Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Making it up as we go

Courtesy: WWE
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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I’ve been trying to not be supercritical towards WWE this year. By trying to focus on the positives, the negatives have been building up and have finally exploded. On the Extreme Rules recap episode of the My123Cents podcast, I expressed my frustrations with the current booking and match layout of WWE. After watching the opening segment of the Memorial Day episode of RAW, I was left wondering if the WWE writing team took the holiday off or if Vince McMahon and company simply don’t care about what happens inside the ring.

Courtesy: WWE
Before I get into a rant about how bad the segment with Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and the New Day was, I first want to comment on the Stephanie McMahon character. Ever since The Authority (Stephanie and husband Triple H) took control of RAW a few years ago, she has been the evil, vindictive, witch with a B. For the last month since her dad, Vince McMahon gave control of Raw to her and brother Shane, Steph has been more cheerful and impartial. I made a comment to Kevin about Roman Reigns spearing the heel out of Stephanie at WrestleMania. Speaking of which, did Triple H fall into a hole leaving AT&T Stadium in Dallas after his loss to Reigns?

Courtesy: WWE

I can understand if Stephanie’s change in attitude is all a ploy to somehow force Shane out of power somewhere down the road. However, shouldn’t there be some questioning of her motives from either Shane or the WWE roster? Why has everyone easily accepted this new Stephanie? It’s those little details that plague WWE’s storytelling.

Back to the opening of RAW and why it encapsulates the problems within WWE. Shane and Stephanie come out to start the show by publicly announcing SmackDown going live every week starting July 19. I don’t know when the decision for a live SmackDown was made. I don’t know if it was WWE’s decision or a directive from management at the USA network. Therefore, I don’t know how much thought has been put into the decision of splitting RAW and Smackdown into two unique brands. Based on the segment of RAW, I would venture to guess that the decision was made about an hour before the initial stories hit the web and was then forgotten about.

After making the announcement about SmackDown, The New Day come out to ask questions pertaining to what will happen when RAW and SmackDown become two separate brands. New Day’s questions were met with “we haven’t figured that out yet.” So what was the point of this segment? The same information could have been said in half the time with Shane and Stephanie simply saying changes were coming and more details would be made on July 18.

One of RAW’s biggest problems since the Attitude Era has been taking 15 minutes to deliver 3 minutes worth of material. Unfortunately, even though we’re in a “new era” it looks like only the Superstars are the only things changing in WWE.

Why haters are wrong about John Cena

He's back!
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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John Cena is back, much to the chagrin of many in the Internet Wrestling Community. The complaints have already been rampant and unjustified.  But we're all entitled to our opinion. I chose to support Cena in his return.  Had I been in the crowd at Raw, I would have cheered.  I did when he came down to the ring at WrestleMania 32.

The Club beats down Cena
Courtesy: WWE
I like the idea of Cena feuding with The Club. I've said it before, wrestling is a marathon and not a sprint.  Yes we can speculate that Super Cena will overcome the three-on-one odds and rise above it all. But chill. Be happy that AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows are working with the biggest star in the company. Keep in mind Gallows was once a dim witted hillbilly stuck in the lower-midcard of the tag team division.

Owens vs. Cena
Courtesy: WWE
Think back to last summer and the Kevin Owens saga.  True, Cena got the upper hand in the feud, but without that first win and the rub that followed, Owens wouldn't be where he is today.  He's a two-time Intercontinental champion and now a participant in the Money in the Bank ladder match next month. He's also one of the company's top heels.

New Era rising?
Courtesy: WWE
We need John Cena.  Even after more than a decade as the face of the company, he still adds value to the product and will be instrumental in helping develop new stars.  I've been critical of how WWE has failed to create new stars. But a more fair assessment is they're not creating stars out of my favorites. (#NevilleForChampion).  Win or lose, The Club will come out of this feud better off than they were feuding with The Usos, Roman Reigns or Chris Jericho.

Haters should be happy Cena isn't competing against Roman for the title or conquering the savage beast Rusev again. Chill out and let's wait and see what happens next.  But one thing we want to know now is why is Ellen's face on Cena's jorts?


Monday, May 30, 2016

22 Kill Pushup Challenge

@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Every day in this country 22 veterans commit suicide.  That statistic is unbelievable to me.  I never served our country. I've never been to war.  I can only imagine the sights and sounds these brave men and women endure while ensuring our freedom.  

