Thursday, November 23, 2017

Giving True Thanks...

Seeing as that for more than a few years this blog has been published on Thursday, we've had quite a few topics with a Thanksgiving theme. Wrestling has a long tradition on the November holiday, dating back to large live events across the country. Most fans know that those shows eventually evolved to the early incarnations of Starrcade and Survivor Series being held on Turkey Day.

These days, the superstars are home with their families on Thanksgiving. It's a double-edged sword, seeing as that an after dinner event could possibly still be a great draw. On the other hand, who should really be working on such a family-oriented day? Although a great discussion, it's not what we're moving towards here.

It was actually Instagram that put this week's thoughts into motion. I recently opened an Instagram account for the blog (@jws_wrestling_memorabilia), as if this entity needed more of a social media presence. In thinking of a Thanksgiving photo post, I decided that last year's creation would be suitable since it would be "fresh" to Instagram. Due to recent events, I almost changed my mind.

The photo that I shared around last year as a Thanksgiving blog greeting featured one of my favorite characters, "The Ugandan Giant" Kamala. As a slight takeoff of the time that Kamala "ate" a live chicken on Tuesday Night Titans, my photo featured Mattel's very realistic Kamala figure eyeing up a nice representation of a gobbler. Just several days ago it was revealed that James Harris, the man behind the Kamala makeup, was hospitalized and on life support.

The health struggles of Mr. Harris over the past few years have been well documented, including but not limited to the man losing his legs. With the grim news of his hospitalization, I immediately dreaded memorializing the man in the very blog entry that you're now reading. Obviously if that were the case, Instagram would have to wait a few years before seeing the picture post that I described.

Amazingly, as of press time the news is that James "Kamala" Harris has been removed from life support after regaining the ability to breathe on his own. While he likely has much recovery to do, the news elicits a huge sigh of relief from his friends and fans. In his honor, I did in fact post the "Kamala's Thanksgiving" photo on Instagram which you will also find at the end of this blog entry.

Instagram postings nor even wrestling memorabilia are the true story here, though. A message that cannot be preached enough, Thanksgiving Day or otherwise, is the fact that we really should be thankful for all that we have. If you have the time and ability to be reading this blog entry right now, even that shows that you have things to be thankful for. You have time to be sitting and reading something that, on most weeks, is a pure enjoyable read and has no bearing on life as a whole. On my end, I am thankful that I have the time and means to bring it to you. It also says that you have an Internet connection of some sort, which makes your life a lot easier no matter how much you may deny that fact.

And what about Mr. Harris? We can be sure that he is thankful for being alive, as is his family. As Jim Ross reminds us, tomorrow is not guaranteed. If you're fortunate enough to have even one person in your life, take the time to think about them. Don't take them for granted. Savor each day that you have with them. Enjoy the present...

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wrestling MarketWatch: Ring Royalty

Pro wrestling has champions, icons, heroes, and villains. Many from those categories eventually become legends. But what about..royalty? There have been many kings, and even a few queens, of the ring. Some were crowned in tournaments, others seemed to achieve their titles out of thin air. Nevertheless, most of these superstars felt that they were above the other wrestlers who were simply there to bow in servitude. This week in MarketWatch we look at some memorabilia recognizing the reigns of five great kings of the squared circle.

*Near the end of his career, the legendary Harley Race arrived in the World Wrestling Federation and won a non-televised King of the Ring tournament to take the crown. The former NWA World Heavyweight Champion decided that this was an appropriate title and reigned over the WWF for nearly two years. Much of Race's memorabilia comes from this run, but there is none more iconic than his figure from LJN as part of the Wrestling Superstars line. Recently this loose, complete figure has seen sale prices ranging from $50 to $165 proving that Race still reigns powerfully on the secondary market.

*It was fellow Heenan family member Haku who next held the crown. The Tongan superstar memorably battled Race in a "King's Crown Match" at the 1989 Royal Rumble. Haku sent Race packing from the WWF with a victory and ended up sitting on the throne for a few more months. While Haku's LJN figure did not end up being "The King" as originally advertised, he did see a royal representation in the Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line. That figure recently sold loose and complete at auction for between $20 and $30.

*Yet another Heenan family member went by the "King" moniker, but this man did not wear a crown. I'm not sure that one would have even fit on his head. The monstrous King Kong Bundy reigned supreme with sheer girth and power, not to mention his dreaded "Avalanche" finishing maneuver. Bundy's matinee idol mug made the cover of the August/September 1986 issue of WWE Magazine and recently sold at auction (unsigned) for $17.

