Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Story of a Warlord and a Barber...

With each passing year, Mattel gets closer and closer to surpassing previous WWE action figure lines. Not only has quality been excelling, but the depth of the line is coming close to that of Mattel's WWE predecessor Jakks. Helping that depth, especially important to collectors such as myself, is the inclusion of the legends. Early on, Mattel seemed to give up on including the stars of the past. With each review that I do, I become more a champion for the company and who they're choosing to include. With their Elite Series 49 and 50, Mattel finally adds Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake and The Warlord.

While neither man is a stranger to action figure collections, it has been almost a decade since they have been immortalized in plastic. "The Barber" is based on his look from 1989 (per the back of the packaging), while The Warlord is featured in the gear that he wore from 1990 to 1992, though the back of the box pinpoints WrestleMania VII where he battled The British Bulldog. Both figures look great in the packaging and fill the "window" well. The annoying sign advertising the cardboard diorama gimmick is present with both. I did not even bother photographing either stand/backdrop, as there is nothing new that I can cover with the "bonus." I still don't care for it, and can't wait until Mattel feels that it has run its course.

Both of these men are wrestlers that I feel have been somewhat underrated in recent years. I often point out that Brutus Beefcake is one of the best-remembered stars by fans of my generation. Even casual fans fondly remember "The Barber," clipping shears and all. He was over with the fans and, while he may not have had the most classic in-ring style, he got the job done as far as WWF devotees were concerned.

When I first saw prototype pictures of Mattel's rendition of Beefcake, I wasn't convinced. In person, I've done a complete 180. This may be the best likeness of Brutus that we've seen to date. The wild look is there, as are the signature flowing locks. Beefcake is surprisingly tall in person and this figure does reflect that. The parts used match up well for "The Barber." I do wish that Mattel had used a different color jacket than Jakks had produced, but it still works. The bow tie is removable and the "titanium blades" look great for "struttin' and cuttin'."

The Warlord has never had a bad figure. From the LJN to the Hasbro (which is the last time that we saw this particular look) all the way to the two Jakks entries (the latter of which, in what had to have been a "happy accident," reflected The Warlord in his indy attire), the former Powers of Pain member just simply makes a great action figure. And though more credit for that tag team often goes to his partner The Barbarian, The Warlord has always been a solid hand. He was a big man with an intense look. Sometimes that's all you need. But if you check out his matches with Davey Boy Smith, such as the aforementioned WrestleMania VII encounter, you see that The Warlord could bring it in the ring.

Never have we seen a figure of the monster with so many accessories. The shoulder pads, belt, and mask are all removable. We also finally see the figure-sized debut of his "W" staff. While I don't recall that accessory ever coming into play during a match, it certainly stuck out while Howard Finkel would make his signature "Introducing...The Warrrrrlorrrrd" announcement. As with "The Barber," the facial likeness is spot-on and the choices for body type could not have been better. He's big. He's powerful. He's The Warlord.

With so many style choices for Beefcake, I can definitely see Mattel producing him again. A basic styled figure in the future seems like a no-brainer. The Warlord is a bit more puzzling. With his inclusion in a recent lawsuit against WWE, I'm surprised that we saw this figure at all. I don't see Mattel going the "Powers of Pain" route, either, though they have surprised me in the past. With a figure of another lawsuit member upcoming in the form of The Berzerker, it's hard to predict what all the future will hold. I'm just going to sit back and watch these great new figures roll in and take their rightful places in collections worldwide.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

TNA Magazine...Italian Style!

I always felt that Total Nonstop Action Wrestling should have had an official magazine. They had exciting stars, beautiful "Knockouts," and plenty of stories to put into print. Heck, I even thought that I could be a dang good contributor to the effort. Nonetheless the magazine industry just isn't what it once was, even a few years ago. Although I never saw it myself, then-owner Dixie Carter pooh-poohed the idea somewhere in print. As nice as a lady as she always was to me, there honestly didn't seem to be many ideas that she turned down, for better or worse. However, the fact is that there was indeed an official TNA Magazine. In Italy. For three issues.

