Thursday, May 18, 2017
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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!