Monday, June 29, 2020
I've seen many remembrances over the years from fans who recall this being the first album that they ever purchased or owned. In a way, it's a smooth and fun introduction to music for any kid who already knows the wrestlers featured. Back in 1985 who didn't know JYD, Hillbilly Jim, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Mean Gene Okerlund? The cover is also the perfect blend of a chaotic rock and roll album image and the world of wrestling. It'd be interesting to know the whys and hows of who ended up on the cover. And why was The Hulkster simply inset? You've got Macho Man and Elizabeth, Ricky Steamboat, The U.S. Express (who Real American was famously originally meant for), Missing Link, and even Mona Flambé, the black-wigged alter ego of Cyndi Lauper.
Speaking of Cyndi Lauper, it's always shocked me how little Wendi Richter was involved in this album. She was a huge star at the time of its production, was directly connected with Lauper and David Wolff who produced the album, yet doesn't even appear on the cover. Her infamous departure from the company did not come until nearly three weeks after the album's release, so that obviously couldn't have played a factor. You would think an idea for a new theme song for her could've been in the pipeline to avoid future licensing of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," but that's only speculation. Aside from appearing in the video, the mega-hot female star is relatively disassociated with the project.
The album itself was initially released on vinyl and cassette, while a compact disc release had to wait nearly two decades. There were three singles, those being Grab Them Cakes, Don't Go Messin' With A Country Boy, and Land of 1,000 Dances?!!?, the last of which had a video filmed at a WWF taping in Poughkeepsie, NY. The trio was released as 45's complete with picture sleeves. A 12 inch single of Dances was done with a cover featuring photos from the video itself and includes both the dance and instrumental version of the song. I've also found a 12 inch single featuring Real American and Grab Them Cakes with a plain black sleeve. Variations could definitely exist out there.
Aside from the albums, promo flats/posters, and a reissue on colored vinyl from a few years ago, memorabilia largely remains limited to the original releases. Seeing as how Mattel seems to enjoy paying homage to the history of WWE, it would be fun to see a future figure or set packaged in some way as a remembrance to the album. If they were to get the rights to Cyndi Lauper (as they recently did Mr. T), this would be a no-brainer. It's also sort of surprising that the company hasn't recreated or paid tribute to the album and video in some way over the years. Somehow they feel that they didn't retain the rights to at least some of the music as Country Boy is no longer used.
All of the items that do exist have gone up in value. Even the basic album itself on vinyl will cost you around $30 on a good day. The various singles have gone up and down in price but rarely appear all at once. It will be a hunt, especially with the picture sleeves. Is it worth it? You'll be a Real American if you do it, but it's not For Everybody. Once you collect them all and Grab Them Cakes, you can tell Rick Springfield to eat his heart out.
Ok, I'm done, Cara Mia.
Thursday, June 18, 2020
In a cool twist, the Elite 77 packaging reflects SummerSlam not only with the logo of the event but also bright, shelf-jumping colors. Each character is also represented with a look that they appeared in at various SummerSlam events over the past three decades. Headlining the set we've got "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt, Viscera, Ravishing Rick Rude, Miss Elizabeth, AJ Styles, and Ronda Rousey. It should be noted that there is a "chase" Rick Rude in different tights and Mattel's first release of Classy Freddie Blassie ships in the same case as a "collector's edition." The latter is not connected to the set in any way other than being randomly dispersed in the case.
Looking at the re-releases first, I'll explain my bias. Yes, Elizabeth and Rude are re-releases, but they're legends or "Flashbacks" as Mattel prefers to call them. They don't have countless releases like Styles and Ronda, therefore I don't lump them all together. Styles happens to be one of my favorite modern wrestlers, so I never completely shy away from new figures of him. The gloved hands, shirt, and vest are all solid accessories. The journey of AJ's hair has been interesting to follow both in his WWE career as well as in his Mattel figures. Here we have what I can only describe as the "Marlo Thomas flip." If that's a meaningless reference to you, get off my lawn. Ronda is easily my least favorite figure in the set, but it isn't bad by any means. She has some face paint on here which makes her unique in my collection if not the whole line. I thought I was complete with her when the "Ultimate" figure was released, but one more won't hurt.
Many fans are seeing The Fiend as the star of the series, but my vote goes with Big Vis. Always a huge fan of Nelson Frazier, I will say that this is the definitive figure of Viscera if there ever was one. The figure easily wins the "LJN King Kong Bundy Award" for providing more-than-your-money's-worth. Not only is the figure massive with a picture-perfect likeness, but also included is the Hardcore Championship and three unique sets of hands including a pair posed in the "V" symbol. The Fiend is a winner, too, complete with the horrifying head lantern. I'll give Mattel one thing, they certainly don't shy away from content like many worried about when they took over the line. The body is also heavily tattooed and the scan of the mask looks great to me.
Another Elite set in the books and on the blog. I have a feeling that more will be here before summer's end. As much as I complain about Mattel, they're doing something right, and grabbing plenty of money from both you and me while they're at it.