*There were kings, and then there was the Macho King. When Randy Savage took the crown from King Duggan in late 1989, the Macho Man took on a whole new life. His last appearance as the Macho King took place at WrestleMania VII in 1991 in a losing effort against The Ultimate Warrior. Mattel kicked off their Defining Moments line with Savage clad in this unique attire. Although the packaging read "Macho Man," this is clearly the last stand of the "Macho King." This figure, loose and complete, recently sold for $36.

*In the opinion of myself and legions of other loyal subjects, there is only one true king of wrestling: Jerry Lawler. His kingdom may start in Memphis, but it stretches across the world. He has piledriven many pretenders right into defeat time and time again. From his work both in and out of the ring, there will never be another Jerry Lawler. It's been well-documented right here on this blog that Lawler has had a little singing career as well. One of his 45 singles, "Mean Streak," recently sold for $20.50.

Long Live The King(s)!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Slobberknocker Of A Tale, But Hold The BBQ...

I still remember not being able to control my excitement as WrestleMania IX took to the air live. While Gorilla Monsoon, one of my favorite announcers, made little more than a cameo at the beginning of the event, the name that crossed his lips to take his place had me jumping out of my seat. Jim Ross had arrived in the World Wrestling Federation! It didn't seem possible, but here we were. Little did we know how far that this man from Oklahoma would go "up north." Now, "Good Ol' J.R." is recalling those stories and more in "Slobberknocker - My Life In Wrestling."

Just a brief overview of the career of Jim Ross will indicate to any wrestling fan that the man has many stories to tell. Although J.R. has written several cookbooks, this is the first to be a true telling of his story. From essentially chauffeuring for legendary wrestlers up and down the highways to refereeing, announcing, booking, and beyond, Ross has laid out his life in wrestling, just as the title says. Though we do hear about his late wife Jan (who was alive during most of the production of the book) as well as his parents, much of J.R.'s personal life is left out. This is a decision that only the author can make when penning a book and should be respected. Again, this is his "life in wrestling."

Refreshingly, many J.R. stories that we've heard in the past in various outlets are omitted. While those stories would have been welcome, it seems that the decision was made in order to include tales that are unfamiliar even to the biggest Jim Ross fan. If you're looking for the bathroom tales of the "hit" placed on Vince McMahon or Brian Pillman's bowel movement, they aren't here. But you will learn why Robert Gibson was called "Hoot" and while it didn't necessarily please "Vinnie Mac."

Another interesting omission is anything regarding J.R.'s famous BBQ sauce. Perhaps he wanted to avoid making the book look like an advertisement, but the stuff is good. Great, actually. Instead you will hear plenty about working with and learning from the likes of Cowboy Bill Watts, Ernie Ladd, Leroy McGuirk, Danny Hodge, Ric Flair, Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Gordon Solie, and of course McMahon and Jerry "The King" Lawler.

Equal time is spent on Ross's time in Mid-South Wrestling/UWF, WCW, and the WWF, so you get a true feel of what the WWE Hall of Famer brought to each company. Still, the author leaves you wanting more. Some of the more controversial moments in J.R.'s career are not included, which again would be a personal decision of Ross himself.

"Slobberknocker" is a worthwhile entry in the library of any wrestling fan, but we can hope that this is only "Volume 1," as we know there's a lot more to tell. Ross has been making many appearances around the country promoting and signing the book, but I think he enjoys greeting the fans most of all. After all, he's still a fan himself after all these years...

"I like what you're doing. The nostalgia thing. Us old guys appreciate that stuff."

--Jim Ross to me, October 2017

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Demented Dentist Returns...

Mattel continues to be on the ball with retro figures well into the better half of a decade with the WWE license. With recent announcements like John Tenta's "Shark" character and the action figure-elusive Wendi Richter as upcoming releases, it's no wonder that collectors continue to support the line. This past summer, another character who had never before been produced as an action figure made his far-from-painless debut. Hold on to your wisdom teeth, Isaac Yankem DDS is here.

It's no secret that Isaac Yankem was the first on-air WWE character for Glenn Jacobs, better known as Kane. Debuting at an event that I attended, SummerSlam 1995, Yankem attempted to rid the world of Bret "The Hitman" Hart at the behest of Jerry "The King" Lawler. Though the demented dentist came up short, the character is remembered as a memorable icon of the campy, cartoony, mid-1990s WWF scene. Jacobs would go on to portray the replacement "Diesel" when Kevin Nash left the company, and finally ended up with the gimmick that would make him a surefire WWE Hall of Famer in Kane.

