Thursday, October 23, 2014

Remembering The Ox...

 If you ever wanted to find the perfect blend of professional wrestler and sports entertainer, you had to look no further than Ox Baker.  The master of the heart punch, or "hurt" punch as he sometimes called it, passed away on October 20th at the age of 80. Many ailments had piled up on The Ox from his years in the grapple game.  At his appearance this past summer in Charlotte at the Mid-Atlantic Fanfest, Baker appeared weak and frail, but his legendary spirit remained as he signed autographs and posed for photos.

Although Ox may not have been Harley Race or Jack Brisco in technique, he made up for it in his look, persona, and marketability.  Early photos from Baker's career depict a large, yet rather unassuming, athlete. Once the head was shaved and the facial hair was grown to frightening proportions, the true Ox Baker was born.  He became an image that would almost become the stereotype of a professional wrestler: big, mean, unkempt, hairy, and growling!

Despite never being a household name, even news outlets such as TMZ covered his passing.  He was a star of 70s wrestling magazine covers and even caused an honest-to-goodness riot on a 1974 winter night in Cleveland.  Thanks to two wrestlers dying shortly after wrestling him, his heart punch was touted as a killing machine.  Still, some of his out of the ring escapades are best remembered.

The year 1981 saw two of Baker's biggest moments occur, neither of which took place in the squared circle. When the late, legendary announcer Johnny Olson yelled for Douglas Baker to "Come On Down!," The Price Is Rights Contestant's Row would never be the same. Clad in his "Big, Mean, & Ugly" t-shirt, Ox not only won all of his pricing games, but displayed his charisma to the world with a hilarious showing next to Bob Barker.  Later that year, Ox battled Kurt Russell as the villainous Slag in "Escape From New York."

Later in the '80s, Ox gradually left in-ring action.  More fans would probably know of the great Ox had he become involved in some capacity during one of wrestling's "boom" periods.  Aside from a blink-and-you'll-miss-it stint managing The Nightstalker (Bryan Clark/Adam Bomb) in WCW, it simply didn't happen. Instead, the Ox made his name and image known once again in his 60s and 70s as a regular on the indy and convention circuit.

Even if you did not attend the events, you would notice the name Ox Baker showing up around the country, but especially on the east coast.  When Ox wasn't managing an up-and-comer while carrying his bullwhip, he was serenading fans at his gimmick table with ditties ranging from cute to patriotic to bawdy. Based upon his look, most fans probably wouldn't have guessed that Ox was approaching 80, and his youthful antics gave no clues.

Ox always seemed proud of his action figure that was part of the Figures Inc. Legends of Professional Wrestling line.  When I think of him, I often picture that figure since it was such a perfect likeness.  I would imagine that it served as a validation of his success.  Ox didn't always get the recognition that he deserved, especially for how well he represented the business outside of the ring, but being immortalized in plastic right next to peers such as Bruno Sammartino, Wahoo McDaniel, and Ivan Koloff is quite the honor. If he can see the outpouring of love and respect since his passing, no more validation is necessary.

Although I'm sure you've already sung your way past St. Peter, Rest In Peace, Ox.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wrestling MarketWatch: The 1990s

I would have never thought that I'd be nostalgic for the 1990's.  For me, the really fun times were in the previous decade.  Although I was born in 1982, I consider myself a full-fledged '80s kid.  Nonetheless, the passage of time and some rose-colored glasses have finally made me yearn for a dose of the '90s.  In amongst the neon colors, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Crystal Pepsi, there were some fun times in wrestling and plenty of memorabilia to reflect that.

It would be hard to collect wrestling memorabilia and not own something from the '90s.  Action figures, trading cards, magazines, programs, t-shirts, and videos dominated the market.  Because of the large amount of items and the beginning of a collectors consciousness to save, much of this merchandise can be obtained for about the original retail price.  Other items from the decade are still in high demand and, for various reasons, have risen in value.  We're about to take a look at a handful of these '90s wrestling treasures and their recent sale prices.

*The decade began with two wrestling action figure lines, WWF from Hasbro and WCW from Galoob.  The WWF line lasted until late 1994, while Galoob only made a single series in the United States.  A second series featuring several new wrestlers (as well as repaints from the first series) was released in the U.K.  Of these figures, one of the coolest was Michael P.S. Hayes.  The founding member of the Fabulous Freebirds was in a flashy "glam rock" period of his career and this figure reflects that.  A loose example of this figure, my favorite of Hayes, recently sold for $71.50.

