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!!!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Down Under With Outback Jack

Like any genre, wrestling is full of hits and misses. Sometimes what appear to be great ideas on paper just don't translate well in person or on-screen. Such is the case with the character known as Outback Jack. Many fans don't even remember Outback very well, as it seems that if you weren't on those early pay-per-views your run can be largely forgotten. Nevertheless, other fans do remember him and it's surprising to learn that he lasted as long in the company as he did. Most notably is that he inspired quite a bit of memorabilia for a character who had a short shelf life.

The year was 1986 and the film Crocodile Dundee was banking coin and bringing laughs at the box office. It told the story of an Australian bushman finding himself in America lost in the culture of New York City. What better story for a new WWF character? The company found a man named Peter Stilsbury to portray the character and thus began the adventure of Outback Jack. As said above, it isn't a bad idea on paper. As chronicled by the vignettes shown on WWF television to introduce the character, the Australian bushmen are tough. I'm sure that many fans were eagerly awaiting Jack battling and defeating the biggest and baddest that the WWF had to offer such as King Kong Bundy and Kamala.

For whatever reason, Outback Jack didn't turn out the way that the company expected. He wasn't the greatest in the ring, but this was an era where that didn't matter as much as character and charisma. Perhaps he needed more of a rub such as the one that Hillbilly Jim received from Hulk Hogan. Maybe he needed a mouthpiece, though babyface managers were few and far between at this point. In my opinion the character may have worked had they turned him heel quickly similar to how The Honky Tonk Man was introduced, but that transition was happening at the same time.

Needless to say, Outback Jack was a failed experiment. To the surprise of many fans today, Jack lasted about a year and a half, seeing his last WWF matches in mid-1988. In a bit of trivia he even teamed with a young Steve Blackman in one of those matches, the same "Lethal Weapon" who would make a bit of a name with the company a decade later.

What is also surprising to some fans is the amount of merchandise that was released for the character. Outback Jack had several cards in the much remembered 1987 Topps WWF card set, even getting a "face" card that only the top superstars received. He also had a rarely seen set of promotional photos that showed Jack in and around Australia in some of the same situations shown in the introduction vignettes. There was an Outback Jack t-shirt sold through the merchandise catalog and at events, but most famous is his figure in the beloved Wrestling Superstars line by LJN. To date this remains the only figure of Jack, and it even has a removable slouch hat.

The WWF didn't give up on the idea of friendly wrestlers from "Down Under" after the Outback Jack failure. Just a few months later The Bushwhackers from New Zealand would debut and last in the company for almost a decade. Maybe their out-of-control zaniness is more of what Jack needed to win over the fans. Personally, I feel that he physically looked more like a heel and may have thrived a decade earlier as a bloodthirsty Australian roughneck. Regardless, even without any pay-per-view appearances and even few matches featured on WWE Network thus far, Outback Jack will live on thanks to the merchandising...the aspect of any wrestling career that we've been celebrating on this blog for ten years.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Wrestling MarketWatch: Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine

Wrestling magazine titles like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, WWF Magazine, and The Wrestler may be the more celebrated publications, but you can't beat an issue or two of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine in any collection. Great covers, solid photography, and a veritable celebration of Jim Crockett Promotions in every issue. Add all of that to the fact that, though you can occasionally stumble upon a great deal, the value of the issues has rarely waned. In this edition of MarketWatch, we'll look at a couple of recent selling prices. As always, prices noted are for non-autographed versions.

*Where better to kick it off than with The Nature Boy? In one of the later issues, Ric Flair appears on the cover holding the belt that he defended night after night, that being the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. The covers went through a multitude of changes as the years and months went by, but here on Vol. 4 No 8., Naitch appears to have been photographed after one of his many title defenses. For as big of a star as Flair was, he had fewer cover appearances on this publication than other stars of Jim Crockett Promotions. This issue recently sold at auction for $126.

*In a look at a different format of the magazine, we get a great glimpse at "Mr. USA" Tony Atlas. Atlas had runs in nearly every promotion of the '70s, '80s, and into the '90s, but he definitely saw a great deal of popularity in Jim Crockett Promotions. Did his career ultimately not live up to expectations because of self-sabotage? It's hard to say, but Tony certainly seems to be enjoying the business, and the fans, to this day. This issue, which had an artistic cover as opposed to photographs, recently sold at the bargain price of just $20.

*Dino Bravo will most likely be remembered for his tragic end, but
his career spanned decades with runs in various different promotions. Before his bleached blonde days in the WWF, Bravo was both a heel and babyface around the globe. Hearing the cheers of the fans in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, Bravo captured several major titles in the promotion and feuded with the likes of Blackjack Mulligan and The Andersons around the Carolinas and beyond. His cover issue recently sold at auction for $30.