I was recently challenged to participate in the 22Kill Pushup Challenge.  It's quite simple if you consider what members of our military are asked to do on a daily basis, whether deployed overseas or working here in the United States.  Each day for 22 days do 22 pushups.  The group's goal is to reach 22 million pushups.  Together we can do it.

My dad, grandpas and uncles served overseas.  They all came home, although my uncle was injured in Vietnam.  I have many friends who were a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  I do the 22Kill Challenge in honor of them and their safe  return.  I also do it to help raise awareness about a problem we can all work together to fix.

This goes out to anyone who is suffering, it's okay to get help.  It is not a sign of weakness.  If you need someone to talk to there are professionals out there. Veterans and families in an immediate crisis can call 1-800-273-8255 and press "1", or text 838255.  There's also an online chat available here.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hey Roman, shut up

Roman Reigns
Courtesy: WWE
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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The intention of this post isn't to be mean spirited.  When I tell Roman Reigns to shut up, I actually mean it in the nicest way possible.  Wrestling fans seem to love to critique the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion to no end.  Many of these same fans were marking out for Roman when he was in the Shield.

The Shield
Courtesy: WWE
I've thought about what's different now, other than the obvious he's no longer affiliated with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.  Roman's skill set has changed.  Superman Punch and the spear are his two big go to moves still.  The difference now is he's talking.  If the WWE Creative Team isn't going to turn him heel (and I don't think they have to) then they should return to Roman's roots and make him the strong, silent type.  

Many will argue you can't have success in wrestling or sports entertainment if you can't talk.  I don't believe that. Leave the talking to those who can do it.  Make Roman Reigns a destructive ass kicker who doesn't speak or is just a man of few words.  When he cuts a promo these days there's little emotion involved.  He's repeating lines someone has written for him.  That works for some people, but not everyone.  Fans pick up on this and that's part of the reason he gets booed.

Roman & The Rock
Courtesy: WWE
While he's trying out this new style, work with him behind the scenes on promos.  You can't teach charisma, but you can teach someone how to fake it long enough to get a point across.  He's from the same bloodline as one of the greatest talkers of all time, so let the Rock work him.  And please, stop trying to make him the second coming of the Rock or John Cena.  Let Roman be Roman.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Stanley Cup runneth over

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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Long-term readers (who read all the blogs) know that I got into hockey two seasons ago when my friend Mike suggested seeing games in all 30 NHL arenas. Over the past three seasons, we’ve managed to see 22 teams play in their home arenas. There’s nothing extraordinary about that number. Somehow though, there’s one interesting fact to go along with the Quest for All 30. The Stanley Cup Finals have come down to two teams I saw at home during the active season. In 2014, the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New York Rangers. 2015 saw the dreaded Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning for  the Cup.

During this current season, we made the now traditional Thanksgiving trip a double header of seeing the Penguins face the St. Louis Blues in Pittsburgh the night before Thanksgiving and then the Pens were the visiting team in Columbus the night after Thanksgiving. In February, as part of the side quest to see all five California AHL teams, sandwiched between San Jose Barracuda and Stockton Heat games, we made a return trip to the SAP Center to watch the Sharks defeat the Arizona Coyotes. As I type this, the Sharks and Penguins are getting ready for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Monday, May 30.

I have yet to determine if this year’s match up is my dream final or nightmare final. Before I became a more die-hard hockey fan, if someone asked what team I supported, I would have said the Penguins. This was more due the success they were having when I got more invested in sports than actually knowing anything about the team. Due to being a “fan” and because the Penguins social media manager was the only one to comment on my blog about searching for an official team, I was ready to pledge my allegiance to the Pens. Then something happened to make me question everything.

The second stop on the All 30 quest was San Jose. That night, my hockey life was changed forever. As I recounted in the previous blog about the trip, that night in San Jose was like a religious experience. I had seen the hockey gods and they wore black, teal and orange. From the moment the team took the ice through the giant shark head, I was in awe. With this newfound fandom, what was I to do about my original Penguin fandom? After some serious debate and consulting with Mike, I came to the conclusion that it only made sense to have an East team and a West team.

