Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wrestling MarketWatch: The Written Word

As far as the mainstream goes, Mick Foley is most likely the best known wrestling author.  The fame is for good reason, as Foley did in fact kickoff the modern era of the wrestling book with great success, but the genre hardly ends there.  From biographies and autobiographies to coffee table books, there's a great variety out there for the voracious reader that doubles as a wrestling fan. 

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.

*In the 1980's and early 1990's, many wrestling books were more photo albums than stories.  After all, what other sport produces more exciting photos suited to be in a book than wrestling?  One of the hottest promotions of the era was World Class Championship Wrestling, and of course that meant the Von Erich family.  "The Von Erichs--A Family Album" is a look at the family both in and out of the ring just after the death of Mike.  A beautiful hardcover book, the album appeals to both wrestling fans and those who lived the WCCW phenomenon first hand.  Always in demand, the book recently sold for $71.

*"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.

*Another book that has seen such demand that a reprint was warranted is "Bruno Sammartino: An Autobiography Of Wrestling's Living Legend."  The book was originally published by Imagine Inc. in 1990.  You may remember Imagine Inc. for their Wrestling Legends trading cards that also involved Sammartino.  18 years later, CreateSpace re-released the book with a slightly different cover.  While no copies of the original have sold recently, the re-release has been selling for an average of $20.

*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

The Ultimate Warrior...

Originally, this week was to feature my own thoughts on WrestleMania XXX and the new look of the wrestling business.  That was not to be.  Certainly, seeing as how The Ultimate Warrior featured so prominently into the biggest weekend on the WWE calendar, he would've been discussed at least a bit.  Instead, this has become a memorial to the newly minted WWE Hall of Famer.  For anyone who has not heard, the man who is legally known as "Warrior" collapsed and died upon return to his home state of Arizona.  He was 54 years old.

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.

The controversial aspects of the man have all been discussed, and in my opinion there are other living (and beloved) stars of the business who have made equally polarizing comments and moves.  It seems as if it was simply popular to single out the Warrior in the past fifteen years or so.  The same "fans" who whined and complained via keyboard about the Ultimate Warrior's "workrate" are the same ones who secretly had the Hasbro dress-up kit and figures in their closets.  These are the same individuals who are crying while watching his matches on WWE Network.

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.

The 2014 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony will be one of the most remembered, not for the quality of the speeches, but for being the redemption of The Ultimate Warrior.  It seemed that Warrior was trying to validate his career to himself on the biggest stage on which he would have a chance.  He succeeded.  Just as he did when he met all of us "Little Warriors," the knowledge that he did indeed make an impact on so many had to finally be evident.  As immensely tragic as the weekend turned out, no one has ever had a more dramatic goodbye to the fans than The Ultimate Warrior. 

As his speech on Raw said, "...the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever!"  I would have to agree.

Always believe...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

From The Musty Yellowed Pages--WrestleMania XXIV Program

With just a few days remaining as of press time until WrestleMania XXX, I thought it would be in the spirit of "getting into the Mania mood" to take a look back at one of the twenty-nine previous events.  One of the first entries here on the blog covered the collectability of WrestleMania programs.  At that time, the WrestleMania XXIV program was the "newest" available (with XXV debuting a few weeks later), and back then I did not even own it.  I never could have imagined where the copy that did end up with me would emanate from.

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.

Like most of the WrestleMania events of the past ten years, the title matches are actually rather forgettable.  This is due to several factors, one of which is that all of the main eventers of the time had constantly battled on pay-per-view, tv, and house shows many times before they did so on the "grandest stage of them all."  Gone were the days of true dream matches like Hogan-Warrior that were built with the slightest of pre-Mania contact.  Could these days be returning?  With more weekly content than ever it will be difficult, but at least the stories are somewhat leaning in that direction.

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.

WrestleMania XXIV gets past the damning title matches with a strong undercard and some very memorable special attraction matches.  From a mainstream standpoint, it didn't get any bigger than boxer Floyd "Money" Mayweather going up against The Big Show.  Show, at the time just returning to WWE, may come out on the losing end of many of his Mania matches, but his performances are second-to-none.  Carrying a non-wrestler to an entertaining and believable match can in no way be easy, but Show did it here.  Seeing as that Mayweather is still a top grossing star and did very well in his WrestleMania appearance, it would not surprise me to see the company work with him again somewhere down the pike.

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.

Aside from a hot opener billed as a "Belfast Brawl" between Fit Finlay and JBL, a then-WrestleMania traditional Money In The Bank match was another big highlight.  Looking back it's interesting to see what happened to the seven men involved.  The winner, CM Punk, and Chris Jericho have had many WWE highlights since, but MVP, Ken Kennedy, Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, and John Morrison all but fell into the same vacuum that other WWE mid-carders of the era did.  Sure, several have gone on to careers in TNA and Japan, but there is something about the mid-carders of the post-Attitude Era that leaves a fan wondering.  Many of them had so much talent, but they just never seemed to catch on.  Whether it was a residue effect of the aforementioned problem of no one single talent really setting the company on fire at the time or their own individual career moves and choices, we'll never really know.