*Two men who were stalwarts at the now-legendary Mid-Atlantic Fanfests promoted by Greg Price in Charlotte, North Carolina were Paul Jones and Masked Superstar. Not only did the two men team and feud in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, but they also shared a classic magazine cover. Many fans may have grown up knowing Jones as a manager and Superstar as Demolition Ax, but large portions of their legacies lie a decade earlier before the wrestling promotions went national. This issue, with one of my all-time favorite covers, recently sold at auction for $104. Less than a year ago on this blog, we documented that this issue had sold for roughly half of that cost.

The Mid-Atlantic titles continue to hold their own. While deals are to be had on some issues, others simply won't waiver. Only truly documented here on this blog as well as on The Mid-Atlantic Gateway, the magazine continues to be a treasure to behold in the wrestling memorabilia world.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The "Lost" Retro Series

We're all like jilted lovers. Their decisions and actions betray us, upset us, and annoy us, yet we keep coming back for more. Wrestling figure collectors are the victims. The evil entity luring us? Mattel. Sure, they have a great product that we can't get enough of. But what does it take for us to get it? Lousy distribution. Much-wanted product that is deliberately made to be "chased." But here we are. And here is another review of a series that can be classified under all of the above.

Mattel WWE Retro Series 5 should have been available everywhere. You have one of the most popular acts of the last few years debuting in a hot line and an all-time great making his "re-debut" in the style. Aside from some appearances at online retailers and, shockingly, in the bargain basement, this series really didn't show up much of anywhere. The sad part is that without these four the Retro set and collection has a glaring omission. Nevertheless, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Big E., Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods have arrived.

In my opinion, The New Day was a must for the Retro line. They fit the style, they're fun characters, and the men behind the characters are likely getting a huge thrill being immortalized in the type of wrestling figure that they grew up playing with. The pink and blue color combination is a ray of sunshine in a line that was getting somewhat dull in looks. Sure, many superstars of today lack vibrant colors, but one of the Hasbro WWF figure legacies is exactly that. It was a reflection of the roster at the time and this line should continue that. The current WWE Champion (as of press time) and his crew do just that. Be sure to check out Woods' very Sheik (chic?) boots and the fact that Big E's figure feels very much like Hasbro's Warlord of decades ago.

For me, Randy Savage is the sleeper here. You can't have a bad figure of The Macho Man. It just does not happen with what a larger-than-life character that he was. That being said, I wasn't too excited when this figure was first revealed. The nWo black and white colors just don't do it for me in this style. I would have preferred the Savage that we should've gotten in 1992, but didn't. A simple repaint of the "Macho King" figure with vibrant pants, similar to the figure included in the Hasbro Royal Rumble mini-ring. After having the figure in my hands, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. It really screams "Savage" (or "Oooooh yeah," perhaps?) in the WCW/nWo era and goes well with other figures in the line such as Sting, Goldberg, and Ric Flair. It should be noted that a packaging variation has been discovered with Savage. In some releases his left arm is raised inside of the bubble.

My only real gripes are the packaging, which has changed for the better in future series as documented in the last entry, and the fact that I would've swapped the "Real Wrestling Action" moves of Woods and Kingston. It's a solid lineup and good to see The New Day released together. If they all weren't so difficult to find I would say that Kingston would be the most popular due to his recent successes, but you'll pretty much have to go the online route to ensure that you pick up the set. There is already another Savage available in the line that I'm sure we'll be seeing here on the blog sooner than later, but it does not really fill the void that I mentioned above. I would not be surprised to see The New Day redone in different colors down the line also.

Thanks for still checking out the blog even on our reduced schedule. There's plenty more to come...

Thursday, April 18, 2019

An Olympic Hero, A Showstopper, A Paragon, & A Lobster Head

The distribution may be flaky at best and Mattel isn't doing anyone any favors with some more than bizarre business choices, but another round of retro goodness is here. Thankfully, the line returns to its roots of two years ago in many ways and even improves in other areas. So much for predictions abound that the line was about to end, nothing in the foreseeable future seems to point in that direction, especially with some recently seen prototypes.

Another four superstars round out the latest wave to hit stores, including two Hall of Famers. Our lineup tonight is Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, and Sheamus. The best news to come out of this series is that the obstructions on the cardback are largely gone. The homage to the Hasbro "Real Wrestling Action" symbol is back and the fairly pointless stands are gone. Also largely reduced are the graphics advertising a game enabled by scanning the card with your cell phone. There's still a small note of it in the corner, but the barcode is now included on a piece of cardboard packaged behind the figure.

