Thursday, June 22, 2017
Roddy Piper was at his peak of popularity (both "good" and "bad") just when the WWF marketing machine was taking off. Many remember his likeness showing up on everything from lunch boxes to trading cards, but that wasn't where the "Rowdy" memorabilia began. In addition to magazine and program covers, Piper's mug showed up on the cover of the 1983 Georgia Championship Wrestling calendar. Pictured with his broadcast colleague Gordon Solie. The feisty villain had just recently turned "good" by saving Solie from an attack by Don Muraco.
And no one deserved their own dedicated Coliseum Video title more than the rowdy Scotsman. "Rowdy Roddy Piper's Greatest Hits" delivered exactly what it advertised. There were highlights from classic Piper's Pit segments, overviews of his biggest feuds, and of course matches. One of the most memorable moments on the video is when Rowdy Roddy Piper interviews...Rowdy Roddy Piper. It's "Hot Rod" at his heelish best. On a personal note, this was the final item that I ever had Roddy autograph.
This is just a small sampling of "Hot Rod's" lasting legacy of items. You may prefer something related to his movie career or his oft-forgotten venture into music with the "I'm Your Man" release. It's all here for us to cherish forever. There's even a new book written by two of Piper's children. Although I have yet to check it out, I'm sure that it will only add more great tales and stories to the already lengthy Piper legend. And will we see more Rowdy Roddy Piper figures in the future? To quote the man himself, "You damn betcha, man!" As long as the bagpipes play on, Roddy Piper lives...
...and I bet he's still outta bubblegum.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Nakamura has certainly arrived to a lot of hype, both to NXT and the main WWE roster. His first action figure is no exception. Usually reserved for legends, Nakamura's first Mattel figure is part of the "Defining Moments" line, highlighting a specific moment in time out of a long career. This figure celebrates Nakamura's arrival in NXT, which was anticipated by many fans worldwide. It happened at NXT TakeOver: Dallas during the weekend of WrestleMania 32 where Nakamura defeated NXT favorite Sami Zayn.
The Nakamura figure includes two entrance vests, which are both relatively easy to remove and replace. With sleeveless outfits like these, the rubber/vinyl used is more than welcome. It's with sleeved jackets and shirts where soft goods should always be used. When figures cannot be posed because of attire, it suddenly turns from "action figure" to "statue," but that rant isn't valid here. The figure also includes a removable arm band on the left arm. It comes loose when fiddling with the vests, but otherwise stays put.
Any fan of Nakamura will be happy with this figure. There is already a basic figure on the market, as well, but thus far this is the only one in the "Elite" style. That will undoubtedly change. If the extra $5 for the "Defining Moments" version bothers you, I'm sure that you will have another shot down the line. I could see a version with the NXT Championship being a possibility.
How will Shinsuke Nakamura fare on the main WWE roster? His popularity should serve him well, but I would predict that age, the language barrier, and the company's track record with foreign stars will keep him from being the number one guy. He can be a shining star as an upper-midcarder, and there's nothing wrong with that despite what some current fans would have you believe. Not everyone has to be the top guy. In wrestling, it's the illusion that everyone WANTS to be the top guy that matters. Some make it, some don't, but with wrestling it's the constant struggles that truly matter. I have a feeling that many WWE superstars with have their hands full trying to ascend past "The Artist" on their way to the top.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
One of the first stars that I can recall commenting on something being their "all-time" favorite is a man who is no stranger to classic photos. "The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino does indeed have a preference in the absolute library of photography that exists chronicling his career. The photo features Sammartino sitting in a posed studio shot. The black and white photo also features a hint of the classic WWWF Championship belt, the original of which is missing in action. The photo has been distributed many ways, but even appeared as a trading card in the 1991 Wrestling Legends set.
