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.