*Figures weren't just released in small sizes.  Larger figures were also produced, often with a gimmick attached.  Multi Corp released several water-based WWF toys, including water pumper figures of The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk.Hogan.  Both figures have much more detail than water toys have any right to.  If they had been a few inches shorter, they would have fit right in with the Hasbro line considering the great likenesses.  Their only drawback was a rounded foot design that made them impossible to stand, but after all, they were just essentially water pistols.  A loose Ultimate Warrior recently sold for $10.

*Who said that the advent of WWE Network would kill VHS and DVD prices?  Not me!  For the most part, I've been right.  There will always been an uncertainty with streaming.  You don't have that with tangible media, and the demand is still there.  The 1990's WCW Turner Home Videos have always been popular, and titles like Beach Blast 1992 are still commanding $30 and more.  Is it the Ricky Steamboat-Rick Rude Iron Man Challenge Match or the Missy Hyatt-Madusa Bikini Contest that is still drawing fans?  You decide!

*One event that has yet to show up on WWE Network is the Slammy Awards.  Although they have been an annual part of Raw over the past few years, the ceremonies were irregularly held in the 1980's and 1990's. The 1996 and 1997 events were held in conjunction with WrestleMania in the slot that the Hall of Fame ceremony occupies today.  These 1990's Slammy ceremonies had programs given out at the event. Both programs have the Slammy Award design embossed on the cover.  Though rarely seen, one of each recently sold for a bargain price of $22.50 per program.

*Hasbro is probably the best remembered WWF licensee of the decade, but their products weren't solely limited to figures.  The company marketed a number of roleplaying items that enabled children to "become" their favorite WWF Superstars.  One such item that had a relatively short shelf-life was Jake Roberts' Snake toy.  Although it was marketed simply as Jake's snake, the toy was released around the transition between Damien and Lucifer.  The toy snake even included the famous drawstring bag that held Jake's reptilian friend. A boxed example recently sold for $56.

A variety of items from a decade that offered a variety of wrestling choices.  It would be my guess that demand for these items will only rise, as children of the era who let go of their items at some point are looking to get them back.  The rise in popularity of the Hasbro WWF toys is a big example of this.  As vast as the wrestling of the decade was, I'm sure that we'll revisit this time, and its merchandise, again for another edition of MarketWatch!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

For The Love Of Hasbro...

It seems as if the Hasbro WWF figure line creeps up here on the blog at least once a year, and rightly so.  It's hard to believe, but 2015 will mark the 25th anniversary of the beloved line.  If you use the 1989 date on the ring toy, the celebration has already begun.  In that quarter of a century, collectors love for the line has only grown stronger.  Why?  A multitude of reasons that is firmly entrenched in nostalgia for the WWF era that the line represents, as well as the many memorable wrestlers that were produced.

In the first few years of Hasbro's WWF run, heavy marketing was key.  Commercials starring Jesse "The Body" Ventura (who, ironically, did not get a figure in the line) showcased the "Real Wrestling Action" of the figures as well as the features of the toy ring.  Real WWF footage was interspersed with Ventura, some kids, and even some of the WWF Superstars.  Ventura's departure from the WWF in summer 1990 led Rowdy Roddy Piper to take over as "host" of these commercials.  All of the ads starring both men ran well into 1991 and appeared during the commercial breaks of just about every childrens-related show of the time.

Of course, the WWF was ever-changing, and it took about a year from a stars debut for them to appear as an action figure.  As a result, figures such as Ric Flair and Nailz didn't hit store shelves until after they had been gone from the company.  It was no matter, as with figures of legends such as Andre the Giant, Dusty Rhodes, and Kerry Von Erich, there was no shortage of fun to be had.  I know that I wasn't the only child "promoter" that continued to "book" these stars long after their real-life WWF tenures were over. Rhodes-Flair WWF style?  Thanks to Hasbro, it happened!

It's actually interesting to think of all the talent that made it into the line.  In addition to Andre, Flair, Rhodes, and Von Erich, you had the '80s WWF stars of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, and Ted DiBiase.  The 1990s "New Generation" of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and Razor Ramon. NWA associated talents such as the Legion of Doom, Lex Luger, and The Steiner Brothers.  Even AWA names such as Rick Martel and Curt Hennig showed up.  The 1990-1994 WWF was a wrestling melting pot.  The Hasbro line truly reflects that.

