Friday, January 29, 2016

The time Sid went sycho on me

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

When I worked in Alabama as a TV reporter and anchor I had a couple of opportunities to meet a handful of wrestling greats.  In 1998 I interviewed a handful of wrestlers at a WCW Thunder event in Huntsville.  Buff Bagwell, Goldberg, Bobby Heenan and the late Ray "Big Bossman" Traylor all spent some time with me.  

About a year later, a local gym owner and wrestling promoter were hosting a show with Sid Vicious as one half of the main event. Because he knew I was a huge fan, the promoter extended an invitation to me to attend the show.  I took a chance and asked if Sid would be available for an interview for the newscast.  I was excited to learn that he was.

Sid in action 
Sid wanted to do the interview before his match.  I was ushered back to a hallway where Sid was pacing back and forth.  We shook hands and exchanged hellos.  My intent was to ask Sid a few questions about his career (this was after his championship run with WWE but months before he showed up in WCW and won their title).  

Meeting the big man
I mounted the camera on my shoulder and held the microphone up to the big man.  Before I even finished asking my first question, Sid snatched the mic out of my hand and proceeded to cut a wrestling promo for me.  He did this at the top of his lungs, screaming until his face was beat red. Bottom line, the "interview" was nothing I could use for the newscast, but it was quite awesome being in the presence of the wrestling legend.

When he returned to town a few months later, Sid came into our studio for a sit down interview on the newscast.  This time he was much more subdued and didn't yell.  It was one of the most surreal moments of my career.  Those encounters with Sid were some of my favorite memories working in "the Shoals." 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Just give Reigns the title

Photo courtesy: WWE
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
Listen to the podcast

I made, I guess you could call it a New Year’s Resolution, to be less critical this year when it comes to writing blogs. I get tired of complaining about the same things and I’d guess loyal readers are tired of reading my complaints. Today though, I just have to vent. I promise this will be the last I write about this issue. At least until SummerSlam rolls around and nothing’s changed.  

If you’ve listened to the Royal Rumble recap podcast1) you’ll know about the awesome contest we’re running over the next month and 2) you know I was not too impressed with the outcome of the Rumble match. I understand why Triple H was a surprise entrant at number 30 and why he won the match to become World Champion. Just because I understand it doesn’t mean I have to like it. 

On RAW, the Authority ended the opening promo saying they would announce the main event for Fastlane, with the winner of that match going on to Wrestlemania to face Triple H, at the end of the show. After the segment ended, I texted Kevin to say surely the Authority wouldn’t put Roman Reigns in a position to go on to main event Wrestlemania, right? 

Courtesy: WWE
Then at the end of the show, Stephanie McMahon announces the main event for Fastlane would be a triple threat match featuring Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns. Vs. Brock Lesnar.  This is the epitome of stupid, lazy booking. 

Barring WWE going with a Russo level swerve, I’m going to predict the main event at Fastlane ends with the Wyatt Family attacking Brock Lesnar and Reigns scores the pin fall on Ambrose. Which would give the fans Roman vs. Triple as the main event at Wrestlemania Star. I hope I’m wrong. 

As I pointed out on the podcast, Roman Reigns entered the Rumble match to a chorus of boos. After he returned from being attacked by the League of Nations, the crowd booed again. Nothing personal against Reigns, but now is not the time for him to be Champion and Vince McMahon needs to understand that. Maybe push him down the card the way Bray Wyatt, Rusev, Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler have and let Roman get the fans behind him organically to the point where they want to see him as champion. 

My personal issue with this story, besides the fact I’m tired of Hell Authority trying to keep popular baby face away from title storyline, is the title has been yanked away from Roman so often that I burnt out from seeing him in title matches. Not to mention that if he wins at Wrestlemania, Roman will be a three time champion in the span of 4-5 months and I’m old school and think title reigns should mean something. 

Another factor is the winner of Fastlane will face Triple H. Besides giving Roman the chance to get the shot, which goes against the Authority not wanting him to champion, why would Triple H want the possibility of facing Brock Lesnar? They’ve already fought a couple of times since Brock came back, so the match isn’t fresh. Brock has been presented as a suplexing monster, why would HHH want to be in the ring with that creature?  