The Isaac Yankem figure was an exclusive to San Diego Comic Con and the Toys "R" Us website. It comes in unique Elite packaging that displays some of Yankem's useful dentistry equipment. The back is a doctor's file chart, complete with some bloody teeth and even a humorous allusion to Yankem becoming someone else that we all know. It's a tall figure as any representation of Jacobs should be, so it looks good in the packaging.

Yankem comes complete with his dentist coat and headgear. The headgear can be removed and even tilted downward so that the goggles can go over his eyes. I feel like we should have received one more accessory. The doctors bag, perhaps? It just feels as if other exclusives have a bit more to them, although Mattel did have to create all-new accessories in this case. When I removed the headgear, it did take off a little bit of the blond hair paint. The headgear piece itself almost felt glued on at first.

The figure sculpting is solid, utilizing recycled parts aside from the head. The pants mold works well, especially for the height of the figure. To be honest, it's an all around imposing figure which it definitely should be. The entire idea of the character was to be a demented monster...very much like The Big Red Machine just a little over two years later.

Although already a few months old, the figure can still be obtained for around the same price as release. That likely won't always be the case. I also wouldn't expect to see any future releases of the character. I could be wrong, but I feel Yankem was released in the proper manner so that anyone who wanted to add him to the collection could do exactly that. But I won't drill it into your heads, just try to extract him from someone else's hands in a few months. It won't be painless...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Every Girl's Crazy Bout A Sharp Dressed Man...

In the above photo, you see at least two semi-sharp dressed men, and one in a Dusty Rhodes t-shirt. But the two surrounding the latter were fabulous ones. In fact, they were THE Fabulous Ones. Stan Lane and Steve Keirn took much of the wrestling world by storm in the 1980's and even paved the way for other "pretty boy" tag teams along the way.

Created in Memphis, The Fabulous Ones were initially supposed to be the proteges of "Fabulous" Jackie Fargo. Not a bad endorsement in the city that Fargo ruled. Runs in Florida, Texas, and even the AWA followed.

In the picture, I am holding a popular souvenir in sports the world over, a pennant. For a team that did not have WWF exposure, Lane and Keirn certainly had their share of merchandising. While signing the pennant, Lane explained that Keirn had a whole plethora of items created during the duo's run in Memphis including the pennant, shirts, key chains, and more. Both of the men were surprised to see the pennant after all of these years.

Of course, most collectors remember The Fabulous Ones for their most famous piece of memorabilia: the Remco AWA figure two-pack. Thanks to their fairly brief run in that company, the team was immortalized in plastic in 1985. Removable bow ties and suspenders only add to the fun of these figures, which the team even showed off on Memphis television at one point.

WWE has often cited the music video featuring "Sharp Dressed Man" and the Fabs to be something odd and/or rare from their library. It really isn't, but it's nice to see the team remembered, regardless. When compared to other teams in the same vein such as The Rock N Roll Express, The Fabs may be a bit underrated, but they were the originators and are definitely not forgotten.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

WWE Unreleased: Just What The Longtime Fan Ordered

Gold. Usually I wait until the last paragraph of a review to summarize, but I choose to do it right now instead with just that word. WWE Unreleased is a DVD treasure trove of matches and segments that wrestling fans have been asking for for years.

It's well-documented that the WWE vault is massive and contains footage from the classic yet common to the ultra-rare and unseen. It's the latter that is contained in WWE Unreleased. Mainly consisting of dark matches from television tapings with a house show match or two thrown in, truly everything on here is never-before-seen to my knowledge. It's stuff that we've heard of, yet always had to visualize in our heads.

The set is hosted by Charly Caruso and, one of my all-time favorites, Sean Mooney. The interstitial segments display that Mooney still very much gets the company and its humor, as it's jokingly implied that the former WWF announcer actually lives in the film archive below the "Event Center." There are a few nods to Mooney's frequent broadcast partner, the late Lord Alfred Hayes, and be sure to stick around after the WWE Home Video logo pops up at the end. There's also a great gag in the last hour or so of the set that is sure to make frequent WWE DVD watchers smile.

The set is labeled "1986-1995," which in a way doesn't please me. I know that there is loads more unseen footage from that era that didn't make the cut. Missy's Manor? Jimmy Garvin's 1992 tryout? The last encounter between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant (a tag match pitting Hogan and Big Boss Man against the Colossal Connection at a 1990 tv taping)? Pay-per-view dark matches? Griping aside, what we do get is honestly unheard of.