During the regular season, I would cheer for both teams then during the playoffs, I would have better odds of having a favorite team reach the finals. With the playoffs consisting of 16 teams, what were the odds that both of MY teams would make it the finals in the same year? Being a Miami Dolphins fan for 30 years, I was more prepared to be disappointed during the playoffs. Never would I have expected my two teams to battle each other for The Cup.

Now we’re on the cusp of the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals and I find myself torn on actively rooting for one team or simply enjoying the games and hoping for a competitive series. Part of me says to cheer on the Sharks as this is their first trip to the Finals and it’s easier to potentially travel to San Jose for a game than to fly across the country to a game in Pittsburgh. On the other hand, having been a Penguin “fan” for 25 years, is it right to toss them to the side just because they happen to be playing the Sharks?

Then comes the factor of the Penguins’ newly celebrated HBK line. The trio of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel, became a trio to be reckoned with during the series against Tampa Bay. They became such a sensation fans got the original HBK, “Heartbreak Kid,” Shawn Michaels to become a fan and the Penguins invited Michaels to attend game 5. Naturally, the wrestling fan in me sees this as a logical reason to throw support to the Penguins. Naturally then, I think if the Sharks wanted to secure their own section of wrestling fans, it would only make sense to bring Sharkboy to the Shark Tank as a wrestler liaison.

I will wrestle with my decision until the puck drops at the start of game 1. Maybe I should simply be pleased two teams I have chosen to support are playing for the richest prize in hockey. No matter the outcome, I finally have a championship series that won’t let me down. Although, if either team seriously wants my undying support, providing tickets to a game would help. Just being honest.

Lets go Sharks! I mean, lets go Pens!…uh, Sharks, Pens…um, Shens? Parks? This is going to be a soul wrenching series.

Saturday Morning Memories: The Smurfs

@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I still remember the summer before going into the third grade (it was 1981).  I was looking at the comics section in the Sunday newspaper and found a full page color ad for the upcoming Saturday morning cartoon lineup on NBC.  One of the new shows was called The Smurfs.  I don't know what it was, but at that moment I connected with the little blue people staring back at me from the paper.

I couldn't wait for September to roll around and learn more about the Smurfs.  It didn't take long for eight year old Kevin to become addicted.  Six months later when I turned nine I had a Smurf themed birthday party which included an ice cream cake with a Smurf artistically added to the top.  Gifts included Smurf t-shirts, ColorForms and stuffed animals. I had dozens of the little rubber figures by then too.  Hardee's had released a series of Smurf glasses a couple years later and I had them all. Again I was addicted.

I watched their many adventures week after week and even forced down several bowls of Smurf Berry Crunch cereal (I wasn't crazy about the cereal).  Clumsy was without a doubt my favorite. But I also loved Papa Smurf, Brainy and Smurfette.  I cheered when they overcame the underhanded tactics of Gargamel, Azrael and Hogatha.  Somehow they escaped danger in both episodes that aired each Saturday morning.

The one episode that stands out to me the most aired on Halloween 1981.  The Purple Smurfs told the story of a how the happy blue Smurfs turned angry and purple after a bug bite spread like wildfire.  It was a zombie apocalypse of Smurfy proportions.  Just as it seemed as if the end was in sight for the Smurfs, the day was saved and everyone returned to the happy Smurfy selves. 

Even into adulthood I held onto those Smurfy memories.  I kept my collection of toys and even added to them after graduating college, scoping out yard sales, flea markets and thrift stores.  Then in 2011, the tiny characters overtook the big screen.  New merchandise was released and I added to my already out of control collection.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Famer Friday: Ric Flair's 3 greatest moments

Courtesy: WWE
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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"Nature Boy" Ric Flair is my favorite wrestler of all-time.  When I first started watching in the mid-1980s, Slick Ric was the guy I loved to hate.  By the time he came to WWF in 1991 and I was in college, I was a full-time Ric Flair mark.  He could do no wrong in my eyes and my fandom has remained strong since.  I'm going to attempt to boil down his 40+ years in the business to a handful of great memories. (Automatic honorable mention is his Hall of Fame inductions).

