Thursday, December 31, 2015

In Memory: 2015

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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2015 saw the passing of several legends in wrestling.  Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper, Verne Gagne and Nick Bowinkel were all heroes from my childhood.  Take a moment to remember the men and women from the world of wrestling who are no longer with us any longer.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Centy Awards

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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In 2011 Chad and I decided to come up with a way to recognize the best and worst in the world of professional wrestling.  We cleverly came up with the name The Centy Awards.  So forget about the Slammy Awards, the Oscars or the Tonys...  By the way, you can hear a further explanation of each category on the My 1-2-3 Cents podcast.

Wrestler of the Year: 
Kevin's pick:
Seth Rollins
Chad's pick:
Dalton Castle

Most Hated: 
Kevin's pick: 2015 Survivor Series
Chad's pick: 
WWE Booking

Most Underappreciated:
Kevin's pick: 
NXT on Main roster (Neville, Breeze, The Ascension)
Chad's pick: 

Most Overrated: 
Kevin's pick: 
The Authority
Chad's pick: 

Breakout Star of the Year: 
Kevin's pick: 
The New Day
Chad's pick: 
Apollo Crews

Show of the Year: 
Kevin's pick: 
NXT Rival
Chad's pick: 
King of Trios

Star on the Horizon: 
Kevin's pick: 
Princess Kimber Lee
Chad's pick: 

Female of the Year: 
Kevin's pick: 
Chad's pick: 

Best Use of Social Media: 
Kevin's pick: 
"Mr. Pec-Tacular" Jessie Godderz @MrPec_Tacular
Chad pick: 
Doc Colonel Angus @DocColonel
Biggest Fall From Grace: 
Kevin's pick: 
Damien Sandow Chad's pick: Chikara

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Favorite Pics of 2015

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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A quick year in review of my favorite pics (most of them I took or am in, sorry).  Overall it was a good year.  Hoping 2016 is even better though.  Thanks again for reading the blog, listening to the podcast and watching the YouTube channel.


Oh What a Night
In January I once again had the pleasure of being a part of the Hospice of Southern Illinois Red Carpet Gala.  I'm so happy my wife was able to attend this year too.  I was a part of the "Jersey Boys" and we were the closing number.  It was a lot of fun for everyone involved.  

We Heart You
Valentine's Day 2015 was spent as a family at a restaurant here in southern Illinois called Grumpy's.  The name is fitting as the two teenagers were grumpy about having their photo taken so I added hearts to keep the spirit of the holiday alive.

Give Me a Break
For the first time ever, we decided to take a quick trip over Spring Break.  We surprised the kids and got in the van Saturday morning bound for Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  This shot is from dinner at the Dixie Stampede. They don't allow photography during the show, so this was a pre-dinner selfie.  As you can see the boys aren't impressed with being photographed.

A Beautiful Day
In April I took my podcast, My 1-2-3 Cents, on the road and met the legendary "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton.  He's one half of the Midnight Express.  Bobby was at the Cape ComiCon event in Cape Girardeau.  He was gracious enough to spend some time doing an interview with me and he met my daughter Brooke too.  I'm already looking forward to 2016's event.

I Mustache What You're Looking At
My buddy Tom Harness is one of a kind.  He runs a successful business, Harness Digital Marketing, is a loving husband and father, a veteran and dedicated to making the community a better place (not all in that order though).  The mustache suit came about to promote HerrinFesta Italian.  He and I did this silly pose at S&B Burger Joint.

Insane in the Membrane
I've been running for the last few years.  I like to get the family involved in the process and in June we found a race in Evansville called The Insane Inflatable 5K.  My crew was joined by one of my oldest (in age and longevity) friends, Kevin and his family.  After the race in Evansville, we spent the night and next day in Santa Claus, Indiana and hung out at Holiday World.  It was a blast.

Hey Batter, Batter!
In July my nephew and niece visited us from Texas for about a week. I snapped this picture of my then 5 year old nephew Chace watching his cousin at bat.  He was so excited to see Mason play ball.  We ended the evening at Chuck E. Cheese were more fun times unfolded.