If you're a fan of Andre, The Ultimate Warrior, or Randy Savage, this is the set for you. All three seem to show up very frequently early on. There is also a big dose of The Hulkster, with The Undertaker and Bret Hart generously peppered in as well. The real gems here, for me, are the tryout matches. We see the Warrior, Owen Hart, Crush, Earthquake, Tatanka, The Smoking Gunns, and Taz all in some of their initial appearances. We also get the never aired 1992 return of Piper's Pit featuring the Brooklyn Brawler and an absolutely shocking line for the time from "Hot Rod" regarding what the company was facing in the real world.

We are reminded that Mike McGuirk, in addition to being an extremely sweet individual, was criminally underrated as a ring announcer. We see some obvious "run thru" matches to prepare for the "real deal" down the line. We also see the infamous (thanks to Toxic Turtles match which clearly was never intended to go beyond the venue in which it was held.

Picture quality changes from match to match, as obviously some of the master footage has deteriorated. There are some odd frame rate issues in a couple of matches, and some wavy sound problems in others. Nonetheless, we aren't seeing this stuff any other way. I'll take it any day. As far as music changes, I only noticed two: the horrible Rick Rude music edit that crept up earlier this year, and a change for the Smoking Gunns tryout entrance theme. Speaking of tryout entrances, be sure to check out those for both "Earthquake Evans" and "War Eagle."

A few of the matches are seen only from the hard camera view, and it should be pointed out that there is no commentary here at all. Some would probably argue that commentary could have been added, but I would be against it. These are dark and house show matches. View them as originally intended with the natural audio of the event as your soundtrack. Nothing more is needed.

Buy this thing. Why? One reason is because it's one of the most interesting and unique WWE DVD releases of all-time. Another reason is that if sales are great, we may see more content like this down the line. While matches from after the time frame covered in this set wouldn't interest me quite as much, we have no idea what WWE has stored away. In the meantime, let's enjoy what has been unleashed with "Unreleased."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Household Wrestling Items That You Never Realized You Needed...

If you've followed this blog for any amount of time, you already know that we celebrate all forms of wrestling memorabilia. The weird. The wacky. The wonderful. It's all covered. But how about...household items? Sure they've popped up here and there over the near decade since the blogs inception, but they've never really had the spotlight. Need to host a wrestling themed luncheon? These items may just please the most difficult of guests...

*Breakfast in bed? Frozen dinner in front of the television? The entire Brady Bunch is sick again? Never fear, the WWF Superstars lunch tray is here. Big Boss Man. The Ultimate Warrior. Hulk Hogan. The Texas Tornado. All four are ready, willing, and able to provide that extra needed flavor, and maybe even some vitamins, to your meal. Can you imagine bringing Virgil some Olive Garden takeout (extra meat sauce) on this tray while he regales you with highly-fictionalized stories of the four featured superstars? I can't.

*Maybe you don't want to eat your lunch at home, but you still need some early '90s WWF Superstar power with your cuisine. That''s why we have WWF Superstars lunch bags! The Boss Man, The Warrior, and The Hulkster are all back from their lunch tray antics to bring you action on the go. Joining them are none other than Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Damien! These aren't the boring, plain, brown bags that used to float around WWF locker rooms near Allentown! These bags are full of ingestable items sure to make you bigger and stronger! Oh, wait...

*Certainly you need something to wash all of these power packed meals down with. And that something, whether it be milk, juice, or whatever you want has to be contained. There have been plenty of wrestling related cups, mugs, and suck cups (thanks, Dusty!) over the years, but for this outing we went with a glass featuring Ax and Smash. Yes, Demolition themselves. There were a few different series of glasses featuring WWF superstars produced over the years, but who are more exciting to drink from than my personal favorite tag team? Before you take a sip, a word of warning: you better say your act of contrition.

*Watch it! Don't you dare put that glass down on the end table without a coaster. But not just any coaster, mind you! This is a Mid-South Wrestling coaster! Used as a promotional item sometimes even given away by owner and WWE Hall of Famer himself, Cowboy Bill Watts, these coasters actually say "Mid-South Sports." Also illustrated are the address and phone number of the promotion. Who's using this to pick up the ice sweat from their drinking glass? Not me! Especially when it's autographed by Watts himself!

*So the host has kicked you out of the house, without your drink, for refusing to use a coaster. How else are you going to beat the heat? With an FMW hand fan, silly! Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling may have been founded by the legendary and infamous Atsushi Onita, but the high-flying Hayabusa is arguably its best remembered star. As with many Japanese promotions, some interesting and unique memorabilia came out of FMW, including this fan. Just sit back, wave the fan, and think about such relaxing concepts as exploding ring barbed wire steel cage matches!

