Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pittsburgh Loses Its Voice..."Chilly Billy" Cardille

Pop in an old wrestling match from the '50s to the '70s and you'll likely be able to identify where it took place in just a few seconds. The venues were unique. The look and feel of the production might be a tip-off. You might even be able to pinpoint it just by who's in the ring. But the most recognizable aspect of a regional wrestling promotional was usually the golden voice behind the microphone. We've had plenty of them over the years and have begun to honor many who are still with us. Lance Russell, Bob Caudle, and Bill Mercer are just a few of those who have lived to see a new appreciation of their past efforts. Sadly, one who isn't as well known for wrestling outside of his home city has just passed away. The man was the voice of Pittsburgh's Studio Wrestling program starring "The Living Legend" himself, Bruno Sammartino. The man was Bill Cardille.

"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.

For a time, Cardille was also an announcer for one of the WWWF's syndicated shows out of Philadelphia. If any footage of that exists, it certainly hasn't been shown in awhile. But ultimately it was his love of his family and the city of Pittsburgh that kept him from becoming one of the main voices of the promotion that eventually took over the wrestling industry. Cardille did not want to travel to Washington D.C. and other areas in the territory, so instead the company began using a youngster named Vince McMahon Jr.

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.

While we don't have much film of "Chilly Billy" in wrestling, we do have plenty of memorabilia. Cardille had several wrestling magazine articles covering his efforts in the '60s. He was also featured in the "Tri-State Wrestling" publications that were produced by the Pittsburgh wrestling office, often with other Studio Wrestling notables such as fan "Ringside Rosie" and Pittsburgh Pirate Hall of Famer-turned-pitchman Pie Traynor. Many print ads featuring Cardille and showcasing Studio Wrestling also still exist.

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

Totally '80s! Wrestling Merchandise Magazine Ads

It was the golden age of merchandising in professional wrestling! Gone were the days where you had to attend an actual wrestling event to snap up whatever items you could get your hands on. Photos, programs, and the occasional bumper sticker or pennant were great, but now the world had action figures, watches, videotapes, and even record albums! Best of all, you could order them straight from the pages of your favorite wrestling magazine. A decade earlier, kids were sneaking peeks of stuff that "older brother" or "creepy, lonely neighbor" were ordering from these same publications. By 1989, the younger market was being completely taken care of with (usually) age-appropriate items from various wrestling companies.

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.

 On the first actual page of the issue is an ad for "A Von Erich Extravaganza!" This ad is direct from the publishing company itself which must have had an overstock of the Von Erich's "Front Row Ringside" VHS video and "A Family Album" book. The album itself has been featured before on this very blog, and the "Front Row Ringside" video can be viewed as of press time on a very popular online video site. The original video as well as the book both prove to still be popular whenever the show up on the market today.

Later in the issue we get an ad from the other side of the World Class Championship Wrestling saga, that being Michael Hayes and the Fabulous Freebirds. Although the glory days of the promotion and its stars had passed by 1989, the merchandise was still there. The full page ad straight from "Badstreet" features a plethora of items celebrating "The Baddest of the Bad and The Meanest of the Mean." The legendary "Off The Streets" album by Hayes himself has been featured here many times and was available in this ad for just $9.95, including the infamous "Michael Hayes Exposed" poster. You could also join the fan club, hang Hayes on your wall, or wear a Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy "Bad To The Bone" t-shirt!

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.

The full-color back page features one of the best remembered ads of the era, again from "The Wrestling Ring" company. This ad features many of the LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars figures that had been released up to that point. Also shown are the large figure of Rowdy Roddy Piper and the wrestling ring and cage also all from LJN. We even get yet another cameo by one of those foam NWA Championship belts. It's great to see the LJNs in all of their glory. The colors of the figures look particularly rich in the main photo, too. As 1989 progressed an even more famous ad was run in these magazines by "The Wrestling Ring." That ad featured mentions (but NOT pictures) of some of the unreleased figures such as The Barbarian, Demolition Smash, and Bad News Brown.

