Monday, September 9, 2019

"The Man"

Over the past decade I've tried to keep the content of this blog exclusive to what the title states: wrestling memorabilia. I've deviated at times, most notably when a wrestlers passing needed acknowledgment or even regarding a live event or convention. I don't recall a time when I've felt the overwhelming need to acknowledge a current topic in the industry unrelated to those concepts, but here we are.

Most anyone reading this will already know the recent news regarding Ric Flair. As a brief recap, Flair is threatening to sue WWE over the use of the nickname "The Man" for Becky Lynch. We've all heard "The Nature Boy" utter "to be the man, you've got to beat the man" countless times over the years. His use of it is not in question.

Flair's given reasoning for the lawsuit is that he wants to provide financial stability for his family once he is gone. His financial troubles in recent years have been no secret, nor have the multiple instances of WWE bailing him out. Following a wacky business like pro wrestling for over thirty years leaves one pretty numb to inane ideas. This one left me speechless.

What we have is a true legend (a title that no one will deny) culminating years of pathetic behavior by slapping the face of those who have rescued him. His daughter, Charlotte, is reportedly as unhappy as many fans are by this recent development.

Aside from meeting Flair numerous times over the past fifteen years, I have no personal connection to him. On the flip side, I have horror stories from friends who have dealt with him on a business level. Those stories, along with others which have been variously retold, coupled with his inability to appreciate chance after repeated chance to repair both his finances and health, have left me pretty disgusted with the modern-day Ric Flair. This latest issue is simply the straw that broke the camel's back for me.

Flair is one of my five all-time favorite wrestlers. I didn't choose them out of thin air. They were the five characters that I've most enjoyed in my wrestling fandom. None of the five men behind those characters were perfect. But unlike the other four, Flair is the one who makes me wish that I could go back in time to completely ignore him. When I watch his old material, an asterisk appears in my head. "The character of Ric Flair was great...but."

Let's get this straight again. Ric Flair wants to sue a company that has repeatedly saved him financially so that he can provide for his family when he's gone. I don't always stick up for WWE, but who could take any other side here? Asinine doesn't even begin to describe this thinking. This isn't about the use of a nickname or catch phrase. Or perhaps, maybe it is...

Ric Flair, if forty years ago you had learned how to be A man rather than running around trying to outdo your own fictional alter ego of THE man, you wouldn't have to worry about leaving your family anything. They would have been taken care of and put first. But that's something that REAL men do.

The character of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair may have been "The Man." That's where any resemblance ended.

And for a memorabilia tie-in, well, here's the current character who is "The Man."

Sunday, September 1, 2019

My Five Favorite Micro Brawlers

No matter where you look, stylized mini figures are all the rage. It may have started with the never-ending Funko Pop! line, but it's branched out into just about every kind of pocket-sized figure that you can imagine. Wrestling, as popular as it is, has it's share of varieties, but our focus at the present are the Micro Brawlers. The line, created by Pro Wrestling Tees, has taken a plethora of independent stars, legends, and foreign stars and combined them to form quite the stable of micro stars. Of all of the names that have appeared so far in the line, here are my top five picks.

When you're talking wrestlers made to become a toy, you're literally screaming the name "The Blue Meanie." Just seeing his first action figure in recent years, Meanie has become one of the more recent entries to the Micro Brawlers line-up. Clad in his bWo shirt, the Meanie is posed doing exactly what he should be doing, The Meanie Dance! Meanie also fits in perfectly with the line, qualifying as both an indy wrestling star and a legend of both ECW and WWE.

As far as characters go, there's never been a crazier one than Papa Shango. I have no idea how a Papa Shango figure outside of the WWE banner is legally allowed to be made (complete with a WWE picture on the header card), but here we are. If Shango is allowed to be made, does that mean that other Charles Wright characters, such as The Godfather, are fair game as well? Time will tell, but Papa Shango was certainly the perfect one to start with.

Someone seeing his first introduction into the U.S wrestling figure market is Kazuchika Okada. The current IWGP Champion has taken the country by storm and can easily be cited as a big part of New Japan Pro Wrestling's banner success here in the states. His trademark pose and colorful entrance gear make this an irresistible figure to add to your Micro Brawlers lineup. "The Rainmaker" is also slated to be one of the first figures in the upcoming NJPW action figure line to be released stateside.