In 2007 an Italian publisher produced three issues of the Total Nonstop Action Wrestling Official Magazine. If there are more than three, I have yet to see them surface anywhere. Though my mastering of the Italian language is a bit rusty (aka non-existent), it isn't hard to figure out what's going on in the many sections of the magazine. There are features on the monthly pay-per-views, profiles on individual stars, and even "Top Ten" looks at the then-current goings on in the company.

There's a particular emphasis on the aforementioned TNA Knockouts, and why not? That's how you sell magazines. The ladies are featured with the superb Lee South photography that found its way onto the many trading cards and promotional photos that saw wide release, in addition to the Knockouts-branded items that were sold at live events and Shop TNA. Leticia Cline, Gail Kim, and Christy Hemme all make the cover, but SoCal Val and Traci Brooks see features as well. Speaking of Brooks, the legendary action figure that never ended up seeing the light of day is briefly mentioned in a list of upcoming figures.

Samoa Joe, Sting, and "The Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels are the cover stars of the three respective issues. Each issue is all-color and all-slick with high-gloss covers. All three editions also feature a double-sided poster showcasing the cover superstar and Knockout, although the poster with Gail Kim also features SoCal Val. I'm not complaining. And as nice as the photography of the females appears, the action shots from matches are great as well. It's truly amazing the level of talent that was in the company at that point, a fact that often goes overlooked.

It's also cool to see so much of that talent getting press in an actual physical magazine. I often point out that it's a shame that so little of today's wrestling stars will get an actual magazine cover. Aside from Pro Wrestling Illustrated, the occasional WWE "special" release, or the scattered overseas publications, it's an opportunity that largely no longer exists. It's great to see the Christopher Daniels cover as well as talent such as Team Canada (including Bobby Roode and Eric Young), Chris Sabin, LAX, and Abyss see photo features in an age where that is basically extinct. You can argue that wrestlers get much more coverage online these days, but where are those features going to be found in ten to twenty years? For many stars, there will be little tangible to show the grandkids.

Oh what could have been. A publication like this would have done great for sale at TNA live events where anything that could be signed was be scooped up by autograph-hungry fans. Don West would have been plugging these nonstop. Personally, I regret that I was unaware of these in the days of the TNA "Interaction" events where every cover (and most of the insides) could have been fully signed. Regardless, it's fun to know that a TNA Magazine even existed at all. As much flack as the company has received at times, often rightfully so, these publications highlight many of the things that TNA did right.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Topps WWE 2017..."Something Different"

Everyone loves a surprise. When I initially saw the checklist for the Topps WWE 2017 trading cards, I was extremely surprised. Once I figured out that I wasn't reading some sort of joke, I was also very pleased. While I usually personally review two of the Topps WWE products per year, there's usually a lot of repetition. It's to be expected in trading card sets, especially annual ones. This year, we have something different. We have inclusions that I never would have imagined, for numerous reasons, but here they are. Let's take a closer look.

The 2017 WWE set from Topps, as usual, has a base set of 100 cards. There are several subsets, and many different variant and numbered cards. One of the biggest selling points were the inclusion of authentic autograph cards of both The Undertaker and Bill Goldberg. The prices seem to have gone up a bit, which some point to the addition of the aforementioned autograph cards, but they're still not "premium" priced like the WWE Undisputed sets. A hobby box can be had for an average of around $75 and contains 24 packs. The box style once again reminds me of a box of chocolates, being long and slim. It actually almost looks too nice to break open. For the record, AJ Styles, John Cena, and Sasha Banks are the faces on both the box and the packs.

Plastered right on the front of the hobby box is a guarantee of two "hits" per box, including at least one autograph. Since hits can be relics, belt/medallion cards, and autographs, I like the guarantee of at least one autograph. While many of the other hits can be very cool, it's still the autographs that I prefer. Relics are, in my opinion, a somewhat tired gimmick in the world of wrestling cards. Thankfully, occasionally we get something new to spice them up.

My hobby box did indeed yield two "hits." One was a Becky Lynch Women's Championship "medallion" card. I call these belt cards, since embedded in the card is a heavy, metallic representation of a championship. The other hit was a relic, with a twist. This relic, a SummerSlam 2016 mat card, is also signed by Seth Rollins and is numbered as one out of ten. If I have to pull a relic, it may as well include an autograph. An autograph of a top current talent is an added bonus.

