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Self Promotion Is So Much Easier When Others Do It For You….

August 24, 2012 1 comment

In this little adventure of a writing career I’ve forayed into over the last couple of years, I’ve had a lot of fun talking to all sorts of interesting people and writing interviews and features for various outlets. It didn’t really occur to me that anyone would ever be interested in turning the microphone around towards my face to record what I was saying, but that’s exactly what the Jeju Weekly did recently, when I sat down with Darryl Coote for my first formal interview. It appears in the August edition of their printed paper, and is available online. And below, for your reading pleasure.

Also, I was recently a guest of Thomas Holzerman on The Wrestling Podcast, from the makers of The Wrestling Blog. I talked about WWE-related stuff for a long time, and even got a little hockey talk in at the end. If that sounds like your cup of tea, click right here to listen, or you can click here to listen/download the show on iTunes

Enjoy the SDC smorgasbord!

-SDC

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Writing and hockey, passion and practice

Dave Cunning, a teacher and freelancer, is likely Jeju’s only former pro hockey player

Friday, August 17, 2012, 09:46:07  Darryl Coote  darrylcoote@jejuweekly.com

I met Dave Cunning a couple weeks back. He came to The Weekly’s office looking to write about sports.

Usually I meet people about town and ask them if they want to write for us. But with Dave, he was one of the few who actually came to me.

Soon after, I learned that Dave and I have some things in common. We’re both Canadian, we both write for newspapers, and we both played hockey — though, impressively, Dave played professionally.

▲ Dave Cunning. Photo by Darryl Coote

In early August I sat down with Dave over a couple of beers to talk shop.

“Well, if you want to get technical,” Dave said, “I started writing in college. I mean it was something that everybody does. You’re writing a hundred papers a year and it just gets to the point where either you get good at it or you don’t.”

And then he found blogging. The freedom it offered him to express whatever was on his mind was a nice break from the rigidity of essays.

In 2006, Dave, who only recently became engaged, took blogging with him to France where he went to play professional hockey for Lyon H.C.

“That was one of the things I wrote [about]; I was writing about my experience. I was away from everyone I knew … and I was just alone with a computer and I wanted to tell people what was going on and I just wrote.”

To play hockey at the professional level, he said, was one of his greatest accomplishments.

“I always wanted to play pro hockey. It’s not something that everybody gets to say [they did].”

After that season he went home to Kelowna, British Columbia, where the transition from sport to a regular job wasn’t easy.

“It’s tough when you’ve spent your life pursuing a dream and … [it’s] the only thing that matters and then you’re doing something that couldn’t matter less. You’re working for a paycheck, you’re working to get by. And it’s awful.”

Since he hung up his skates, writing has been a way for Dave to stay in touch with the game he loves. He is still just as invested he said, it’s just from a different perspective.

And though it may not seem like it at first, for Dave there are two main similarities between writing and hockey — passion and practice.

“When you latch on to a story that you love, your best comes out. It’s not that different from the game of hockey. When you’re tuned into the game, you’ve trained, you’ve practiced, you’ve done a million pushups, you’ve done a million wind sprints, you‘ve done everything because you want to be the best at the game.”

The same is true with writing.

“If you half-ass a story it’s going to show up pretty quick,” he said.

The first story Dave wrote (and was paid for) for the Kelowna Daily Courier shows where these two disciplines intersect.

He visited a Kelowna Rockets practice and saw the players in line, just stick handling. “It was just like a hockey school,” he said. Just the basic back and forth from foot to foot.

And for Dave that was the hook for his story. These players, who were one step below the NHL, were doing drills for children just learning the game and he wanted to show that the game doesn’t change much from minor to professional hockey.

“And it’s not that different from writing,” he said. “The best writers probably write every day, probably two or three times a day, or more. We put this crazy interpretation or perception on professionals of any genre that they’re doing these mystical things that normal people can’t do and at the end of the day they just have been doing them consistently, and long enough, to be in really good practice to do them well.”