Announcers rarely see too many figures, but Jim Ross isn't just any announcer. Good Ol' JR is the first broadcaster to break into the Micro Brawlers line and hopefully will not be the last. Can you imagine a Micro Brawler Jerry Lawler to stand at his side? I'm not saying that it will happen, but it's certainly not a bad idea. With his recent resurgence in popularity, a Tony Schiavone Micro Brawler would be pretty damn cool, too. Nonetheless, JR may actually be my favorite of all of the Micro Brawlers thus far. Unexpected and unique, grab this Sooner while you can.

In a bittersweet entry to the line in 2019, we received a Micro Brawler of King Kong Bundy the same year as his untimely passing. While Bundy has had many figures over the past 34 years, this is the first Bundy to be posed demanding his infamous "five count." Bundy was another character who was made to be an action figure, just by looks alone. No one has any idea if this will be the final figure of Bundy, but it's certainly one that you'll want to add to your lineup.

It's fun to pick and choose who you want. There are many names that I'm unfamiliar with, mainly independent stars, who I choose to pass on. That only leaves more room on the shelf for the absolute home runs like the five shown above.

Now the question, as asked many times in wrestling before, has got to be: "Who's next?"

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Imagine What This Bizarre Little Figure Could Do To You

Sure we all fondly remember the all-too brief flowery antics of "Adorable" Adrian Adonis. We will also never forget the name, or career, of Goldust. But going back in the history of men wearing makeup and long blonde locks into the ring, there's one guy who started it all. The original wrestling "gender bender" was Exotic Adrian Street. While he may never have had that classic WWF or WCW run that so many others did, there's no discounting his career and contributions to the business. Now, in somewhat of a surprise at this point in the game, The Exotic One has his own action figure.

In my several times meeting Exotic Adrian and his wife/valet Miss Linda, the two have been extremely kind and gracious. They're engaging, talkative, and seem to really enjoy meeting the fans. They've also always had an online presence, especially for their wrestling gear business. Though I had heard that the couple had returned to Wales, I did not know of their latest merchandising venture. Yes, an Exotic Adrian Street action figure had been born. Sold exclusively on eBay from the Streets themselves, I had to have one. Thankfully, they will ship to the United States.

For as much as having an action figure independently produced has to cost, this figure is very reasonably priced for us collectors. The first thing that's notable is that the packaging is truly collector friendly. The box closes nicely, but there isn't any tape or seal so that you can essentially remove and replace the figure as much as you'd like. The window box is nice, and as a bonus both Adrian and Linda sign the package on the back in a spot specially left for signatures. Three photos of the couple appear on the box, as does the title of Street's self-performed theme, "Imagine What I Could Do To You."

The figure itself is very reminiscent of the Japanese wrestling figures of
fifteen years ago or the Galoob WCW line. Similar to those lines, it isn't far off in scale from the Hasbro WWF or Mattel Retro WWE figures, either. Like the former two lines, there isn't much movement here. The arms look to have been produced as separate pieces, but they do not move. I would have preferred a more flamboyant pose seeing as there isn't arm movement, but hey, that only leaves room open for a sequel.

The detail and paint are amazing for a figure that had to have been produced on a small scale. Adrian's hair, makeup, and tattoos are all on point. A colorful pallet was chosen for his gear, with a wide variety of colors going from front to back. There's only one person in the world that this figure could be and that's Exotic Adrian Street.

There hasn't been a lot of fanfare surrounding this figure to my knowledge. I certainly hadn't heard of it until I stumbled upon it on eBay. This is the only licensed figure of Exotic Adrian. Every legend should have a figure as so many wrestlers do now who will never attain a similar status. Instead of going with the larger companies, the Streets did it this way and hit a home run. I must say that it was the collecting shocker of the year for me to even find out that it existed. I don't know how many were produced, but I would advise getting one now if you want one. How could you pass it up when it's coming directly to you from the star himself, autographed to boot? And if this "bizarre one" does well, I would love to see second and third entries into the "series": Miss Linda and Adrian in full entrance regalia.

Wrestling action figure collections worldwide have just been turned upside down!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Farewell To The King

The third of my five favorite wrestlers is gone. Joining Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Piper is Harley Race. It was not unexpected, as news of various ailments plaguing the former King of the Ring have been discussed for years. Still, Race did not let his health hinder him. The wrestling legend was en route to a convention appearance when he entered the hospital for a stay that would ultimately be his last. I, myself, just saw "The King" last fall at a northeast appearance.

