Thursday, June 23, 2016
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 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 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
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.
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.
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.
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...
Thursday, June 9, 2016
It was not a hoax.
We've now had a year to accept the death of one of the most colorful and brightest stars in wrestling history. In that time we lost other wrestling icons such as Rowdy Roddy Piper and Nick Bockwinkel, not to mention many other huge names in entertainment, sports, and pop culture. The death of Dusty still hits me, personally, just a tad more. I never imagined a time when Big Dust wouldn't be part of the wrestling business. Appearing at a convention, coaching young talent, or breaking out that legendary combination of lisp and drawl for one more cameo on WWE television.
Speaking of his coaching, it may be that aspect of his career that he was most connected with at the end of his life. As the promo/interview coach at the WWE Performance Center, so many of the stars who have come through NXT and are now debuting in the WWE's "New Era" spent time under the learning tree of The Dream. That NXT show which I attended the night of his death turned out to be the first true public memorial for Dusty. Many of the young stars who he had likely coached just days earlier were on the card. Their love for him was evident only by their emotions and personal showings of respect. Their abilities to perform were in no way hindered, exactly as The Dream would have wanted it.
The wrestling business itself continues to feel the Rhodes "bootprint." NXT has the "Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic" tournament. Wrestlers ranging from Cody Rhodes to Tommy Dreamer to Bailey to Kevin Owens have integrated tributes to the dream into their respective attires. In his last major WWE moment, Stardust paid several tributes to the original Stardust (an early moniker of Rhodes) at WrestleMania 32. A statue of The Dream was also unveiled by WWE that same weekend.
Recently departing WWE, son Cody has set his sights on tearing up the independent wrestling scene as soon as possible. Thanks to his natural in-ring gifts, this new phase in Cody's career will likely remind many of his father's time as a traveling attraction similar to Andre the Giant. Dusty's other son, Goldust, is coming up on the thirtieth anniversary of his own storied wrestling career, with no signs of slowing down. And as far as Dusty's aforementioned wrestling "kids" such as the current and former stars of NXT? I think we've been seeing his impact in many of them already.
Now that's what I call "livin' on the end of a lightnin' bolt..."
Thursday, June 2, 2016
As soon as collectors received the first Trish Stratus figure from Mattel nearly three years ago, I began the call for Lita. It was only fair that Mattel produce the female member of Team Xtreme, especially since Stratus was already available. We have now gotten our wish as part of Mattel's WWE Elite Series 41.
Lita does not suffer from the packaging being too big, and actually looks just right. I think it's likely due to the bulkiness of her pants and one arm being raised. It's the female figures that usually suffer here the most and at times look as if they're "floating" in the bubble.
When I first picked up the figure, I wasn't completely sold on the likeness. Out of the package it looks a lot better to me. I'm not sure that it's the best Lita facial ever done. Looking back, Jakks really nailed her on a number of occasions. Nonetheless, it works. I can picture what they were aiming for with the particular hair mold used and again, it works. Everything in this department is very good, just not perfect.
Included with Lita are two shirts. One is made of rubber and is a white wrap-around. The other is actually made of a thin cloth and is supposed to be the yellow mesh top that made it into several of her more memorable promotional photos. Both fit well enough, but I wouldn't be surprised if many just pose her without them. The black bra, again, was a Lita staple. I could see both of the shirts actually tearing if placed and removed too much. The yellow cloth one is very thing and the white one has a thin rubber "snap."
That aforementioned popularity guarantees two things: this figure will be a popular one, but it likely won't be the only one. I can see Mattel wanting to insert Lita into their basic line and possibly even a more modern version in their Hall of Fame series to match the second Trish figure. With Lita's varying looks and styles, there are plenty of possibilities.
There are plenty of cookie-cutter females in professional wrestling, but there will only ever be one Lita...and that's why we love her.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
The cover story is "Stars Of The '80s" featuring artistic renderings of
Bob Backlund, Ivan Putski, Tony Atlas, Tito Santana, Ken Patera, and Hulk Hogan. While autographing my copy, The Hulkster told me that this was his first magazine cover appearance. The claim may very well be true. This magazine predates his first Pro Wrestling Illustrated cover appearance by several years. There may be a program or two out there from this time or before with a Hogan cover, but as far as magazines I do believe this to be his debut.
Also of historic note is the change on the cover from the previous four issues. "World Wide Wrestling Federation" has silently become "World Wrestling Federation." There is still at least once instance of "WWWF" being used inside the magazine.
In the opening page we don't get any real indication that this would be the last issue. It is said that subscription balances will still be fulfilled. Just as with issue #3, issue #4 was a complete sellout as well. The $2.50 back issues of the first two editions were still available. Fill my cart. "Vince McMahon" pens the "As I See It!" column this time around, and there really isn't much to identify if that was supposed to be father or son.
Features kick off with a brief story and photos on the new and popular tag team championship team of Tito Santana and Ivan Putski. Putski is in a transitional phase where he isn't quite the clone of The Mighty Igor any longer, nor is he the slimmer and more cut undercarder that many grew up on in the '80s. Our next article is about "A Perfect '10'." No, it isn't Nickla Roberts. It's "The Incredible" Hulk Hogan. Even here, The Hulkster just simply looks different from anything else the wrestling had seen up to the point.
Another two-pager discussing Afa and Sika of The Wild Samoans is followed by a three-page story titled "Who Is The Real Living Legend?" It seems that Larry Zbyszko (now being misspelled "Zbyscko") is no longer the fan favorite tag team partner of Tony Garea as he was in the previous issue. At this point he has made his infamous turn on his mentor, Bruno Sammartino. This article is highlighted by a photo of a battered, beaten, and afroed Bruno struggling to get up off the mat. Blood is pouring off of Sammartino's face in a shot that rivals that of Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIII.
