Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mattel WWE Year-In-Review: Survivor Series Style!

2016 may have been Mattel's best year for the WWE line yet. Looking back at just this blog over the past eleven months, even I can't believe how much space has been devoted to the figures. A plethora of names new and old, unique and common, have been produced by the company this year. WWE and NXT stars, Hall of Famers and Legends, and even some off-the-wall and offbeat characters have "made the list" for Mattel, and it's hard to imagine just which one will be "Figure of the Year." For a fun change on this, my favorite holiday, we'll take a look at some of those finalists. But it isn't a normal rundown. Instead, we're grouping the thirty top figures into six Survivor Series teams. Who will be the sole survivor?


Ok, so Regal's rookies aren't really rookies, but it sounded good. A late addition in 2016, the Lord Steven Regal figure is an awesome new WCW entry to the ever-growing Mattel roster. Regal leads his team of 2016 figures that includes Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens, and The Vaudevillains. Opposing this fivesome is The NXT Demons led by "The Demon King" himself, Finn Balor. The NXT alumni that join him are Apollo Crews, Braun Strowman, Baron Corbin, and Kalisto. 


A Neidhart on each team! Bayley's Beauties have it all. Looks, in-ring skills, and alliteration. The Hugger is joined by Becky Lynch, "The Narcissist" Lex Luger, Nattie Neidhart, and Tyler Breeze. "Prince Pretty" seems more interested in getting a group selfie than in winning this thing. The Gimmick Gang is captained by The Bunny and includes Tugboat, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, and The Bushwhackers. 


In the main event we see a team that's comprised of people nicknamed "The Boss," a Bossman, someone who was a boss to many, and a Stinger. We've got team captain Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A., Big Boss Man, Sting, and Sasha Banks. They're opposed by Team Extreme, and although Lita is aboard this isn't that Team Xtreme. These are alumni of ECW. Lita is joined by team captain Terry Funk, Bam Bam Bigelow, and The Dudley Boyz. 

See what I mean? Mattel certainly had an impressive lineup this year, and this is only thirty of those figures. My deepest apologies to "SummerSlam 1989" Hacksaw Jim Duggan as well as Enzo and Cass. There just wasn't room. The "sole survivor" will actually be the "Best Figure" winner in the 2016 J\/\/ Awards at the end of the year. A few of the late entries here may even be featured in a blog entry before that as well. Stay tuned!

And although you've already finished the big meal by the time that this hits the Net, it is with my best thoughts that I wish you and yours a...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wrestling MarketWatch: Survivor Series Programs

It's the Thanksgiving night tradition! Or is that the Thanksgiving Eve tradition? Now, per Michael Cole, I believe it's the Thanksgiving week tradition. No matter what, Survivor Series is a November wrestling staple that, while perhaps taking a backseat to the other "Big Four" pay-per-views in recent years, is steeped in WWF/WWE history. From the famous elimination matches to the very controversial (and now very tired) "Montreal Screwjob," some of the most memorable moments in the business took place at the Series. After a year or two of rumors that the event may disappear completely, Survivor Series is back. A rematch twelve years in the making as well as re-energized elimination tag matches are on tap for this year, but how about years past? Many of those shows can be recounted just by looking through the programs. In this edition of Wrestling MarketWatch, we take a look at the recent auction prices for some of those programs.

*Each Survivor Series seemed to bring something different to the table. 1990 included the "Grand Finale Match of Survival," the debut of The Undertaker, and The Gobbledy Gooker. The latter, remembered fondly or infamously depending on your point of view, was to be the WWF's answer to costumed mascots of sports teams. It may have been a flop at the time, but for some reason the critics that have, for lack of a better term, crapped on it for years just can't seem to stop talking about it. How about that? Regardless, the program from the event, which also featured the final WWF appearance of Demolition Ax, recently sold for $15.30.

*1992 was the first year where the card was dominated by regular singles and tag team matches. Only one traditional Survivor Series elimination match made the event that year, and it wasn't that exciting. The company was also in a state of flux around the same time, thus causing several changes to the card. The Ultimate Warrior (pictured on the cover) "ultimately" did not make the show. A match pitting The British Bulldog against The Mountie for the Intercontinental Championship is also promoted inside, but both of these men also left the company prior. A basic match pitting Bret Hart against Shawn Michaels ended up featuring both the WWF Champion and Intercontinental Champion as each man ended up holding those respective belts in the weeks leading up. The program recently sold for $20.

