Monday, March 26, 2012

VP Dick Cheney undergoes heart transplant

It is being reported that former Vice President Dick Cheney underwent a successful heart transplant. He is recovering in a Virginia hospital.

Right now, the debate brewing is looking at ageism, whether or not Cheney was too old to receive a new heart and if that should have gone to somebody younger, who could have potentially lived a longer, healthier life. I haven't given that subject a lot of thought. I may return to it later.

For now, I want to leave you with this song from the Rolling Stones' 2005 album "A Bigger Bang." It was written about the Bush administration. It is called "Sweet NeoCon."

CM Punk, Bryan Danielson Ring of Honor dvd sets out now

As we've discussed here a few times before, two of my favorite wrestlers are CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Both hold the top two titles in professional wrestling, as Punk is the WWE Champion and Bryan is the World Champion. Both are defending them in high-profile matches at this Sunday's WrestleMania 28.

The last time I blogged about the two of them, I wrote about their small feud based on who the best wrestler in the world was. I wrote about their past in Ring of Honor and how that shaped these two into the wrestlers that they have become today. That blog is below:

Best in the World

The reason I'm bringing them up again is that Ring of Honor has decided to cash in on the success of two of their most famous alums, as they have recently released 2-disk sets on both CM Punk and Bryan Danielson (his name in that promotion).

The CM Punk set chronicles his final few months in Ring of Honor, in 2004. He had signed a deal to leave for WWE. It was expected. One of the problems with ROH creating a top star is that you basically create talent for WWE to take from you. So, nobody was surprised when Punk announced that he was leaving ROH for WWE. But, everybody was surprised when he won the ROH title and said he was taking it with him.

The "Summer of Punk" as he dubbed it, saw CM Punk become one of the highest-profile wrestlers in the world. Challengers tried to take his championship, and Punk kept beating them. As the end of his ROH run was coming near, he was finally unseated. By whom? You'll just have to buy it yourself and find out. Or search Google.

If you've followed wrestling lately, does any of that sound familiar? Last summer, which CM Punk also dubbed the "Summer of Punk," he announced that his contract was expiring and he was going to take the WWE title with him, mentioning ROH as one place he could go.

While CM Punk was one of the hottest stars in ROH for a short period of time, Bryan Danielson could be considered the heart and soul of Ring of Honor. He wrestled on the first-ever Ring of Honor show in 2002, with his final match coming seven years later after signing a WWE contract.

Trained by multiple-time WWE Champion Shawn Michaels, Danielson was considered pound-for-pound, the greatest technical wrestler in the world. That's where the "Best in the World" tag came from. It wasn't some catchy slogan that he thought would sell some shirts. Bryan Danielson earned that nickname by putting his body on the line for years.

His set, titled "The American Dragon," after his first wrestling nickname, is a compilation of some of his greatest matches during his ROH stint. If you like great wrestling, this is for you. If you want to see how this vegan from Aberdeen, Washington became the World Heavyweight Champion in WWE, watch him develop his skills on these two disks.

Both sets can be ordered at Ring of Honor's official website,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Austin Aries, longest-reigning X-Division champ

Austin Aries, the first ever 2-time Ring of Honor champion, can now add a new accomplishment to his ever-growing list. He is the longest-reigning X-Division champion in the 10-year history of TNA.

He beat the previous 182-day reign of "Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels, and it honestly doesn't look like it will end any time soon.

A-Double, as he's dubbed himself, is at the top of his game right now. He is one of the top wrestlers in the three major promotions (WWE, TNA, ROH). He has all three of the top qualities that one needs to be a successful professional wrestler - a good look, good speaking skills, and great wrestling skills.

He is one of my favorite things going on in TNA right now. He's one of my reasons for watching. If you're not watching TNA and Austin Aries, I'd suggest checking it out. The product has improved a lot lately, and hopefully the trend of good wrestling on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on Spike TV continues.

The above video was from the Thursday night before last Sunday's pay-per-view. His opponent was Zema Ion, aka my girlfriend's friend from college, Mike. Aries' defeated Ion and I don't see any viable challengers on the horizon for "the greatest man who ever lived."