Along with The Weekly, Dave writes as a contributor for the Kelowna Daily Courier, BetOnHockey.com, and The Score’s Backhand Shelf. For these publications he’s interviewed some pretty big names in the hockey world like Pat Quinn and Mark Recchi. But to Dave, “I like to think every interview is my biggest one. You never know what you’re going to hear, you never know what you get to write, and you never know who is going to read what you get to write.”

Impressively, from Jeju’s shores he is writing once a month for the Kelowna Daily Courier.

For Dave and his wife, Karma, this has been their second foray to Korea to teach English. They were originally in Geoje Island, near the mainland. They left for a year and came to Jeju this past March, and so far it seems to be agreeing with him.

“I want to keep writing. I want to keep training. I want to keep doing the things I love. I want to keep doing the things I’m passionate about. If there’s an opportunity to keep doing that on Jeju then yeah we very well might stay longer. Like I said this place is beautiful. Jeju has so many things to offer for my wife and myself; everybody really.”

Hockey Talkie: Penguins on Raw, Byfuglien’s Korean Love Child, NYR Fan Bus

May 15, 2012 Leave a comment

 

Hey New York Rangers fans, Vector Media is “dropping the puck” on NYR’s Eastern Conference Finals showdown with the New Jersey Devils with double-decker buses that will provide NY Ranger “Fan rides” around MSG – Times Sq 42nd street and back. Fans from all over the country will come in for a chance to receive a free ride on the double decker buses and show their team spirit by joining the traveling Pep Rally and cheering for the Rangers. The buses will have former Ranger players (TBA) and video crews who will be filming the action – throughout the game they will show clips of the fan rides on the giant screens in MSG. All New York Rangers fans are eligible to ride the buses! The bus rolls Wednesday, May 16th; Wednesday, May 23rd; and Sunday, May 27th; running from 4-8pm every night. Check out www.vectormedia.com for more info. And if you’re in the New York area, hop on!

Speaking of the Rangers, you need to check out DJ Steve Porter’s latest remix — “Next Question” featuring John Tortorella. Phenomenal. I love these.

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I’ve been a big NHL and WWE fan since I was a kid, so it’s always fun for me when those worlds manage to collide with each other. The 05/14/12 edition of WWE Raw was filmed live from the Consol Energy Center, and a handful of Penguins players in attendance were not immune to public address from John Cena and John Laurinaitis:

This is not the first time the Penguins have crossed paths with WWE — in December 2011, CM Punk tweeted a pic from his meeting with Penguins perennial heel Matt Cooke, who signed a stick for him (perhaps still trying to get over as a good guy at the time).

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I spotted this kid at the school I work at, who sure seems to resemble Dustin Byfuglien quite a bit, wouldn’t you say? Is it possible that in one of Big Buff’s drunken boating excursions, he managed to cross the Pacific Ocean and impregnate a Korean woman with his love child? #unsubstantiated #speculation

 

Wrestling With Shadows No More: Why Bret Hart is Back With WWE.

March 23, 2010 4 comments

 

If you’ve been watching WWE’s Monday Night Raw at all since January of this year, you’re probably fully aware that my boyhood hero, Bret “Hitman” Hart is back working for Vince McMahon.  Bret made an absolutely stunning return that made my nostalgic emotions struggle to keep composed, and kept my neck hair standing on end.  Though he looked like the weathered and beaten down war-horse Vince would later describe him as during the in-ring promo, it’d never been better to see Bret.  Regarding his re-introduction to the WWE audience, Bret mentioned, “”It’s hard to begin describing what a surrealistic feeling it was to walk out on the ramp to “Hitman” chants and my music pounding in my head.”  After 12 years of Bret standing by his actions, and standing against what WWE had done to him, Bret had mended the wounds.  As justified as he was, and would have been in carrying that bitterness around for the rest of his life, it really felt like Bret had done the right thing; forgiven his trespassers, and made an attempt to make a positive out of probably one of the largest negatives in history.  Inadvertently, it seemed like peace and closure to a tumultuous life chapter was on the horizon.

