Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Best Bumps in the Road to 'Mania are Blasts from the Past...

Now that you've Rumbled your Royals (huh?), the Road to WrestleMania officially begins. While there is another pay-per-view between now and the 27th edition of "The Greatest Sports Entertainment Spectacular of All-Time," many of the most exciting WWE moments will come as the 2011 WWE Hall of Fame class is announced.

In order to boost ticket sales for the ceremony, WWE has already announced their "main event" Hall of Fame slot for 2011. Shawn Michaels will enter the "Hall" in the top spot for 2011 in just his first year of retirement. In the next few weeks, a handful of shining stars will be added to the group.

While some fans denounce the WWE's version of Cooperstown or Canton (albeit without a building) as being a joke, I'd have to question the fandom of anyone who would deny that the WWE Hall of Fame provides a fun and often touching night of nostalgia.

From Bobby Heenan's show-stealing acceptance speech in 2004 to one last "lock-up" of Ric Flair and inductee Ricky Steamboat in 2009, the Hall of Fame has more than validated itself as a night to celebrate the industry we all love. Controversy, politics, and "Celebrity Wing" aside, when the Legends are brought out for one more standing ovation it should be a celebrated event.

The WWF Hall of Fame was created in 1993 following the passing of Andre the Giant. Always standing alone, the 1993 Class WAS Andre. 1994 through 1996 brought three full classes of stars who personified the building blocks of Titan Sports. While the early ceremonies were simply dinners held in small hotel ballrooms, legends such as Gorilla Monsoon, The Fabulous Moolah, and Fred Blassie were allowed one more time to shine. Beginning in 2004, the event was packaged as an annual event held the night before WrestleMania. The venues began to grow, for better or worse, as did the span of stars inducted.

The event also began to spawn its own merchandise. While small programs do exist in EXTREMELY limited quantities from the first ceremonies, it was not until 2004 that full multi-page programs were created to commemorate the evening. In 2009 the program became an item sold by WWE rather than given to attendees.

Another unique item to come from the Hall of Fame were medallions given to attendees from 2004-2007. While at one time a collector with enough patience could pick these up at auction, they rarely show up today and will undoubtedly only rise in value.

Many autograph collectors use the programs as projects to try and obtain the signatures of each honoree on their respective induction year program. Often, the inductees themselves do not own copies of the programs.

With many more ring warriors to be announced in the coming weeks, the 2011 Hall of Fame should shape up to be yet another great night of memories...and memorabilia.

For more great photos of the WWF/WWE Hall of Fame memorabilia mentioned, please visit and join our Facebook Fanpage.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wrestling's Most Missed Concept: The Manager

A lot of things come and go in the pro wrestling business. Some miss the days when venues were lit with but a single light instead of the million-dollar lighting systems of today. Others miss when "preliminary" matches filled the television airwaves thus saving the main events for arena shows or even pay-per-view.

While many of these concepts are gone for good, there is one that is sorely missed and could easily be brought back under the right conditions. That concept is the wrestling manager.

While there have been a few throwbacks in recent years with names such as Armando Estrada and Tony Atlas, there was a time in the business when a manager could be the hottest name in a promotion.

Territories like Florida with Sir Oliver Humperdink, AWA with Bobby Heenan, and the WWWF's "Evil Trinity" (Lou Albano, Fred Blassie, & The Grand Wizard) were nearly defined by these men and their stables of wrestlers. These men were so devious and calculating that fans filled arena seats weekly in hopes of seeing the managers get their comeuppance.

The modern definition of wrestling manager seems to first come about when wrestling first hit television in the 1950s. Men like "Wild" Red Berry and Bobby Davis led such champions as Gorilla Monsoon and Buddy Rogers, respectively, to greater heights thanks to their charisma and gifts for gab. Joined in the 1960s by names such as Gary Hart, Bobby Heenan, and Ernie "Grand Wizard" Roth (under various aliases), it seemed that each territory, as mentioned above, had their own choice managers.

It's no surprise that when wrestling magazines from various companies exploded onto the newsstands, the colorful managers often made the cover. The word "colorful" is not used by accident as it was commonplace to find photos of such managers as Heenan and Humperdink with bright red crimson masks of blood plastered on covers. Arena programs also often featured the managers flanking their various charges.

With the first two major wrestling action figure lines finding their way into stores in the 1980s, the managers came along for the ride. LJN's WWF line featured a whole subset of managers including Heenan, Albano, Blassie, Jimmy Hart, Slick, Mr. Fuji, Johnny V, and Miss Elizabeth while Remco included Paul Ellering, Precious, and Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissey in their AWA series.