In 1992 and into the following year, Savage became the commercial spokesperson.  When the television advertising died off, so seemingly did Hasbro's interest in the line.  While more great figures such as Doink the Clown, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Yokozuna were being produced, the line just didn't have the same steam that it once did.  Late 1994 saw the release of the final series, ironically, just when many colorful wrestlers were debuting in the WWF and would have been due for figures.

Although some negatively deem the 90-94 WWF as the height of the company's cartoon era, there are many who would love to see it back.  Skits, segments, and storylines that are presented in today's WWE are often nowhere near as entertaining as what we were shown back then.  WWE Network can be used as evidence in the argument.  Would a Hasbro style line work today?  As a secondary product to the main WWE figure line, there's no doubt in my mind.  We are living in an age where "retro" styled and themed action figure lines are soaring in popularity.

While I'd like to see an unaffiliated "Legends of Wrestling" line come along in the style of the Remco AWA line, John Cena, Bray Wyatt, and Daniel Bryan with "Real Wrestling Action" in a Hasbro style would be just perfect.  I know that we'll once again be revisiting Hasbro here on the blog for the big anniversary next year, and it'd be very nice to be able to discuss a reintroduction of the line.  As I say so often, "make it happen..."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Wonderful (& Forgotten) World of Bobby Shane

From this point forward, nearly every wrestler who has even a fleeting brush with success will have their career highly documented.  Their matches, even at an indy level, will be recorded by someone and kept whether the wrestler has a career of two months or twenty years.  Forty years ago, that was not the case at all.  Unless your matches were filmed at the arena or you wrestled in an area that miraculously didn't tape over or destroy their tapes, your work could largely be lost to history.  Such is the case of Bobby Shane.

Thankfully, wrestling has quite the number of followers who enjoy documenting history.  Many undercard or journeyman wrestlers would be completely forgotten without these folks.  It wasn't that their in-ring work was sub-par, it was just that due to their positioning on the card, these wrestlers didn't get the press and fame that the larger stars did.  Bobby Shane is a relatively unknown name to fans my age and younger, but not for these reasons.  Instead, Shane was struck down just as his career began to rise.

There are many great biographies of Shane available on the net by those who've studied him.  My intentions are to instead familiarize those who, like myself, knew the name from two particular instances that are often retold, as well as various magazine covers and stories.  Like so many of us, Shane grew up as a fan of pro wrestling.  He got his foot in the door of the business like others in that era, doing odd jobs for the local wrestling promotion, St. Louis in his case.

Shane fulfilled his dream of becoming a pro wrestler, and wrestled through much of the 1960's as "Wonder Boy" Bobby Shane.  Accounts say that Shane was a popular babyface, but much of the reverence for the young grappler comes from his run as "The King of Wrestling" that he adopted in roughly the last five or so years of his career.  Sadly, there is little footage of Shane remaining.  Although a clip of the end of a match pitting Shane against Jack Brisco is currently available and old discussions seem to indicate that a bit more exist, Shane is mostly lost to time.

Still, an interested fan that does research on Shane will see a wrestler that could probably even fit into the scene today, were he born twenty years ago.  His charisma comes through with the many still photos of him, especially in his "King of Wrestling" stint.  A 1972 issue of Wrestling Monthly proclaims Shane to be one of the top five most hated wrestlers, along with the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Ivan Koloff, The Sheik, and Pampero Firpo.  That's quite the "evil" company right there.  His promos were said to be very good and had the tone of a spoiled brat always wanting to get his own way.  One can only wonder if he'd have eventually became another great manager in the era of Bobby Heenan, Jim Cornette, and Jimmy Hart.  He was also said to have had a great mind for the creative end of the business, and began to work in that capacity at the time of his death.

The two tales that you may remember regarding Shane are from the end of his life.  A young wrestler named Jerry Lawler approached Shane to inquire about how he could obtain similar "King" attire.  Shane provided Lawler with the name of the company that he ordered his garb from.  Since Shane was shortly thereafter going on a tour of Australia where he would not be using the gimmick, he lent Lawler his crown. Shane returned from that trip and began wrestling in Florida, but never did retrieve the crown from Lawler. On a February night in 1975, Shane boarded a small plane piloted by top wrestler Buddy Colt.  Gary Hart and Mike McCord, later to be known as Austin Idol, were also aboard.  Bad conditions contributed to the plane never reaching its intended destination.  Although Colt, Hart, and McCord suffered horrible injuries, Shane did not survive.  He was 29 years old.

