Thursday, August 25, 2016
Exclusively at Target, Dusty Rhodes returns to the toy shelf...and the ring. Dusty is packaged along with the first Mattel-produced World Championship Wrestling ring. To top off the deal, Dusty includes the "Big Gold" belt as an accessory. Sure, if you look closely it has the WWE logo on it, but did you really expect them to totally remold the thing? This is truly one of those sets that no one would have seen coming. It's definitely directed towards more of a niche market than Mattel is usually comfortable with. For that, and some facts that I'm about to get to, I thank them.
I like the color scheme and the fact that Mattel took the time to get the WCW colors right. You get two large ring apron WCW stickers that are a perfect reproduction of what really appeared back then. Personally, I always choose to only apply one of these stickers as that's all you really need if you're going to display. That way you have a backup or you can turn the ring around if you just want it to represent a generic, vintage-looking ring. Everything here is easy to assemble right out of the box. The posts snap in snugly and the ropes are pretty much good to go.
Dusty comes in his own little case just inside the window box. Mattel didn't scrimp here, either. This is a figure that easily could have seen release all by itself. An all-new facial likeness direct from a classic Dusty-as-NWA-Champion photo is utilized here, and I've heard nothing but praise for it. This is Dusty Rhodes. If you have one of the Mattel classic Ric Flair releases then you're all set. From the facial expression to the boots to the splotch, it's almost as if my all-time favorite wrestler has returned to life in all of his 1980's glory.
Where else are you going to get a new WCW ring in 2016? Supporting this exclusive could very well open doors to similar items. I could definitely see Mattel trying out a Nitro ring at retail level, possibly with a figure from the nWo. How about ECW? Deep down I'd love to believe that an AWA ring could even be possible. A few years ago I would've scoffed at the idea thanks to Mattel's track record. As we now see, that is very quickly turning around. It's a total "dream" to have this new Dusty figure and new WCW product, so go out and support it!
Thursday, August 18, 2016
As usual with Heritage, I cracked open a hobby box. As with most Topps WWE releases, a hobby box guarantees two "hits" (autographs, relics, etc.) and, in recent years, has almost always yielded a complete base card set. The design of the box remains very similar to 2015, changing in color from blue to yellow. The bright colors work well for these retro sets. Once again a mixture of current and past WWE Superstars adorn the box, with no real surprises as far as names included. The packs themselves feature The Rock, John Cena, and Andre the Giant.
The base card design this year is based off the 1986 Topps Baseball collection. I owned that full set as a kid, probably still do, and I remember it being a favorite. In place of the MLB team names we get Superstar, Legend, or NXT. Some of the autograph cards have "Diva," as well, in what will likely be the last time that we see that designation. The photo selections are good, although I noticed at least one change from the sales sheets. A "Macho King" Randy Savage card was planned and for whatever reason we got a rather ordinary "Macho Man" card instead. A change to "Macho King" would've been something different, but I'm sure something got in the way to cause the switch.
My autograph "hit" from this set was a Brie Bella on-card autograph. I'm very glad that the on-card autographs have returned for Heritage. Ever since Topps started integrating the on-card autos into their sets, I've quite frankly been spoiled. I was very disappointed when, upon opening a box of Topps WWE 2016, the autograph card was once again a stick-on. While the autograph pulls in Heritage 2016 are sharp, I can't say the same thing for the relics. I pulled a Bray Wyatt Survivor Series mat relic that is, to be perfectly honest, boring. While relics are definitely overdone at this point, things can be done to make them more appealing. That is not the case here.
My verdict? I love the designs. The lineup and some of the photos left me a bit underwhelmed, but this set definitely scores higher with me than 2015. The cards all have that vintage feel, where as some of the subsets last year were an odd mix of retro and current material. It's nice to see that we've now gotten two Heritage sets in consecutive years. In my opinion there is no reason that it should be less than annual. As I suggested last year, a 30th anniversary of the Topps 1987 WWF/WrestleMania III set would be a great idea for 2017. The American-themed border was a simple yet amazing design that we see a glimpse of this year in the "Turn Back The Clock" subset. They could even do a WrestleMania subset with an image from all 32 events. Come on Topps, I give my geniusin' away for free here!
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Ten years later and I still remember entering the hotel. The venue was the beautiful DoubleTree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in Rockville. Entering through a corridor from the parking garage, my friends and I had our first glimpse out into the immense center of the hotel and spotted Nick Bockwinkel eating breakfast. Although I had my first Fanfest experience nearly two years earlier, I'd forgotten how surreal it was to see the legends of professional wrestling casually going about their lives. The hotel itself was beautiful and was well-suited to host the event, but promoter Greg Price later noted that those running the hotel weren't as conducive to Fanfest as those at its usual home of the Charlotte University Place Hilton.
