Friday, April 29, 2016

How I'd handle a WWE brand extension

@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Speculation has been running wild for a few weeks now that WWE will once again try the brand extension idea.  Years ago, I'll admit I didn't like the way it was executed.  But in 2016, it can work and here's how I'd do it.

NXT: Dallas
Courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
First off, my idea involves more than just Raw and Smackdown.  I am including NXT in my plan because let's face it, it's no longer a "farm league" for WWE.  That being said, I think the company can create yet another brand that would be strictly a developmental "territory" for up and comers.  But I'll save that for another blog.

WrestleMania 32
Courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
There would still be one WWE World Heavyweight champion.  He would defend his title on all three shows.  It would be like when I was growing up and World Class had a champion, as did Mid Atlantic, UWF and Central States.  Then the NWA World Heavyweight champion would visit those areas and defend his title.  I would do the same thing with the Women's and Tag Team champions.  When the title changes hands, the former champ goes to the show from which the new champion(s) came from.  Depending on the talent pool, this could lead to a secondary tag title and maybe even a women's tag team championship or secondary belt too.

WrestleMania 32
Courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
If and when the draft happens, I would not split up any of the current tag teams.  I feel like right now the division is finally getting some love.  The Intercontinental title would be defended exclusively on Raw, the U.S. title on Smackdown and the NXT title of course on NXT.  I'm still undecided on how to handle pay per views, but since the Network is available, there could be monthly specials for each brand.  The Big 4 could be talent from all three shows and feature a few "interbrand" matches.  For example a three-way Survivor Series match with the winning team getting the number 30 pick for the Royal Rumble or the majority of Superstars in the matchup.  

A brand extension can be beneficial to everyone involved.  Fans wouldn't get bored with the same Superstars headlining Raw and Smackdown every week.  Lesser used talents would get a chance to shine.  And with less weekly shows to be a part of, the injury risk would decrease.  I'm very excited about the future for WWE and I think Payback could spawn a new era for WWE fans.  *Fingers crossed*

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Nothing Compares 2 U

Prince at Madame Tussauds 
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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2016 has already been dubbed the year of the celebrity death.  We've lots a lot of greats in already including David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Patty Duke.  But on April 21 in the span of 12 hours we learned of the passing of former WWE star Chyna and megastar Prince.  You can see my thoughts on Chyna in the video below.  

Purple Rain
Like the rest of the world, I was stunned to hear about Prince's death.  I didn't even realize he had been sick with the flu.  The outpouring of memories online has brought back a flood of childhood memories.  I was nine when 1999 was released.  I enjoyed the music on that album, but Purple Rain was the most memorable.  I was in junior high by then and can remember school dances including Let's Go Crazy getting everyone pumped up and Purple Rain slowing things down (this is when I exited the dance floor).  Of course this was all in the MTV era and music video kept us entertained for hours at a time.

Raspberry Beret
A year later Around the World in a Day was released.  My favorite tune by Prince is on that album, Raspberry Beret.  I can't give a reason why, it's just so upbeat and fun and reminds me of good times.  He performed the music for the original Batman film in 1989 and kept things going into my college years with Diamonds and Pearls and Prince logo.svg.

I had forgotten he wrote many great hits for other performers, including Nothing Compares 2 U for Sinead O'Connor and Manic Monday for The Bangles.  I know we're not supposed to put celebrities on a pedestal, but it's hard not to be sad when people we grew up watching and listening to are gone.

Today we all really know what it sounds like when doves cry.  Rest in peace Prince.

Friday, April 15, 2016

I've been a fool in April

Kamala vs. WhattaBurger in Dallas
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I'm behind on blogging about Operation Find My Abs.  But to be honest I've fallen off the workout wagon and the healthier eating wagon.  It all started in mid-March with a Spring Break trip to Disney World.

The Mickey Mouse PB Cup
I'm not blaming my vacation on my poor choices.  There are healthy choices at the restaurants at the Happiest Place in the World.  For example one day I did get green beans as a side with my burger instead of french fries.  However, that was about the extent of the healthy picks.  I had the No Fair Funnel Cake at Cold Stone Creamery, a Mickey Mouse peanut butter cup the Goofy Candy Company and lots of cold beer on the beach.  I justified these options with the "I'm on vacation" and "it's my birthday" excuse.