Thursday, June 4, 2020
With how popular the merchandise from this era still is, the nostalgia is obviously strong. In this latest installment of Wrestling MarketWatch, we'll take a look at some recent auction selling prices for a handful of classic collectibles that capture the spirit of the era. As always, prices noted are for non-autographed examples.
*The World Wrestling Federation was waving their banner high. As high as the sky, in fact. This is the time when the WWF airship, or blimp, or zeppelin, would travel around the country proudly promoting the logo of the "worldwide leader in sports entertainment." An inflatable replica of the airship was briefly offered in the WWF Merchandise Catalog. As with many catalog items, rarity rules. This was actually given to me for Christmas 1995 as a gag gift. You see, my view of SummerSlam 1995 was partially obscured by the "Supersize Stridex Airship" which was present at events of the time. I guess this was to remind me of that. This inflatable toy recently sold at auction for $190.
*If you're talking HBK in the 1990's, you have to mention the man known as "Big Daddy Cool." Kevin Nash as Diesel was one of the great hopes of the WWF at this time, which is obvious by his year-long run with the WWF Championship. Fans were behind him, but he probably would've been more successful in another era. The company had two trading card series from the manufacturer Action Packed during this time, and the second set featured two "jumbo" cards that were roughly the size of promo photos. The one featuring Diesel recently sold at auction for $35.
*Speaking of centerpieces, the WWF year has always focused around WrestleMania. In 1995, that event featured Shawn Michaels against Diesel and football great Lawrence Taylor against Bam Bam Bigelow. Despite it being a time when wrestling was very much out of public and media consciousness, the latter match did garner some mainstream publicity which had to have pleased the company. Ringside celebrities Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy, however, remained looking bored. The program from the eleventh installment of WrestleMania recently sold for a rather conservative $45.
Were you a fan of The New WWF Generation? Obviously many were. As much as it would hurt many to hear, I actually find it more watchable than the "Attitude Era" which was to follow. Give me cartoony goofiness over gratuitous sex and smut any day. But maybe I'm just old-fashioned.
Monday, May 25, 2020
Earlier this year Mattel released yet another retailer exclusive series with distribution issues. This time it was a Royal Rumble series distributed (yeah...) to Target stores. While Bobby Lashley, Lita, and The Rock were solid entries for many, the only one that interested me was Macho King Randy Savage. Long a fan of this brief era in the career of the Macho Man, this "King" is different. Most of the figures reflecting his "regal" splendor have included the crown. The only one that hadn't was the first Mattel figure of Randy Savage, reviewed here nearly a decade ago. That one came from the final bout of the Macho King and was in one of his colorful "cowboy" outfits that continued as part of his attire when he returned to being the more common Macho Man.
Honestly, the packaging for this Royal Rumble series is fairly drab. While it may work for the other three in the set, Macho King would've looked far better in a box similar to that of the Elite Flashback figures. Can you imagine how great it would've looked in the box next to the Rumble '91 Warrior figure from one of the Flashback sets? The figures are from the same match, but sadly that isn't how these releases work.
The figure itself is superb and probably should've been part of the main line. There hasn't been an Elite Macho King figure in years, and Savage appeals to all, as he always has. Why shove him into an exclusive set? The face sculpt seems to be new and features a toothy grimace very reminiscent of Savage. The paint apps are striking, though a bit sloppy on mine as has been an issue as of late with other figures. I'm hoping that this Savage design with the shirt is reused again down the line in different colors. While we have had a ton of figures of the Macho Man, what could a few more colorful variations hurt? I guarantee they would sell better than the endless Seth Rollins clogging up pegs.
This is a winner. Again, it's a shame that it was in a poorly distributed retailer exclusive series, but I'm not taking anything away from the figure for that. If there's a 2020 Figure of the Year candidate, this would be it so far. With the upcoming new Legends series being available for online pre-order, perhaps the days of these hard-to-get exclusives are slowly coming to an end. We can hope. While I just championed the Mattel product with a month's worth of blog entries, my frustrations were made clear. Perhaps for the 2021 installment of "Mattel May" we'll be celebrating the ease of obtaining these great figures upon release.
We can hope.
Monday, May 18, 2020
Aside from Steamboat, the series almost seemed to have a "King of the Ring" theme. With Race being obvious, you have Austin and Roberts appearing as they did at King of the Ring 1996. Steamboat did compete in the 1985 King of the Ring tournament which was won by Don Muraco, but there's no real connection. The look is obvious here. This is WrestleMania III Steamboat complete with the Intercontinental title. I guess you can split the set and say half is 1987 and the other half is 1996, but that's looking way too far into themes that the manufacturer never intended.
Were this not a "Build-A-Figure" series, I would not own the Austin. I own so many figures of Stone Cold, The Rock, and The Undertaker from the Jakks era that I have no desire to add any more to my collection. A new "Stunning" Steve Austin would definitely pique my interest, but that's nowhere near here where we're discussing "The Rattlesnake." Steamboat has already been done in white as a Basic release although the detail on the gi is sensational. Jake Roberts is a fun entry as he has never been produced in his 1996 outfit correctly before. Jakks made an attempt in a two-pack with Austin as part of the Classic Superstars line, but the tunic ended up being made as a vest and was not accurate at all.