WSIL added a weekend morning news cast over the summer.  Once all the players were in place it was time to do a photo shoot.  This is my favorite shot from that day.  Some viewers went so far as to add backgrounds to the green screen.  Watch Monday through Friday 5 a.m. - 7 a.m. and Saturday & Sunday from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Hero in a Half Shell
My daughter has embraced her inner nerd, professing her love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  This year for her birthday, a friend got her this hoodie.  She also has earrings, a tee-shirt and footie pjs that portray the heroes.  

Marathon Man
It's hard to tell in that pic, but that's me crossing the finish line at my first marathon.  Never in my life did I imagine I'd complete a full marathon.  It was such an incredible experience.  My wife, Lisa, played a huge role in keeping me motivated that day.  You can read about it here.

Make New Friends...
Earlier in the school year I got a message from a viewer telling me her son had picked me as "the celebrity I most want to meet."  Since they're a local family this would be no problem.  After months of scheduling, I was able to finally meet Nate and his mom for lunch on a Friday afternoon.  We had Subway and spent some time chatting about life.  He's a great kid and I'm beyond flattered he wanted to meet me.

For the first time in years, my brother and his family and my family were able to be under one roof on Christmas Day.  It was great to spend time together and since I took off work the week after Christmas it was even nicer not having to rush back to southern Illinois on Christmas night.  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Ho Ho Hunsperger: Star Wars Toys

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Growing up in the 80's lead to a Star Wars obsession for me.  I was four when New Hope came out.  By the time Return of the Jedi hit theaters, I was all in with my fandom.  I had been collecting the action figures along the way and the bigger toys that came along too.  

I can remember some of those big ticket items that were under the Christmas tree.  While I loved all the Star Wars toys I had, three in particular bring back fond memories.  Jabba the Hut is one of my favorite characters, so it goes without saying when I added his playset to the collection it was a good day.  Jabba came perched on his stand that you could flip open with the turn of a nob on front of the toy.  I'm sure there's an official name for these features, but I'm writing this from memory.  It also included the annoying little sidekick Salacious B. Crumb and the hookah device Jabba used.  I paired the set with the Rancor. 

The Ewok Village was another favorite.  This too was from the Jedi collection of toys.  It included all kinds of features like a net to drop down on intruders, a built in slide and a hand operated elevator.  This was a pretty large and elaborate toy that I spent hours on end playing with as a kid, along with all the Ewoks.

I also had an amazing time with the Dagobah playset.  That was Yoda's home we first saw in Empire Strikes Back. The thing I remember most about this was the spongy area that served as quicksand, just like in the movie.  You could push an action figure through it sending them to their death.  There was also an area for setting up "duels" between action figures.

There were a ton of Star Wars toys that came through our house in the early 80's.  I held on to them all for decades, until in 2006 I decided to sell the collection in an effort to feed my Wrestlemania habit.  While I miss those toys, I'll always have the memories from a galaxy far, far away.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars Fandom: Is the Force Still Strong

Chad's tattoo
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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My intention for the first two installments of this blog series was to express how big of a Star Wars fan I am, or was. Since I wound up writing the blogs shortly before they got published, they were quickly written and lots of details were left out.  I failed to mention how because of my Star Wars fandom, I have a tattoo of Han Solo on a tauntaun among some other details that slipped through the cracks. That fandom though seems to be waning just as the next chapter in the Star Wars film series is set to take the world by storm. 

Scenes from the premiere sight
Tonight (12/17/2015), Episode VII: The Force Awakens opens in theaters around the world. In fact, by the time this is published, several friends in Australia have already seen it. It’s been two and a half years since the announcement JJ Abrams would be helming the latest installment. In that time my excitement has gone from high curiosity to mild trepidation. To be fair though, my interest in movies in general has gone pretty cold. Other than a screening Q&A of Electric Boogaloo: The story of Canon Films(available on Netflix and highly recommended), I have not seen a film since Ant Man

I have managed so far to avoid any spoilers for the film. I have not seen the trailer or any TV commercials for the actual film. My knowledge of the film is apparently the Empire uses Verizon for their communications needs and everyone has traded their spaceships in for Dodge cars and trucks. That’s actually an interesting development that I’m intrigued to see. 