I got back into the saddle briefly when we returned from the sun and sand.  I hit Gold's Gym a few times in late March and picked up the pace on running because I'm participating in a big relay race. Then I got on the Road to WrestleMania...

One of several craft beers during WrestleMania weekend
Once again I opted for the less healthy choices.  Chad and I became the tag team champions at CicCi's Pizza.  We'd laid the smackdown on that buffet.  Then we doubled up at Redneck Heaven as I conquered a chili burger one night and then the big BLT during the next stop. Fast food became our partner too as we hit up McDonald's, Taco Bell and WhattaBurger.  My new hobby of craft beer consumption with my fellow Craftbeericans won't help either, but I'm keeping the mantra "everything in moderation" in mind.

Training for the River to River Relay
I've been back home nearly two weeks, and I've yet to make it to the gym.  But as I mentioned I am running more.  I don't feel like I've gained any weight, but I have definitely not seen in progress in finding my abs.  I will continue my quest and change my eating habits once again.  I've polished off all the Reese's Peanut Eggs from Easter, so half the battle has been won.

Stay tuned for an update in May.  We've got this.  We really do...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Vince McMahon is just being a dad

Shane McMahon flying high
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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As a wrestling fan I was annoyed when Shane McMahon showed up to run Monday Night Raw 24 hours after losing to the Undertaker at WrestleMania.  The stipulation for the Hell in a Cell was of course that if Shane won, he got control of Raw.  He lost.  So why did he get to run things Monday?  Now it appears Shane will be back for week two of playing the role of GM.

"The Money" returns April 11 to Raw
However, as a dad I get it.  Vince McMahon was trying to teach his son a lesson.  If I had a dollar for every time I made an idle threat against one of my kids I too would be a billionaire running a wrestling, I mean sports entertainment company.

Our parents did it to us and if you have kids you probably do it too.  "Stop fighting or we'll turn this car around and go back home."  Yeah that never happened.  "Eat all your vegetables or you won't get dessert."  Twenty minutes later there's a trail of cookie crumbs on the floor.  
Family feud
Courtesy: WWE
Simply put, Vince made a bold statement out of anger.  He really had no intention of following through on his threat.  And face it; WWE had no credible opponent for the Undertaker this year.  It was really the best option given the list of Superstars currently out injured.  At the same time it's clear the company hasn't done its job in developing the next wave of talent.  Plus, look how popular Shane has been since the announcement of the match.  It’s a nice slice of nostalgia.  I’m sure Triple H, Stephanie and Vince will be back to their shenanigans in no time.

But as Jim Cornette recently said on The Ross Report, "What road you take depends on what your destination is. Since we don't know the destination we don't necessarily know whether somebody's taking the right road or not.  Trust your cab driver."  So that's what I'm going to do.  Trust our cab driver in this case WWE Creative.  And remember, Vince is doing what dads do.  He may be human after all.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name

Meeting Neville and Kalisto at Toys R Us
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I arrived in Dallas days ahead of WrestleMania 32 last week.  My friend Chad picked me up at the airport and we headed to the NWA Mid South: Parade of Champions show.  The next day was Friday and we had nothing planned until NXT Takeover: Dallas.  I asked Chad over lunch what we were going to do that day, to which he informed me, "it's a surprise."

WWE Superstars Neville and Kalisto were doing an autograph signing at the Toys R Us in Arlington.  When we pulled into the parking lot I knew exactly why were there.  Neville is one of my favorite Superstars, but there's a story to tell... which is why we're all here now.

The gang back in January 2012
In 2011 I was doing commentary for All American Pro Wrestling.  I was also involved in a storyline in which I'd be getting into the ring to wrestle at our big show in January 2012.  The event was going to be recorded and released on DVD.  AAPW: Collision aired on the local ABC affiliate at the time. Besides bringing in Colt Cabana, I was informed two international wrestlers named PAC and El Generico would also be on the AAPW Main Event card.  I watched their work to familiarize myself with them, having not known much about PAC at the time.