Patterson is also the subject of one of our next articles in addition to fellow 1980's WWF official, Rene Goulet. "The Fighting Frenchman" is shown battling both Sika and Larry Zbyszko (here spelled "Zbyscho" in a new variant). Patterson is shown slugging it out with Ken Patera in a story that questions whether or not the blond from Montreal has completely changed his formerly "evil" ways.
Speaking of Patera, the next two-page story is all about the former Olympic great. A wonderful color photo of Patera, pictured with manager The Grand Wizard, reminds us that this is not the same Patera that many remember in 1987 and 1988. Patera was a vicious and feared heel at this point. Had this version of Patera picked up where he left off in his late '80s run, Hogan may have had another credible challenger to the WWF Championship.
After a two-page feature on Bob Backlund, Tony Atlas gets a photo and small blurb. When I had "Mr. U.S.A." sign the cover of this issue, he knew where his feature was inside. He turned to it, signed that photo as well, and briefly went over the column. Future feuds with Patera and Hogan are mentioned. Atlas press-slamming The Hulkster not only became the cover of an issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, but also one of the strongman's proudest moments.
We've now explored all five issues of WWWF Wrestling Action. As I said in the first issue entry, the set counts among my favorite pieces of wrestling memorabilia. It's a nice-sized set that contains a lot of history. WWE should celebrate the series, but it isn't going to happen. They recognize Victory Magazine as their first publication. The two issues of Victory are good, but aren't much more than two more issues of the regular WWF Magazine. Wrestling Action is a completely different take on a wrestling magazine. If you have one issue or all five, cherish them. If you don't have any, let the hunt begin!
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Starting out, we learn that the previous issue had completely sold out. Back issues of #1 and #2 were still available at just $2.50 a copy. Again, I will gladly take a dozen of each. Arnold Skaaland gets the "As I See It!" column and the features kick off with a look at a man completely missing from issue #3, Bruno Sammartino. The Living Legend had returned--with his infamous afro. The cover story follows, featuring Zbyszko (grossly misspelled "Zybscko") and Garea on their championship win against the Yukon Lumberjacks and new struggle with Jimmy and Johnny Valiant.
Next up is a great shot and brief story on WWE Hall of Famer Tatsumi Fujinami. At the time, Fujinami was the WWWF Junior Heavyweight Champion. That title and belt is one of the least remembered championships in the history of the company, largely being contested outside of the United States for the majority of its run. Fans of 1990's Japanese wrestling will remember the belt being given to the winner of the 1994 Super J Cup tournament. The belt even featured into advertising for the event.
High Chief Peter Maivia makes his return to Wrestling Action, this time
in a very different position than back in the debut issue. Maivia is now a rule breaker managed by Fred Blassie. The High Chief is shown, donning his villainous mustache, squeezing the life out of foes such as Bob Backlund and Chief Jay Strongbow. Heels also dominate the next few pages when Albano and The Valiant Brothers receive their own article touting their recent WWWF return.
The fourth issue of Wrestling Action ends with a look at more of the villains of the day. Ernie Ladd gets a two-page spread featuring some great color photos and a vow to finish off Dusty Rhodes, or "The Pillsbury Dough Boy" at he calls him, once and for all. The evil members of the stable of "Hollywood Fashion Plate" Fred Blassie are also shown, including Maivia, Victor Rivera, and Spiros Arion. We finish with a brief look at "Brower Power," the return of classic brawler Dick "The Bulldog" Brower.
You could argue that this issue was the showcase of the heels. Bob Backlund saw his least coverage yet in the Wrestling Action run. Instead the focus was on many of his challengers and their devious plans to wrest the WWWF Championship away from "The All-American Boy." In the fifth and final issue we will see wrestling history right on the cover in several different instances. While Wrestling Action does not escape the 1970's, the issue is going to be all about looking forward to the 1980's. We end the five-part Wrestling Action series next week here on the blog. Don't miss it.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
We open the cover with several announcements. Escalating costs are cited as to why this issue is not the full-color spectacle that the previous installment was. The staff still hopes to be able to return to that format in the future. Another notice indicates that the magazine will not be published bi-monthly, but subscribers will receive their balance. Limited back issues of the first two editions are available for just $2.50 each. Can I take a dozen? The "As I See It!" column this month is penned by Vincent Kennedy McMahon, who is actually referred to as "Vince McMahon Jr." here.
A bit on Superstar Billy Graham's work out routine is followed by a feature on the good deeds of "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. Juvenile Diabetes, Muscular Dystrophy, and the Big Brother program are all listed as some of The Dream's charitable causes. All in all, Dusty is quoted as saying that making us, the fans, happy makes his dream fulfilled. You did just that, Big Dust. You did just that and much, much more...
We get even more American Dream goodness in this issue's centerfold. In an absolutely classic pre-match photo, Andre the Giant is pictured with his buddies Rhodes and "The Man of 1,000 Masks" Mil Mascaras. Dusty is wearing his cactus robe which made various program and magazine covers over the years. There's definitely no box under the feet of Andre, and he looks positively massive regardless. As of this writing, only Mascaras remains with us in this life.
We're now over halfway through the Wrestling Action run. This is the first issue to not feature Bruno Sammartino. The WWWF was looking to a new era with Bob Backlund at the helm. We now know that it would end up being a Helluva run for the "All-American Boy." A different division takes center stage in the next issue, along with five new cover stars. The "wrestling action" of the WWWF continues here next week!