Again, I understand the story being told, it’s just not a story I care to watch. With a roster as talented as the one WWE currently employs surely there are better matches to book and stories to tell other than what we’re getting. 

Anyway, as I said, that’s the last I’ll write about it. I’ll remind you to check out the podcast for the Road To Wrestlemania contest. You can find more details here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Motivational Monday: Be burgundy

Hospice of Southern Illinois
35 years of service

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

Disclaimer: I am not an expert, but the advice dispensed here has been researched or is something that has worked for me in the past.  Proceed at your own risk...

The directors of the Gala
Photo courtesy: Jennifer Lee 
For three years now I've been privileged to be a part of one of the biggest and best fundraisers in my community.  The Hospice of Southern Illinois Red Carpet Gala may very well be the premiere event here. Each year it grows in size and in 2016 more than a thousand people attended to support this great cause.

Hospice of Southern Illinois provides end of life care for people in our community.  They also provide support to the family and loved ones during and after the difficult time.  They do all this at no cost. That's why fundraisers like the Red Carpet Gala are so important.

Here's Johnnnnnny & Ed McMahon
Photo courtesy: Heather Fear
The 2016 theme was Late Night Tonight and dozens of volunteer performers became personalities like David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson.  Also taking the stage, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Joan Rivers and dozens more.  

The Blue Collar Comedy Tour
Photo courtesy: Heather Fear
In the previous two years I've danced and sang (both poorly).  This year I was asked to be a part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.  So I delivered a few "Here's Your Sign" jokes in the likeness of Bill Engvall.  The reaction was very positive, so I think we did a good job.

Mick Jagger and his backup dancers
Photo courtesy: Heather Fear

The inspiring part of the evening is seeing all the volunteers come together after months of practice and putting on a truly great performance.  From top to bottom this was an exceptional show.  There's also countless unsung heroes behind the scenes making sure those of us on stage look and sound good.  It made my heart feel good seeing so many people in southern Illinois there to support the cause.  

Photo booth fun
Leigh Bedokis Photography 
I don't have a lot of money to donate to causes like Hospice of Southern Illinois, but I do have time.  That's why I volunteer at functions like this.  Find a cause near and dear to you and get involved.  We can all make a difference, no matter how small it may seem. A few dollars, a few hours or just sharing information on social media can go a long way.  #BeBurgundy 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Rumble Ramblings: 1997

Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
Listen to the podcast

The 1997 Royal Rumble match has one of my favorite endings.  For those who don't remember, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin  was a rising star in the company.  He had drawn number five and had gone on two total elimination runs, leaving just himself in the ring.

Waiting for more victims
Courtesy: WWE
Then Bret "The Hitman" Hart came out and the action intensified.  The two had a great feud going at the time and I think the rub from Hart helped to build the Stone Cold character.  The two battled for about 90 seconds until Jerry "The King" Lawler left commentary and entered the ring.  He was eliminated about four seconds later, courtesy of Hart.

Stone Cold wins
Courtesy: WWE 
They battled it out alone until the ring slowly filled again.  In the end it was The Undertaker, Vader, Hart, Austin and Diesel.  Hart tossed Austin over the top rope, but because the referees were distracted by Terry Funk and Mankind brawling on the floor, Austin slipped back in the ring.  He pushed Undertaker and Vader over the top as Bret threw Diesel out.  Of course Bret thought he'd won, only to to be thrown over by Austin.  Since the refs hadn't seen the prior elimination Austin was declared the winner.  As a Stone Cold fan, this made me happy.  Nineteen years later it's a textbook example of how to help get a guy over even more.

Despite Austin winning the Rumble, he did not get the "guaranteed" championship match at Wrestlemania that year.  The newly crowned champion Shawn Michaels gave up the belt and Bret won it in a special four man match at the In Your House pay per view, only to lose it the next night to Sid thanks to Austin's interference.  That set up the Mania match between Austin and Hart and Sid defended against The Undertaker.

Here are some other ramblings about the 97 event...