The day of the show our group of guests, which also included Matt Cross, arrived.  I can't tell you how awesome all four of them were that day.  PAC worked with one of our guys in the ring before the doors opened, giving him some solid advice.  I was impressed not only with his in ring work, but PAC's attitude and professionalism.  Because I was on the poster for the event I had signed a bunch for fans (for those who don't know I'm also a TV news anchor and several viewers had come out for the event).  

Axxess 2014
We ran out of posters, except for one that PAC asked to take.  He did and when it was announced later that he'd signed with WWE, one of my friends joked "Adrian Neville has YOUR autograph."  Two years later when he was NXT champion at WrestleMania XXX Axxess, Chad and I met Neville, Bayley, Lana and Rusev.  He signed the pic of us from that night two years earlier and told me he remembered me and the show.  I thought he was just being kind.

Now back to Toys R Us in Arlington.  Since Neville has been on the main roster, Chad has given me a hard time about my so-called man crush.  As we stood in line, we listened to a girl behind us swoon about Neville.  Chad asked if I was jealous of her.  We laughed and joked about it for the 90 minute wait.

Doing the Neville pose before NXT: Takeover
Finally it was our turn for a photo and autograph.  Chad went first.  Then as I walked to Neville he said, "Kevin! How's it going?"  You would have had to surgically remove the smile from my face. I glanced at Chad and seeing his reaction was priceless too.  After more than four years, Neville remembered me. We shook hands, exchanged some quick small talk and took the pic. It made my day and is one of my favorite WrestleMania weekend moments of all the nine times we've made the journey.  I still think it's cool that a WWE Superstar knows me by name.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Honoring wrestling royalty

Remembering the Von Erichs
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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During our trip last week to the Dallas area for WrestleMania, one of the things I wanted to do was visit the grave sites of the Von Erich family.  That probably sounds morbid to some, but I view it as a way to pay respects to one of the greatest wrestling dynasties in the history of the business.

Friday afternoon we headed to Grove Hill Memorial Park.  After watching a YouTube video to explain where the markers are for Fritz, Doris, Kerry, David, Mike, Chris and Jack "Von Erich" we tried to find the spots.  However it was a bit more complicated and after some driving and walking, we finally found the area where three generations of Adkissons have been laid to rest.

Baby Natosha and David's sites
The first marker Chad and I found was that of Natosha Zoeanna Adkisson.  I had forgotten she was the infant daughter of David and Candy and died in 1978, the same year she was born.  Next to her as you might expect is David's final resting spot.  I had just started watching wrestling when David died in Japan.  He was only 25 years old.  His death was the first of many losses in the world of wrestling I'd experienced as a fan.

After David died, the Modern Day Warrior, Kerry became the number one contender to the NWA World Heavyweight title.  On May 6, 1984 he beat Ric Flair for the gold.  Kerry was my favorite as a kid and remains one of my all-time favorites to this day.  He went on to wrestle in the WWF and became the Intercontinental champion.  In 1993 he ended his own life.  Four years later, the family's patriarch, Fritz died after a battle with cancer.  He and Kerry and buried side by side.

Mike, Chris and Doris
Mike and Chris Von Erich both committed suicide too.  Mike died in 1987 at age 23.  Chris four years later.  He was just 21.  Jack Adkisson, Jr. was just six when he died in 1959.  He was shocked by a downed power line and drowned in a puddle.  Mother Doris Adkisson died in October 2015.  She is buried next to Kerry and Fritz's plot.  

Kevin's appearance at the Hall of Fame
Chad and I stood in silence as we paid our respects to a family that has endured so much loss.  I thought of surviving brother Kevin and remembered his Hall of Fame speech from 2009, telling fans not to feel sorry for him.  The next night we were surprised as Kevin was brought out and gave a brief speech, reminding us of his original words.  

Paying tribute to The Freebirds and the Von Erichs
At WrestleMania on Sunday we paid tribute to World Class Championship Wrestling.  It was my favorite promotion growing up, so when Chad made the suggestion, I jumped at the chance.  He wore a "Badstreet USA" t-shirt representing the family rivals, The Fabulous Freebirds.  My t-shirt was dedicated to Kerry, who wrestled at the Texas Tornado during his stint in WWF.  I slapped the classic claw on Chad in front of AT&T Stadium as we waited to take our seats.  It just seemed like the thing to do.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

WrestleMania Weekend do's and don'ts

Chad and Kevin ready for WrestleMania 32
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Chad and I wrapped up another WrestleMania weekend after taking a year off in 2015.  We always have a good time and over the next couple of days I'll share more of our experiences.  We did recap WrestleMania on this week's podcast, which you can listen to here.

