Thursday, August 18, 2016

Topps WWE Heritage 2016 Turns Back The Clock To 1986

Could my favorite style of wrestling trading cards finally be getting a steady yearly release? It's been roughly ten months since the last time we visited the Topps WWE Heritage series which saw release in November 2015. That set was nice, but it didn't knock my socks off. Any Heritage set is great in my book with the classic cardboard/no gloss style, but the 2015 edition didn't manage to crack my top three. Here in 2016 we've received another Heritage set, but will it be a collection worthy of the best (2012) or will it sort of fizzle like many of the non-Heritage WWE card releases do?

As usual with Heritage, I cracked open a hobby box. As with most Topps WWE releases, a hobby box guarantees two "hits" (autographs, relics, etc.) and, in recent years, has almost always yielded a complete base card set. The design of the box remains very similar to 2015, changing in color from blue to yellow. The bright colors work well for these retro sets. Once again a mixture of current and past WWE Superstars adorn the box, with no real surprises as far as names included. The packs themselves feature The Rock, John Cena, and Andre the Giant.

The base card design this year is based off the 1986 Topps Baseball collection. I owned that full set as a kid, probably still do, and I remember it being a favorite. In place of the MLB team names we get Superstar, Legend, or NXT. Some of the autograph cards have "Diva," as well, in what will likely be the last time that we see that designation. The photo selections are good, although I noticed at least one change from the sales sheets. A "Macho King" Randy Savage card was planned and for whatever reason we got a rather ordinary "Macho Man" card instead. A change to "Macho King" would've been something different, but I'm sure something got in the way to cause the switch.

As usual we get several subsets including "Record Breaker," "WCW/nWo All Star," and "Turn Back The Clock." The latter features inset reprints of older cards. In addition to cards from Topps 1985 and 1987 WWF sets, foreign releases are included as well. It should be noted that the original WWF block logos are switched to the WWE block logo on the reprints. These "Turn Back The Clock" cards are based on a baseball subset that I also had, and enjoyed, in my youth. The "WCW/nWo All Star" cards feature some great, rarely used photos from the WCW archive. There is also a subset featuring The Rock that are not actual Heritage cards. If you remember my review of Heritage 2015, you already know my feelings on these and thus they are not shown here.

My autograph "hit" from this set was a Brie Bella on-card autograph. I'm very glad that the on-card autographs have returned for Heritage. Ever since Topps started integrating the on-card autos into their sets, I've quite frankly been spoiled. I was very disappointed when, upon opening a box of Topps WWE 2016, the autograph card was once again a stick-on. While the autograph pulls in Heritage 2016 are sharp, I can't say the same thing for the relics. I pulled a Bray Wyatt Survivor Series mat relic that is, to be perfectly honest, boring. While relics are definitely overdone at this point, things can be done to make them more appealing. That is not the case here.

As usual, my focus is the 110-card base set. For most card reviews, the base set is what I base my final opinion on. Opening the hobby box, I once again received all 110 base cards. It's a solid lineup featuring plenty of current favorites and a healthy dose of past greats. For collectors like myself who enjoy getting the base cards signed, it's becoming more and more a reminder each year of just how many legends we've lost. As new sets get released, there are less legends around to sign. This set does feature more recent alumni/legends such as Rikishi, Road Dogg, and Tatanka, but the point is still driven home. Regulars like Harley Race and Nikolai Volkoff among others were left out. I understand why, but it's a tad disappointing when easily obtainable signers such as those greats aren't included.

My verdict? I love the designs. The lineup and some of the photos left me a bit underwhelmed, but this set definitely scores higher with me than 2015. The cards all have that vintage feel, where as some of the subsets last year were an odd mix of retro and current material. It's nice to see that we've now gotten two Heritage sets in consecutive years. In my opinion there is no reason that it should be less than annual. As I suggested last year, a 30th anniversary of the Topps 1987 WWF/WrestleMania III set would be a great idea for 2017. The American-themed border was a simple yet amazing design that we see a glimpse of this year in the "Turn Back The Clock" subset. They could even do a WrestleMania subset with an image from all 32 events. Come on Topps, I give my geniusin' away for free here!

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