ECW Original Shane Douglas publicity stunt from WWE Monday Night Raw

Shane Douglas is remembered as one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of Extreme Championship Wrestling. World Wrestling Entertainment bought the company's assets after ECW went out of business in 2001. As such, they own the history of the Philadelphia-based, extreme promotion.

Shane Douglas had a very forgettable mid-90s run in WWE as Dean Douglas. He did not endear himself politically to some of the higher ups of WWE, and has never returned to the promotion.

When WWE produced an ECW tribute pay-per-view titled "ECW: One Night Stand" in 2005, Shane Douglas went to work and created his own ECW tribute event held the same week, called "Hardcore Homecoming." A documentary, "Forever Hardcore" was made about the event.

The last ECW reunion event was put on by TNA in 2010. Their "Hard Justice" pay-per-view was renamed "Hardcore Justice" and several ECW-themed matches were presented. One of the most notable wrestlers against the event was Shane Douglas. He had two main problems with the event - he said that nearly 10 years later, it was time to let ECW stay dead. And, he also said that they offered him a disrespectful amount of money to work the event.

That's surprising to me, because Douglas has seemingly had a very good relationship with TNA over the years. He wrestled for them in their early years, then settled into the role of a backstage announcer when his full-time wrestling days were over.

After hearing his comments about leaving ECW alone, it then really surprised me about 5 months or so ago to hear that Shane was creating his own ECW-based reunion special called "Extreme Reunion."

After hearing more about it, I'm intrigued about the concept. It is not a one-off, ECW reunion like several others over the years. The plan is for it to become a full-time promotion in the same vein as ECW, and the key to get attention is to feature former ECW stars prominently in the begining and then phase them out.

I'm guessing "Extreme Reunion" is just being used to gather attention for them, and then an actual name for the promotion will be debuted at some point down the line. I figure the main stars initially will be former ECW stars who can still "go" at a pretty high speed - Jerry Lynn, Justin Credible, Sabu (surprisingly), Little Guido - and feature as a garnish the former ECW stars who can still "go" at a decent speed, provided there is enough bells and whistles to cover up their age and limitations - Raven, Douglas, Tommy Dreamer, etc. And, then those older stars will be phased out by newer stars.

I mentioned in a previous blog the importance of Philadelphia in wrestling history. ECW was based out of Philadelphia. The March 19, episode of Monday Night Raw was in Philadelphia. At around 9:30 p.m. during a Kane versus Big Show match, apparently Shane Douglas was sitting in the front row wearing a lucha libre mask. He took it off, revealing himself, and was promptly escorted out of the building.

I didn't catch it on TV. He was sitting on the side that would have been visible on screen. The video embedded above was from a person sitting beside him. The video isn't so great because he was likely hiding the fact that he was recording it, since doing that is against WWE rules.

What I'm most surprised by is how quickly he was escorted out of the arena. He took the mask off, was instantly spotted by somebody in WWE's production truck, and within seconds a security guy came over and told him to "take a walk."

His little publicity stunt was a success. It has people talking about Extreme Reunion. We'll see what happens with the event when things pick up in the coming months. It sounds like a good idea, in theory.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

That time I almost got beat up over a newspaper article...

Concord University's Mountain Lion football team are the current WVIAC champions. That means that in their division, Concord is the best football team in the state. Their 44-40 victory over WV Wesleyan, to go along with their 7-4 season record was the final process of a complete turnaround for the football team over the last several years.

When I got to Concord in 2004, the team's last winning record was in 1998. 2008 was the worst, as they did not achieve a single victory, ending their season at 0-11. 2009 saw the entrance of Mike Kellar as head coach, who instantly turned the team around. In his two seasons, the Mountain Lions turned things around completely, as I think they only lost 7 or 8 games in those two seasons. He left before the 2011 season and was replaced with Garin Justice. The rest, as they say, is history.