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.

In the back, we get one-page WrestleMania "capsules" profiling the previous twenty-three events.  These were a staple for several years of the large Mania programs, with one added each year.  One huge mistake somehow went unnoticed for several years with the WrestleMania III page listing and showing WrestleMania 2 celebrities Rick Schroeder, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Elvira.  A small oversight to some, but after appearing a few years in a row, it started to become the first thing that I would turn to find.

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

Hall Of Fame Merchandise--2014 Edition

I steal a line from Jerry Lawler each year, but it's true: the Hall of Fame is my favorite night of the year in WWE.  It has plenty of detractors, but the one thing that cannot be denied is that in the eyes of the mainstream public, the WWE Hall of Fame is *the* Wrestling Hall of Fame.  As long as WWE is around, it will be the most recognized and accepted, especially if the rumored plans of a brick and mortar version come to full fruition.  In an industry like wrestling, you can't really say who should or should not be celebrated for their career efforts, but I think last year's long-awaited inclusion of Bruno Sammartino should satisfy many.

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.

Although some may not have actually seen him wrestle, most children who collected wrestling action figures in the '80s know the name Carlos Colon.  He was the figure in the Remco AWA line that came packaged with Abdullah the Butcher.  It was a no-brainer, as Colon and the Butcher have had countless battles in the past three or so decades, including many on the island of Puerto Rico.  Colon's figure is memorable for its bright orange (or red) cloth singlet, but the scarred forehead of the figure makes the likeness perfect.  Colon, the owner of Puerto Rico's WWC, is also the father of Primo and Carlito and uncle of Primo.

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.

After 2013's induction of Trish Stratus, it is only fitting that her #1 contemporary should follow suit.  Amy "Lita" Dumas was not only one of the top female wrestlers of the late' 90s and early 2000's, but also one of the biggest sex symbols ever to hit WWE.  An unconventional look, an aggressive attitude, and the feeling that any fan could "hang out" with the redheaded beauty helped cement her legacy in the business.  It was those qualities that landed her on so many magazine covers of the day, both with and without her partners in "Team Xtreme," The Hardy Boys.

It was only a year ago at this time that the entire world was mourning the death of Paul Bearer.  The legendary manager of The Undertaker, famous the world over for his ghastly look and unmistakable wail of "Ohhhhh Yes!", left a legacy that will likely never be matched.  A manager was never so closely associated with his charge as Bearer was with The Undertaker.  Despite not being a regular wrestler, Bearer's unique persona still lent itself to countless pieces of memorabilia.  I can still remember the excitement when the first Paul Bearer figure was slated to hit stores.  The figure is part of JusToys WWF Bend-Ems line, and was originally included with the Bend-Ems ring.  The ring was first slated to include Dink, but when Doink and his midget companion were being phased out, Bearer was made as a very suitable replacement.

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

Looking Back On Five Years...

Blogging about a blog?  Only on special occasions, but a five year anniversary definitely warrants it!  Five years of wrestling memorabilia, memories, fun, tears, and maybe even a bit of drama (I'm looking at you, A.J. Lee).  We've discussed it all here, and had you told me five years just how much ground would be covered, I'd have called you crazy.  To put it into perspective, WrestleMania 25 was on the horizon, TNA was still starring Sting, Jeff Jarrett, and Mick Foley, and the game changing WWE Network wouldn't even have been imagined in the form that it eventually took.

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.

Into the late '90s, I came up with the idea of a newsletter covering wrestling memorabilia.  Recruiting subscribers from the AOL boards and relying heavily on word-of-mouth, the newsletter was born.  Sadly, I can say that only one full issue remains in my collection.  With a HUGE subscriber base and a ton of product to cover (this was the "Attitude Era," after all), the newsletter thrived and garnered a very nice following.  Eventually, because of other interests and the life of a highschooler, I had no choice but to fold.

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.

Originally I didn't intend to publish new content weekly.  If you look back at the earlier entries, a few win absolutely no awards for "quality" or "quantity," but as with any writer, reader response is what kept me going.  As much as I like going back and reading some of the entries, I don't publish it for myself, so I've appreciated every little comment I've ever gotten.  Any time that someone shoots me an e-mail, posts on the Facebook page, or pulls me aside at an event, I truly take it to heart.  I've had to opportunity to meet a ton of great people thanks to this weekly look at wrestling.  The blog matters, and exists, because you all take the time to read it.