While he'll never have an action figure or appear in a video game, Shane memorabilia does exist.   He and fellow wrestler Gerry Monti had a fan club sometime in the '60s which featured some well-produced publications.  An exotic-looking color post card is another Shane item that features probably his most often seen pre-King image.  It was that "royal" look that saw Shane appear on many magazine covers, often with his valet and then-wife Miss Sherri.  The mustache and colorful attire that he wore may date the images, but actually shows Shane in an "old school cool" air that keeps him timeless.

It isn't likely that WWE is going to teach their universe about Bobby Shane any time soon. It's up to fans who truly want to learn about the lost past of the business.  Men and women who have every right to be remembered just as well as the names that are, but who are forgotten for whatever reason.  They're unsung heroes who, had life played just a bit differently, might be looking back fondly on the fruits of their labor today.  By learning and remembering, we can help make up for it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Hitman Goes Yellow

Everyone loves when their interests crossover.  Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't, but you always end up with something that you never thought you would have seen.  Being the popular phenomenon that it is, wrestling usually ends up appearing with every other form of entertainment in one way or another, even with television's favorite family, The Simpsons.  But it wasn't Springfield's own grapplers such as The Shrieking Sheik, El Bombastico, or even Dr. Hillbilly that appeared on the cover of WWF Magazine with Bart Simpson, it was Bret "The Hitman" Hart.

I think everyone my age watched at least the first several seasons of The Simpsons.  It was on every kind of item marketed to kids despite having adult humor, yet was just tame enough not to elicit any objections from parents.  Some viewers stayed on as the show moved forward, while others moved on.  I'm in the latter group, as aside from catching an episode here or there, my viewing habits were elsewhere.  Around 2001, this changed.  Playmates Toys picked up The Simpsons license to produce an action figure line known as "The World of Springfield."  The figures were not only great looking, but also spoke lines from the show when plugged into playsets of various Springfield locales.

In all, over two-hundred "World of Springfield" figures were produced.  Fairly early into the run, I found myself drawn to them despite not being a regular watcher of The Simpsons for years.  I couldn't believe that so many random, goofy characters of an animated sitcom were being produced. This also led me back into the show itself where I remain a fan to this day.  Unfortunately, the toy line would only last a fraction of the years that the sitcom has, leaving many collectors yearning for more.

In 2014, a company called NECA picked up licensing rights for The Simpsons, most notably more action figures. Other figures of Bart, Homer, Krusty, and the gang have been produced since the Playmates line ended, but you can't top greatness.  Nothing aside from adding figures to the Playmates line was going to appease longtime collectors, so that is exactly what NECA did.  Calling their line "25 of the Greatest Guest Stars," NECA began producing figures of some of the most memorable stars who have appeared as themselves on the show.  NECA has rounded out the line by throwing in some regular characters such as Homer and Milhouse in designs not produced by Playmates.

The topic of this entry, Bret Hart, arrived in Series 3 of the line.  So far, Hart is a true standout as many of the guest stars chosen have been musicians.  For those of you who don't remember, Hart appeared in the episode "The Old Man and the Lisa."  Springfield's power plant owner and evil billionaire Montgomery Burns suddenly learns that his fortune has dwindled.  Before receiving help from little Lisa Simpson, Burns is forced to sell off his infamous mansion.  One of the potential buyers is Bret Hart.

The figure appears exactly as Hart did on the show.  In fact, a picture of the scene in which Hart appears in the same pose as the figure is shown on the back of the card.  All of the NECA figures so far have been released on a slim cardback with a large image of Homer applauding the star.  On the back is a great synopsis of the celebrity's appearance on the show as well as several images.

The figure does not have much articulation, nor should it.  These figures are intended to fit right in with the older Playmates figures which had neck, shoulder, and waist movement.  If you want a wrestling figure of Hart, you have countless other options.  This figure is all about Bret joining the denizens of Springfield, and it does a great job.  From the hot pink color to the hair to the shades, NECA did "The Hitman" right.  Hart himself has allegedly spoken of an exclusive version to come down the pike in the future, but nothing else is known nor can I think of how it would differ and remain true to the show.  Fox is very particular about toys from The Simpsons appearing just as they did on screen.