I don't want to be "that guy" with this post, but I am going to share some advice for WWE fans and the creative team.  I also hope I don't sound like Grandpa Simpson ("angry man yells at clouds").  But these are legit concerns Chad and I discussed during our ninth WrestleMania experience.

For the fans:

Hall of Fame
Don't come to the Hall of Fame ceremony dressed like you're going to a wrestling match.  The HOF is an event to honor the men and women who dedicated their lives to entertaining us.  Dress up.  You don't have to come in a suit or dress, but leave the shorts, tshirts and flip flops at home.  We were amazed at the number of fans under dressed for this year's festivities.  At the very least wear a polo style shirt and a pair of nice jeans.  

While at the ceremony don't do cat-calls, chants or hold up signs.  This year WWE announced before the show people who do such things would be ejected.  I applaud that because in past years obnoxious fans have taken away from the event.  We had a douche bag a couple rows behind us who complained that every speech was too long.  My question, why come if you're going to gripe about EVERYONE?  I really hope that guy is reading this, because you were an annoying prick who nearly got your butt kicked by several people in our section.

Do support WWE philanthropies while in town.  This year we checked out Mania Crawl.  It's a fundraiser for Conner's Cure.  It was not only fun to try different beers, which I'll soon share on The Craftbeericans YouTube channel, but I had fun chatting with other fans.  Plus the crawl raises money for a great cause.

Do check out other wrestling companies.  WrestleMania is of course the big show (not Paul Wight) of the weekend.  But several other indy companies come to town and deserve a look as well.  This year we went to the NWA MidSouth: Parade of Champions show.  It was a great combination of up-and-comers, established wrestlers and legends.

Raw after Mania
Don't plan to "hijack" the Raw after Mania.  A few years ago when we were in New Jersey for WrestleMania and Raw the crowd did not want to see Sheamus and Randy Orton wrestle in the opening match.  The fans let the world know.  It was an organic reaction.  This year it felt like the crowd was ready to pounce and become the focus of the event.  Overhearing some guys before we went into the arena was an indicator of this.  Also, leave the beach balls at home.  They're annoying to those of us who want to watch what's happening in the ring and not be the center of attention.

For WWE Creative:

Legendary returns
Do bring in legends and hall of famers to WrestleMania.  But don't do it at the expense of the current roster.  As Chad and I discussed on the podcast, The New Day and The League of Nations were hurt more than helped by the appearances of Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.  Chad suggested putting these three into the Shane McMahon-Undertaker match.  His idea makes more sense than what we were given Sunday night.  I'm still not sure how the Rock's appearance helped the Wyatt Family, but at least we saw something out of them Monday on Raw.

Do continue to cultivate talent and bring up new men and women from NXT.  But not so many in one night.  There are a lot of newcomers making their main roster debuts this week between Raw and SmackDown.  Figure out what's happening with others who seem lost in the shuffle before adding more Superstars.

Do more with the tag team division.  The talent is there and I'm optimistic quality tag team wrestling is on the horizon.  And I'm loving the changes to the women's division.  Well done!

Zack Ryder
Don't contradict what happens at WrestleMania the next night on Raw.  To the live crowd having Shane run Raw made no sense.  Plus let Zack Ryder hold the Intercontinental title for more than 24 hours.  Very bummed by that decision.

This turned out longer than anticipated.  Hope you made it through.  I realize some of the things done by creative are part of the bigger picture, so I'll wait and see what happens next. 


Monday, April 4, 2016

WrestleMania 32: Woo! Woo! Woooooo!

By Kevin Hunsperger & Chad Smart
@kevinhunsperger, @chadsmart, @my123cents

WrestleMania 32 is in the books. We're still on the road and heading to Raw Monday night. The WiFi is spotty here so instead of a blog, please listen to our recap podcast.