Thursday, April 17, 2014
As with many books throughout the world crossing all categories, the prices often rise when printing ceases and interest grows. Many smaller publishing houses have released books penned by wrestlers and often only churn out a single printing of each title. Others are relics from the days before the "Foley book boom" that have stood the test of time. In this latest edition of Wrestling MarketWatch, we'll take a look at some of these titles and just how much they've recently sold for at auction. I may not be Rebecca Romney from Pawn Stars, but I doubt she's appraised many wrestling books lately. Someone has to do it, so it may as well be me...albeit a bit less easy on the eyes than Rebecca!
*Scott Teal and his Crowbar Press have churned out a large number of wrestling books over the years, most notably autobiographies of many territory-era stars. One of the most talked about was "Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling" by the one and only Ole Anderson. The founding Four Horseman member has always been known for his steadfast beliefs, and the book obviously reflects that. Because of his honesty, the book becomes one of the best in the opinions of many. Although a second printing is now available, the first printing is still sought after and can be easily spotted with its solid blue colored cover. An autographed copy of the first printing recently sold for $40.
*"Tito Santana's Tales From The Ring" is a notably entry into the wrestling library for a few reasons. For starters, Sports Publishing Inc. went out of business shortly after the book was published. This caused an initial demand that has since waned. The book is also notoriously short. Despite a long career that took Santana everywhere, there just aren't enough "tales" in the book to constitute a classic. The book has recently sold for an average of $14, a fall from the price shortly after its release.
*For a book by a wrestler that's partially wrestling and partially the world around us, look no further than "Killer Pics: A Collection Of Images From A Pro Wrestling Legend." Killer Kowalski was a man of the world and of many interests, one of which was photography. The book is a collection of images of both his fellow wrestlers and many sights that Kowalski saw throughout the world. The coffee table sized paperback is not an easy one to find and recently sold at auction for $52.
These are just a few examples of volumes on the wrestling book shelf. There are many other collectible ("Whatever Happened To Gorgeous George?") and not-so-collectible ("The Rock Says...") books out there with the topic of our favorite form of entertainment, with many more joining the bunch each year. More will attain monetary value as the years go on, but the true treasures we gain from each book are the stories told on every page.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
In the hours since his passing was announced by Triple H via Twitter, just about everyone has shared thoughts, tributes, and memories all over the Internet. His death was front page news in most mainstream outlets. Throughout Wednesday, his passing and coverage of a school violence incident close to my home were the top two stories on CNN, thus adding even more surreality to the day.
Armchair doctors and detectives have tried to pinpoint a time during his very public last weekend where one may notice a change in behavior. Many have looked upon his appearance on Monday Night Raw less than twenty-four hours before his death as a sign. Between odd mannerisms and an even odder and coincidental "goodbye" speech, some have wondered aloud if he in fact knew that something was wrong internally. In my own mind, I recall his awkward pauses and occasional chest-clutching during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech as being out of place, but we will never know.
But at this moment, there's zero time to give to those individuals. Now is the time to think about the man himself, his fans, and most importantly his biggest fans--his family. This weekend the public was introduced to his wife, mother, and young daughters. It is a shock to think that what had to have been such an exciting and life affirming weekend for all five of them would end so tragically.
I was in my early years of life as well as wrestling fandom when the Warrior was at the top of the business. WrestleMania VI was defining viewing of my childhood, and when asked which of the Tonka Wrestling Buddies I wanted for Christmas 1990, I picked the Ultimate Warrior. I met the Ultimate Warrior less than two years ago, and it was evident that the man enjoyed meeting those who grew up with him. To me, it appeared that the admiration reaffirmed that he was indeed so well remembered and beloved. The wrestling business, whether it was justified or not, had all but taken that away from him.
As his speech on Raw said, "...the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever!" I would have to agree.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Of the WrestleMania's of the past decade, XXIV is my second favorite. It was my favorite of the era until my obvious bias and undying love of WrestleMania XXIX came about. It was outdoors, it had the dramatic lighting effect that only Mother Nature can pull off, and it had several "WrestleMania moments" that have been shown time and time again. Most of all, it had the "WrestleMania feel," something that not every show under the banner has been able to pull off.
Near the front of the program are pages dedicated to the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2008. WWE has taken several different directions regarding programs for WrestleMania and the Hall of Fame ceremony itself. 2008 marked the final year in which a smaller, more elegant, Hall of Fame program was produced. In 2009, a standalone Hall of Fame program of the same size as the WrestleMania programs was available. From 2010-on, the programs were merged into one and sold the entire weekend at Axxess, the Hall of Fame, and WrestleMania.
The particular copy shown here was acquired from the daughter and son-in-law of Gordon Solie, Pam and Robert Allyn. The Allyn's were present at the event to honor the late "Dean of Wrestling Broadcasters" who was inducted into the Hall of Fame that year along with Eddie Graham, Jack and Jerry Brisco, Rocky Johnson, Peter Maivia, Mae Young, and "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. The Hall took on a decidedly Floridian flavor that year, especially considering the inclusion of Graham and Solie.