I already know fans who do not normally buy figures that have picked this one up.  It's the perfect example of a crossover collectible, as many in this line have become.  Many fans are already hoping that this line continues after the first twenty-five celebrities (bands count as one) have been produced.  My votes?  Barry White, Betty White, Adam West, and Linda Ronstadt.  And, in case NECA is watching, how about Maude Flanders?  Please?  Longtime collectors will understand.  When it comes to The Simpsons, the possibilities have proven to be endless for over a quarter of a century!

Ay caramba!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

WWE Magazine Bids Farewell

Two weeks ago on this page we were celebrating the thirty-fifth anniversary of one wrestling magazine.  This time we are lamenting the loss of another.  The issue cover dated October 2014 is indeed the last installment of WWE Magazine. Though it barely resembled the magazine that many of us grew up with, seeing it on the shelves was almost comforting.  Along with the main monthly title, the WWE Kids title and special titles released periodically will also be seeing their end.

WWE Magazine officially considered their first issue to be the WWF Victory Magazine.  Victory lasted two issues before it evolved into WWF Magazine.  Despite the company not really wanting to acknowledge it, their first in-house publication was actually Wrestling Action.  Five issues were produced in all in midst of the transition between WWWF and WWF.  I was once offered an explanation as to why they did not consider it part of WWF/WWE Magazine, but it didn't amount to much.  If you want to see the true evolution of WWE Magazine, you start with Wrestling Action.  It captures an amazing time in the history of the company and the fifth and final issue features the first magazine cover of Hulk Hogan, or so The Hulkster himself told me.

Whereas the Wrestling Action issues showcased amazing cover art, the first Victory/WWF Magazines had great photography of the "Rock N Wrestling" era stars.  Jimmy Snuka, Sgt. Slaughter, Hulk Hogan, Wendi Richter, Captain Lou Albano, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Cyndi Lauper, and even Mr. T shined on those early covers. Inside was an interesting mixture of features on WWF action and some stories that might surprise readers today.  Articles on wrestling's past were not uncommon, and despite being well into the WWF's national expansion, even the first WCCW David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions was covered.

As the WWF grew further and further away from anything aside of their own bubble, so did the magazine.  In fact, the magazine began to almost directly reflect the formats of WWF television programming.  These days, WWE pay-per-view lineups often don't seem settled upon until the weekend or day of.  In the early days of the magazine, lineups for WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and other events were often included, in print, months in advance.  In the instances where bits and pieces of shows were changed, those magazines offer an interesting glance at what could have been.

The magazine also helped with the company's direct merchandise sales long before Shop WWE existed. Most every issue included a merchandise catalog full of items that weren't usually available outside of attending an event.  Shirts, posters, caps, and teddy bears were just some of the items featured, often modeled by young Stephanie and Shane McMahon.  That shirt of "The Rebel" Dick Slater?  Here.  The poster of Miss Elizabeth actually donning bikini?  Here.  Mine?  Yep, he was here, too.

As the WWF steered more towards an adult slant, the magazine followed.  Edgy covers and content eventually led to the spin-off of Raw Magazine.  When the brand split and change to WWE occurred, the original WWF/WWE title was switched to Smackdown Magazine.  In 2006, the title was finally amalgamated back to WWE Magazine.  This version tried to be a cross between Maxim and a wrestling magazine.  It included seemingly "shoot" interviews, "Best of" lists, and features on fans both male (even me!) and female.

One of the coolest issues in this final form of the magazine was April 2010.  In honor of WrestleMania XXVI, twenty-six different covers were produced, each featuring a different WWE Superstar.  John Cena, CM Punk, Bret Hart, and Santino Marella are just a few of the stars featured, and others like Drew McIntyre and Evan Bourne may have received their only cover thanks to this gimmick.  Distribution was not even as far as the variant covers upon their initial release.  Since then, various back issue sales have evened up the ability to acquire certain covers.

Although Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns all have a great shot at making the cover of Pro Wrestling Illustrated in the future, the final issue of WWE Magazine is their cover debut. It's a great shot, and the issue itself makes no secret that it's the end.  Budget cuts have been the reported reason as to why the title is ending. There were rumors that an outside company would pick up the publication, but that does not seem to be the case.  With the great characters that continue to churn out of WWE, it's a shame that they will no longer have this sort of exposure that once meant so much to the warriors of the ring.