These were the glory days of wrestling conventions not only for the amount of talent that was available, but the merchandise, too. Where could a collector pick up "black card" LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars figures for $75 a piece these days? The aisles were not clogged with vendor after vendor of common DVDs as many shows feature today. These sellers had true memorabilia. That being said, I remember being particularly pleased that one table had the then-brand new Jakks WWE Classic Superstars Fabulous Freebirds 3-Pack available. While I paid a tad more than retail, the set was then a Wal Mart exclusive and had limited distribution up until that point. At the time, I thought that I'd likely not have the chance to get it signed by Buddy Roberts ever again. I did meet him again a few times after, but it just wasn't a risk that this Freebird fan was willing to take.
The 2006 Fanfest was yet another example as to why you can't skip opportunities when your favorites are out and about. Ernie Ladd and Sherri Martel would be gone from this earth less than a year after this event. Sherri's passing hit me particularly hard, as she was such a kind woman. She always expected the fans to get a perfect experience for their money and made sure that it was exactly what happened. I can still remember getting a hug from the women's wrestling legend and some of her "Sherri glitter" getting on my shirt. She was one of a kind and will never be replaced. I remember her being thrilled when I told her that Robert "Col. Parker" Fuller was going to be there. I'll always wonder if they got to reconnect.
The weekend was not as long as Fanfest is today, but it was just as packed with memorable moments. As far as I can tell, the event will likely never again stray from its home in Charlotte, but that's probably a good thing. Even with official name changes over the years, the event is universally known as the "Charlotte Fanfest." Despite that, it remains a celebration of the past, and even some of the future, of professional wrestling. Greg Price and his staff work tirelessly each year to top the previous event, and they always succeed. Even still, for those of us who were there, we'll always have Rockville...
Thursday, August 4, 2016
The stars of the '70s were special in the line as many of them had never before been made into figures. Others had but maybe just never saw that definitive figure. In this latest edition of Wrestling MarketWatch, it's a look at some of those '70s stars who became Classic Superstars. As always, the quoted sale prices are from recent online auctions and are for carded, non-autographed examples only unless otherwise noted.
*Why not start with a legend who is still making the headlines on Monday nights? Bob Backlund has done it all. World Heavyweight Champion. Wholesome hero. Crazed villain. Presidential hopeful. Now, he's once again a manager...err...life coach, trying to make Darren Young great again. No matter how that turns out, Backlund has reinvented himself multiple times to stay in the game. He's also the author of one of the best wrestling books of all-time. His best figure, thus far, has been in the Classic Superstars line. It will be interesting to see if Mattel produces new figures of Mr. Backlund now that he's back with WWE. His Classic Superstars figure recently sold for $30.
*One star who did not see a figure until this line was Jerry Brisco. Both he and his brother Jack saw their first and only representations very late in the Classic Superstars run. They also suffered from poor case distribution leading to supply not meeting demand. They may be simply clad in red trunks, but the figures bring a lot of excitement to collectors who waited a long time to have The Brisco Brothers in their collection. An out-of-package example of Jerry Brisco recently sold for $30. No carded versions have been offered in recent months reflecting that the demand is still out there.
*One of the biggest marquee stars of the '70s happened to see his WWE return just as the Classic Superstars line was at its height. Thus, there are quite a few Jakks releases for Superstar Billy Graham. We saw just about every variation for Graham, but one of the most unique was a figure done completely in "black and white." The effect probably would've made more sense for a Bruno Sammartino variant, but it was Graham who was one of the WWE's "star" legends at the time. Surprisingly, this figure has seen a considerable drop in price. In past years you could not find this figure for under $50, it recently sold for just $22.50. It may be a good time to pick one up.
While some Classic Superstars prices are still high, a lot have steadied between $20-$30. That's still more than original retail, and prices do nothing to effect the value of a figure as far as how great it is to have in your collection. Mattel is making more and more legends in their WWE line, but I still don't believe that we'll ever see quite the variety that we did from Jakks. There's room for both, as each line brings something different to the table. Bring em on!
Thursday, July 28, 2016
"Chilly Billy," as he was known to his legions of fans, passed away early last Thursday. While any wrestling historian would know his name and his contributions to the business, he is sadly not as celebrated as the other aforementioned announcers. Despite so much of Cardille's non-wrestling work still surviving, there is virtually no filmed record of his Studio Wrestling days. Although many have searched, it appears that Pittsburgh's WIIC-TV, now known as WPXI, taped over every last bit of the Studio Wrestling program. All that exists are some silent home movies and some audio recordings taped off of television by fans. Anything that would be shown these days by an entity such as WWE is long gone.
Staying in the Steel City may have been just the right thing for Bill Cardille. He arguably became even better known for his long running "Chiller Theater" program which aired classic horror films on Saturday nights. Many television horror hosts who came after often credit "Chilly Billy" as an inspiration. Cardille wore many different hats in the world of Pittsburgh television and radio, just retiring from the latter around two years ago. In my own childhood days, Cardille was still a fixture on the WPXI-TV news, bringing his easy-going, affable style to the weather forecasts.
It was because of yet another tireless effort of Bill Cardille's that enabled me to see both him and Bruno Sammartino in-person for the first time. Cardille was the longtime host of the local portion of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. The segments were produced out of Monroeville Mall just outside of Pittsburgh and Bruno often volunteered his services to man the phones. Monroeville Mall was also the site of George Romero's 1978 flick "Dawn of the Dead." A decade earlier, Romero produced his classic "Night of the Living Dead" just north of Pittsburgh. Who appeared in the film as a news reporter? Bill Cardille.