While Race's accessories are his cape and crown, the others have a wider variety. Steamboat has his gi, sash, and Intercontinental Championship, Jake has "Revelations, his albino Burmese python, and Austin has his vest and microphone. The old school microphone would've been a better fit, but I'm not deducting points for it.
The Commissioner Shawn Michaels "Build-A-Figure" is an interesting choice. It's certainly a way to get another figure out of an all-time popular character. The stint was so brief, however, that I'm not sure it's essential. The likeness is perfect and the beard and ponytail are a great look, but it remains one of my least favorite of the "Build-A-Figure" lineup. It doesn't have the importance to the line that Jim Ross, Michael Cole, and The Fink do, yet I doubt it will be released on its own like Paul Heyman and Ricardo Rodriguez were. It's just sort of there and if you're not interested in Harley it really isn't worth the trouble of the set. If you're an HBK collector, you will want it for the face scan/sculpt alone.
I took the plunge to get a case of these. I've rarely overspent in over three decades of collecting and I don't really feel that I did here, either. Way more than retail? Yes. But I feel satisfied. I have a set that I wanted. I'm still not happy about the blunder of a release that it was nor the "Collector's Edition" crapola that we collectors continue to face with each series. They can keep their "Elite Squad" hashtag and all of that other marketing nonsense disguised as something "fun." I'll collect my figures and spend the least amount of time out of my busy day doing so, thank you very much.
Monday, May 11, 2020
Before the set was released (and I use that term loosely), it became apparent that Harley would be "short packed." There's no excuse for this, no matter how the company wants to spin it, but nonetheless there would one figure of "The King" per case, with two of Steamboat and Roberts. The least exciting figure of the lot, Steve Austin, would have three figures per case. Credit where credit is due, Austin is a fundamental name when looking at the history of the company and I'm sure his eight thousandth (loose sarcasm) figure would sell well, but there's no reason for "short packing" in a set where most are going to "collect them all" regardless in order to create the "Build-A-Figure."
Smoke screen and double talk are concepts that have never been foreign to action figure collectors. Name any brand and manufacturer from the past and you're sure to hear excuses and stories as to why certain things happened to make this figure limited, that one delayed, or this item never to be released at all. Jakks "Chinese New Year," anyone? This set, with all of its controversy, has been no different. Did the company lose the rights to one of the characters? It hardly seems like that would cause them to pull completed product. Or was it a "trial run" for their absolutely lovely and collector-friendly "Collector's Edition" nonsense that has been plaguing the line since shortly after this set was released and magically disappeared?
Whatever the situation may be, a Canadian release of the figures has surfaced as well. Whoever got their hands on these is certainly feeling their own stimulus right now thanks to collectors such as myself who want this set, but such is free enterprise.
The figures themselves remain the same. Next week, we'll take a look at the five figures themselves and if they're worth the price you'll likely have to pay to add them to your collection.
Monday, May 4, 2020
My first figure of "The Anvil" was the one released by Hasbro in 1992. While many of us were hoping for a "Hart Foundation" version, this Neidhart is still the only one to reflect his days as part of "The New Foundation" with Owen Hart. The blue baggy pants with yellow trim were fun and colorful, though, and fit right in with the classic Hasbro flavor. Even at the time of release I appreciated the fact that they took the time to sculpt an entirely new torso for the figure. Hasbro became notorious for reusing parts, but The Anvil's unique physique was perfectly captured in that instance. Just describing it I'm feeling a retro review coming in the future, but let's get down to the figure at hand.
I'm not sure if I've touched upon the new packaging yet. I don't hate it, but I prefer the simple rectangular packaging that had been the norm for a few years. Manufacturers love switching up their product, so I knew the design that I preferred wouldn't last forever. The white and red color scheme is okay, but again, doesn't come close to the salad days of Mattel WWE boxing. The fact that we have hands floating in nearly every box isn't that appealing, either, but ultimately you should see what you're paying for.
As mentioned above you get the jacket as well as sunglasses and extra hands. Seeing as that the elbow pads are removable, a cool little bonus would've been to include Davey Boy Smith's "Union Jack" elbow pad. The Anvil began wearing the gear following The British Bulldog's untimely death. It isn't something that really happened in WWE, but if the Virgil figure can include his convention table banner accessory then it means that nothing is off-limits.
As far as these limited "Collector's Edition" releases go, we've seen great (Kassius Ohno, Pat Patterson) and not so great (Paige, Sonya Deville). I'd say that The Anvil is somewhere in the middle with Gerald Brisco. It's a very nice figure and one that I'm happy to own, but I didn't feel the need to go out of my way for it once it was announced as being part of the dreadful "chase" system. This should have been a mainline release, but then again, they all should be. Let the limiting and demand come later from how well the figure is received.