The subsets this time around feature shots from three WWE programs: The Stone Cold Podcast, Breaking Ground, and Total Divas. This is another change-up that I appreciate. While I've never personally watched Total Divas, I like some of the shots used (Mandy Rose, I'm looking at you), and even Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart makes a cameo. While I don't think it was intentional, the design of these cards very much reminds me of the Topps Empire Strikes Back cards from way back in 1980. Not a direct replica, but there are similarities.

The base set is where we get really unusual and different. Highlighted are many first timers, including NXT stars (a few of which I couldn't even identify) and a passel full of referees. I'm guessing that this means that referees are once again allowed to have names and identities. The true gold here for me is the inclusion of three legendary ladies: Leilani Kai, Judy Martin, and Princess Victoria. While Kai made a return to WWE products after 30 years in the 2016 WWE Divas Revolution set, this is the first real WWE merchandise for Martin and Victoria. Considering both ladies are named in the WWE concussion lawsuit, this is extra surprising. As I've gotten to know all three of these women over the years, these three cards are the personal "hits" in the hobby box for me. It should be noted that other women from WWE's past such as Terri Runnels, Torrie Wilson, and Ivory are here as well.

The base card design is good, although it'd still be nice to see one set that featured all studio shots. As usual there are color variants (bronze, blue, silver, etc.) where really the only different is a swatch of color in the lower right corner. Some collectors thrive on these differences, but I haven't ever put too much stock into it. I will note that for the first time in year when breaking a Topps WWE hobby box, I did not receive the full 100-card base set. My box wasn't missing any particular biggie, and I probably won't put into effort into ever obtaining the card, but it was a bit of a surprise. For the record, the missing card was David Otunga.

There's a lot to like about this set. Topps took the "main" WWE card set of the year and really turned it upside down. There are no main cards for many weekly stars, yet we get announcers, referees, women's wrestling legends, and many rookies. Since Topps releases so much WWE product these days, this is something that can and should be done. I'm very excited to see what the Topps WWE Heritage 2017 set due in August will hold. There's also a WWE Legends set coming in September. Normally that would be right up my alley, but the cards do appear to be a "premium" release which my wallet just won't warm up to. That being said, Topps is still doing a great job. There's something for every type of collector. Now, even those of us who love the legendary ladies are getting some long overdue new product.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Mattel says..."Bang, Bang!"

Let's face it, in the late 1990's everyone was a fan of Mick Foley. No matter which character was your favorite, the wild Cactus Jack, the maniacal Mankind, or the hip Dude Love, Foley knew how to hit a chord with each and every wrestling fan. No one was a bigger fan of all three characters than me. The fact that I saw his infamous King of the Ring "Hell in a Cell" match with my own eyes was something that I wore as a badge of wrestling fandom pride. Eventually, I would go on to meet the self-professed "world's friendliest wrestler" on a few occasions. I won't say that my fandom for the man ended there, but to briefly sum up a story best kept for another time, my interactions with him have not been exactly memorable. Nevertheless, Foley remains in the wrestling spotlight in one way or another, and here he is with yet another action figure.

This second appearance of the Cactus Jack character in the Mattel WWE line has been a hot product thus far. The first figure was an online retailer exclusive and has gained monetary value on the secondary market. The main differences between the two are the accessories included, although there are a few cosmetic changes as well which we will get to. This Cactus is part of Mattel's WWE Elite 48 series and is in the standard window box packaging used for that line. Originally this second Cactus was to be included in the Target exclusive WWE Hall of Fame line, but that fell through for what was said to be rights issues.

As with the past several Elite series, the figure includes a stand and piece of cardboard backdrop. When all of the figures in the series are collected, the backdrops can be assembled to form a fuller picture. I still don't care for the backdrops, although the plastic stands are always welcome. The cardboard backers are flimsy and just simply look cheap. The advertisement of the "bonus" on the front of the packaging also takes away from signing space for those who intend to have these figures autographed. They can be removed with a lot of work, but the figure isn't truly mint at that point. This is a feature that I will gladly see fade away, should it ever.