*The 1994 program was an event-only item. It is much larger than the other magazine-sized programs profiled here. In many was it resembles the large WWE programs of today. Included inside was a poster which is often lost these days. Always a hot item when it shows up, it seems that everyone wants to add the program that features Queasy, Cheesy, and Sleazy to their collection. The chilling picture of The Undertaker that takes up most of the cover probably doesn't hurt the popularity of the program, either. An example, complete with poster, recently sold for $100.

*Going back a year to 1993, we take a look at the last magazine-sized Survivor Series program. The only WWF pay-per-view to be held in the old Boston Garden, fans of the mid-90's WWF remember the event fondly. It was the beginning of the end for Bobby "The Brain" Heenan's original WWF run, featured a great mix of talent from a transitional period, and even included a Smoky Mountain Wrestling tag team title defense. All these years later and it still looks odd to see The Rock N Roll Express in a WWF publication. This unique time capsule recently sold for $25.

*We actually have two programs for 1989. Many of the early WWF pay-per-view event programs have two versions: one sold on newsstands and one sold at the actual event. Newsstand editions have a bar code and possibly a red banner in the corner proclaiming it to be an "Official Souvenir Edition." Prices are usually very close if not identical for either version. For the year that Dusty Rhodes, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Rick Rude, and The Ultimate Warrior captained winning teams, we feature both. Recently the newsstand version sold for $19 while the live event version attained a $26 selling price.

Who are the ultimate winners? Anyone who owns any of these treasures. It's fun to look through them, as we occasionally have right here on the blog, and see what was originally planned and what ended up happening. Sometimes the shows ended up going on exactly as advertised, while other years saw major changes. It's the nature of the beast with printed material. All these years later, we're thankful for it!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cracking Open The "Topps Vault" With The Leader Of The Four Horsemen

If you're an autograph collector, you know that it's always fun to find something different and unique to be signed. Sometimes the normal items just don't quite cut it. Other times there is a limit for just how many items there are out there in existence for a certain name to sign. After all, not every star has had the full power of a marketing machine behind them. For some legendary names in wrestling, only recently have they started to see their share of merchandising. It's almost always true that if they didn't have a run in the '80s-'90s WWF, stars of that era and before might not have much at all bearing their likeness and name.

Most late-'80s members of the Four Horsemen kind of fall in between. Leaving Ric Flair completely out of the discussion due to his being one of the biggest names that wrestling ever produced, the rest of the Horsemen have varied. Arn Anderson and Barry Windham both had WWF and WCW stints producing action figures, trading cards, and much more. Tully Blanchard and JJ Dillon, aside from the few items put out by Jim Crockett Promotions, largely missed out until WWE Legends deals brought them back into the merchandising picture. While we may never see that JJ Dillon action figure, he is now appearing on Topps WWE trading cards.

Thus far Dillon has only appeared with an image from his WWE Hall of Fame induction. One card appeared in the WWE 2016 set while the other is in the WWE Undisputed set. The latter is a high-end set where, while there is a base card set, the true draw is the various autographs and relics included in each box.

Recently, as they have done with their sets from other sports, Topps has begun selling WWE proof cards from their "Topps Vault" on eBay. These cards are 1 of 1 and were originally used to test the printing of each card. The card backs are blank and holograms are added to increase value to the collector. Each card is  marked with a "Topps Vault" imprint, set into an UltraPro magnetic locking holder, and affixed with a "Topps Vault" seal. While many of these cards sell for high prices, others can be had for $10 and under.

Not long ago, while searching for a unique JJ Dillon item to have autographed at an appearance, I came across the WWE Undisputed proof card of the legendary manager. For around $10 total, I couldn't pass it up. After I received it, I was impressed with the detail that Topps goes into when selling off these cards. It comes shipped in a nice box, complete with resealable bag and Topps Vault Certificate of Authenticity with matching serial number. It's a nice little deal and one that's really unbeatable when matched with a price like that.

As I was looking over the purchase, I wondered if I really wanted to get this signed after all. Did I want to break the seal? Maybe I would leave the seal intact and get it signed over the case. The latter idea didn't sound like me at all, so I took to the Internet to see what collectors of other sports cards do in this case. Quickly, I found that many collectors have no qualms about "breaking the seal" on these to get signed. With that to consider, I decided to go for it. I lifted the seal without completely removing it and brought out the card.

If you haven't met JJ Dillon, you should go out of your way to do so. He's a very nice gentleman and also the author of my all-time favorite wrestling autobiography. He's actually a very common name on the wrestling appearance scene, although as we've learned time and time again, that doesn't last forever. If JJ is appearing at your local wrestling event or a convention and you've always wanted to meet him, don't put it off. And grab a copy of that book if he has them available!