For a few years back in the day, I covered the football team for The Concordian. There are tons of stories I can tell you about my days covering the football team, but the one I've chosen for this occasion took place in 2007 [Click here to see my headshot from back then]. It involves me almost getting beaten up by the star of the football team. And I use the term "star" loosely, because that's back when they sucked.

One of the greatest things I'm proud of from my tenure as Editor-in-Chief of The Concordian was the improved coverage on the sports pages. The Sports Editor at the time was Jonathan Greene, who recently worked for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. One of the chief writers for the section was Mike Stanton, whose column "Mike's World of Sports" always elicited a reaction, whether positive or negative.

My main focus on the newspaper staff over the years had been on the news side, specifically the actions of the Student Government Association. But, I always wrote where I was needed and occasionally I was needed on the sports pages. For my first few years on the staff, the sports section wasn't really good. That was mostly due to two reasons - a lack of enthusiastic and competent sports writers, and a lack of good sports teams to write about. Cross Country and track were the only sports that did really well. The rest were average. And, the football team was the worst in the state (and at one point in 2008, was ranked last in the nation).

By the time I was in charge of the newspaper, we finally had some good coverage in place. With the improved coverage of sports, it led to more people talking about sports, which led to more people writing about sports. I had talked to a lot of people about the football team that season. In particular, a freshman who had told me he didn't try out for the team because he thought their record and coach was embarrassing. Two important things had happened that season - a new WVIAC attendance record had taken place in Charleston. More people than ever had witnessed Concord get blown out in spectacular fashion. That was earlier in the season. The most recent loss was the Homecoming game. Their record was now 0-6.

I had thought about writing a piece about the football team on the opinion section, but was on the fence about it. But, as was the case back then, something fell through with an article and there was a gap on the opinions page, right before the deadline. Deadline in this case being roughly noon on Tuesday. It was probably sometime after 10 am and I realized that there was nothing there and it was my job to fill that space. So I wrote a piece that was titled something to the effect of "Football team's 0-6 record an embarrassment."

To deviate slightly from the story to tell another story (that ties into this story)... Shortly after Candace and I started dating, she saw that I was on my phone. She asked who I was texting. I told her it was Kelly. Kelly, of course, being my previous girlfriend. She seemed irked by that, but I assured her it was nothing to hide, as we had stayed friends after the dissolution of our relationship. I showed her my phone to prove my point. She skimmed the messages and offered the comment, "You guys call each other 'Buddy' a lot."

That Tuesday in 2007, Kelly stopped by the newspaper office so we could go eat lunch. She was waiting in the office while I finished writing my piece about the football team. Also at this time, a room in the office was getting painted. Two of Concord's maintenance workers, an older man and older woman, were in the room with us. Every time they spoke to each other, they referred to each other as "Buddy" or "Partner." One would say, "Can you hand me that brush, Buddy?" And the other would respond, "Sure thing, Partner." Every single time they spoke to each other, they did this. So, as a joke, after that day Kelly and I started doing it. Gradually, we dropped "Partner" but kept "Buddy." We still do it to this day.

For the piece, I honestly don't think I was too harsh. I opened it with something about how they had just lost the Homecoming game and how Concord doesn't really have a huge Homecoming atmosphere (outside of the Greek community) due to their poor record over the years. I then examined all six of their games that season, looking at the score and offering my thoughts on how it was embarrassing.

I closed it by admitting that I didn't know how to solve the problem. I noted that losing teams who are looking to turn around their fortunes usually make coaching changes. I said that I wasn't sure that was the solution to the problem, but I said that an 0-6 team was a problem and something needed to be done about it.

The article hit campus on Wednesday. That morning, I decided to skip my 10 o'clock class (and we wonder why I haven't graduated yet...) and get some work done in the newspaper office. Shortly after 10, the phone rings. It is the Athletic Information Director (or whatever the position is called). Basically, the guy in charge of the athletic website. He wanted to let me know that he had already received about 20 calls about my article, and that none of them were particularly happy. I thanked him for letting me know and told him that he could forward those calls to me or tell them how they could write a letter to the editor to be printed.