And there you have a sampling of wrestling memorabilia that you can still put to good use around the house. Why sit around just staring at these great items when they can aid in special occasions, holidays, and pleasant family time? Utilize these tips wisely. After all, you're getting them for free. Martha Stewart would've charged you $25 for this information in book form...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Voice of Memphis Wrestling Passes...

It seems like just yesterday when Pittsburgh wrestling fans were mourning the loss of Bill Cardille, the voice of wrestling in the Steel City. A little over one year later and Memphis is feeling the same grief with the loss of the legendary Lance Russell. While both men made their mark in specific regions, in both instances fans from around the world are mourning just as much as those in the respective home cities of the men.

To live ninety-one years is a long life, but as always it's what one packs into those years that matters. Lance Russell certainly did that, first with a career in television that led to widespread notoriety as the voice of Memphis wrestling. Russell also raised a family, along with wife Audrey, who passed away in 2014. Sadly, that family suffered two losses in the span of a week as Lance and Audrey's daughter passed away on Friday from cancer.

My first exposure to Russell came in the form of the antiquated VHS video tape. An early non-WWF/WCW release titled "Masters of Mayhem" came into my possession at a young age. The tape was full of Memphis-area matches featuring stars who had gone on to find fame on a national level. The voice calling those matches? Lance Russell, of course! A fitting title for the tape considering that Russell was famous for often using the word "mayhem" to describe the action.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Russell at the 2009 NWA Legends Fanfest. There, the announcer was joined by his former commentary partner, WMC-TV weatherman Dave Brown, as well as Memphis wrestling icons Jerry Jarrett and Jackie Fargo to create a mini-reunion. It would be my only opportunity to meet the famous host, although I did correspond with him in years following. A long, hand-written letter from Mr. Russell is something that I cherish. It is just a small reflection of his well-known persona of being an absolutely wonderful individual.

I once heard Lance Russell's announcing style described as the "grandfather" trying to keep peace among all of the wild "grandchildren." I wish I could credit the source, but it is absolutely true. You trusted and believed what Lance was telling you, and there is no better talent to have when calling pro wrestling. Russell also spent time in WCW and Smoky Mountain Wrestling, but he is a firm entry on the "Mount Rushmore" of Memphis wrestling, likely alongside Fargo, Jerry Lawler (who he famously broke into the business), and Sputnik Monroe.

I usually end remembrances with a photo of the personality in question and myself, but Mr. Russell's passing made one photo and one photo only pop into my mind. I can still remember taking it at the Hall of Heroes banquet in Charlotte. I did not snap the photo because of who was speaking on stage in the background. I took it because I had noticed Lance and Audrey Russell holding hands. A simple sign of everlasting love after a lifetime together.

Lance is now at her side again. It's a spot that I imagine he never wanted to leave.

Lance Russell


Thursday, September 28, 2017

TJP: More Thrilling As A Toy...I Promise

There's no doubt that TJ Perkins, or "TJP," is a typical cruiserweight wrestler. High flying moves, thrilling risk-taking, and plenty of speed. The problem is that since his victory in the CWC (Cruiserweight Classic) Tournament, there just hasn't been much reaction to him. As in none. Crickets. Since the tournament, something about him has just not connected with audiences. Maybe it's him, maybe it's the way he's presented, or maybe it's the "8-bit" entrance (which I happen to like). Regardless, his debut action figure is here and on shelves now.

The figure is the latest in the "WWE Network Spotlight" series exclusive to Toys "R" Us. This is a figure in the Elite style, and the packaging is similar to the normal Elite figures, though I prefer the color scheme on these exclusives. It's a bit more adult in nature with the darker tones. While I'm usually a fan of brighter colors, it works here since it's red. It actually does make you think of the WWE Network menus and presentation.

The figure is packaged with both the Cruiserweight Classic medallion and the new WWE Cruiserweight Championship belt (sorry, Vince). I'm always a fan of when new, different, and unique accessories hit the line. I'm sure that some don't care for the Cruiserweight Championship color scheme, but I've been a fan since day one. It's something different and in the WWE Universe that can often be difficult to find, especially with championship designs.

The figure itself is a nice debut, and captures Perkins about as well as possible. The facial likeness is solid and I can think of no complaints. The attire is very vibrant and does appear to match his Cruiserweight Classic-winning outfit. The body parts used match TJP's real-life physique and the scale seems to be fairly spot on, too. As nice as the figure is though, we can be honest when admitting that he probably would not have been in an exclusive line such as this if not to debut the great accessories.