Another reason that the Mania title matches of this era don't quite measure up is that fans simply weren't behind the main eventers of the time as they once had been. In a fact that's been discussed to death, WrestleMania (and WWE shows in general) began to sell solely on the brand name factor alone rather than the drawing power of select stars. Although I have speculated that we may going back in the opposite direction with stars like Daniel Bryan, The Shield, The Wyatt Family, and even the Rhodes and Uso families, the remnants of the past "era of disinterest" is still very evident with the backlash on names like Randy Orton and Batista.
Perhaps even more memorable was the match between Flair and Shawn Michaels. Going in, most fans realized that Flair would be losing this match, which in turn would trigger his retirement. I can tell you from watching the show live with a mixed group of casual and regular wrestling fans, it didn't matter to anyone. Two of the all-time greats told a story that could captivate fans on any level. Although it didn't turn out to be Flair's final match altogether, it will ultimately be his final WWE match.
This WrestleMania program is unlike many of the others in that it includes a poster highlighting the Show-Mayweather match as well as the two title matches. This "bonus" is reminiscent of an old style wrestling event poster and helps give the title matches a bit more "oomph," although it is telling that the boxer vs wrestler match overshadows everything else. The inclusion of a poster is very hit or miss with pay-per-view programs (several in the '94-'95 era had them as does Survivor Series 2011), so it's always a nice little extra.
Mania programs rarely disappoint, even if the corresponding show does. With XXIV we had a winning show and a nice program to boot that, while not the rarest, isn't the easiest to find in the collection. Of any niche wrestling collectors that I hear from the most, it's definitely WrestleMania program collectors. After all, "The Greatest Sports Entertainment Extravaganza of All-Time" should have the greatest memorabilia of all-time. What will the thirtieth edition bring us? Time will tell. "Laissez les bon temps rouler" may be this years tagline, but I think that the thousands of fans in the Superdome will more likely be chanting, "Sainte merde!"
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Being present for Sammartino's induction last year is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. I've already told why it meant so much for me to be there, at Sammartino's 188th sellout of Madison Square Garden, so I can only pass along some advice to anyone attending the events of WrestleMania XXX weekend: get to the Hall of Fame! This year's class is another star-studded list of superstars from a variety of eras. While no class will ever top 2013's in the minds of those who were there (and many who weren't), 2014 is definitely a class without a weak link in the bunch.
The Ultimate Warrior, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Lita, Paul Bearer, Carlos Colon, and Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall make up the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014 along with Mr. T for the Celebrity Wing. Each of these names made an undeniable impact on their respective eras (or area in the case of Colon) and therefore spawned multiple pieces of merchandise in their likenesses. In honor of each inductee, we'll take a look at some of the most memorable items to come from these stellar careers.
Another man who likely made his first impression on young wrestling fans of the 1980's was Scott Hall. A solid hand in the AWA among other areas, Hall made his toy debut just as Colon did, in the Remco AWA line. "Big" Scott Hall was another Magnum P.I. lookalike similar to Magnum T.A., but the mustached star would go through several identities until finding his greatest fame in 1992 as Razor Ramon. "The Bad Guy" seems to be the incarnation of Hall that WWE is focusing on for this induction, but there is no doubt in my mind that the man who "Oozes Machismo" will return to the Hall of Fame again as a founding father of the nWo.
Jake Roberts may be as well-remembered for his exploits away from the business as he is for his in-ring work, but there's no denying that he provided countless great memories for fans of the '80s and '90s. Roberts had a fine career before he began carrying bagged pythons to the ring, but it's that image that is best remembered. My favorite Jake "The Snake" Roberts item is one that was featured not long ago in these pages: the Hasbro Jake Roberts "snake" toy. For what could have been several reasons the snake is not named, nor does it closely resemble any of Jake's more infamous pets. Even still it is one of the most unique and fun WWF items from that era.
The "main event" induction of the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame will more than likely be for a man who is no stranger to main event status, The Ultimate Warrior. The Warrior, as controversial a superstar as there ever was, will no doubt provide one of the most memorable induction speeches ever to grace the Hall of Fame stage. Over the years, his action figures have been some of the most memorable as well. Hasbro, Jakks, and Mattel have all provided some great representations of the Warrior, but the LJN version was the first. As part of its final series packaged on black colored cards and released by Grand Toys of Canada, the Warrior is one of the most desirable in the entire line. The figure captures the wild then-futuristic look of the Warrior while still allowing it to fit in with the rest of the line.
Memorable merchandising is only what we focus on here on the blog. There's much more to these men and women than just that, and we'll be reliving so much of that in just a bit over a week from now. With the Hall of Fame ceremony scheduled to be broadcast on the WWE Network, there's no excuse for anyone in the United States to miss my favorite night of the WWE calendar. And if you do? Well, I pity da fool...
Thursday, March 20, 2014
For those that don't know the story, this blog was born out of an online newsletter. When I first hit cyberspace a whopping twenty years ago in 1994, it never hit me that people who were online would care about wrestling. I can still remember a preconceived notion of mine that anyone online must only be obsessed with Star Wars or Star Trek. To an extent, it was true, but eventually I began to discover clusters of wrestling fans in the then-new medium. When America Online was a thriving entity, they hosted both the AOL Grandstand and the WWF's first venture into cyberspace.