It was incredible to first see Bret “bury the hatchet” with long time, documented real-life enemy, Michael Hickenbottom, aka Shawn Michaels.  Of that encounter, Bret said,

“ It’s worth mentioning that although I did see Shawn earlier in the afternoon in the cafeteria, our in-ring face-off was unrehearsed and heartfelt on both sides and I can finally say that Shawn and I have finally made peace in what has been a long, draining, and sometimes pointless war of personalities…I finally found some closure.”

In the world of kayfabe and storylines, it’s pretty difficult to really know what’s going on for sure; even the writers don’t even know.  This one seems legit though.

Beyond the personal reasons, many still speculate the “real” reasons for Bret’s return.  Some thought Vince McMahon feared Hulk Hogan’s arrival in rival wrestling company TNA as a ratings threat ala the Monday Night Wars with WCW in the 90’s, and bringing Bret back was Vince’s neutralizer to secure winning ratings.  Bret disagrees.  In fact, Bret himself has said he approached WWE about the comeback 3 years ago.  It is fishy that WWE became interested at the time of the Hogan situation though, despite McMahon’s repeated denial that TNA is any sort of threat or competition for WWE.  Hulk Hogan himself commented on Bret’s return, saying,

“I’m so happy to see Bret Hart come in to go against me because he hated the business. He was bitter. He hated Vince. And you’ve got to move on. Positively. I’m so happy to see Bret – and I’ve talked to some of Bret’s family members and he’s excited about coming. He’s excited about coming to RAW. I love Bret Hart to death. I’m excited for Bret to come back. And guess what? I already won again. Because Vince McMahon is now showing that he’s worried about Hulk Hogan going head to head.”

Hogan clearly feels that Bret’s return is suspiciously motivated.  Hulk has been known to make some debated claims though; hard to say if he actually talked to any of the Hart’s like he’s claimed.  And also, Bret and Hulk haven’t exactly been the best of friends either over the years.

TNA’s Eric Bischoff also commented on Bret’s return, saying,

As expected, WWE is reacting to the competition by bringing in Bret Hart.  I am happy for Bret. Hopefully, by going back to work for Vince and the WWE, Bret will be able to put a painful and personally traumatic part of his life behind him. I have always liked Bret as a person and respected him as a professional. It was disappointing to me when I would read or hear comments that Bret would make, that reflected the bitterness he has been carrying around with him for so long. Bret has an opportunity now to write the last chapter of his book in a way that will allow fans to remember him in a more positive way.  I wish the best for Bret.”

There are also those who have speculated that Bret’s return is simply motivated financially.  Bret has been receiving disability insurance money since after his career-ending concussion, and subsequent stroke.  A wrestling match couldn’t possibly be encouraged by an insurance company forking out money to someone wrestling a match when they’re supposedly not physically capable of doing it.  Either there’s a loophole in that deal, or WWE has bought out the policy entirely; who’s to say?  Bret has said, “I’m not opposed to making a little money . . . but I still don’t need to do it.”

Other motivations include the pending induction of Bret’s father, Stu, into the WWE Hall of Fame, a Hart Family DVD being released, and the promotion and elevation of Bret’s family members, DH Smith, Natalya, and Tyson Kidd; aka The Hart Dynasty.  However, The Hart Dynasty appears on Smackdown rather than Raw, and hasn’t been featured once during Bret’s segments, with the exception of an off-camera segment after Bret’s return night.  So much for that theory.

A common theme of Bret’s return rationale seems to be that he’s just simply been bored, and that he was looking to have some fun, as I heard him say in TV interviews on Off The Record, and The Hour.  I hope Bret’s been enjoying it, because much of it has been hard to watch.  Surely it’s all part of a lead up to the Wrestlemania Street Fight between Bret and Vince, but I don’t know if Bret’s really needed to have Vince spit in his face (like Bret did to Vince after Survivor Series ’97), and generally embarrassed in a few other seemingly unnecessary ways.  Former WWF, WCW, and current TNA writer, Vince Russo said,

All that is coming across is how egotistical McMahon is – and it’s a travesty for Bret to come back and be treated the way he’s treated. There’s a way to do an angle and do it with class and a respectful manner to not do some of things to Bret.”  Russo also says, ” that just reeks the ego of Vince McMahon” and that’s one of the reasons he (Russo) left the company.