Speaking of accessories, I do believe that an upcoming Neville figure will include the Cruiserweight Championship as well. As far as the medallion, this could be your only shot. I have no doubt that TJP will receive another figure down the line, probably in basic form. This figure is "hot" right now, so if you see it, grab it. Still doesn't jive with those cricket-filled reactions, though...

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Brain That Roared

Brain. Weasel. Fighter. All words that can be used to describe Bobby Heenan. The loss of the legendary manager this past week has been felt throughout the world. If you were a wrestling fan from the '60s through the '90s, there's a good chance that Heenan entertained you in some way, whether you loved him as "The Brain" or jeered him as "The Weasel." If you followed his journey in the past fifteen years, you know that he could have also been called "The Fighter."

It was no secret that a battle with throat cancer took its toll on Heenan. Although up until about ten years ago "The Brain" was able to still make entertaining appearances throughout the wrestling world, the effects of his cancer treatments began to take their toll. Ultimately, Heenan had to have his jaw removed. While this did change his appearance, his attitude and will to live kept him going. Accompanied by his loving wife Cindy, "The Brain" continued to travel to various conventions and events where he could once again greet friends and fans alike. Though he could talk very little, the always boisterous Heenan was still able to make everyone laugh through gestures and the familiar twinkle in his eyes.

Bobby Heenan was wrestling's answer to both Johnny Carson and a great sports coach. He had the personality of a golden age comedian but brought legitimacy to the idea of a great manager existing in the wrestling business. He could be highly entertaining in the latter role, but his promos always left you thinking that there was a great chance that his men would walk away victorious. Nearly 100,000 fans certainly believed that Andre the Giant could defeat Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. Who talked them into the Pontiac Silverdome? Bobby Heenan.

Behind the scenes, Heenan was often in charge of directing the promos for others. Who better to teach that art than one of the best? And if "most quoted" equates the best, Heenan may have very well been it. Just ask Koko B. Ware's mother. Her name? Tupper. Or Tito Santana's sister who performed at WrestleMania VIII. You don't remember Arriba McIntyre? Don't go helping any of your buddies, because "a friend in need is a pest." And if you ever got agitated towards "The Brain," he'd remind you that "you don't have to yell at me, I'm not blind!"

At a very young age, I can still remember my dad telling me that he'd been on a plane with Heenan and saw him taking the time to sign autographs. As a kid, this didn't strike me as unusual. I guess I was still goodhearted enough not to question why a "bad guy" would do that. As an adult, I still understand. While the Bobby Heenan character was underhanded, he wasn't completely loathsome. A great help with the latter part of the image was thanks to Gorilla Monsoon. You always got the feeling that the two co-hosts had a mutual admiration even while bickering on commentary or during their years on Prime Time Wrestling. It was a comfort for so many of us to learn in later years that the two were indeed close friends in real life.

A few days ago I had Tweeted that a bellowing "Will you stop?" had to be heard at the Pearly Gates this week. After a few moments, I can only imagine Gorilla following up with, "I'll have you thrown outta here, Brain!"

Thanks, Bobby, for all of the laughter, joy, and entertainment you brought to us "ham n eggers" and our favorite past time. We always knew that you loved us humanoids...

Bobby "The Brain" Heenan


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mae Young Lives On...

She was WWE's crazy old grandmother. An elderly woman who was as endearing as she was unpredictable. Tough as nails, but with a heart of gold. She was "The Great" Mae Young. Without checking, I would imagine that the last time Mae had been mentioned in this blog was following her passing in 2014. We all thought that Johnnie Mae would go on forever, but all good things must come to an end. Or do they?

At press time, WWE had just finished up the Mae Young Classic. The 32-woman tournament, an exclusive to WWE Network, was won by Japanese star Kairi Sane. Could Mae herself have imagined that she would one day have a tournament named after her? If you'd have asked her a half century ago, chances are she'd have said no...and you may have been handed an ass-whooping in the process for even mentioning it.

What's interesting about Mae Young's earlier career is that the records do exist, but you have to look. She simply did not attain the press that many of her contemporaries got, despite collecting many accolades during her career. Was it her rough-and-tumble nature that saw her featured far less than other lady grapplers of the era? Perhaps she was too busy living the often wild and crazy stories that she seemed so proud of later in life.

Speaking of later in life, there's no question that Mae achieved her greatest fame in her twilight years. That being said, it did not keep her out of the ring or away from the splinters of a wooden table that she was just put through. It was in this period that Mae finally saw an action figure, trading cards, and Hall of Fame inductions. Indeed, Mae Young made it big. And while her companion The Fabulous Moolah is the more celebrated name, Mae emerged as the wilder of the bunch and, to many, the more beloved.