A 30 (or 37...depending on your belief) year run is nothing to sneeze at.  Thanks for the covers, the articles, the merch catalogs, the Sunny centerfolds, The Informer, Scoop Sullivan, and...the memories.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Business Is About To Pick Up...At Toys "R" Us

Mattel's "Build-A-Figure" program has been one of my favorite aspects of their WWE line for the past two and a half years.  It's enabled collectors to obtain figures of non-wrestlers that Mattel (often foolishly) feels will not sell packed on their own.  Michael Cole, Ricardo Rodriguez, John Laurinaitis, Teddy Long, Paul Heyman, and commentator/General Manager Booker T are all figures that have seen their debut this way.  In short, a series of four previously released figures (with new attire and accessories) are sold exclusively through Toys "R" Us.  Each of the figures represents the way that the wrestler appeared at a specific pay-per-view event.  The figures also each include separate pieces of the "Build-A-Figure," thus a collector must buy all four of the wrestlers to complete the fifth.

The latest "Build-A-Figure" is none other than "Good 'ol J.R." himself, Jim Ross.  The four figures required to build J.R. are "Elite" versions of CM Punk, Curtis Axel, Randy Orton, and Alberto Del Rio.  Although I've long wished that the figures in these sets were new characters, I've also outlined why they aren't.  It would be against Mattel's better interests to place a never before released character, who sell well all by themselves, in a "gimmick" series where buying all four figures is required regardless.  That being said, it would be nice to see some new faces among the BAF bunch.  This is the third appearances for both Punk and Del Rio in the BAF program.  While I'm fairly positive that we won't see anymore of those two in future sets, it might be fun to see some Divas or tag team members show up.

Although Ross is one of the stronger "fifth figures," this is one of the weaker sets of wrestlers.  Aside from a tweak of the tights or facial hair, every Orton figure is nearly the same.  Punk has a different head/facial design than the last time that he popped up in BAF, but his accessories, a megaphone and "fan" signs, aren't that exciting.  A cloth shirt or hoodie would have worked much better here.  Del Rio might be the best of the bunch with the World Heavyweight Championship and a black monogrammed scarf.  This is Curtis Axel's only "Elite" figure so far, but it comes across as rather bland.  The white-strapped Intercontinental Championship that he is packaged with has already made an appearance in the BAF line.  I would've rather seen Ryback in one of his many colorful singlets in place of Orton, especially.

Ross himself is a very nice figure, and one of the best figures to be collected as a BAF yet.  The pieces are very hidden within the packaging, possibly to avoid another "Al Snow scandal" from 1999.  As the story goes, a busybody mother happened upon an Al Snow figure while shopping in a Wal-Mart.  Snow came packaged with "Head," his female mannequin head sidekick, and the woman mistook it for a disembodied woman's head.  She created a stir that caused an unnecessary recall on the figure.  Going back to Ross, this figure not only has a head, but a trademark black resistol hat to go with it.  The facial likeness is perfect, and while I would have preferred a completely up-to-date J.R. with goatee, I have no complaints.  His "OU" lapel pin honoring J.R.'s beloved Sooners from The University of Oklahoma is even here as a great added detail.  There is an upcoming "announcer" Jerry Lawler figure coming soon that will make a perfect compliment to Ross. 

While you can never be certain, this is likely to be the only Mattel figure of Ross for some time.  The figures required to build Ross aren't the best we've seen, but if you want the fifth you absolutely have to purchase them all.  As of now, it seems that Axel is short packed.  This also happened with the Bret Hart figure from the first BAF set that featured Michael Cole.  Whether or not this will be rectified in the future is anyone's guess.  These figures are usually the "bread and butter" of the WWE holiday buying seasons at Toys "R" Us.  Closer to that time, cases of the BAF sets are often stacked to the ceiling.  An upcoming BAF series featuring "Basic" figures and a "fifth figure" of Paul Bearer has already hit overseas.  These two sets could very well be in the Christmas season WWE toy strategy for "The World's Biggest Toy Store" this year.

In any event, if you want J.R. in your Mattel WWE Universe, the time to pick up these figures is now.  Despite what is announced at press conferences and on WWE broadcasts, I doubt anyone truly buys Michael Cole as "The Voice of WWE."  After being off of WWE telecasts regularly for years and officially out of the company for a few months, Ross is still thought of when a WWE call comes to mind.  J.R. seems to be happy in his current ventures where he is once again successful, but even the biggest WrestleMania moments seem just a tad less important with the voices that WWE currently forces on their Universe.

Boomer Sooner!