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

Topps Carries Their WWE Run Into 2014

 After the "Glory" of last week, Topps and their WWE product get some equal time under the bright lights of the blog.  Putting out an average of two sets a year, Topps has had ups and downs with their WWE card series.  Reuse of photos, little variation in design, and a feeling that the company has gotten complacent at times with their WWE product hasn't always helped propel the cards to the tops of collectors lists.  Looking at the box where not much more than the color has been changed doesn't bode well, but let's take a look inside.

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.

I was lucky enough to pull one of the new championship plate cards.  One of thirty different stars or teams are featured, along with three inset plates of the current representation of the championship that the wrestler(s) held.  With the recent controversy surrounding the "Straight Edge Superstar," there may have been no better plate to pull than that of CM Punk's.  The plates are more than just gold etched foil.  They're what you might see a medallion produced from, and I wouldn't mind seeing more of these cards in the future.

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.

My favorite subset is made up of twenty cards dedicated to the young talent of NXT.  Names already familiar to the WWE Universe such as Emma, Alexander Rusev, and Adrian Neville (especially after his showing on WWE Network's NXT ArRival) are included as are future names such as Bayley, Konnor O'Brien, and Mojo Rawley.  Interestingly enough, Xavier Woods, who has been on the main WWE roster for a few months now, is featured in the NXT subset while Bo Dallas is in the base WWE set.  Dallas has not been seen outside of NXT since the 2013 Royal Rumble.

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.

Overall, I'm pleased with this set.  You could have skipped every set since WWE Heritage 2012 (my all-time favorite Topps set) and not missed much.  A nice design (the same as that of Topps 2014 sports sets), some new rookies, and Legends new to the Topps collection are definite highlights.  I was even able to complete a 110-card base set from one single hobby box.  That being said, I'd have preferred another non-gloss set this time around, but there's time for that.  A Chrome version of this set is coming in June, which is my least favorite type of card, but that means that there will be at least one more set of product coming in 2014.  WWE Heritage 2014?  Based off of the 1987 Topps WWF design?  Let's do it.

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

Glory: The Last Hurrah Of TNA Trading Cards?

You may recall that I wasn't exactly pleased with the last series of TNA trading cards from Tristar.  The design and feel all seemed very rehashed.  To be fair, it's a rut that the Topps WWE trading cards have fell into more than once, so in no way is the blandness confined to one company.  Around the time that I reviewed that set, Tristar announced that their next set, TNA Glory, would contain "On-Card" autographs.  For many collectors, especially those focused exclusively on cards, this was great news.

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.

With each Tristar TNA product, retailers that actually sell the cards seem to grow fewer and fewer.  Target and many local card dealers do not carry the line anymore despite still being listed on the Tristar site.  For most collectors, buying a hobby box has become the best way to collect the new TNA sets.  With the past few sets, buying a box has insured that you will collect a full base set of cards and obtain a number of "hits" that include various forms of autograph, limited, and relic 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.

The on-card autographs really do look nice, especially since a blank area was left on the card for the star to sign.  James Storm and Christy Hemme are a good, middle-of-the-road, pair of on-cards to pull, and definitely trump what could've been...see Rockstar Spud.  The double autograph, a dual signed card of Gail Kim and Velvet Sky, is another one that any fan would be pleased with.  These autographs also feature different color foil designs.  Some collectors have been known to try and track down all of one color for sets.

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.

The base set consists of 99 cards.  I'm a much bigger fan of this design than the previous set, and the All-American colors remind me very much of what a Great American Bash trading card set may have looked like.  Hogan, Sting, Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, and the Knockouts are all here, as are King Mo, Rampage Jackson, and Tito Ortiz.  The final ten cards are Jeff Hardy art cards that form a mural of sorts when put together.  If Hardy's "Imag-i-nation" gimmick of the past is your thing, these are the cards for you.  The old Topps "sticker back" puzzle pieces these are not.

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.

I'm much more satisfied with Glory than I was with Live.  I'll admit that it's partially because I obtained better hits this time around, but the fact that there were better guaranteed hits to begin with helped as well.  The design and photo choices are also a factor.  I am concerned for future releases due to changes in TNA.  With Hogan and Sting no longer in the company, the desirability of buying boxes for hits is going to diminish greatly.  Any autograph is nice to have, but the rest of the roster is extremely accessible for autographs in person.  Only the card collectors that demand "authentic" autographs are really going to want endless Bobby Roode autograph hits, and even those collectors are often driven by value.  Hogan and Sting were the reasons for the high secondary market prices of TNA autograph cards that Tristar so often brags about in press materials.  With those two legends gone, it's hard to predict the future of TNA trading cards.  "Cut" autographs of wrestling legends that are purchased by the company and inserted into cards is one avenue that could be explored, but that's purely my own idea.  As with most things TNA-related in 2014, time will tell...