Cactus Jack is clad in his world-famous "Wanted" shirt that has seen inclusion on all Cactus Jack figures produced up to this point. It is indeed iconic and is instantly recognized with the character. Even following the days where you would spot Austin 3:16 and nWo t-shirts anywhere you went, the occasional Cactus Jack shirt still popped up. The man was, and is, popular. The big difference in the details of the figure are the pants. Here we have the cactus design down the legs while the first had the word "CACTUS." There are slight differences with the boots, as well.

The facial likeness is very good and this is definitely Mick Foley. Oddly enough (or maybe not so much), I see Mick's daughter Noelle when I look right at the eyes of the figure. The apple doesn't fall far from the...cactus? I particularly like the hair molded to look like part of it is pulled back into a ponytail which should remind many of the hardcore legend's WCW days. Included as accessories are a "DO NOT ENTER" street sign and a removable flannel shirt which replace a "STOP" sign, ring steps, and handcuffs that were packed with the first release.

If you have the Jakks Classic Superstars Cactus Jack figure and are looking for something different, you really won't find it here. It's a nice, very solid figure, but Mattel really doesn't offer anything new for the character. A "pure" WCW version of Cactus would have been something fresh. With the popularity of this figure, maybe we will get that down the line. I could also see inclusion of Cactus into the Basic line, and a WCW-based look might work well there. While I'm sure that we're also going to see some modern Mick Foley figure releases reflecting his stint on Monday Night Raw, it's Mattel's take on Dude Love that I'm more anxious for.

Have a nice day...or have mercy...or...bang bang!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Prime" Memorabilia Memories from Prime Time Wrestling

If you are a subscriber to WWE Network, you may have noticed an influx of classic content in the past few months. No one can seem to figure out just what causes the company to suddenly go on an uploading binge for the "Vault" section, but very few are complaining either. While the company may want you to believe that "Holy Foley" and "Camp WWE" are two of its most popular shows, I rarely hear from anyone that admits to watching those. Instead, it's the vintage shows and matches that I see the most feedback on. One of those shows suddenly saw its uploads stop just around two years ago, only to pick up in the last few weeks. That show? WWF Prime Time Wrestling.

Interestingly, Prime Time Wrestling is the show that I saw the most of as a kid, especially in my years as a casual fan. I was out with family during the day on weekends, so I really didn't partake too much in the classic "Saturday morning wrestling." Instead, I most recall catching Saturday Night's Main Event (after all, it was an event) and Prime Time. And even though the show went through a variety of hosts and formats, my brightest memories revolve around the Gorilla Monsoon-Bobby Heenan version.

I still prefer Monsoon with Jesse "The Body" Ventura as a commentary team, but the two didn't do too much hosting of Prime Time beyond some early episodes. The majority of the run featured "The Gorilla" and "The Brain" providing an often hilarious look at the goings on in the World Wrestling Federation. The chemistry between the two has never been matched in wrestling, obviously aided by their real-life friendship that was completely hidden on television. Okay, maybe a few times you got the feeling that Gorilla didn't completely hate "The Brain," but this was still the era of kayfabe.

Most wrestling television shows at the time didn't yield much memorabilia themselves. Heenan and Monsoon did have a few promotional photos together, but the merchandise of the time more or less centered around the wrestlers themselves. That being said, Prime Time Wrestling featured an absolute plethora of WWF items available in the era.

As with WWF Tuesday Night Titans, the LJN Wrestling Superstars figures were often present on the set of Prime Time. Monsoon and Heenan would utilize them to help illustrate the latest feuds between superstars, and would sometimes set them up to reflect the matches featured on that particular episode. On one segment, Monsoon laments that there wasn't a "Gorilla doll" available. You very much get the idea that he would have appreciated it happening, as it absolutely should have. One has to wonder if there was ever any consideration to the idea, considering how associated he was with the company.