Scenes from the premiere sight
I’ve tried to remain in the dark about The Force so as to not have any expectations. After the disappointment with the prequels, I figured it best to go with low expectations and be pleasantly surprised than to go in expecting to relive my childhood and walking out disappointed. While I’m curious to see what story JJ and the writers have crafted, there’s something missing this time around. 

Scenes from the premiere sight
I put that missing item mostly on me. I’ve grown up. Maybe I’ve become too much of a boring adult. Or maybe I’ve seen too many movies. I don’t remember the last time I’ve walked out of a theater feeling any pure excitement for what I just watched. To me, films these days are too much sizzle with little substance. I’m tired of CGI effects and singular action plots. I want a solid story to go along with the action. That’s actually a conversation Kevin and I had after NXT Takeover: London. More on that in a future My 1-2-3 Cents podcast. Maybe. 

Scenes from the premiere sight
In an attempt to drum up some interest in the Force, I went to Hollywood/Highland area on Sunday, the day before the premiere. I wanted to see the people who were camping out. What I saw was something that rivaled the normal set up for the Academy Awards. I had never seen a premiere set up that took up that much space. Granted, all I saw was a giant white tent but still. It was a pretty impressive tent.  I have not seen any footage from the premiere so I don’t know what was under the tent. Even seeing the tent with signage for the film, and seeing the group of people waiting to see the film, I still felt something missing. 

Scenes from the premiere sight
As I write this, my plan is to see the movie on Monday. I’m going on Internet black out for the next five days to avoid seeing any details of the film. I hope when I walk out of the theater, I will have the same excitement four year old me did when I saw the original Star Wars. I’ll settle for the euphoria I had after Phantom Menace. Would prefer I don’t have the bad aftertaste in my brain. Whatever my reaction, I’m sure in two and a half years when Episode VIII is released, I will be in the theater watching. No matter the level of interest, there will always be the communal experience in which to partake.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars Fandom: The Prequels

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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According to folklore, George Lucas, creator of Star Wars made three prequel films that told the origin story of Darth Vader. I’m being sarcastic, obviously. As I mentioned towards the end of the last Star Wars blog, the end of the 1980s saw a diminish in Star Wars interest at least in the public spectrum. 

During the 1990s there was resurgence in the Star Wars universe. First, author Timothy Zahn wrote the Thrawn trilogy of books from 1991-1993. These books, Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, told the story of what happened in the years following Return of the Jedi. The books were met with great enthusiasm from fans. Personally, I would have like to have seen them turned into Episodes 7, 8 and 9 in the Star Wars cinematic universe. 

In 1995, Hasbro, after purchasing original Star Wars toy maker Kenner in 1991, released the first line of new Star Wars action figures. For anyone who collected the original figures back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, this was like Christmas being year round. As a nerdy college student, I took to collecting these new figures like it was a job. My interest wasn’t just in collecting. Oh no. That would be too rational.  Because of the way the original figures had gained value over time, and because I was an obsessive fan, I had to collect all variations of the figures. Boba Fett has different markings on his gloves? Have to own both. Luke Skywalker has two different color vests? I own both the black and the tan version. Of course, I wasn’t the only one to think this way, which is why these figures have not seen a dramatic increase in value over the past 20 years. Fanboys were collecting them en masse. 

While the action figures and expanded universe books kept Star Wars fans happy, an announcement in early 1997 (for the sake of this blog, I’m going to pretend that is a correct timeframe) made all the wannabe Jedis lose their minds. George Lucas was going to make Episodes 1, 2 and 3. Being released in May of 1999, after a long 16-year wait, The Phantom Menace was the first new Star Wars film to hit the big screen. 

I remember getting tickets for the midnight showing along with several friends. We arrived at the theater around 10pm. This was back before reserved seating in theaters was common. I’m not going to say I was wearing a Darth Maul mask. But I’m also not going to say I wasn’t. The energy in line was electric. Star Wars fans were excited for something they never thought they’d get to witness. 

When were allowed into the theater, we all took our seats and tried to patiently wait for the clock to strike 12. Then it happened. The lights dimmed, the Fox studios logo came up on the screen and the Fox fanfare played. The Lucasfilm logo then occupied the screen followed by the operatic Star Wars theme that may go down as one of the best musical compositions in film history. Everyone in the theater cheered in excitement before settling down to see the first stage in the story of one of the most feared villains in this galaxy or one far, far away. 