Cards, magazines, figures, and even record albums prove that managers were among the most marketable characters in wrestling. After all, the managers were essentially pop culture celebrities kicked up a notch. Bobby Heenan? Johnny Carson. Jimmy Hart? Dick Clark. Miss Elizabeth? Princess Diana. Slick? Well, you get the picture.

Many fans of today's wrestling product feel that there's just something missing. Maybe it's the crazy character at ringside with bleached blonde hair, face paint, a tennis racket, and diamonds screaming at the top of their lungs. The "GM" and "Commissioner" roles are played out...we want our managers back!

For more great photos of wrestling memorabilia celebrating the legendary managers, please visit and join our Facebook Fanpage.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The 1970's: Nixon went to China...Sammy kissed Archie...Race beat Funk...and another Funk...

All decades and eras in wrestling can be special to those who lived through them. Many fans in their twenties and thirties celebrate the "Attitude Era" now as a bygone time. As hard as it is to believe, the industry is nearly completely different now only a decade and change later.

Still, there are some who celebrate the times that came before they were even born. The allure and mystique of being able to look back at a time where black and white photos and grainy video footage are often the only looking glass.

For me, this era is the 1970's.

Did the '80s and '90s contain great stars, events, and rivalries? Absolutely. However, something about the "Me Decade" and the wrestling therein has an extraordinary appeal.

The '70s, to me, could be dubbed the last great "wild west" era of wrestling. Driving through the back roads, jumping from territory to territory, wrestling in armories, high school gyms, and barrooms. While all of these concepts survived for at least a little while longer, they all truly embody the idea of the '70s.

The NWA was still the great governing body of the sport. True, gritty, tough-as-nails names like Harley Race, Jack Brisco, and the Funks not only showed how to be a great champion, but how to be a true man. At this time in Florida, an American Dream was born.

In the Midwest, the AWA was thriving with the likes of regional favorites such as The Bruiser and The Crusher. Nick Bockwinkel was proving that a champion could be tough yet refined. Other stars here, such as the legendary Bobby Heenan, were just beginning their years of contributions to the business.

Vincent J. McMahon, independent from any other organization with his WWWF, had the man that many claim to be the greatest of all-time as the cream of his crop for much of the decade. Bruno Sammartino had the second of his championship reigns while Pedro Morales, Superstar Billy Graham, and Bob Backlund rounded out the era's title holders. The WWWF perhaps also included the most colorful cast of characters in wrestling at that point, foreshadowing what was to become of the company in the 1980's.

While promoters had yet to truly see the value in merchandising their stars, you can slowly begin to see the seeds being planted for the boom of the next decade. Photos and programs still ruled the roost, especially at shows where fans could take home a souvenir of their favorite star. Occasionally items such as the earliest t-shirts and even pennants, often locally made, will appear from the decade. Still, the early in-house publications from the wrestling companies themselves such as Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine and the WWWF's Wrestling Action are the number one indicator that promoters were beginning to notice the need for merchandise.

One carryover from the 1960's was the fan club. Ranging from fly by night setups to decades-long devotion, fan clubs for individual stars were all the rage. Magazines like Wrestling Revue and Wrestling World devoted full sections to these fan clubs. For a nominal fee, fans were usually treated to newsletters, photos, and other items pertaining to their favorite star. Some of the bigger names even had multiple fan clubs. For years the late, legendary, wrestling journalist Georgiann Makropoulos ran the Bruno Sammartino fan club and in turn cultivated a decades-long friendship with the champ.

Champions who were champions. Men who were men. Midgets that were...midgets. Women wrestlers who were WRESTLERS with, just perhaps, a dash of "Diva" mixed in. Those were the days. While I may not have been around to have enjoyed it as it happened, I will certainly promote and celebrate the era and its stars as long as possible.

For a gallery of wrestling merchandise from the 1970's, please visit and join our Facebook Fanpage.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Feel The Power!

No, the Ultimate Warrior doesn't hold quite the amount of respect among fans that our last subject, Randy Savage, does. That said, if you ask someone between the ages of 25 and 35 to name some wrestlers from their childhood, chances are quite good that the Warrior will be among those names.

Say what you want about him, the Ultimate Warrior made an impact. He had the look, the charisma, and could have a great match under the right conditions. Look no further than WrestleMania VI and VII for evidence of the latter.