The late, legendary WWF Magazine was also prominently featured. If Gorilla wasn't egging Heenan on about his men not being featured, the two would often cite photos and articles from the latest issue. And who could forget..."From the pages of the World Wrestling Federation Magazine, here's 'Update!'" That segment, which always displayed the latest magazine cover ("...on newsstands now!") was usually hosted by Craig DeGeorge, Lord Alfred Hayes, or Mean Gene Okerlund and spotlighted a recent major happening. And when Bobby finally made the cover in 1987? I'm sure "Miss Betty" was never happier!

As the WWF marketing machine grew and grew, so did the merchandise shown on Prime Time. When George "The Animal" Steele's buddy "Mine" started showing up, Gorilla informs us that we can in fact own it ourselves. We all know how few took the company up on that offer. The musical albums produced by the company were pushed heavily, as was the movie "No Holds Barred" upon its release. Posters, banners, and even Hasbro figures and Tonka Wrestling Buddies would eventually show up as set decor as the years went by. When the show changed formats in 1991 and started to feature a live audience, the merchandise faded away almost overnight. Advertisements were still there, but it just wasn't as fun without the camera focusing in on an LJN or Hasbro as the commercial break ended. And it certainly wasn't as entertaining without the Monsoon-Heenan pairing.

By 1993, Prime Time Wrestling was replaced with Monday Night Raw. No one can deny that Raw has had hundreds of memorable moments as the flagship show of the company and changed the way that wrestling was presented on television. Prime Time rarely advanced angles, as it was mainly a magazine/recap style show. Nonetheless, that was part of the magic. Prime Time featured matches that really didn't fit in anywhere else in the WWF lineup at that point. Some were good, some were bad, but Gorilla and Bobby always made it entertaining. Now that we know how much fun they were really having, it makes it just all the sweeter. And speaking of sweet, I'm sure that somewhere, in a place far greater than we know, our late, beloved Prime Time host knows that we did eventually get a "Gorilla doll"...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Wrestling Classic Figure Review--Hasbro WWF Nasty Boys

For a few years now, the Hasbro WWF line has been the most popular vintage line of wrestling figures. Prices have soared for both carded and loose examples. Figures that clogged the clearance shelves for years and hadn't taken on much secondary value now fetch $30 and $40 for carded examples. Rarer and more popular figures can go into the hundreds. We've had plenty of Hasbro features over the years here on the blog, but this is the first appearance for the line in our "Wrestling Classic Figure Review" series. We're starting with a tag team that tore up the streets of Allentown, PA (or New York City, if WCW is more to your liking) with a nasty sensation. It's Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags, The Nasty Boys.

Although I began collecting the line shortly after it hit shelves, The Nasty Boys were some of the last figures to join my collection. Part of the second series of tag team sets, the Boys were shipped along with the Legion of Doom. Initial cases did not include The Nasty Boys, and in my area they never seemed to arrive. While Hawk and Animal, despite their popularity, warmed the pegs, I started to believe that The Nasty Boys set just wasn't produced. In 1994, my dad and I saw an ad in a magazine for a company called Figures Inc. (now known as Figures Toy Company). They advertised that they had the figures in stock for a price of what I remember to be around $16. My dad took the number down and when I had saved up enough money, we ordered Knobbs and Sags.

Arguably two of the most unique figures in the line, I'm as thrilled with the twosome now as I was then. Like all of the Hasbro WWF figures, The Nasty Boys each utilize a "Real Wrestling Action" to pound their opponents into submission. Indeed, Sags has the "Punk Pounder" while Knobbs has the "Nasticizer." The body/mechanism types fit well for the style of wrestling that this team was known for: pure brawling.

The detail level was high. Hasbro was usually pretty good in this category with a few exceptions. The graffiti look of the shirts was captured well. The facial likenesses were a bit easier to pull off since the Boys are wearing their trademark shades, but there's no doubt that this is Knobbs and Sags. The mullets and Sags' famous gap tooth look are here, too. Remember, this is before accessories were included with every figure. No trench coats in this first "Nasty" incarnation.

One detail that I always appreciated was in the lower portions of the figures. Hasbro took the time to sculpt special boots, complete with chains, for Knobbs and Sags. It's a little thing that could have been ignored and that many companies have not done with The Nasty Boys since. It should also be noted that little if any of the parts of these figures were ever used again. With Hasbro constantly reusing molds, this is still a surprise and allows The Nasty Boys to stand out when displayed with the rest of the collection.