Speaking of cards, a man who is still active in WWE has his favorite, dating back to the WCW days. While you might think that Dustin Rhodes would choose a card of his legendary Goldust character, it's actually the opposite. Showcasing the classic southern style of "The Natural" Dustin Rhodes, the card is straight from the WCW Main Event card set produced by Cardz in 1995. Though Dustin has other cards in the set, this one is from a number of cards produced that highlight individual moves. At that point in time, no one was more associated with the bulldog than Rhodes. The photo is an amazing action shot from his match with Blacktop Bully at SuperBrawl V.
Another favorite figure of mine, maybe more so due to presentation factors, did come from Jakks. This one is of a legend from both ECW and WWE, Rob Van Dam. Limited to 5,000, this particular RVD figure not only features the classic "Rob-Van-Dam" pose, but also reflects the brief period when the high-flying star held both the ECW and WWE Championships. Also included is a soft goods ECW t-shirt to fit the figure and a briefcase to reflect RVD's time as "Mr. Money In The Bank." What's also nice is that the figure was packaged in a style where the figure and accessories are showcased as opposed to the packaging itself. At a signing in Atlanta, RVD told me that this was indeed his favorite figure of himself. Who could disagree?
And while many might think that Ole Anderson would only have "least favorite" items, I've only ever heard him gripe about two. Those are his two cards from the 1988 NWA trading cards series by Wonderama. To be fair, neither picture used is particularly great. especially the "dancing" card, as he put it. I paraphrased the rest of his description to keep the blog family friendly. Oh that Ole!
Thankfully, most wrestling stars embrace their merchandise. It's a record of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into their careers. Learning of all of these favorites listed here was solely by accident. Maybe I should start asking about more for future reference? Stay tuned...
Thursday, June 1, 2017
The cover is a time capsule all on its own. You've got Superstar Billy Graham grappling with Bruno Sammartino. Mil Mascaras is present in one of his classic outfits. We also have Women's Tag Team Champions Vicki Williams and Joyce Grable. Joining the blonde duo is none other than Vincent J. McMahon. Yes, the famous "Vince Sr." He didn't appear on the cover of any publication too often, but here he is.
At the time of publication, Ring Wrestling was still an offshoot of "The Ring," the legendary boxing title that at one point covered wrestling as well. It was a little more serious than the Weston wrestling magazines, and also seemed to cover a wider range of the wrestling world. Legendary photographer George Napolitano was a contributing editor of the magazine. One of the cover stories, "Are Bruno Sammartino's Days Numbered?" was penned by him. I'd venture to guess that the rogues gallery of Sammartino opponents featured were photographed by Napolitano as well.
Articles featuring Giant Baba, a young Randy Alls (later Randy Rose of the Midnight Express), international female stars, Nikolai Volkoff, and Harley Race are also included. Smaller points of interest are covered in "On And Around The Mat World." The Cauliflower Alley Club, which just held its annual reunion in Las Vegas, is mentioned here as a club that meets once at week and is helmed by names such as founder Mike Mazurki, Count Billy Varga, and Mildred Burke. There's also information on the Wrestling Fans International Convention (stories of which still need to be gathered in book form), and great accompanying photos of Baba, Mascaras, and "The Fabulous" Jackie Fargo. The latter is a man who sadly never seemed to get enough press in other magazines, despite his star power.
And how about The Great Fuji? Yep, it's the man who later became known simply as "Mr. Fuji." At the time, it seems that the devious one was wreaking havoc on Ray Stevens and Pat Patterson in San Francisco. It's striking to see how similar he looked nearly two decades later when he once again sported a shaved head. Ivan Koloff, Larry Zbyszko, and Susan Green get some good press following Fuji, and we run into yet another staple of the '70s--fan clubs. Wrestling historian Tom Burke breaks down exactly which clubs we can join and how, run by names like Mick Karch, Mickie Henson, and Ken Jugan who would all go on to be in the business themselves.
I hope that over the years you've loved peering into these printed windows of the past as much as I do. There are plenty more to come, as there are no shortage of classic (and not so classic) wrestling publications to explore. I only go through the highlights, but I know I miss hidden gems now and then. If you really want to explore these things, hop over to eBay. Many really aren't much more expensive than they originally were decades ago. And you can't put a price on a memory...