24 years after the debut of the character, fans are STILL abuzz over new Ultimate Warrior merchandise. Despite having a huge presence in the Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line, the announcement that Mattel had signed the Warrior for use in their WWE Legends line garnered near as much attention as the Savage signing.

Although there will be an upcoming Defining Moments Ultimate Warrior figure to match up with the Savage figure reviewed in our last entry, the first Mattel Warrior is just beginning to hit stores. Mattel's WWE Legends Series 4 features the Warrior, George Steele (with Mine!), Paul Orndorff, Hillbilly Jim, and Ax and Smash of Demolition.

Something I've enjoyed since the announcement of Mattel's first wave of legends are the designs chosen for the figures. Whenever possible, Mattel seems to be choosing attires not used on Jakks versions of the same characters. When that hasn't been possible, the inclusion of an accessory omitted by Jakks has been provided. All in all, Mattel has made it very tempting for Jakks fans to continue their collections of vintage stars.

The Ultimate Warrior figure is no different. While Jakks versions all seemed to be from 1990-on, this Mattel Warrior figure looks to be based around the time of his first Intercontinental Title win in 1988. Darker hair, less neon, and the Intercontinental belt itself all lend to this theory.

The packaging continues to be standard for these legends. While the stand/name card so prevalent in the early Mattel releases is now gone (aside from the Defining Moments figures), the Warrior is still featured in an awesome SummerSlam '88-esque victory pose.

This is the second Mattel figure to feature the classic Intercontinental belt (the first being Series 3 Mr. Perfect) and it is my first time holding a Mattel figure-sized belt in person. The main plate is painted while the strap uses the "peg & hole" method to stay on the figure. The belt fits but is not quite as snug as it could be. Nearly all figure-sized belts seem just a bit bigger than scale to the figure. It's something collectors have learned to live with over the years, but this example, like most others, fit the purpose as well as can be.

As I previously mentioned, the figure is based on a design not used by Jakks. In fact, this particular design has never before been used on any Ultimate Warrior figure. Taking into consideration the upcoming WrestleMania VII Defining Moments figure, the only other truly different Warrior costume that will remain unmade would be the blue and white WrestleMania IV motif.

While it's sometimes easy for manufacturers to cop out on the face sculpts of face painted wrestlers, that doesn't seem to be the case here. The face certainly looks like that of Jim Hellwig, or as close as anyone would want to get. The torso looks like his as well, despite that "wonderful" torso joint I bring up every so often. When posed downward, the arms look just a bit too small for the Warrior.

This will no doubt be the hottest figure of the fourth series. I believe it was wise for Mattel to start with this design. Longtime fans will want this "new" Warrior to add to their collection while those who are starting out with Mattel will be happy to have any Warrior.

With at least one more Warrior on the horizon and many great examples already available from Jakks, this is not a must-buy. For those who just want an '80s-style Warrior that won't set you back $75-$100 (at least) for a loose LJN version, get ready to "feel the power" of Mattel.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Starting the New Year with a FREAK OUT...FREAK OUT! Dig it?

If 2011 truly is the year of the "Macho Man," then I'm "thinkin' and thinkin'" that this blog is off to a great start.

A few months ago at the San Diego Comic Con, Mattel announced the signing of the one and only Randy "Macho Man" Savage to their WWE figure line. The company held nothing back, even getting Savage himself to do a short presentation video with the first figure prototype.

Now, barely days into 2011, the figure has hit stores and just may have proven my prediction of being the 2011 Figure of the Year.

To start, this isn't your average WWE Legends figure. While there will be another Savage figure (based upon his '80s look) released shortly in an upcoming Legends line, this is one of the first two releases in the new WWE Defining Moments Collection. Based upon career highlights of the wrestlers, the figures are clad in highly-detailed outfits and packaged in huge window-style boxes. Of course, this amount of detail, cardboard, and clear plastic comes with a price. At a price point of $22.99 in retail stores (more for the "ease" of buying it online) you have to ask yourself..."Was I that big of a Randy Savage fan?"

Allow me to start off by making two bold statements. Not only is this the best figure Mattel has produced to date in their year with the WWE license, but this is also the best figure of Savage ever produced.

If you can bring yourself to open the rather attractive packaging, you'll immediately notice that the material used on the (removable) jacket is very high quality. The textures are just as you would've imagined them feeling if you were able to slide on the WrestleMania VII costume for yourself. From the silver sash on top of his cowboy hat to the long white sleeve tassels, Mattel definitely wanted to make a splash on Savage's first figure in a decade. But how about those shades? Underneath, only the second shade-less Savage face ever produced in figure form. The result? Perfection. Even the holes to hold the shades on blend into his hairline nicely.