Winning the Royal Rumble
Courtesy: WWE
Flair's greatest moment came in 1992 when he won the Royal Rumble.  Not only did he set a record up to that point as being in the match the longest, Flair also won his first WWF championship.  Not since Buddy Rogers had a wrestler held both the NWA and WWF World titles.  His first run with the company was short lived, but one of the most action packed of anyone before or since. He had some great matches with Roddy Piper, Randy Savage and Curt Hennig before heading back south.  Because I'd always preferred WWF to any other company (besides World Class) having Flair was the biggest coup of all time.

Final match
Sixteen years later Flair would wrestle in a WWE ring for the last time.  He battled Shawn Michaels in my favorite WrestleMania match I've seen live.  There was so much emotion involved. Most fans knew Flair's career was going to end that night, but we didn't know how.  Those final moments of the match reminded me of being at a party and things start winding down and the good time is about to come to an end.  When Shawn mouthed "I'm sorry, I love you" and superkicked Natch the reality set in.  Three seconds later the career of the greatest of all-time had come to a screeching halt.  The celebration that followed the next night on Raw is one of my fondest memories of a show. (We were there for that too).

Flair vs. Steamboat
I've been bias to Flair's WWE stints, so my final pick is from WCW.  Flair was already NWA champion when I started watching, so I'm going with his feud with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat in 1989 for the world heavyweight title.  Steamboat won the gold in a classic and the two battled it out several times in the months that followed, including the two-out-three match from Clash of the Champions.  Flair eventually regained the title and immediately started a feud with Terry Funk and turned face in the process.  

Obviously these moments are the tip of the iceberg for the amazing career Flair had. Dusty Rhodes, Sting, Hulk Hogan and Von Erichs are just a few of the other favorite opponents he's had. I could go on for days, but I won't.  What are your favorite Flair moments/matches?

Thursday, May 26, 2016


Courtesy: WWE
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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WWE announced earlier this week they’re getting ready to party like it’s 2002 and separate RAW and SmackDown into two brands, with SmackDown going live on Tuesdays starting July 19. There will be a draft to stack the rosters for each show. At this time there are still some uncertainties as to how the brand split will be arranged so instead of writing about specifics, I’m going to throw my 1-2-3 cents around with how I think the WWE should move forward with their plans. 

First off, in order for the brand split to be more successful than the last time they attempted to create their own competition, WWE has to be committed to the idea. There should be a five-year plan in place with specifics of what should be accomplished with the split. 

Making SmackDown live is a positive start as one of the criticisms from 2002 was SmackDown was still seen as the “B” show due to being taped since any shocking events which happened were known days prior to the show airing. 

One of the biggest factors in the split being successful is making RAW and SmackDown into two completely different shows.  They should have different looks, and no, Red and Blue color schemes don’t count. Different entranceways, different presentations and different focuses are needed so the shows have their own identity. To a long-term viewer, this will require Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn to not be the Show Runners for both shows. If RAW and SmackDown look the same fans will see them as one product instead of two. 

Each show should have its own champions. There are conflicting reports going around as to if there will be a champion on each show or if the WWE Champion will float between the two as he did at the start of the original brand extension.  Personally, I wasn’t a fan of one champion. I’d rather see each show have it’s own champion so feuds over the title can be more focused. Plus, right now I’d rather only have to endure Roman Reigns promos on one show. 

If WWE asked me, I would split the brands in this manner: RAW; WWE Champion, I-C Title, Women’s division and Tag-Team division.  SmackDown would then have the World Champion (bring back Big Goldie), US Title and the new Cruiserweight title after the Cruiserweight Challenge ends in the fall. 

Some may argue that both shows should have a tag-team division with there being two sets of titles similar to how it was previously. Given the lack of focus on the tag-team division over the past ten years, I think having only one division for the time being is the best route to go. I loaded up the RAW brand due to RAW having an extra hour to fill each week. Also, during the draft, tag-teams should be counted as one person. Hopefully WWE doesn’t split up teams like they’ve done in the past. The exceptions would be the Social Outcasts and the Wyatt Family. I’m not sure if they should be kept together or split up. 

Based on the current roster, keeping the Social Outcasts and all four Wyatts together, there are 25 male singles wrestlers, 12 active/uninjured female wrestlers and 12 tag-teams.  Splitting the male wrestlers into two groups would give 12 wrestlers on each roster. Raw having the Women’s and Tag-Team divisions would give them enough talent for weekly shows. SmackDown would need the influx of either NXT talent and/or the Cruiserweight division to give the show enough bodies to strengthen the show. 