They've had their share of figures since, but I do believe that the first remain the best. As "primitive" as the Hasbro designs may appear to some modern collectors, that has always been a big part of their appeal and charm. Action figures are toys, and the Hasbro WWF line is exactly what the colorful, larger-than-life, World Wrestling Federation roster of the early '90s should look like as toys.. Now that Mattel is producing newer figures in a similar style, the tradition continues. What does that mean for the modern WWE superstars? They may just have to make a pit stop in "Pity City."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The "Boyz" Are Back

Did you truly expect Matt and Jeff Hardy to steal the show at WrestleMania 33? Sure, there were rumors that they would show up in WWE eventually. Maybe the added ladders to the tag team match tipped you off? Regardless, this is one time that even if you did "know," you were still surprised. The Hardy Boyz returned to the company even bigger stars than they had left it. As with anyone who truly "gets" the business, Matt and Jeff reinvented themselves. Like Chris Jericho, Sting, Hulk Hogan, and even to an extent Shawn Michaels, the biggest stars in wrestling stay on top when they find ways to become relevant again. The Hardy Boyz did it at just the right time.

Admittedly, I became a Hardy "fan" in an odd way. I always respected what they brought to the business, but during their rise to the top I really wouldn't have described myself a fan of theirs. I didn't dislike the duo, but I wasn't rushing out buying their latest t-shirt, either. They weren't really in my demographic, although their female companion Lita certainly was. It took actually meeting the "Boyz" and seeing how genuine they were with their fans for me to truly come around.

When I did finally start counting myself a fan of the male side of "Team Xtreme," I found that there was no shortage of great items for the pair. Magazines, action figures, trading cards. From the glory days of the Attitude Era through what were some truly great times for TNA/Impact Wrestling, The Hardy Boyz were part of several great periods.

Their look certainly lent to some great figures. I still remember being on a family vacation somewhere in the Midwest and stopping into a Meijer store. Not having the chain here in Pennsylvania, it is still my one and only visit to the establishment. That shopping trip is where I found the very first action figures of Matt and Jeff. Both would go on to have figures produced under both the WWE and Impact banners, but I still prefer one of their appearances in one of my favorite lines: Jakks WWE Classic Superstars. The pair first had figures in the line based on their early look in all black attire. With the Classic Superstars packaging also being black, I felt that those figures were visually unappealing. When the brothers reappeared as "chase" figures that celebrated the LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars line (complete with blue packaging), I felt that they had received their definitive represenations. It's still a shame that Lita did not join them in the line.

Lita was included in my favorite magazine cover featuring "Team Xtreme." The magazine of the same name was a special put out by the WWF at the height of their popularity. Featuring articles, centerfolds, and even a fold-out cover, looking at it may remind you of something that Jim Crockett Promotions would have released for The Rock 'N Roll Express. Initially, I probably picked up the magazine simply because it was something new on the newsstands (and for Lita). As I later got into having so many of these items signed, I was glad that I had picked it up.

Two of my favorite Jeff Hardy memories, and one personal piece of memorabilia, involve live events. On one November 2008 Sunday in Johnstown, PA, I will never forget being amazed at just how over Jeff was. Every child in the building had the Jeff Hardy "sleeves" on. You could see them surrounding the ringside area like a sea of green and white arms. Fast forward a few years and I find myself ringside at a TNA event somewhere in West Virginia. Jeff had started painting his eyelids so that his eyes appeared open even when closed. I just happened to have my digital camera out as Hardy made his rounds. He noticed this, came over to me, and posed with his eyes closed while I got the shot. It's still a favorite picture of mine and I ended up having it autographed at some point.

Of course, a return to one of the biggest marketing machines in the world only ensures a plethora of new items for the Hardy Boyz. New shirts! New trading cards! New...action figures. Infamously, a Mattel Jeff Hardy figure was produced early in the license in some shape or form but never officially saw a release. Will we see that figure? There's no doubt in my mind that we will see both "current" and "retro" figures of the brothers. I'm sure that a set coupled with Lita isn't out of the realm of opportunity, either. The Boyz would also make great additions to the Hasbro-styled "WWE Retro" figure line.