In the decade between the end of the newsletter and the birth of the blog, it became apparent to me that a lot of people enjoyed my first venture. "Do you still produce it?" "Why did it end?" "Is it coming back?" I would hear those questions and more from wrestling fans both on the Internet and in real life. I didn't have much interest in doing a newsletter again, but surely something could be done to address the great readers that missed it and satisfy my yearning to write about wrestling kitsch again. The answer? The blog.
Here we are in 2014 and it's actually a really great time to be a wrestling fan. In fact, I will go on record as saying that we're closer than we've ever been to another "boom" period for the industry. The WWE Network is setting out to not only change this industry but to also help further the evolution of home entertainment itself. Mixing the glory days with the current product has always been my idea of a recipe for wrestling success. That, coupled with the fact that WWE finally has stars that fans are emotionally invested in for the first time in a decade, is a sign to me that wrestling is back. Is it the exact thing that many of us grew up loving? No. But some of it is pretty damn good, and I can assure you that I'll be here riding the wave for at least another five years.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
WWE 2014 is the first trading card offering of the year from Topps. A 110-card base set is accompanied by several subsets, base card parallels, and, of course, tons of hits. From autographs to relics to new championship plate cards, there are tons of hits to hunt for as is usually the case. The autograph list is rather unremarkable this time around, with Shawn Michaels and John Cena probably being the most desirable.
Opening a hobby box ensures two hits. Guaranteed are one event-worn relic and one card from one of four categories: autograph, Diva kiss card, championship plate card, or mat relic. The mat relic cards are the least desirable of these. They're long overdone in the wrestling trading card world, but are the easiest to produce. The mat was changed in between each match at WrestleMania 29. I saw "cleanliness" as a reason given as to why it was done. I guess the WWE Superstars are allowed to perform dirty at every other show. The WrestleMania 29 mat relic cards from the previous Topps set is proof positive.
The 110-card base set is full of just about every current WWE superstar that you can think of. In fact, I think that just a bit too many members of the roster were included. Jim Ross is said to have written the card backs, and even Good 'Ol J.R. seemed to struggle to think of a few sentences for a number of these stars. The world really did not need yet another Curt Hawkins or Rosa Mendes card. The final fifteen cards of the set are Legends, and it's nice to see names like Larry Zbyszko, Diamond Dallas Page, and the Honky Tonk Man in the set.
Other subsets include WWE Champions, Greatest Contenders, and Greatest Championship Matches. These cards feature some great shots of past and present superstars and events, including another new Bruno Sammartino card. In fact, this set struck a special place in my heart with several generations of Pittsburgh wrestling included. In addition to the aforementioned Zbyszko and Sammartino cards, a Bragging Rights 2009 card (the final pay-per-view held in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena) and a rookie card of NXT star Corey Graves (Pittsburgh's Sterling James Keenan) are also here to represent the Steel City.
Oh yeah, each hobby box does include two hits. What was my other hit? Well. No "Glory" days here, that's for sure...
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Most autographed cards from the majority of sports and manufacturers in the past decade or so have utilized stickers. The talents autograph the clear stickers which are later attached to the cards by the manufacturer. It's an easier way for the cards to be autographed by stars who are often hard to pin down. I prefer obtaining my own autographs, but many card collectors will only accept the signed cards that are inserted into the packs and boxes into their collections. Although it takes a great deal of the personal feel out of collecting, it's still a lot of fun to pull these cards.
TNA Glory once again promises greatness right on the box. 3 autographed cards are guaranteed, with at least one promised to be one of the new "On-Card" autographs and another card featuring multiple signatures. Also promised is an authentic Slammiversary 2013 autographed ring mat card or a TNA event-worn clothing card. I think anyone would prefer the autographed mat in this instance.
Unlike last time where my pulls were rather lackluster, I was pleasantly surprised. While it didn't compare to my Hulk Hogan and Sting pulls of the past, anytime you end up with five autographs from a box, it's a good day. Especially when four of those autographs are from female stars. The female autographs will almost always be more desired by collectors in the same respect that ex-Knockouts and Divas always do well on the autograph convention circuit. Whether it's a matter of taste or a sign of some lonely days and nights on the behalf of the collectors, I'll leave for you to decide.
My favorite pull is the Slammiversary 2013 autographed ring mat card. Taryn Terrell, formerly WWE Diva Tiffany, was the signature and photo on my particular pull. The card is very thick, and features a large piece of mat to fit the full signature on. Seeing as that Terrell defeated Gail Kim in a highly touted match that evening makes the card all the cooler. It certainly beats the days when relics would be inserted into a card and have little or nothing to do with the talent depicted.
As always there are countless color parallels as mentioned above as well as other limited cards such as Sam Shaw-drawn caricatures. Also as mentioned above, you once again pull a full 99 card base set among the twenty packs in the box. This is a really nice feature that makes buying a box all the more worth it. A base set itself will usually set a collector back between $15-$20, so in general it's more economical to just buy a box.