It has been fun to see Bret “beat up” Vince once, and blast him in the face with a cast though.  Bret’s always claimed to be the safest wrestler of all-time – never hurting any of his opponents.  Ever the consummate professional, it may be tough for Bret to not let a few rights “slip” their way into Vince’s jaw for real, just for old times’ sake.

So whatever the motivation, I’m glad to see Bret back.  It’s the right thing to do, and I’m looking forward to riding the nostalgia wave as far as the tide takes it.  Now could someone please inform Bret that those aviator sunglasses he keeps coming out wearing look brutal, and that he needs to wear his old sweet wrap-around sunglasses?  Also, don’t expect to see Bret donning the pink and black tights of old; he’s vetoed those as well.

My Encounters With the Hitman / Bret Hart Comes Full Circle.

December 30, 2009 4 comments

Hell has frozen over, and the swine have flown to Mexico for the winter.

The term “Never Say Never” has, well, never, been more appropriate.  Bret Hart is coming back to WWE TV. 

We all had childhood heroes, and Bret “Hitman” Hart happened to be one of mine.  Though I would find out much later in life through his 2007 autobiography, “Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling”, that he cheated on his wife a lot and dabbled in steroids; I looked up to the guy, or at least his on-screen persona, for most of my adolescence.  The “Hitman” character was a great role model (as far as wrestlers go); always standing up for what was right, never backing down from a challenge, the pursuit of excellence, teamwork, national pride, and all sorts of other BS that plenty of parents have a difficult time instilling in their children.  He even took a verbal stand against the sexual content appearing in WWE programs, knowing full well how many children tune into the show.

Though I saw him perform on TV plenty of times, I only ever got to see him wrestle live once at a non-televised “house-show” in Vancouver’s Agridome when I was in 7th grade.  We had seats pretty far back, but when I heard his entrance music start, I rushed up to the ringside barrier and was quite surprised how easily I got right to the front.  He was the WWF Champion at the time, so when he was coming around high-fiving all the fans around the ring, he had the title belt draped over his shoulder.  I remember as he drew closer to me that I was going to have to make a split-second decision over whether to slap his hand or touch the belt.  Citing in my elementary school educated mind that the belt had been with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, and other legends, I elected to touch the belt.  As Bret moved onto the next fans beside me, I sort of remember getting a bewildered look from him.  Immediately, I knew I had made the wrong decision, and I’ve regretted it ever since. 

I encountered Bret again at the Molson Indy Vancouver in 1998 or 1999.  I can’t nail down the date for certain, but I remember I was still in school, and he was signing 8×10” glossy’s of him posing with the WCW US Title belt, which he held in both of those years.  My dad had gotten tickets to the race nearly annually through work.  While in the hotel, I caught on the news that Bret was at the event signing autographs, and starting the race, or something celebrity-ish.  After quite literally racing down to the track (pun) from the hotel with family in tow (actually, I couldn’t drive yet, so they were effectively towing me), I got to the end of the dwindling autograph line.  The security guard told me that he had already been signing overtime and was about to leave.  I tried my best to be a good, well-behaved fan for as long as I could, but it was to no avail.  My hero eluded me.