Vader roughing up Rocky
Courtesy: WWE
  • Toward the end, I thought it was cool watching it today and seeing all the future mega stars in the ring with established Superstars and legends.  Terry Funk, Vader, The Undertaker, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, "Diesel" (now Kane), Rocky Maivia (The Rock), and Mankind were in there together.

  • JR made the same joke I did about Flash and Terry Funk not being related.  Of course more people heard Ross than me...

Mil Mascaras
  • There was more inconsistency with the eliminations as Mil Mascaras jumped off the top rope and to the floor.  When Randy Savage did a similar move in 1992, he was allowed back into the match.  

  • Faarooq also eliminated himself trying to escape Ahmed Johnson who had eliminated himself earlier in the evening.  I never understood why guys not involved in the match could do this, but I digress.

Bottom line as Stone Cold would say, I enjoyed this Rumble and think the ending is second only to Ric Flair's historical win in 1992.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rumble Ramblings: Will 2016 be 1999 all over?

McMahon-Austin 1999
Courtesy: WWE

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
Listen to the podcast
Follow my blog with Bloglovin 

Like Kevin, I have been watching past Royal Rumble matches in preparation for this year’s event.  One of the matches I re-watched was the 1999 incarnation.  This is, in my opinion, the worst Rumble match and was a clear indication of the problem with the “Attitude Era.”  Unfortunately, I see some parallels between the 1999 match and the lead-in to the 2016 match. Hopefully this year’s Rumble won’t live down to my criticism. 

Going into the 1999 Rumble, Vince McMahon did not want Steve Austin to win the Rumble. In order to try and prevent a third consecutive “Stone Cold” victory, Vince rigged the drawing to have Austin enter in the number one position. Along with stacking the deck, Vince put a $100,000 bounty on Austin to be paid to whoever eliminated the Rattlesnake. This is actually a detail I think the Authority should add to this year’s match. Give the other 29 competitors another reason to attack Roman Reigns during the match. 

While Vince thought he’d gotten one over on Austin, Commissioner at the time,  Shawn Michaels declared Vince McMahon would be the number two entrant. The third man in the Rumble was Golga. When Austin was eliminating Golga, Mr. McMahon left the ring, jumped the ringside barricade and ran off. Austin followed close behind to what turned out to be an ambush in the men’s room. The Corporation attacked Austin so badly; he had to be taken from the arena in an ambulance while the Rumble continued. 

Kurrgan & Goldust
Courtesy: WWE
For fans that weren’t in the men’s room watching the beat down, they were treated to the following Superstars continue to fight in the ring. 

Edge (1999 pseudo-vampire version. Not Rated R Superstar)
Steve Blackman
Dan Severn
Tiger Ali Singh
The Blue Meanie
Road Dogg

After Mabel cleared the ring of everyone except Road Dogg, The APA and Mideon came down to attack Mabel while The Undertaker watched. The Ministry, after another case of people not involved in the Rumble match being able to eliminate a competitor, took Mabel backstage. At which time the ring filled up with the following:

Al Snow
The Godfather

Kane had his first dominating performance before eliminating himself when the guys in the white coats came in to try and restrain him. Another non-elimination elimination.  After Corporation member Ken Shamrock entered the Rumble, Mr. McMahon briefly returned to the ring before leaving to go join the announce team. 

Vince is on commentary bragging about the beat down to Austin when the camera cuts to backstage where the Ministry is dragging Mabel out of the arena. Conveniently at the same time, Steve Austin drives the ambulance back to the arena much to the chagrin of Vince McMahon. 

Rock with the distraction
Courtesy: WWE
Eventually the Rumble match comes down to Vince and Austin. Austin is toying with Vince when the Rock shows up to distract Stone Cold allowing Vince to dump the Rattlesnake over the top rope and collect the $100,000 bounty as well as the title shot at Wrestlemania 15. 

Go back over the list of Rumble entrants I listed. Was there anyone in the audience who would have expected one of those listed to win the Rumble match? Now add in the lack of any real star power for roughly half of the Rumble and you can start to understand why I consider this to be the worst Rumble match. 