Though he had the same gruff exterior that served him so well during his in-ring career, you could not find a nicer star to meet with the fans. Always accommodating to those who wanted to meet him, he had the same aura that men like Bruno Sammartino and Dusty Rhodes had. You just knew that you were in the presence of someone special who deserved your respect. And while you certainly came away with a great feeling, you knew that even as he advanced in age, Harley was no one to be messed with.

The photo accompanying this blog entry, which has been seen here before, is from the fabled appearance where Harley got into a scuffle with his former charge Big Van Vader. I was not in the room at the time, but the two were said to have had a disagreement about how Vader was treating fans. As the story goes, Harley, who was using a motorized chair to get around due to a surgery, put the "Mastodon" in his place. With all of the wrestlers who have told the cameras how feared Harley was among "the boys," is this any surprise?

Harley Race was one of the few wrestlers who truly put a bit of fear in me as a child. The only other one who springs to mind is Kamala. While the latter was due to his appearance, Race was thanks to that gravelly voice. If the phrase "he sounds like he gargled with nails" ever needed an audio example, you could play a clip of Harley. "Take the damn money!"

My first exposure to Race was in his days as "The King" in the WWF. While this was near the end of his career, I always felt it was a fantastic way for him to be part of that era. He had some fun matches and took on a persona that still fit with the serious Race of years earlier. If you've never seen it, check out the "King's Crown" match from the 1989 Royal Rumble. Famously left off of the Coliseum Video version, it's an fun little match between two of wrestling's most notoriously toughest men. The antics of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan just put the icing on the cake, as they usually did.

 And not just because this is the wrestling memorabilia blog, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all of the great merchandising featuring Harley. There isn't a bad Harley Race figure, and he happens to be the subject of what is probably my favorite LJN WWF figure. I always felt that it was the perfect amalgamation between "Handsome" and "King" Harley Race. I've forever wondered if the figure was planned before he won the King of the Ring and that the jacket was then later adapted to represent the cape. He also had some of the coolest magazine covers, more often than not featuring blood, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, or both. For a wrestler who's prime was before much merchandising, he certainly has more than his share which can still be collected to remember the legend.

It was an honor getting to meet Mr. Race many times and even discussing some of the above memorabilia with him. Of my five favorite wrestlers, he's the one name that some casual fans don't know. That never bothered me nor should it bother any of his fans. The others are known because they went outside of the proverbial wrestling box to gain mainstream attention. Harley didn't do that, as he simply claimed to be "the greatest WRESTLER on God's green earth." I wouldn't argue him for a second.

Harley Race


Saturday, July 20, 2019

MUSCLE-ing Into The Ring

Going "retro" is of course the modern day trend. Every company wants to capitalize on generations who now have disposable income (ha!) to spend by recreating the toys and memories of their childhood. Mattel got in on this with wrestling fans by releasing the Retro line, mirroring the Hasbro WWF line. The last published entry on this blog showcased Series 8, 9, and 10 of that line, which as of press time of this article seem to be the last that will be produced. But that wasn't the only route that Mattel took to get into your wallet as well as your childhood wrestling memories...

Enter Super7. In the past several years this company has taken the action figure community by storm. They have adopted a variety of licenses and created action figure lines that never were, should have been, and in some cases extended others. Together, Super7 and Mattel released a collection of 12 WWE Legends M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Each packed three to a card, there are four sets altogether. Fans of the original M.U.S.C.L.E. figures probably felt that their minds were read. '80s WWF stars as the most portable "wrestling" figures of the era? It's a natural!

If you weren't familiar with the original M.U.S.C.L.E. figure line, you probably at least remember seeing a handful of them floating around. The acronym stands for "Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere." If that sounds like something straight out of Japanese culture, that's because it is. The M.U.S.C.L.E. line was the U.S. version of a Japanese line called Kinnikuman. While the latter was much more of a cultural phenomenon with stories, cartoons, etc., both versions were centered around the tiny figures, some of which were even based on real wrestlers such as Terry Funk and Dusty Rhodes.