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

Joe's New Figure Is Gonna Kill You

About a month or so ago I actually saved one of the pictures that came in an e-mail from WWE Shop. I'd never done it before, but there was something about this picture that just struck me. It had nothing to do with the merchandise that was being touted. Instead, it was the two wrestlers shown. Those two men? AJ Styles and Samoa Joe. As many times as we've learned to "never say never" as wrestling fans, here are two wrestlers who were always said to not fit into the WWE style. Sure they had some one-off matches with the company years ago, but as they became bonafide stars, full WWE runs just didn't seem to be a possibility. In 2016, the WWE is changing. The company has always been at its best when it "thinks outside the box." That's exactly what it has done with NXT and the signing of stars such as these. Now, just a bit over a year since his debut under the WWE umbrella, a new Samoa Joe figure is here.

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.

If you remember back to May of 2015, you might recall the buzz surrounding the fact that almost immediately following Joe's debut at NXT TakeOver his t-shirt was available on WWE Shop. Later that month, it was said that strong sales of that shirt lead to a "full time" deal being offered to the superstar. Whether or not that is true, a figure-sized version of that shirt is included here. While Mattel may actually have gotten away with just including Joe's signature towel, the shirt is very much appreciated and sets this figure apart from his past representations. I did encounter a bit of resistance when removing the shirt from it's plastic "shield" inside the bubble. It seemed that if one of these figures is opened years from now, some of the lettering may be permanently stuck to the plastic.

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.

Of course, I had to pose Joe with the NXT Championship belt. It doesn't fit around his waist, but it does look good with the figure regardless. With a properly scaled Mattel version of Joe, all of the dream matches can be "held" before they ever actually take place in a WWE ring. Joe vs Triple H. Joe vs Brock Lesnar. Joe vs The Undertaker. Or even updated versions of Joe vs Daniel Bryan or John Cena. Now all we need is Kurt Angle to make his long awaited return to the WWE family so that we can recreate one of TNA's greatest feuds...

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.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Wrestling Classic Figure Review--Galoob WCW Arn Anderson

A fact suddenly hit me while writing one of the more recent action figure reviews here on the blog. Although we look at loads of other classic memorabilia, I haven't truly done a classic action figure review in the over seven years since the inception of this blog. We now have over thirty years of action figures to choose from ranging from the good, to the bad, and even to the downright ugly. Multiple companies on several continents have seen wrestling figures of some of the all time greatest grapplers and even many of the worst. Thus was born a new blog feature, The Wrestling Classic Figure Review.

Kicking off the new recurring feature is a figure that I'm admittedly biased towards. It was one of the first non-WWF products in my collection. With as much love as I have for the entire wrestling world, I grew up a child of the WWF. While I knew that there was other wrestling out there, and I now have just as much fondness for those companies as I do the stuff that I watched back then, until the age of 9 I knew everything else as "that other wrestling." Once I discovered the larger world, I made it a point to absorb any info that I could through magazines and videotapes, thus these days no one would be the wiser about my WWF-exclusive past.

I can pinpoint my first real WCW exposure to my dad. One day, while looking at wrestling figures in the now-defunct Family Toy Warehouse store, my dad picked up the Galoob WCW Ric Flair figure and told me that we were buying it as he was coming to the WWF soon. What kid would say no? It was another wrestler to add to my Hasbro WWF roster and he included a new championship belt! Sure enough, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan shortly thereafter started to tease the arrival of "The Real World's Champion" on WWF television. My dad was not only the most giving guy who ever lived, but apparently he had some "inside" info, too!

But this review isn't about that figure of "The Nature Boy." I began to watch WCW (thanks to my mom, a story that I believe I've already told here), but knew some of the other Galoob figures from their pasts in the WWF. One of those wrestlers was "The Enforcer" Arn Anderson.

To me, Arn Anderson was one of those guys who just looked like a wrestler. Not menacing in the traditional sense, but someone who could take you out in an instant. Just rugged and tough. The Galoob figure resonated with me because it capture Anderson's look completely. For those unfamiliar, these WCW figures were devoid of poseability. They were solid plastic making it essential for the sculpted pose to not only capture the likeness of the wrestler but all of the action as well.