Number 1
Courtesy: WWE
Now looking forward to the upcoming Royal Rumble and we have a similar situation brewing. The Authority doesn’t want Roman Reigns to win. In fact, he's the number one entrant.

Going over the announced names on, of which there are only 13 listed, the only names that I could honestly see winning are Reigns, Brock Lesnar and possibly Sheamus. Given that the Rumble match this year is for the WWE Title, having 30 competitors of whom more than half can’t be seen as potential winners is not a good thing. 

Even though I think this years Royal Rumble is the most unpredictable Rumble in quite a few years, I still have fears that we’re going to get some form of history repeating itself and if that’s the case then I fully expect Triple H to walk out of Orlando as WWE Champion. I hope I’m wrong but as the saying goes, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And right now WWE seems to really want to do Austin/McMahon 2.0.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Motivational Monday: Find your dream and live it

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

Disclaimer: I am not an expert, but the advice dispensed here has been researched or is something that has worked for me in the past.  Proceed at your own risk...

When it comes to someone motivational, it's hard to overlook the words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  And since today is MLK Day, I thought it would be nice to honor and remember the man who made such a huge difference in this country more than 50 years ago.

Of course when Dr. King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 he was talking about racial equality. King, like so many during the Civil Rights movement, wanted a better life for future generations.  They wanted to "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."  It's something I believe is still a work in progress in this country.

Since then, the speech has been used to help others explore their own dreams., no matter what others may think.  The movement was about equal rights for men and women of different colors and religions.  But I think Dr. King's legacy also has empowered all of us to make a difference.  That change begins one person at a time. 

If you pursue your dreams, you're taking a step in the right direction.  Even if you don't achieve success right away, it's important to keep moving forward.  That positive action can help change others too.  Never underestimate the influence that a few positive (and unfortunately) negative actions or comments can have on others.  Find your dream and live it, no matter how foolish it may seem to others.  Believe in yourself first and others will follow.  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why Roman Reigns should (and shouldn't) win the 2016 Royal Rumble

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

The Royal Rumble is one of my favorite WWE traditions.  I remember watching in awe in 1988 when a 20 man version debuted on the USA Network on a Sunday night.  "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan won that battle royal with a twist. Little did I know then, the Rumble would become one of the most important matches on the "Road to Wrestlemania."

This year history will be made.  The WWE world heavyweight champion Roman Reigns faces 29 other men in defending his title.  About half the field of 30 has been announced.  As of this posting, Brock Lesnar, Bray Wyatt and Chris Jericho are among the names in the match.  

Courtesy: WWE
Why Roman should win

My first thoughts are that Roman needs to survive this battle and walk about of Orlando with the WWE championship around his waist.  There's a couple of reasons for this:  I'm tired of the belt getting hot potatoed.  The title has already changed hands three times since mid-November.  With all the build up and support Roman has received over the last year or more it seems silly to have him lose the title so quickly.  

Courtesy: WWE

Why Roman should lose

Rumors are abound that Triple H will enter and win the Rumble.  As much as I don't want to see this happen, I don't know that there is a bigger heel in the company right now that could put a Wrestlemania worthy main event on against Roman as the contender.  That's a sad commentary on WWE's creative and how they've failed to build up the mid-roster talent. 50/50 booking is a huge problem right now.  Plus if Roman overcomes the evil Authority once and for all, there's no place better to do it then on the grandest stage of them all.

Courtesy: WWE
Simply put, if Roman retains the title, who does he defend against at Wrestlemania?  I don't want a rematch with Lesnar.  He's already feuded with Wyatt.  Jericho is a part time.   I don't think Kevin Owens or Rusev are ready yet.  I think a match between Lesnar and Owens at 'Mania could take the former NXT champion to the next level and prep him for a post-Wrestlemania feud against Roman.

I will say this, with all the injuries and rumors of returns and current angles that are happening, the 2016 Royal Rumble is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable events in the history of the pay-per-view.  Plus we have Fast Lane to get through as well.  Can't wait to see what happens.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Put a ring on it

Sunny and her ring
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
Listen to the podcast

Recently former WWE Diva Sunny has drawn some online criticism for putting her Hall of Fame ring up for sale on eBay.  It's something that's happened before with Abdullah the Butcher, "Superstar" Billy Graham and the sons of the late Paul Bearer.  Sunny claims Jimmy Hart sold his while going through a divorce recently.