These four names are all fresh to the WWE Retro line and all fit in quite well. Angle and HBK are the most "retro" representing their looks circa 1999 and 2002 respectively. Sheamus and Jericho seem to appear in their most recent WWE incarnations. In a way I'd have preferred an earlier Jericho look, but how can you argue when this version of Y2J was so much fun? In my opinion Angle stands out the most, maybe because he's the closest here that could've actually been in the Hasbro line albeit a couple of years off.

I'd have to rank Shawn Michaels as my least favorite simply because I'm not necessarily seeing HBK in the face. There's a fine line in how these WWE Retro heads should be done. While they shouldn't look like a regular Mattel figure head plopped onto a Hasbro-style body, there does have to be an almost cartoonish resemblance. Sheamus and Angle capture the latter perfectly. Jericho is good, but it may be just a bit too close to the regular Mattel version. In a nice change, all four have action maneuvers that fit their characters and don't interfere with the figure likenesses.

Only Jericho includes an accessory, that being his "Scarf of Jericho." It's very difficult to remove, but it will come off from around his neck with enough finagling. A gold medal accessory may have been a nice addition to Angle, but I can't imagine anyone deducting points without it being there. It is interesting to think that we now have three eras of Shawn Michaels in the Hasbro style, and I'm happy that we got a different look this time rather than The Rocker or The Heartbreak Kid again. The "Sweet Chin Music" action is pretty cool, too.

In my opinion the WWE Retro line is really picking up again. There
are some very wanted names coming for this format including Diesel and Goldust as well as surprises like The Iron Sheik and Junkyard Dog. The line has seemingly escaped from its days of a lot of dull colored characters translating into dull figures in a style that should not be dull. As long as the distribution stays fairly decent, I think that we could be seeing the "rebirth" of the Hasbro style go for a long while.

Friday, March 22, 2019

10 Years...

I still remember typing up that first blog entry. Little did I know where it would all lead. Who would have thought that a weekly blog about wrestling memorabilia would take off? When no one else is tackling the same sort of thing, readership will grow. Even with interest in the wrestling business at a fairly low point at the time, people came to read. Maybe it was because a huge chunk of the content was nostalgia. Either way, if you've read this blog at any point in the last decade, thank you! And before I continue, I apologize for this anniversary entry being stream of consciousness to an extent, but it just feels right in this case.

I always tried to keep the same mission: to enlighten and entertain using wrestling memorabilia. Though I did occasionally stray discussing other topics within wrestling, I constantly attempted to tie it into at least some collectibles. I also did my best to keep the content positive. It's easy to write negatively and sadly there are a lot of negatives in the wrestling business to write about. Did I stray? Sure. But you all enjoyed my infamous New York City encounter with A.J. Lee. I'm told that even Jay Lethal mentioned it in a shoot interview. Even with a little bad came some good.

It was interesting to see the highs and lows of readership from week to week depending on the content. As a rule wrestling action figures always attracted more readers. Looks through musty old magazines did far less. But as far as feedback, the latter always seemed to attract more. How does that work? Even I don't know. The posts covering the excitement around Greg Price's Charlotte Fanfests were usually well-received also. While they weren't 100% memorabilia related, I always had demand for more meet-and-greet stories. While many of those tales are being preserved for different avenues in the future, I couldn't ever resist spilling a few of them.

Dusty, Bruno, The King, and Piper are just a few names who I feel were written about more than others around here. I never thought that I would be writing memorial entries for The Dream and Hot Rod back in 2009, but time marches on. Autographs have also always been a staple, considering I myself am a huge collector of them. I know that doesn't ring true for every collector, but I appreciate you staying on if it's not your thing. While I don't think that every single piece of memorabilia needs signed, more often than not I will purchase an item if I think that it has autographing potential.

In case you missed the last entry of 2018 and haven't been keeping up with this years offerings, the blog is no longer weekly. For one thing, so much of what I've wanted to cover initially has been done. Another reason is that my time doesn't allow me the pleasure of getting an entry in weekly. If a writer is truly enjoying the content, the output will be that much better. If I'm rushing through to get an entry done just for the sake of getting one done, it isn't going to be good. For another truth to be revealed, my personal interest in the current product is at an all-time low. I have not seen a weekly program in well over a year and no longer regularly watch the monthly pay-per-views. While I love so much of the current talent, the presentation is nearly the complete opposite of what I want to see. Therefore, my coverage of current memorabilia suffers.

With all of that being said, we're nowhere near being over. When I have a great topic it's still just as fun as it always was to maintain this blog and continue the journey. I have several ideas lined up for the near future and still maintain all of the branches of the blog on social media through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While the tales of wrestling memorabilia are now told in various ways outside of the blog that you're reading, it's a sincere hope of mine that you all still have a big spot in your heart for the original. You may not have a Thursday evening destination any longer, but remember to visit now and then.

In another decade we'll be reflecting on twenty years right here. Mark my words.