Anderson's pose was spot on. You could do a spinebuster, DDT, piledriver, slam, and various other maneuvers thanks to the way that Galoob produced the figure. Some of the other figures in the line were a lot less pleasing to play with. I took care of my toys, but there's a reason that the Arn from my childhood (the one shown here is an example that I picked up later) has a lot of paint wear--he fought the ring wars! He battled alongside fellow Galoob Horsemen members, took the bionic elbow of the Hasbro WWF Dusty Rhodes, and even battled with JusToys WWF Bend-Ems as the 1990's wore on.

Each Galoob WCW figure came packaged wearing a championship belt. The belts all had the identical WCW design, but I'm sure that I'm not the only one who used these belts as Intercontinental and Tag Team championships. It just worked out great. The belt itself really didn't closely resemble any of the actual WCW championships, but it was still a nice add-on that Hasbro might have been wise to copy.

Arn saw some variations, including the infamous "bald spot." While I've owned three over my lifetime, only my carded example actually has the bald spot. The rest have it painted over. My carded Arn is also one of the early releases that has "NWA" on the right side of the card back. There is also a second series re-release in the UK that has completely red tights. Arn additionally came packaged in a tag team set with longtime ally, and occasional "cousin," Ric Flair.

To many, this will always be the quintessential action figure version of Arn Anderson. The Jakks versions seemed a bit too bulky. The more recent Mattel examples were just a bit too spindly. Galoob's Arn is probably the best that we will ever get. While signing my carded version, Arn even pointed out to Dean Malenko that he preferred this one. Not to toot his own horn, but "toot, toot," the original is still the best!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wrestling MarketWatch: The Publications of Jim Crockett Promotions

It's almost the Fourth of July! This time of year always gets me to thinking of the magic of Jim Crockett Promotions. It may be true that a lot of the territorial wrestling promotions looked to summer as a time when business was down due to other activities taking up the evenings of the money-paying fan, but JCP changed that. The company and its talent took those long, hot, summer nights and created events that many remember to this day: The Great American Bash. It was a summer get together. Bring the kids! Bring grandma! Bring the beer and brats! It was music, food, the great outdoors, and hard-hitting wrestling action.

In this edition of MarketWatch we'll look at some of the most treasured memorabilia featuring The Great American Bash and other Crockett-promoted events: the publications. JCP produced some very nice all-slick, sometimes even all-color, programs and magazines that showcased their stars in a way that the WWF would later become famous for. The rough, often bloody, action that took place in JCP rings came through the pages making them highly collectible today. If you're a longtime reader, you've seen some of these items before. This time we'll look at some recent selling prices for them. As always, the prices given are for un-autographed copies.

*Jim Crockett Promotions history of high-quality color spectacles in publishing goes back to the legendary Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine. Nearly all of the big stars of the promotion made the cover at one point or another as the production carried on into the 1980's. Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Dino Bravo, Blackjack Mulligan, The Mighty Igor, and Greg Valentine are just a few of the names who found themselves on the front page, but none may have looked more menacing than Ole Anderson. The notoriously gruff grappler was featured on the cover several times, but the Volume 4 Number 6 issue has Anderson, by himself, in a full color photo. A copy of this issue recently sold for $30.

*As mentioned earlier, The Great American Bash may have been the signature event for the company. While Starrcade was positioned as "The Granddaddy of Em All," The Bash, for me, signifies what Jim Crockett Promotions really stood for. In its original form, The Bash was a tour rather than just one event. Many cities and towns, large and small, got to taste live, summer, wrestling action. There will never be wrestling tours of that magnitude again, so taking in as much as we can about "the glory days" from both the wrestlers and the fans who were there is how we can still connect to that era. The '86 Bash tour is still fondly remembered as one of the best. The program from the tour recently sold for $25.

*Speaking of tours, The Rock & Roll Express even had their own offshoot, "The Summer Sizzler Tour." That tour produced its own publication, as did Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson themselves. Jim Crockett Promotions knew that many of the wrestlers had large female followings and produced what could almost be described as photo albums for some of the stars. The Express even had a fan club for a time with high-quality bulletins. One of the publications featuring Morton and Gibson was "The Rock & Roll Express: Solid Gold." This magazine, featuring photos of the boys in and out of the ring, recently sold for $20.50. It should be noted that the sold example had major cover wear. A copy as pictured here would likely fetch a bit more.