Mae certainly loved meeting the fans, as well, and was no stranger to planting one of her famous kisses on them. I'm not sure that I'd feel as if my wrestling fandom was complete had I not been the recipient of a Mae Young smooch. It's just something that you had to do...

With the success of the Mae Young Classic and the popularity of women's wrestling today, I would not be surprised to see more editions of this tournament. It is a wonderful tribute to a woman who brought a lot of joy to fans and whose contributions to the in-ring side of wrestling are essentially lost to time. While she may be marveling at what the female wrestlers of today are doing, there's no doubt in my mind that "The Queen" is looking down with that classic smile on her face, ready to jump right in with them and kick some ass.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Wrestling MarketWatch: The Figures of the Divas

Divas often make very collectible action figures. Oh, wait. We're not allowed to say "Divas" anymore. But in this case, we are looking at the era in which females in WWE were referred to as Divas. It was a long period that produced many superstar names. Whether the wrestling was good, bad, or even ugly, these women proved to be as big as the men at the box office as well as on the merchandise shelves. It's the latter of which, as usual, that we'll be exploring here. Most notably action figures of the WWF/WWE Divas. As always in the MarketWatch feature, we will take a look at recent auction prices of several items. Despite what is shown, prices are for carded, non-autographed figures unless otherwise noted.

*Kelly Kelly certainly personified being a WWE Diva. She was hired by the company for all of the wrong reasons, but left the position years later as a beloved member of the roster. Her in-ring performances may never have been the greatest, but something about her was simply endearing. She continues to thrill fans in convention appearances around the world, as well as continuing her modeling career. Heck, she even made an appearance on "Days of our Lives" in recent years! Kelly had several action figures from Jakks and Mattel, but her Elite figure is her best representation. It recently sold for $53.

*Molly Holly took a different approach to being a Diva, a combination of girl-next-door looks and great wrestling skill. Molly is a favorite to many, and the wholesomeness of her character was said to be an extension of real life. Molly also proved that she could play a sweet innocent girlfriend character or a conniving heel with the greatest of ease. Is it any wonder that we all still miss Molly? The buxom blonde had but only one figure during her long stint with the company, that being from Jakks. The figure recently sold for $20.

*Yet another blonde bombshell comes in the form of Maryse. Still starring on Monday Night Raw alongside husband The Miz, Maryse has been stellar in her performance since returning the night after WrestleMania 32. Although there are no true qualifications, Maryse has become WWE Hall of Fame material in her sneaky valet role. Though the lovely Frenchwoman has a few figures from Mattel, her first release from Jakks is in demand. A loose example recently sold for $14. Pourquoi?

*She's the original Diva according to WWE and in many ways will never be topped. Say what you want about Sunny, she was the most downloaded woman on AOL years ago. Many of those images have never left our minds. "What Sunny wants, Sunny gets!" was her motto, and I truly hope that she finds peace and happiness one day. While I'm not sure that we'll ever see a new Sunny figure on the horizon, we have plenty of past releases to enjoy. Her first release in the Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line recently sold for $40.

*And if we're mentioning troubles, we have to bring up Paige. The young British star was one of the top prospects for WWE superstardom just a few years ago. In 2017, her career and life seem to be in absolute limbo. Too much too soon can do that, as well as many other factors. The former Total Divas star saw her first figure released with both the NXT and Divas championship belts and looks great holding both. The figure recently commanded $25 at auction.

No matter what the overly-PC world wants, even in wrestling, the term Divas will always be out there. That word takes nothing away from the women who were labeled as such. Memorabilia like what we've just seen does not detract, either. Stars are stars and many shown here will continue to shine for years to come.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Topps WWE Heritage Returns To 1987...As Predicted

I can't exactly take credit for it, but I did predict it. Last September I "created" what I thought what be a perfect 2017 edition of Topps WWE Heritage trading cards. Based upon the 1987 Topps WWF trading card design, the cards celebrated thirty years of the set which featured WrestleMania III. And...I was half right. To be fair, it was a no-brainer. Millions of kids collected that set growing up in the Hogan era, so it's only natural that the design would be revisited. Again, as you'll see in the coming paragraphs and photos, I was only half right.

For the third year in a row, Topps WWE Heritage cards have arrived in full force. Hitting in early August 2017, the box and packs once again adopt blue as the primary color. Goldberg, John Cena, Bayley, and AJ Styles take the top of the box, although I'm partial to the side which features Ric Flair, The Ultimate Warrior, Randy Savage, and "surfer" Sting. A hobby box promises 24 packs, 9 cards per pack, and 2 hits per box, including a guaranteed autograph.