And how about those who want to see the "Deleted" and "Broken" Hardy characters? My opinion? It's been done. It was a gimmick that revitalized the pair. It would never have dominated an entire WWE show as it did elsewhere. Will we see hints of it here and there? Absolutely. But right now you're getting a nostalgia run for two superstars who highly deserve it. Enjoy it!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Fundraising With The Von Erichs

There are some legendary names that pop up on this blog more than others. Bruno Sammartino. Dusty Rhodes. Jerry "The King" Lawler. Rowdy Roddy Piper. Not only are they some of the best of the best, but they also have a ton of great merchandise to write about. A lot of those items are little featured elsewhere. But when you really want to see things that you didn't know existed in the world of wrestling memorabilia, you look to a family name. You point the car towards Texas and you set out to find the once-rabid fans of the Lone Star State's favorite wrestling sons, the Von Erich Family.

Thankfully, many of those fans saved much of the classic Von Erich and WCCW memorabilia of their youth. Those are the same fans, a large percentage of which were female, that you can still see on any episode of World Class Championship Wrestling. Aside from the board game and apparel, much of what was saved could be classified as ephemera. Photos, programs, and even newspaper clippings. If a Von Erich boy was even mentioned, you can bet that the article or blurb was clipped and saved.

Today we're looking at some programs, but not of the traditional style that many are familiar with. These three programs are from cards held at the W.G. Thomas Coliseum and benefited the local high school band. I must admit, I love these things. Not only are they different from most wrestling programs in size and shape, but they capture the fact that, as big as World Class became for a time, the biggest names in the promotion were still working local shows like this.

The three events were held on 3/20/1984, 10/13/1984, and 3/9/1985. Each program lists four matches with ten minute intermissions apparently peppered between each match. The first show featured Ice Man King Parsons vs Super Destroyer, Chris Adams vs Jimmy Garvin, Kerry Von Erich vs Kimala, and Kevin Von Erich vs Michael Hayes. The second included Buck Zumhofe vs Bill Irwin, Ice Man King Parsons vs Norvell Austin, Mike Von Erich vs Gino Hernandez & Andrea The Giant, and Kevin Von Erich vs The Missing Link. The 1985 show had a Captains Match, John Mantel vs One Man Gang, The Fantastics vs The Midnight Express, and Kerry Von Erich vs Gino Hernandez.

What a time capsule these are, maybe even more so than a standard wrestling program. Not only are they full of good quality WCCW promotional photos, there are endless advertisements from the sponsors. An eatery called Clown Hamburger certainly makes their "Double Meat Hamburger Plus French Fries And Medium Drink - Only $2.19" sound delicious. How about BOGO mesquite smoked chopped bar-b-q sandwiches from Buff's Bar-B-Q Barn? And I'd be remiss not to mention that all three programs include a $1.00 off coupon from the local K-Mart Pharmacy on your next prescription.

But what about the wrestling? Can you imagine getting to see the legendary Gino Hernandez live? How about his partner, Andrea The Giant? We all know her better as Baby Doll, of course. You know that The Fantastics and The Midnight Express gave it their all in a tag team classic. And seeing the Von Erich's in battle against classic opponents such as Michael Hayes and Kamala? Did the fans in attendance realize what was taking place before their eyes? If they were as rabid as those that were always shown on television, I imagine that they may have.

And as with so many items from the era, you never know when
you're in for a surprise. You've seen these stars being mobbed for autographs on their way to the ring, from the ring, and IN the ring. Those signed items are still out there, you just have to know where to look. Opening to the first page of that 10/13/84 program yielded one of those surprises. A rushed, yet unquestionably authentic, Mike Von Erich autograph. It's even in red pen.

Vintage items like these are what continue to remind me why I love pro wrestling. A few old, wrinkled pieces of paper stapled into a pamphlet can contain a treasure trove of memories. A split second decision could have found these being hauled off to a landfill years ago. Certainly that was the fate of many of these items, but thankfully examples like these have survived. That K-Mart Pharmacy coupon may no longer be valid, but the rest of the value found in these pages will last for eternity.