Neither of those legends are featured here, but it's still quite a Hall of Fame lineup. Among the three packs of four figures we have Mean Gene Okerlund, The Iron Sheik, Macho Man Randy Savage, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Ric Flair, Sgt. Slaughter, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, Junkyard Dog, and The Ultimate Warrior. Each figure is assuredly recognizable even being that small and molded in the famous M.U.S.C.L.E. pinkish beige. Many have accessories molded on which adds to the fun. With the cast of characters from that era, however, it's hard to make anything but recognizable characters. Not one person could argue that if you did twelve current stars in the same style, those figures would take a bit longer for anyone to differentiate.

The card backs are a heckuva lot of fun, too. They are designed to be in the same style as the Hasbro WWF figure card backs, and they actually do the job ten times better than the same effort in the Mattel Retro line. The colors, the stars, the logo (albeit WWE-ized) are all here. Not putting the Retro line down now that it's ostensibly finished, but if we came so close here, why could we not have gotten the same effort there? The backs of the cards feature cartoon versions of two of the three characters included in a "showdown," complete with fightin' words. A nice little addition that wasn't necessary and is much more welcome than an ad for some app game or other nonsense.

I like these little guys. I'm sure this is it for the WWE sets. The packs can be found at fairly deep discounted prices if you look, but that doesn't mean that the M.U.S.C.L.E. fun has to end there. In addition to the non-wrestling licenses that Super7 has added to the M.U.S.C.L.E. line, they've put out a few packs featuring the Legends of Lucha Libre. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Super7 just announced that they have acquired the license to produce figures for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Will that line spill over into some M.U.S.C.L.E. figures? Seeing the origins of the figures as chronicled above, it would almost be coming full circle.

The Rainmaker, Kinnikuman style?

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Catching Up On Retro

It's been over two years since the review of the first Mattel WWE Retro figure series appeared on this blog. At the time, collectors all over were hopeful that we would get at least a few additional series out of the line that continues the legacy of Hasbro's famous WWF collection. Amid poor distribution, rumors of cancellation, and some overall frustration, here we are with Series 8, 9, and 10. The aforementioned distribution issues are one of the reasons why all three of these series are lumped into one review, but it also saves on spreading them out.

Some of both the most wanted and most creative figures of the entire line show up here, with a few that we'll pay particular attention to. Series 8 has The Iron Sheik, Jeff Hardy, Braun Strowman, and Zack Ryder. Series 9 brings us "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Goldust, Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton. Finally in Series 10 we've got Junkyard Dog, Matt Hardy, Elias, and Diesel. All series are on blue border Hasbro-esque cards that complete the retro feel. Thankfully the distractions that plagued the design in some of the middle series are gone, those being display stands and ads for a digital game that really has no business here. The game ad has been relegated to the back of the cards which bear no resemblance to the Hasbro cards whatsoever. Similarly, the cardboard stock used here is a lot thinner than what Hasbro used. This has been causing it to be quite the chore to find nice examples for carded collectors. This will certainly factor in as the years go by when mint examples are few and far between. Per retailers, the damaged cards have been coming straight from factory cases, furthering frustration.

Series 8 highlights include The Iron Sheik and Braun Strowman. While the character of the Sheik is just out-of-range of the original Hasbro era, Khosrow Vaziri was in the company in 1991 and 1992 as Sgt. Slaughter's aid Colonel Mustafa. Strowman is a sleeper hit as far as I'm concerned, with the figure fitting in with that Hasbro look perfectly. The arm mechanism was a perfect choice and I really appreciate the painted on tanktop. Jeff Hardy is a welcome addition but the figure suffers from the "too real" head syndrome where it looks like a regular Mattel head was plopped onto a Retro figure body.

Series 9 showcases two legends, those being Goldust and Randy Savage. This is the second inclusion of "The Macho Man" in the Retro line, the first being in his nWo attire. This one is a homage to an unreleased prototype of the first Hasbro Savage figure that was shown in advertisements wearing green trunks. It's nice to see a more classic looking Savage in the line. Joe and Orton are solid modern figures for the line. Some have issue with Joe being produced in his shirt, but we must remember that many original Hasbro figures were in shirts and entrance attire as well. The star here is "The Bizarre One," Goldust, in what could prove to be his final figure for some time. Appropriately, he is produced in his early look complete with black-painted ears and removable wig. Should the Hasbro line have carried on another year, Goldust would have at least been in the planning stages.