We watched as a young Obi-Wan, along with his mentor Qui-Gon Jinn, met a young Anakin Skywalker. Then something unique happened. About halfway through the film, right at the star of the pod race, Qui-Gon goes to put young Ani in the pod race and the power goes out. All of a sudden we’re sitting in a packed, dark, silent theater. In the words of Darth Vader 6 years later, “Noooooooo!” After about 5 minutes of waiting for the power to be restored, theater employees came in and said a power grid had been knocked out (later we’d find out a raccoon had gotten too close and fried himself) and the power wouldn’t be restored anytime soon. We were given free passes to come back and see the film at a later date. Naturally, we all went back the next day. 

Following The Phantom Menace, 2002 saw the release of Attack of the Clones while Revenge of the Sith concluded the prequels trilogy in 2005. Looking back, while each film was met with excitement because it was Star Wars, the films themselves do not hold up as well as the original trilogy. There are many reasons for this and if you’re really interested in hearing reasons, I recommend checking out the lengthy in-depth reviews at Red Letter Media

Since the release of the prequels, the Star Wars universe has been kept alive with more books, and two popular cartoons; The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels.  I have not watched these shows so I can’t speak from experience, but I’ve been told they are more in line with the original trilogy than the prequels. 

Now it’s 2015 and we’re ready to go back to the future….. sorry, wrong trilogy. Um, Star Wars fans are eager to see what happened to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia after defeating the Empire. More on that in the next blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Star Wars Fandom: The Early Years

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. … well, actually it was 37 years ago at a drive in theater in a small Illinois town that set my life in motion for where I am today.  That night, I saw my first film. As a small kid I was instantly transported to this far off place and befriended by a cocky, play by his own rules scoundrel and a feisty, take charge self-proclaimed princess. George Segal and Goldie Hawn starred in The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, an amazing western tale. Okay, so that was the second film on the double feature. The first film was, Star Wars. Not, Episode IV: A New Hope, just Star Wars. 

Ready for take off
 As I sat on the lawn staring up at a giant outdoor screen watching a raging space battle happen, something resonated with me that to this day I can’t fully explain. Even at four years old, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Several years later after realizing Star Wars wasn’t a documentary and I couldn’t go off to join the rebellion, I decided instead I wanted to work in the entertainment industry. That’s stories for other times. 

Action figures
After seeing Star Wars, I became obsessed with the characters and the universe in which they existed. I can still recall when I got certain action figures and the battles I had with them. This was back when you actually bought action figures to play with instead of buying them to display in their cases. 

New Hope
At that time there was no internet and I don’t remember movie news being as popular as it is now so there weren’t constant updates as to when the next Star Wars would come out or in depth details on the plot. I think I remember finding out about The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi by an option to send in five proofs of purchases from the action figures to get a figure from the upcoming films. I just remember being excited to see what the next adventure had in store. 

Empire Strikes Back
I remember my mom taking me to see The Empire Strikes Back and her falling asleep during the film. Obviously she didn’t share my enthusiasm nor did she care that Lando Calrissian had betrayed his close friend Han Solo. I saw Return of the Jedi twice in the theater. I remember thinking at they end they should have had the actors come out and take a bow. I don’t know why I wanted the end of a movie to be like a play. Just thought it would be a nice closure to the end of the Star Wars experience. 

Return of the Jedi
I’m not sure what it was about Star Wars that had such an impact on me. I know I wasn’t alone. I’d say 95% of my generation who are into movies would cite Star Wars as one of their favorite or most influential films. Having recently re-watched the first film, I think I understand the broader aspects of the plot than I did as a kid. I’m not really sure what the Empire is or why they shut down the Galactic Senate. I do know that the space battles, light sabers and the creatures in Mos Eisley Cantina were all pretty cool. 

After Jedi, there were a couple of made for TV Ewoks movies and the Ewoks/Droids Saturday morning cartoons. Then as the 80s came to a close Star Wars seemed to fade out of style. I don’t think anyone imagined Star Wars would be as popular as it is today 25 years ago.  We’ll get to that in a couple of blog posts later.