The card came out great and is now back in its plastic home, forever more. Will we see more WWE branded JJ Dillon items? The perfect opportunity for a JJ Dillon figure would have been with last year's Target exclusive Four Horsemen set. While JJ himself has said that for whatever reason Vince McMahon doesn't want a figure of JJ Dillon produced, never say never. Here we are with WWE JJ Dillon trading cards. That isn't far off.

Long Live The Leader of the Four Horsemen!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

From The Musty Yellowed Pages--2001 WrestleAmerica Guide To Professional Wrestling

What in the world happened where 2001 is suddenly fifteen years ago? It's true. It feels like yesterday. Some of you reading this may barely remember 2001 if you're young enough. It was a notable year in many respects. For me personally, the year had been ingrained in my head since 1987 when I was in pre-school. That is where I first remember hearing that my group would be the "high school graduating class of 2001." Who knew that the year would end up housing one of the most infamous days in world history? No, I'm not referring to the day that Shane McMahon showed up on Nitro, although that is the direction in which we're heading. We're about to dive into the WrestleAmerica 2001 Annual that features "Your Guide To Professional Wrestling."

If you had any interest at all in wrestling in 2001, you needed this magazine. Sure, the Internet had plenty of info, but here were 125 American wrestling promotions bundled in one place with a generous profile included for each. Sure, most were small independent promotions that shared similar rosters and "name" wrestlers doing one-shots, but this was wrestling fifteen years ago. In many respects, it's the same today. The cover may say "Unraveling WWF/WCW/ECW," but in reality they were all one at this point. And who does that cover feature? Shane and Stephanie McMahon, the stars of Smackdown and Raw. In 2001. And 2016.

It's a lot of fun to look through the pages just to see who "made it" and who didn't. In 2001 if you were talking independent wrestling and proverbial "Internet darlings," you had to be talking Reckless Youth. Nicknamed "The King of the Indies," Reckless Youth had quite the following and seemed destined to be a name that went down in wrestling history. Despite much press and a stint in WWE Developmental, Youth is now long out of professional wrestling. He is featured in several promotion profiles in the magazine along with names like Samoa Joe, Alexis Laree, Low-Ki, Michael Shane, Colt Cabana, and Phoenix who all would go on to some degrees of fame.

There are also legends like Jerry Lawler, Brian Blair, Honky Tonk Man, Jimmy Snuka, and Jacques Rougeau who were still plying their trade on the indy scene. In the case of those cousins from Tennessee, they're still at in 2016! Lastly, there are those who look like they stumbled out of the nearest bar to play "champion" in their nearest indy on weekends. I won't name any names, as they all deserve respect for at least getting into the ring at some level. And how about this Prince Justice guy shown as the champion of NWA Wildside? Guys like him often disappeared into a veritable abyss, never to be seen again.

The magazine also features "The Indy 30: The Top Prospects In Wrestling." Shall I list them? Air Paris, Scoot Andrews, Chad Collyer, Nova, Qenaan Creed, Christopher Daniels, The Island Boys (later Umaga and Rosey), Billy Fives, Russ and Charlie Haas, Tony Kozina, Randy Orton, Michael Modest, Donovan Morgan, Onyx, Brock Lesnar, Nick Dinsmore, Hotstuff Hernandez, Horseshu (later Luther Reigns), Adam Pearce, The Prototype, Jason Rumble, Mike and Todd Shane, Damien Steele, Trent Acid, Shelton Benjamin, Rico Constantino, Minoru Fujita, Dalip Singh (later The Great Khali), Lance Cade, and Jayson Reign. I guess teams count as one. What an interesting list full of highs, lows, fame, and tragedy looking back on it all these years later.

We end with a Book of Lists. "Wrestling's 10 Most Powerful People" is really the only one interesting enough to explore. We have Vince McMahon, Linda McMahon, Antonio Inoki, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon, Motoko Baba, Jim Ross, Triple H, Steve Austin, and Paul Heyman. In 2016, the McMahon's are still in power, though Linda has taken a step back. Inoki, long out of New Japan Pro Wrestling, barely makes a ripple. Motoko, widow of Giant Baba, doesn't seem to be involved in much anymore, at least to the extent of puroresu that comes to my attention. Ross, Austin, and Heyman all have their own ventures but their voices are still heard loudly either in or regarding the business. As for Triple H? Some would say that he is more powerful than Vince, others would disagree. If you look at the changes in WWE over the past several years you could make a pretty good argument that in 2016, HHH tops this list.

There's too much fun stuff in this issue to show it all here. It isn't a rare magazine by any means and can be found for under $20. It's definitely a time capsule of a time when the business, and the world, was changing. Will we do this again in 2031? There may not be a magazine to show us exactly where the business was, but I fully believe that there will still be a wrestling business to showcase. I'll see you there.