Sunny's induction (we were there)
The embattled Diva has had her ups and downs in recent years.  I'm not here to judge her or anyone else for that matter.  She's made it clear that she wants to cut ties with the company and move on.  I do find that a bit disheartening and disappointing.  Five years ago WWE had enough faith in her to add her to their Hall of Fame.  She was honored not just at the ceremony, but also the next night at Wrestlemania 27 in Atlanta.  Something along the way changed obviously.

Here's where I put on my judgment hat... I would hope that for any legend inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame they'd cherish the induction and the ring that goes along with it.  I know we're talking about a ceremony for a predetermined activity, but the Hall of Fame is one of my favorite wrestling related events of the year.  I look forward to the day there's a physical location.  Furthermore, I'm a bit of a packrat and save everything, so I can't ever imagine parting with such a sentimental gift.

Sunny's ring is currently up for bids on eBay and as of this posting has two bids to the tune of $1,099.  I hope the impending sale gives her what she need financially and whatever issues she has with her former life in the world of wrestling gets resolution too.  The same for anyone else who has sold their ring.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rumble Rambings: 1993

Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
Listen to the podcast

I'm hoping (but not committing) to watch several Royal Rumbles leading up to the 2016 event and just posting random thoughts of the match.  I'm not doing these in any order.  Today I'm starting with 1993.  I decided to watch it because I hadn't seen it since it first aired 23 years ago.  This was also the first time the stipulation included a championship match at Wrestlemania for the winner.

I miss these two...
Courtesy: WWE
  • I miss Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon as a team.  It's nice watching a show and the entire time the commentary team is focused on the action at hand.  No Network shills.  No "Royal Rumble is trending on Twitter!" comments.  The back and forth between these two was always magical.  Heenan's quick wit has never been matched, ever.  And Monsoon's responses were always great.  "Will you stop?!?"
Flair, Backlund and DiBiase
Courtesy: WWE
  • Ric Flair was days away from leaving WWF and started the Rumble as number one.  The second entrant was another former champion: Bob Backlund.  Keep in mind Flair is about six months older than Backlund, but Heenan and Monsoon focused on Backlund's age and his comeback.  They weren't the only two to do that during Backlund's return.  I just found it funny how Backlund was a hero for being so "old" and returning, while Flair had just finished a run as champ.
Carlos Colon
Courtesy: WWE
  • Speaking of age, when Carlos Colon hit the ring, Gorilla referred to the Caribbean champion as a "youngster."  He was older than Backlund and Flair and had been wrestling nearly 30 years by the time the '93 Rumble rolled around.  This was his first appearance on WWF TV I believe, so maybe he was a youngster to the company???
Introducing Giant Gonzalez
Courtesy: WWE
  • I hate when a guy gets eliminated by someone who has already been tossed from the match.  In this particular event it was Mr. Perfect.  He got taken out by Jerry "The King" Lawler who had been dumped to the floor moments earlier.  But the biggest miscarriage of justice (a Gorilliaism) was when the Giant Gonzalez appeared out of no where and took out the Undertaker.  Gonzalez wasn't even in the match and was making his debut that night.  How does that work?  
  • Typhoon and Earthquake collectively were known as the Natural Disasters.  The two had a run as tag team champions.  But for some reason when Earthquake entered the match he immediately went after his partner and eliminated him.  I'm certain nothing ever developed from this.  Just a weird moment in the Rumble I guess.
The final two
Courtesy: WWE
  • How did "Macho Man" Randy Savage go from the second to the last man in the ring to working on the announce team at Wrestlemania IX?  Considering Savage's pedigree I still don't know what happened there (keep in mind he wrestled a year later at Wrestlemania X).  And while I'm on it, why was the 1989 winner, Big John Studd merely a guest referee at Wrestlemania V?
It's fun looking back on these now "classic" Rumble matches.  Until next time...