Articulation on the figure is standard as with most Mattel figures. The dreaded torso joint is present, but I can overlook it with this figure especially considering that it will be displayed with the jacket on for most collectors. The Mattel figure stand also makes a return, this time molded in a light gold plastic. The name card reads "Macho Man" as does the front of the package. On the back of the box "Defining Moment" synopsis the figure is identified as "Macho King." Technically both are correct, as Savage entered the match as "King" and left as "Man." If only we had an Elizabeth... Don't hold your breath.

While I can't say that I'll endorse the price on other stars in the line (E.G. Shawn Michaels) who have had many "deluxe" style figures in the past, the "Macho Man" is well worth it. This is an absolutely amazing figure that any collector should be proud to own. Whether you keep it in the package or simply cannot resist the temptation to open it, you will be satisfied as a collector and Randy Savage fan. As for autograph collectors, the question remains if Savage will finally resurface, in this "year of the Macho Man," to sign these awesome pieces. Time will certainly tell.

In the meantime...
"Sensational Queen Sherri--lead the way! Oooooh Yeah!"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wrestling MarketWatch: January Joys

Happy New Year! Thank you for all the great support in 2010 and I hope that you are all entertained and enlightened by everything we'll have for you in 2011.

It seems that many of you are enjoying the memorabilia countdown of the WWE's list of "Top 50 Superstars of All Time" over on our Facebook page. It also seems that more and more of you have been inquiring about values of items. While it's hard to pinpoint exact prices for items, a keen eye on eBay can give a rough estimate.

That's where our "Wrestling MarketWatch" series of entries comes into play. A mixture of items, usually with a common theme, are highlighted based on their recent eBay performance. For the first MarketWatch of the new year, we'll start with collectibles based around the month of January.

*We'll start by going back a full 56 years! Lasting well into the 1980s, Wrestling World magazine more often than not seemed to highlight great action photos on their covers. The January 1955 issue features a wrestler whose son became a cult figure in his own right. Mike Sharpe, father of '80s WWF favorite "Iron" Mike Sharpe, is featured in glorious black and white applying his "Mugger" hold. Inside such vintage stars as Buddy Rogers, Verne Gagne, Johnny Valentine, and June Byers are featured. This issue just sold for a whopping $69.00 at auction, proving that the cover need not always feature the biggest stars in order to be sought after.

*Fast forwarding to the month of January from 1988 to present, the Royal Rumble is usually considered the starting point for the "Road to WrestleMania." Developed by Pat Patterson and using a modified battle royal concept, the Royal Rumble is the favorite wrestling event of the year for many fans. With many collectibles derived from the event, I'm certain that this is not the last time you'll see the Rumble highlighted in this blog. Today we'll be focusing on recorded memories of the event itself. In 2007 the WWE released a complete anthology of the event from 1988 to 2007. Handsomely packaged in a sturdy white "clam shell" box, the DVDs are accompanied by four 5x7 numbered cards of Royal Rumble moments from over the years. It should be noted that the music rights issue which horribly plagued the WrestleMania DVD anthology is much less annoying with this set. It seems that the WWE figured out that they own the rights to many more themes than originally thought. The set, which originally retailed for as much as $200, recently sold for $112.50 at auction. Quite a buy for twenty full-length events! If you're simply looking for the 1992 Royal Rumble match itself, look no further than the just-released WWE Bobby "The Brain" Heenan DVD set. Due to the amazing commentating job by Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon, the match is included in all of its glory.

*Is $112.50 just not an amount you want to spend on something a mere four years old? How about twenty-two years old? A brand new and sealed vhs video of the 1989 Royal Rumble recently sold for the exact same price as the complete 88-02 anthology shown above. A sealed copy of the 1995 event sold for $36.00. While these prices were common for Coliseum Video versions of WWF pay-per-views a few years ago, examples now MUST be new and sealed for prices to reach these levels.

*And how is our old friend Sheamus doing? While both of his figures continue to become more common on the shelves, one particular variant is still keeping numbers high. The second Sheamus was released in the Mattel Royal Rumble Heritage Series as was shown in our review. "Chase" versions, limited to 1,000 each, of all figures in this series come packaged with a Royal Rumble folding chair. While prices may drop for these figures as the "1 of 1,000" belt Mattel figures did, for now the Sheamus with the chair is selling for around $25 at auction. Fella!

As always, thank you for reading and let us know what you want to see here on the blog. You can either comment here or check us out at either of the links below.