Right in between those encounters is where an event took place that makes this pending return to WWE TV so incredible.  The whole series of events is documented in a 1998 film called Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows, a movie that accidentally uncovered the most dynamic real-life drama in the history of the wrestling business.  Around 1997, Bret’s contract was set to expire.  He resigned a 20 year deal with the then WWF to secure him in the company, and away from competitor WCW that had taken Hogan, Savage, and many other past-prime wrestlers and edged them out of the ratings war with.  Later in the year, McMahon informed Bret that the company was in “financial peril” and he wasn’t going to be able to make good on the contract.  Vince helped Bret negotiate a deal with WCW to commence at the expiry of his current contract at the conclusion of 1997.  There was concern on McMahon’s side that Bret, the then world champion, would bring the title belt to WCW TV and exploit it the way Alundra Blayze did when she took the WWF Women’s title to WCW and threw it in a garbage can during a live broadcast in 1995.  As Bret was given “reasonable creative control” of his character for the remainder of his contract, he and Vince worked out an “amicable” finish to his WWF run (Bret wore a “wire” in a backstage meeting), which would have him drop the belt gracefully on Monday Night Raw, the night after Survivor Series 1997; as he was having issues losing to his storyline and real-life nemesis, Shawn Michaels (yes, actually real fist-fights off-camera) in Canada as Bret’s character was currently a overtly Pro-

A moment of infamy.

Canadian one.  The Survivor Series match went down and concluded with an entirely different finish than was discussed; Shawn “beat” Bret after the referee said he submitted (he didn’t) and Vince himself ordered the bell rung.  After the match, Bret spit in Vince’s face, and destroyed a bunch of monitors and TV equipment.  A further backstage confrontation between Bret and Vince turned into McMahon walking out of Bret’s locker room with a black eye, woozy from being knocked out, and limping from a sprained ankle.  Needless to say, Bret hadn’t just left the company on friendly terms. 

In the last 12 years, Bret has still remained in the WWE realm.  The very next night after SS ’97, Shawn brought out a little person dressed as Bret to further humiliate him, and gloat about his title win.  A few years later, Shawn “apologized” on-camera for his part in the “Montreal Screwjob”; though he didn’t really say he was sorry.  Bret smelled a rat and declined his apology on his website.  Bret’s brother Owen died in 1999 while performing a ring entrance stunt that went wrong; Bret and his family sued the WWE, and seemingly further divided the already strained relationship. 

In 2005, Bret and WWE jointly produced a DVD collection chronicling Bret’s

A relationship on the mend.

 wrestling career.  It was a large success, and some would say that this partnership paved the way for Bret’s WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2006, where Bret appeared live, and gave a speech.  He declined to appear in front of the live audience the next night at Wrestlemania, citing that he wasn’t comfortable with it.  Interestingly, he stipulated that he didn’t want Shawn anywhere near the event or he would walk out.  Michaels obliged, and there was no incident.  This year, WWE teased a Hitman appearance at a Calgary event; they played his entrance music and introduced him, but the Canadian crowd was greeted by “American Hero” Sgt. Slaughter waving “Old Glory” instead.  And this brings us to the latest incident, where after Raw guest host Dennis Miller teased Bret’s return again, amongst internet rumors of Bret signing an on-camera contract, McMahon himself (with the aid of Michaels) announced that Bret will return to WWE as Raw’s guest host next week.  With his contractual obligations speculatively lasting until Wrestlemania, a Bret/Vince/Shawn storyline seems unavoidable.

So now I’m emotionally torn.  I’m thrilled that my former hero is returning to TV, but I’m concerned about the motives behind the comeback.  Bret suffered a career-ending concussion while in WCW, and a stroke while in retirement; so the odds of him actually involving himself physically are ultra slim.  He made a lot of money over his career, and I doubt he’s hurting for a payday.  So what’s the motivation?  He could be in it to help out his relatives of The Hart Dynasty.  But after all the years of sticking to his guns, and saying he’d never forget what happened to him or do business with WWE again, here he is.  Bret has been criticized for years about not being able to “move on” or “let it go”; is this maybe just simply the way to bring closure to a legendary, but expired, issue?  Has he finally been able to forgive and forget?  Should his fans do the same as well?

To those who follow wrestling, it’s no secret that Hulk Hogan is making his debut for TNA Wrestling on the same night; so clearly Bret’s return is in hopes of thwarting a ratings shift.  But contrary to the last few years of haphazardly tuning in to WWE due to uninteresting storylines and over-played feuds, I’m going to be absolutely glued to my TV come Monday.

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