Finally we have Series 10, starring a man who was planned for the Hasbro line twenty-five years ago. That man is "Big Daddy Cool" Diesel. The former WWF Champion appears as he did in 1994, which is the look that the original figure would've reflected had it been produced. Like Strowman in Series 8, Diesel is a tad taller just as Andre the Giant and Giant Gonzalez were in the Hasbro line. For the second series in a row we get a second legend, that being the Junkyard Dog. JYD is clad in his classic white tights, complete with "THUMP" emblazoned on the back. Matt Hardy's head is more stylized than brother Jeff in Series 8, though I could've pictured both of The Hardy Boyz with the old "jumping" mechanism. Elias hasn't caught on with me, personally, but the figure includes a guitar as the first Retro accessory. This is the same breakaway guitar included with Mattel's figures of The Honky Tonk Man.

Ten series of Retro. This is the first review of the line that, as of press time, has no future announced releases to discuss at the end. While many collectors finally got what they wanted out of the line in Diesel, there's room for more. Of that fabled unreleased final Hasbro series, Mattel could produce Mabel, Jeff Jarrett, and "All-American" Lex Luger. I wouldn't mind seeing Dusty Rhodes (like that's a surprise...), "surfer" Sting, and Nikolai Volkoff added if at possible. Since females and managers weren't part of the Hasbro line I won't say that I'm expecting any, though it's hard to fathom that the new line would end without at least one woman in the era of the women's revolution. How about Elizabeth, Sherri, Ronda, and Becky? At least two Retro-styled women's bodies should be produced to give us an idea of what could have been...and what now still could be.

Kill the distribution issues, Mattel, and bring us ten more series...

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Ultimate Duggan?

We're less than one month away from the most patriotic day on the American calendar, the Fourth of July. As a wrestling fan that likely makes you think of hot dogs, the Great American Bash, apple pie, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan. A beyond larger-than-life character the likes of which will never be duplicated, Duggan is another one of those great '80s wrestling names that is remembered even by non-fans. It doesn't hurt that when you meet him, you quickly figure out that he's a heckuva nice guy, too.

Hacksaw is back in action figure collections worldwide, now for the third time thanks to Mattel. I will make the statement that Duggan is one of the more under-produced wrestling legends as far as action figures go, especially for someone with such high name recognition. Off the top of my head, the Duggan figure count totals to eight, with LJN, Hasbro, Star Toys (Mexico), Jakks, and Mattel as the manufacturers. Today we're looking at the eighth figure in the count, but one that actually covers three eras of Duggan.

The Gamestop exclusive RetroFest line brings us the latest Duggan, joining the likes of Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Shawn Michaels, The Honky Tonk Man, and Ric Flair already in the series. The packaging is designed to resemble a vintage arcade cabinet, most notably that of the WWF WrestleFest game. It's a fun and unique change, though it does partially hide some of the figure itself. Removing the figure can be a bit of a challenge, too.

The figure itself is based on Hacksaw's 1993 attire. He began wearing the singlet after returning from injury at the hands of Yokozuna and dropped it upon his jump to WCW. His second and final figure in the Hasbro WWF line is the only other time that the attire has appeared in toy form. The head sculpt is completely different from the two previous Mattel Duggan figures, this time featuring a goofy, but accurate, "tongue out" look. The U.S. flag knee pads are also accurate and really add to the design, as does the flag design on the back of the singlet.

The true highlight for me are the accessories that lend themselves to two other versions of Hacksaw. Included are the ubiquitous 2x4 and flag, but the real gems are the removable t-shirt and crown. The crown is from his 1989 run as "King Duggan" and the t-shirt is a meticulous reproduction of the one offered in the merchandise catalog and at events circa 1988. With the shirt on the first Mattel Duggan release and the crown on the second, you can have a complete Duggan "fashion show." Move over Ken, Hacksaw's here. The flag and 2x4 seem to be the same as the original Mattel release of Duggan nearly a decade ago.

This is easily my favorite release in the RetroFest series thus far. It's been a wide range of disappointments (Michaels) and victories (Savage) but between the unique design of the figure and the variety of accessories, ol' Hacksaw is a winner. As always, I do advise to try and find these figures at lower than the somewhat steep initial $25 price tag. That being said, this is the one that I would probably say to go for at full price...

Tough Guy!!!