Later that afternoon, I was walking back to my dorm, Wooddell Hall. As I was walking up to the glass doors, I saw the Resident Director and about four people gathered around a newspaper. As I got closer, I saw all of them look at me and stop talking. As I opened the door, I looked at the paper and saw my headshot staring back at me. Speaking of staring, all of the people standing there were looking at me as I walked past them. It was honestly one of the few moments of my life that I would characterize as awkward.

That Friday, three incidents happened. Two were kind of funny. The third one was kind of scary.

First, I was walking through the student center. I had to walk past a table that had some football players at it. As I got up to it, a man that goes by the name of "Tank" Toland recognized me. He's that star player I wrote about earlier. I don't remember his actual first name, but the nickname is fitting. I was in a hurry and was walking past him and he started to say something. All I managed to hear was "You bastard!" I turned around and he said, "Yeah, I was talking to you!" I kept walking. That's not the last time I'll see him that day.

I went to my 10 o'clock class that day. It was History 101. I sit next to some football players. I take my seat and I hear some snickering. They have a football game that day, and at the end of class the professor mentions that. He turns to the football player sitting next to me and asks how he thinks the game will go. He says "Why don’t we ask the Editor-in-Chief here." The professor looks at me and I say, "I don’t think they're gonna win." The class laughs, the football players don't.

After class, I'm walking back to the newspaper office. It's located in the Fine Arts Building. To get to the Athletic Building, you have to walk through the fine arts building. So, the football player that deferred to me in class and I are basically walking together. As we enter the building, I'm going to go downstairs and he's going to walk straight through the next set of doors. At that same time, leaving the athletic building and walking through the fine arts building is Tank Toland.

I guess the other player lets him know that I'm a short distance away. I hear "Hey!" I turn around. Tank is walking toward me. He says, "You better not be writing any more shit about me in the paper!"

I honestly think he's joking, which is why I'm so incredibly happy that he didn't hear the next words out of my mouth - "If you start winning some games I won't have to!" For my safety, it's a good thing he didn't hear that.

He power-walks over to me and I'm backed up to a vending machine. There's less than a foot of space between us and I can clearly tell that he is beyond mad at me. He is livid.

The name "Tank" isn't just something cute somebody decided to call this guy. He isn’t called Tank because he fucked a bunch of frat girls. I am fairly certain that I have heard his height listed at 6'8" tall. Even if that's an exaggeration, he is definitely on the upper half of the 6-foot mark. He's well over 200 pounds. Grizzled old-timers use the term "Brick Shithouse" to describe guys like that.

Compare that to me. I am 5'5" and around the 150 lb mark. It was a comic mismatch - I'm backed up against this vending machine, literally looking straight into the air. He is towering over me, staring straight down at me. The football player from my class is standing in the distance laughing.

His eyes are wide with rage. "Don't you ever disrespect me like that again!" I don't say anything, mostly because he doesn't give me the chance to. "You think you're fucking tough? You think you're a tough guy?" Again, I'm staring straight up at him, not responding. "If you ever disrespect me like that again, I will break your face!"

With that, he starts to move closer to me and raises a fist. The other football player is no longer laughing. He has walked up and has put his arm around Tank's waist, trying to separate us. He's saying, "Relax, man. He's not worth it. Let's go."

He backs away, never taking his eyes off of me until he rounds the corner and is out of sight. I let out a deep breath and continue my journey to the newspaper office. I sit down and replay that over and over in my head. As odd as it sounds, I only had one thought after I had calmed down - "I wish he had hit me."

How cool would that have been, to print a picture of myself in the newspaper with a black eye and the caption "A guy over a foot taller than me did this because I wrote the truth about the football team."

They did lose their game that night. I think they won their game the following week. It was their only win that season, as they went 1-10. The next season, they went 0-11. That zero-win season, we finally got rid of the football coach, Greg Quick. Was he fired? No, he was actually promoted within the university. But that's another story for another time.

Tangled Up In Plaid

"Tangled Up In Plaid," Queens of the Stone Age