a chocolate chip cookie.

I didn't think much of that first visit.  Sure the hot chocolate and cookie were good, but I did not drink coffee at the time, and didn't anticipate going back anytime soon.  Little did I know Crossroads would become my favorite place to eat in southern Illinois in a short period of time.

Adventures in eating fresh
My friends and coworkers on the morning show at WSIL used to go to Subway every Friday.  We'd leave the station at 9 a.m. for a break, and we didn't want bacon and eggs.  Since we all got up in the middle of the night, we were ready for sandwiches and pizza by that hour of the day.  We alternated with trips to Dairy Queen as well, just to add some variety to our Friday morning "Happy Hours."

I remember scrolling through my Facebook feed in late 2011 and seeing a picture of a hamburger posted by Crossroads.  It was the Crossroads Burger and it looked delicious.  I commented on the pic, asking if it was served at any time or just during lunch hours.  I was excited when the response was "you can get lunch anytime you want here."

They loved us there!
It took little convincing to swap our Subway/DQ trips with a visit to Crossroads.  After that first Friday we were hooked.  We went there every week, sometimes stopping in more than once.  Many of us visited with other friends and family members too.  Sadly, on October 31, 2014, Dan and his crew served their last cups of coffee and delicious food.

The first Kevin HunsBurger in 2013
You've probably read or at least heard about my story on the Kevin HunsBurger.  If not, click here for the details.  Long story short, on a Friday morning in late 2012, Dan joked with us about creating a burger in my name.  By January 2013, it was on the menu, and two bucks from each one sold went to the American Cancer Society.  I ate the very first one they served and I'm honored to say I had the very last as well.  

The last HunsBurger
Dan and his crew always treated the morning team right.  I can't put in to words how much I appreciate the way everyone there made us feel like Crossroads was our place.  It really was a happy hour (or hour and a half) for us.  The food was always top notch and there were enough menu options to keep anyone from getting bored.  Tables were reserved for us, which was great on busy mornings. Crossroads became a sponsor of a wrestling endeavor I was a part of at one point.  They also donated items for various charity events and helped people in the community anytime they were asked.

The team in 2014
I know Dan, Lisa, Taylor, and the rest of the Crossroads gang will do well in their future endeavors. I've never felt more important at a place of business in southern Illinois than when I was at Crossroads.  I think my friends would agree with that.  Thanks for the many memories.  You hold a special place in our hearts.