Getting the hits out of the way, it seems as if you could almost consider yourself as receiving three. From my own experience as well as others, each box seems to contain one silver parallel card numbered up to 25. While not guaranteed on the box, this is definitely a bonus and a third hit in the eyes of many. My box yielded a silver Kevin Nash parallel along with a Johnny Gargano shirt relic and, most importantly, a Kevin Owens autograph. It's nice to see that the autographs are once again "on-card" here, meaning that the actual card was signed rather than a sticker being applied.

The 100-card base set is a throwback to the 1987 Topps baseball card design. We've seen this style used on WWE Heritage before as a subset, but never as a full set itself. The common bronze parallels are a bit darker. The base set is once again a good mix of WWE and NXT superstars as well as legends. I wouldn't say that there are any true surprises, but this would be the Heritage debuts for Ken Shamrock and Terri Runnels, not to mention the return of Fit Finlay after a long absence.

My being "half right" with my blog entry from last year comes in the form of subsets. "SummerSlam All-Stars," "Thirty Years of SummerSlam," and "Bizarre SummerSlam Matches" all feature the 1987 Topps WWF card design that I had used in my imaginary set. It makes perfect sense, but I would rather have had the base set featured in this design. Even the "Kiss" and "Patch" hit cards get in on the act by reflecting the 1987 "TV card" and sticker designs, respectively. "SummerSlam All-Stars" is the best of the bunch, taking after the first 21 cards of the set from thirty years ago.

If I had a major complaint about the set, it would be that the photo choices seem a bit off in some instances. Some of the photos, especially in the subsets, don't seem up to the usual Topps quality. Others, such as Goldberg's base card, were all-in-all odd picks to begin with. "The Man" is almost completely facing the opposite direction. And what is with all of the X-Pac love in this set? Does he really warrant that many cards? I will also mention the fact that non-Heritage "tribute" subsets (here specifically for Cena, The Undertaker, and Daniel Bryan) continue to trickle into Heritage sets. These cards just do not fit in with Heritage and should be kept for the various other sets released throughout the year.

Bitterness from my idea being stolen aside (I kid...), I like the set. There could have been some better photo choices and I wish that the 1987 WWF style had completely saturated the release, but a hobby box is still a worthwhile purchase. These remain my favorite cards to be autographed due to the non-gloss style, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. It would be nice to see some more studio shots included in a Heritage set similar to the first two releases over a decade ago. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing WWE Heritage II revisited.

Heritage of...Heritage?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bloody Disgusting!

Maybe this list should've been saved for Halloween! Who else loved the bloody wrestling magazine covers of yesteryear? I can't imagine many saying that they didn't. These covers are almost a foreign concept in a world where wrestling matches are stopped when a drop of blood comes trickling out. It's a different time, and not necessarily a better one. Thankfully, we have these artifacts to look back on, showcasing the gory, wild west world of vintage professional wrestling.

The stars of the '70s were wild in and out of the ring. Two of the most notorious were Harley Race, who could fill a bloody cover story all by himself, and the late Blackjack Mulligan. In March 1979, the two were seen in a gruesome bloodbath on the cover of Inside Wrestling. Mulligan's infamous clawhold seems to be actually causing the blood to squirt from the head of Race...

Speaking of wild, how about Buddy Colt? This top talent in such areas as Florida and Georgia may not be a common name to today's fans, but students of the past are more than familiar with the grappler. In fact, it's the very photo used on the cover of a 1974 Wrestling Yearbook issue that shows up time and again when Colt comes into the conversation. The caption? "Buddy Colt Loves Blood - Even If It's His." Well then...

Speaking of loving their own blood, you get a feeling that "The Brain" may have been the same way. There are tons of magazine covers featuring Bobby Heenan's mug covered in a "crimson mask," but none are more iconic than the November 1970 issue of The Wrestler. The magazine had it's own feature on this blog at one point, and Heenan still lights up when he sees this particular cover.

One of Heenan's most connected protege's also shed blood on occasion, that being Nick Bockwinkel. On a 1980 Wrestling Annual magazine, the erudite champion is seen on the cover after a brutal AWA Championship defense. His famous belt barely held up, the dazed Bockwinkel likely just had the fight of his life.

Of course, bloody covers can come in the form of programs, too. Each territory had their programs, but few may have been cooler than those from Memphis. The September 26, 1979 program cover features a very young Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy covered in a mass of blood. The photo may be black and white, but that does not stop the intensity of the moment from coming through.

A small sampling? Yes, but some of the best. The blood is often missed from today's product, but looking at these images certainly keeps the gruesome past alive. Bloody Hell!