I think the biggest downfall is already one of WWE’s weaknesses, properly utilizing talent. Once the brand split happens, WWE is going to have to use talent that hasn’t had anything meaningful to do in some time. They’ll have to develop feuds for the Women’s and Tag-Team divisions that don’t revolve around the champions. I’m curious if they’ll be able to do this. 

I don’t want to sound too negative because I think the brand split is a good decision and WWE has the roster to make it work. I am hesitant to be too optimistic due to seeing how WWE botched the original brand split and knowing the wind could change direction next week and Vince McMahon may decide to bring back Sgt. Slaughter as the face of the company. 

I’m curious to see how WWE handles the brand split. Hopefully they have given this serious thought and it’s not something they decided to do on Tuesday and announced on Wednesday. If WWE is dedicated to making it work, creating in brand competition could be the catalyst needed to breathe new life into a currently stale product. Time will tell. 

We want Ryder! (again and still)

Zack Ryder at WrestleMania 32
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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I'm not a bandwagon Zack Ryder fan.  But I will admit I wasn't on board with him early on when he was one of the Major Brothers.  However, when he went solo with the 'Long Island Loudmouth' gimmick, I started taking notice as he worked hard on the mic and in the ring to get himself over with the fans.

Broski of the Week
He toiled on the lower mid-card before introducing us to Long Island Iced Z on YouTube.  His creativity shined again and he was making himself more accessible to a legion of fans who weren't seeing Zack on WWE TV.  I subscribed and watched each week, even sending several different submissions to become "Broski of the Week."  I'm proud to say Zack finally picked me for Episode 22, an accomplishment I still brag about years later.

Ryder finally got his chance on the big stage and captured the U.S. Title.  Clearly the man was over with the fans, but for whatever reason his stint as champ was short lived and he faded back to Main Event (the show) and off shows like SmackDown and Raw. But he continued to entertain us all. 

The Hype Bros
The rollercoaster continued as he seemed to pick up new momentum in a tag team with Mojo Rawley on NXT.  The Hype Bros have a ton of potential, and I thought they might have even had a run as NXT tag team champions.  Then Zack was placed into the ladder match for Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania. 

Ryder wins!
There have been reports he was placed there because Neville was hurt, but Zack made the most of the opportunity.  I watched along with more than 100,000 other fans at AT&T Stadium as he climbed the ladder and snagged the belt.  After some fist pumps and Woo! Woo! Wooing, I had high expectations for the rest of the card.  That victory ended up not only being Ryder's 'WrestleMania' moment, but the highlight of the show for me.  I was proud that he had dusted himself off after years of neglect and literally climbed the ranks to the top.

Courtesy: WWE
When we arrived at Raw the next night and it was announced the title would be defended against The Miz, I had a bad feeling what was going to happen.  While I'm enjoying the rebirth of the Miz, I still think Ryder is grossly underrated, overlooked and misused.  I believe he's one of the most genuine people on the entire roster and works hard daily to move back into the spotlight.  He tweeted this earlier today, which is what inspired this post.  

I know no one from WWE is reading this, but in the off chance someone does, give Zack a legit shot.  WE WANT RYDER!

Monday, May 23, 2016

WWE releases part 2

Cody Rhodes
Courtesy: WWE
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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A couple weeks ago WWE released a handful of talents, ranging from the Brooklyn Brawler to "King" Barrett. Another round of releases has started.  Over the weekend Cody Rhodes requested and was granted his release from WWE.  Embattled Superstar Adam Rose has been 'future endeavored' too.  

Adam Rose
Courtesy: WWE
The Rose release isn't surprising.  He was serving a 60 day suspension for a Wellness Policy violation.  During his time away he was also arrested on domestic charges violence charges.  None of us knows what's going on his life, but I hope whatever hardships he and his family are going through, they get the situation worked out.  Never say never as we could see him back in WWE at some point.

Cody's release was a surprise, but I don't blame him wanting to step away.  He was clearly frustrated with his place on the roster and walking away now gives Cody a chance to perhaps reinvent himself elsewhere or find a whole new line of work.  Again, I wish him nothing but the best.  Here's what Cody had to say about the situation via his Twitter page @PrinceCGR.