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.

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