Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Remembering Verne Gagne

Verne Gagne
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents
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The wrestling world lost a true legend earlier this week, when former AWA world heavyweight champion Verne Gagne died.  He was 89 years old.  By the time I started watching wrestling Verne had retired from the ring (as the champ).  He was the promoter and had an on-screen role during that time, even wrestled a few times too.

The thing I liked about the AWA was it was a decent alternative to the WWF and NWA.  When I really started watching, Vince McMahon had already signed guys like Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura and Andre the Giant.  But Verne had a talented roster and he worked hard to provide fans with wholesome, Mid-western wrestling action.

Verne vs. Nick Bockwinkel

Many men were given a chance in the AWA that would have likely been overlooked in the other "big two" companies. Guys like Nick Bockwinkel and Rick Martel made fine champions I always thought.  Stan Hansen had a run at the top too as did Jerry "The King" Lawler and Curt Hennig.  One of my favorite memories of the elder Gagne was his foray into the pay per view world and an event called WrestleRock.  This video was used to promote it, and although cheesy it was memorable and I rooted for the AWA hoping they'd continue the tradition.  (They did not though).

I remember his feud with Sheik Adnan al Kaissie and his army.  Bruiser Brody was brought in to help the heels in their attempt to dominate Verne's allies, including son Greg.  Even though he was well past his prime, Verne would step through the ropes and dish out whippings when he deemed it appropriate.  

Verne fought the good fight for as long as he could before going bankrupt.  The company folded and this meant no more afternoons of AWA Championship Wrestling on ESPN.  I'd love watching it after school.  Relative unknowns like Diamond Dallas Page, Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty and a guy named Leon White all went on to much bigger and better things, thanks to the vision of Verne Gagne.

Hall of Fame induction

In 2006 we had the honor of watching Verne become a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.  It was an interesting idea at the time, as I think he became the first non-WWE employee/Superstar to get inducted.  I was on pins and needles as he delivered his speech, wondering if he'd take any shots at the McMahons.  He did not.  Verne was a pro and kept it that way.  Much respect to him and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.  Rest in peace.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Long Live the King

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
Listen to the podcast here

A quick post on this Monday.  WWE announced during Extreme Rules that the King of the Ring tournament is returning for the first time in nearly five years.  Sheamus won the title of "king" in November 2010 beating John Morrison in the finals.

The 2015 tournament kicks off on Raw and wraps up on the WWE Network the next night.  Personally, I'm excited about this without even knowing who is in the tournament.  My hope is that some of the guys who are looking to break through that so-called main event glass ceiling will be a part of this event.  In my 1-2-3 cents though, not everyone is suited to be "king."  For example, Bray Wyatt is an outstanding competitor and one of my current favorites, but his personality and gimmick don't fit the mold.  

I think a heel is better suited for the royalty, especially if they're going to use it like they did with winners including Owen Hart, Mabel and Booker T.  Others have won the tournament but didn't carry on the regal tradition like Edge, Brock Lesnar and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Stay tuned, the next installment of 3 Count on the My 1-2-3 Cents YouTube channel will feature my three favorite kings of the ring.  That episode drops Tuesday.  Thanks for reading, listen and watching My 1-2-3 Cents.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mother Nature Beat Me to the Finish Line

After the relay with a rainbow behind
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger  & @my123cents on Twitter

About two weeks before the annual River to River Relay here in southern Illinois, I was asked to be a substitute on two different teams. I'd never done the race before, but was excited about the opportunity.  The River to River is an 80 mile relay race that extends from the Mississippi River in Wolf Lake, Illinois to the Ohio River in Golconda, Illinois.  There are 24 legs of the relay, so each runner has three legs to complete.  Runners from around the country compete.  

Running with the baton
Yes I took pics and video as I ran
The race starts early, so my team met at 4:30 a.m. to travel about an hour to the start line.  Runner one takes off and the rest of the team gets in a van and drops off runner two at the exchange and picks up runner one.  The process continues throughout the day.  I was an alternate for my team, so I was only running two portions of the relay as runner number eight.

My first run was at about 9:30 a.m.  By then the misting rain and cooler temperatures were leaving and it was starting to warm up.  I huffed and puffed my way up at least two intense hills.  I don't even remember if there were more than that.  I don't do a lot of hill training and since I hadn't planned to run the race this year I wasn't as prepared as I could have been.  My portion on that first leg was right around 3.6 miles.  My time wasn't horrible (for me), with a pace of 8:49 per mile.

Our captain in action

Then it was time to relax for a while, as I wouldn't run again until the very end.  I sat in the van with other teammates as we joked and laughed and shared stories.  With the exception of one of them, I'd never really met my team before Saturday.  I had a good time as we would get out and cheer for our team at each exchange.

My favorite van of the day
The other fun thing about the relay is seeing my other friends who have become runners.  I'd have a chance to chat before climbing back in the van and driving to the next stop.  Because I was drinking so much water too, hitting the port-a-potty each time was almost a necessity.  Some stops even had folks at them with homemade treats and water for the runners.  That was pretty awesome.

What the hail?!?
Taken safely from inside the van
All day the threat of severe weather loomed.  As we arrived at exchange 21, our number five guy got out (without his beloved poncho) and waited for number for to pass the baton.  Moments after he had it in his hand, the skies opened up and a torrential rain followed.  He was soaked as he handed off to runner number six.  Then Mother Nature took it a step further, with two rounds of pounding hail.  Our guy bravely moved on and handed off to runner seven.  That's when things got even worse.  Lightning filled the sky, but our runner carried on.  Our captain joined him too.  The two ran for a while before wisely deciding safety was more important and climbed back into the van.

It was up to me to decide if I wanted to finish the race.  According to the rules, I could continue the rest of 23 and finish up at Golconda.  I'd talked with Ashley Smith, the meteorologist at the TV station where I work.  She'd also just completed the race (her team won first in their division). She said the lightning would pass soon, so I decided I'd wait a few minutes and continue. Little did we know race officials had already called the relay.  I made my way up a small incline with a lit rain hitting me along the way.  For the record, I hate being wet, but my pride took over as I wanted to finish this race.

When I got to the exchange where I was supposed to officially start running, a friend of mine was walking to his van and said they'd closed the course.  I continued up the road where a sheriff's deputy was blocking the rest of the course. Disappointed, I got back into the van with our captain who had joined me to confirm the news.  We drove into Golconda and got out together and ran the short distance to the finish line to claim our tee shirts and get something to eat.  We capped things off with a picture at the Ohio River and a faint rainbow behind us.

After the rain
I am disappointed I didn't get to officially finish the race, but I applaud the tough decision made by race officials.  Not only did they have to think of the safety of the runners (many were still behind us on the course), but also the hundreds of volunteers and the law enforcement along the way.  I was told this is the first time in the event's 28 year history that they've had to cancel.  I'm going to assume I'm not bad luck and hopefully get a crack at it again next year.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Snapchat Challenge: Video Games

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

The wackiness of the Snapchat challenge moves forward with video game characters.  All of mine are classic ones.  I don't do the video game thing these days so I'm not sure who some of the characters are that Sean and Chad sent.  Enjoy the show.