Cardille became a fixture on the local convention scene as well as appearing at various Studio Wrestling reunion events in recent years. It was at these appearances that I got to see, first hand, just what a kind man Cardille was. Even in his 80's, the signature voice of "Chilly Billy" was just as rich and robust as it was during all of those years on television. It was evident to this wrestling fan that Mr. Cardille never lost his appreciation for the classic era of the industry and all of its zany characters.
Not only did I get to meet Mr. Cardille many times, but he also indirectly helped me live out my dream. Several years ago, I answered a trivia question on the Pro Wrestling Illustrated blog. I can't remember exactly what the question was, but the answer was, of course, Bill Cardille. Since that blog and my own were run using the same system, my answer indirectly linked to my blog. My work was noticed by the fine folks at PWI, which in turn led to me writing in the magazine and its sister publications.
Mr. Cardille, thank you so much for giving your talents to Pittsburgh. You informed, entertained, and enlightened us all, yet still had time to aid those in need. You raised and loved a family, and yet somehow managed to make us all feel like we were part of it. I'll never forget our interactions at various events nor your reactions to whatever magazine, article, or photo that I could find for you to sign. The true definition of a gentleman, on-camera and off, is Mr. Bill Cardille.
Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille
Thursday, July 21, 2016
The ads that you're about to see all emanate from the pages of the February 1989 issue of Inside Wrestling, featuring a great cover shot of the newly-christened Brainbusters--Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson. I'm not including this as an edition of our "From The Musty Yellowed Pages" series, as we aren't really looking into the magazine but rather just the ads. Most of these ads can be found in multiple magazines of the time, but this seemed like a good issue to look at with a wide variety of merchandise spanning several promotions.
Right inside of the front cover are two fantastic ads. The first is one of two ads in the issue from "The Wrestling Ring" company which was based out of Baltimore, MD. A search on any Internet wrestling forum will likely yield at least a couple of nostalgic stories from fans who ordered from "The Wrestling Ring." No longer in business, the mail-order company seemed to have capitalized on the time of the "Rock N Wrestling" era. This ad focuses on WWF digital watches. You can choose from Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Miss Elizabeth, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Koko B. Ware, and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, who was already gone from the WWF. Also in this ad are two early NWA foam belts which are relatively in demand these days. Note the wrestling ring that the fist is "bursting" through is fashioned using posts and turnbuckles from the LJN WWF ring.
The Weston or Apter Mags were never shy about ads for back issues of their various publications. Here we see that for a time the company was even bundling back issues together focusing on one particular superstar. This time we get "A Special Offer For All 'Hulkamaniacs'" featuring ten different cover stories of Hulk Hogan. Pictured is a somewhat husky young Hulkamaniac, decked out in a 1985ish "Hulkster" headband, Pro Wrestling Illustrated t-shirt, and one of the aforementioned foam NWA Championship belts. He's representing '80s rasslin' to the max. Just $19.95 got you all ten issues. In 2016, the smart wrestling collector could obtain those same ten issues for just about the same price with enough searching.
What a collection of '80s gems! It all goes back to the old saying "If I only knew then what I know now..." That, of course, gives way to another phrase, "Hindsight is 20/20." Nevertheless, even if we don't own all of these great items, we still have these great advertisements to look back on. Perhaps one day we'll take a look at some wrestling magazine ads from even earlier decades. Then again, maybe not. After all, I prefer to keep this blog "family friendly."
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Samoa Joe is no stranger to action figures, receiving some in his long TNA run from both ToyBiz/Marvel Toys and Jakks. Those figures very adequately depicted Joe as he appeared then. However, just as his career has changed paths, so have his looks. Mattel has done a very good job capturing Joe's current look and feel. His face is a bit thinner than in the past with slightly different hair. My figure did have a bit of sloppiness with the facial hair paint. It's never a good thing, but something many collectors have learned to live with. For $20 a figure, no one should have to put up with it, but here it is.
I believe that the body sculpt used is new and unique for Joe as it honestly should be. It's not too muscular, but it still captures the toughness of Joe and looks great in one of his signature poses. The shorts, boots, and kneepads look spot-on as well. The torso joint doesn't stick out here, as it really could just be a "fold" in Joe's physique. Joe can kick, punch, chop, and stomp his way through any of the other Mattel figures. And although this is properly branded on the packaging for NXT, you know that any kid lucky enough to have Joe on his or her roster is bringing the Samoan Submission Machine straight to the top.
My verdict? This one definitely goes into the running for Figure of the Year. Would it without the t-shirt accessory? I'm not sure, but we have it. It's a perfect mix of a first time WWE figure, a great likeness, seemingly new sculpts, and accessories. Will we see more? Of course. Samoa Joe will see a nice WWE figure run. There will be Basic versions and I could see another Elite with the NXT Championship included down the line. Why wait? Joe is here with two awesome accessories in an Elite style. Grab him while you can! And if you don't...well...I don't have to say it. They'll chant it right at you.