*Another signature JCP event was The Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament. More commonly known as simply "The Crockett Cup," the event was completed in two shows and held from 1986 to 1988. The winners were predictable, but it was still a chance to see interesting match-ups and wrestlers from outside the promotion. Many are hoping that the shows in as complete forms as possible will end up on WWE Network. It could also be said that The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic is a successor to the Crockett Cup. The program from the final Crockett Cup tournament held in 1988 recently sold for $60.

*Jim Crockett Promotions, and many fans, definitely looked at Starrcade as the biggest event of the year. It certainly came before WrestleMania as the industry's biggest supercard, but often had endings that weren't quite as final or conclusive. Some also point to Starrcade being moved out of its original home of the Carolinas as the beginning of the end for the promotion. While I find the latter to be a bit dramatic, something just seems right about Starrcade and Greensboro, NC. After the move to Chicago in 1987, Starrcade came to the more fitting Norfolk, VA in 1988. The program from that event, subtitled "True Gritt," recently sold for $175.50.

It wouldn't be a Fourth of July for me without celebrating Jim Crockett Promotions a bit. Maybe I'll pull up a classic show on WWE Network, schlepp out the programs and magazines, perhaps even the Wonderama trading cards. I'll wrap a Road Warriors or Four Horsemen bandana around my head and cue up "Rock & Roll Is King." It's a great time to revisit that era. It may gone forever, but that's what's great about the kind of memorabilia that we look at here each week. It lets us hop in that time machine for a quick spin without ever leaving our seats.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Demon Arrives

Some love it, others hate it. Some embrace it, some just don't get it. Overall, you can't deny one thing: The Demon is over. It's become almost an alter-ego for NXT standout Finn Balor. For a wrestler who really needs nothing more than his impressive skills to stand out, it's a helpful extra boost in the character-driven world of WWE. In that world, where action figure or video game-esque personas rule, The Demon makes a big impression. It's no surprise that his first action figure would be a popular one. In Mattel's WWE Elite 41 series, we get to see The Demon in his figure debut.

Finn Balor's first figure was actually in Basic Series 57. That figure was devoid of any paint or demonic attire. It was very much Balor in his previous guise as Prince Devitt. The Demon had to wait. Now, in this Elite figure, we get the character itself. The figure blends well with the packaging since the current style is mainly red. Since Finn is decked out in his headdress and gauntlets, the figure fills the plastic window nicely. No "floating" effect here.

The head seems to be the same as the one used on the Basic release. This one, obviously, has the paint to differentiate. The headdress fits snugly, as do the gauntlets. Although this body was not specifically created for him, it works perfectly. He isn't the biggest guy in the business, but he does have an impressive build. The Elite style body allows you to recreate many of Finn's spectacular moves with ease. The rest of your NXT roster should be prepared to feel the 1916 or any of the other moves of The Demon.

The paint itself is also very well done from front to back. Gone are the days when designs didn't quite make it around the whole figure. I'm looking at you, Jakks, with that comment. The blacks, whites, and reds are well applied and I didn't seem to have much problem with errors or sloppiness on my example. The pink "tongue" of The Demon looks really cool, too. The paint apps on the accessories are very good as well.

The Demon does not come with the NXT Championship that he held for so long, but the figure still looks good with it. As this summer progresses, it's hard to figure whether The Demon will still even be challenging for the NXT Championship, or if he will have gone on to join his brothers in "The Club" as has so hotly been rumored. Perhaps he will even find himself on the opposite side of the ring from those men. Whether or not WWE can find enough talent to fill full rosters for both Raw and Smackdown will likely help answer those questions.

The first figure of Finn as The Demon will be a popular one. That being said, I'm sure that it won't be the only one. Mattel will be able to get away with straight re-releases on this figure due to the popularity. There are also a few variations on the character from several big events that could be capitalized on. It wouldn't surprise me to see a Basic version of The Demon, sans accessories, as well. As I've said before, anything with the NXT logo stamped on it is sure to be a hot seller at this point in time. Whether or not the stars represented in those items will be under the NXT banner much longer...that's another story.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Highs & Lows of Topps WWE 2016

Topps keeps churnin' em out, and we keep buyin' em. It's evident by how fast nearly all retailers sell out of product that WWE trading cards are a popular item. They appeal to a variety of collectors. They're more often than not a well produced product. Thanks to "hits" they offer a lottery feel of possibly pulling an autograph or other premium. They're usually a win-win purchase. Even regular cards can feel special when you're opening your first few packs of that particular series and pull one of your favorites.

Seemingly now settled at three mass retail WWE sets per year, Topps is now on their second for 2016. This time it's the aptly named WWE 2016 set. These sets named only by year usually mirror the sets produced by Topps for other sports in the same year such as baseball and football. A particularly handsome design was chosen by Topps this year, which instantly forces a minor hit with me. If I'm not a fan of how the base cards look, I usually won't invest much into a set. The Topps WWE Road To WrestleMania 2016 set resembles that remark. Aside from the Dusty Rhodes Tribute subset, I largely ignored the rest of the cards.

Topps WWE 2016 boasts a nice 100-card base set. Going through the cards you may notice something interesting: the biggest current stars do not appear. Names such as Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, and The New Day instead appear twice each in the "Perspectives" subset. These cards feature each star on two separate cards, one of which is from the "files of The Authority." As gimmicky as this may be, it does help two other views of collecting. For one thing, it frees up space in the base set for names that may not have necessarily made it in otherwise. For autograph collectors looking to try and get as many cards signed in the base set as they can, the larger, harder-to-obtain names won't be an issue.

For those who enjoy variants there are parallels in the set of bronze, silver, and even a rare red. To be honest, the silver and bronze are barely noticeable. While on the topic of parallels, I must point out something that I noticed after a box break. Topps has been good for a few years now about building a complete base set out of one single box. While I was able to do that, I would have had to have used a parallel card to do it had I not pulled the same regular card from an outside pack. In my book, a base set should be included in every hobby box without any parallels involved.

Several subsets are included, most notably a 28-card NXT set. Many of these names are no longer in NXT, with assuredly more to follow with the upcoming brand extension. There are also continuation subsets of The Rock, Triple H, Bret Hart, and Brock Lesnar. This style of subset is beyond boring to me. I know that there was an oversaturation of product in the "Attitude Era," but is it just me or does every card of Triple H and The Rock basically look the same? Personally I have no interest in collecting these subsets and pulling one of the cards in a pack elicits more of a groan from me than anything resembling happiness.

There are also plenty of different "hits." Some of us always want that autograph to be pulled, even those of us who mainly obtain our own signatures. After being spoiled by "on-card" autographs of recent sets, Topps has gone back to the stickers. It was disappointing to see this. For awhile I didn't think that it would make much of a difference to me, but I now see that it does. In my box, I pulled Nia Jax. While you can never go wrong with pulling a female related card (see one of my past card set reviews for the sad commentary on that), Nia wouldn't have been my first choice. Nonetheless, she is a new autograph for me, and with NXT as hot it is, you can't go wrong with that brand name slapped onto anything.

Other pulls include medallions, Divas kiss cards, multi-autographs, autographed relics, shirt relics, and mat relics from NXT Brooklyn and SummerSlam. My pull in this category was a mat relic from the latter event featuring The Undertaker. Again, not my first choice, but The Undertaker is another name that will always hold major ground with collectors. Between my two hits, I probably could have resold the two of them and gotten my investment back on the box while keeping all of the other cards. With that kind of figuring, it's easy to come out feeling good about the purchase.

It's definitely a middle-ground set. I'm very pleased with the base card style as well as the choices in both names and photos. Whoever made the call on including a Mr. X (the Danny Davis version who is also in the set under his regular persona) card deserves a raise. Sensational Sherri Martel, Miss Elizabeth, Kevin and Kerry Von Erich, and J.J. Dillon also brought a smile to my face. On the flip side, many of the subsets are once again snoozers. I realize that the casual fan still wants cards of The Rock and Triple H, but many of us regulars are well past that. At least past subsets of Sting and Hulk Hogan offered images that have never appeared on cards before. It was refreshing.

The next time that trading cards grace this blog will likely be in August, just a few weeks away. At that time Topps will bring us their 2016 installment of WWE Heritage. As longtime readers know, the Heritage sets are my favorite. I'm anticipating a lot of loving for this new set as well, as the design is based on Topps 1986 baseball which was a favorite of mine as a child. Bring on that cardboard goodness...