Thursday, April 19, 2018

Eternally Our Living Legend...

Just a few weeks ago, a thread on a popular discussion forum caught my attention. The subject was the popularity of Bruno Sammartino. I felt the need to chime in, as I feared that the Pittsburgh portion of the legacy of "The Living Legend" would be ignored. While his hero status in the Northeast, especially New York, Philadelphia, and Boston is always mentioned, Pittsburgh is sometimes bypassed. Sure, the former three cities were WWWF strongholds when Bruno ruled, but there was a difference...Bruno BELONGED to Pittsburgh.

In that thread, I mentioned that it was not unusual for Pittsburghers who grew up watching Sammartino to mention his name in the same breath as other sports heroes such as Roberto Clemente. In fact, the surnames need not be mentioned. Denizens of The Steel City treat their heroes like members of the family. "Roberto" and "Bruno" would be as welcome in their homes just as much today as they would have been fifty years ago.

Now, nearly sixty years since he first captured the hearts and imaginations of the fans who went to the Pittsburgh Civic Arena or tuned into WIIC-TV for "Studio Wrestling," Bruno Sammartino has crossed over. No longer can fans line up to meet this mythical-seeming man at a local Italian festival or sports memorabilia show. The mothers and fathers, explaining to their children in tow how Bruno beat the likes of Crusher Lisowski, George Steele, and Killer Kowalski from pillar to post, will no longer be able to shake this living superman's hand. The man is gone and with him an era.

I can still remember finding a carded example of his first action figure, from the LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars line, for $15 at a local sports memorabilia show. As much as I wanted to open it, my dad told me not to as I would be able to have it autographed someday. While my dad himself never did have the chance to meet Bruno, the figure did end up signed. My dad also never had the opportunity to attend a card headlined by Bruno, despite the story that my grandfather often said he would take his brood to the matches. This is why it meant a lot to me when it was announced that Sammartino would be joining the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013. Myself and many others already had tickets to attend the event in New York's Madison Square Garden, but the event did not sell out until this particular announcement. Therefore, in honor of my dad, I attended what would end up being Bruno's last sellout.

He was a superhero without a cape. A humble family man thrust into one of the biggest spotlights ever shone in the world of professional wrestling. And as much as he preferred life with his family, it would surprise me to ever hear a story of Bruno turning down a moment with a fan. The star who waited until the last autograph was signed? That was Bruno.

While others might envision "The Living Legend" entering the pearly gates to greet wrestlers gone by, I would doubt that very much. To Bruno, wresting was a business. Instead, I see Sammartino rushing to see his beloved parents once again. His mother, without whom he would not have survived a childhood marred by World War Two, would be his number one priority. With this reunion in mind, I'm sure that our Italian strongman was not afraid to pass over.

Thank you, Mr. Sammartino. Thank you for brightening the childhoods of my parents, countless Pittsburghers, and millions all around. Thank you for giving their parents and grandparents a hero to root for each and every week, even when their lives were less than hopeful. The opportunity to chant "BRUN-O" in Madison Square Garden just around five years ago is a moment that I will always cherish as a wrestling fan...and a true Pittsburgher.

Bruno Sammartino


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Post-Mania Blues? Look To The Figures!

While it isn't quite 1985 or 1999, wrestling is popular again. There is a lot of variety to choose from in the market. It's that "something for everyone" feeling that opens up a boom period. That being said, with WrestleMania in the books, it's time for the year-long build to start over from the ground up. For regular wrestling fans this is often considered a downtime. If you're a collector, never fear. Mattel is here.

Now eight years into the license, Mattel is stronger than ever with their WWE releases. The vast number of talent available to them, be it WWE and NXT superstars or Legends, is a great help. After what I will always consider to be a shaky start, Mattel truly starting coming into their own once they balanced what they are able to produce with what fans and collectors want. Considering the way that the figures have been flying off of the shelves, many of which gain traction on the secondary market, they seem to have found the right formula.

Mattel has changed the packaging of their lineups nearly every year. The 2018 design is simple and elegant yet catches the eye. The latter is due to Mattel finally allowing the figures themselves take the spotlight, especially in the current Elite packaging. The toy itself should be enough to make a sale. After all, we generally aren't paying for the packaging. A larger ""window" on the box also allows autograph collectors to get a bigger, more satisfying signature.

Store exclusives have allowed the release of many figures that, for whatever reason, the company would not put in their regular lineups. Though the demise of Toys "R" Us will greatly reduce these exclusives, Wal Mart and Target along with online retailers will still see their share. The Target "Hall of Fame" lineups and packaging have been very popular. The "Build-A-Figure" sets as well as those enabling fans to build set pieces seem to be remaining with Wal Mart. The latter two will include the first ever figures of JJ Dillon and Alundra Blayze respectively.

The NXT line, also exclusive to Target, has also introduced many new names into the fray. With the massive amount of talent under contract to WWE, who is to say that some of these names will ever actually get another figure? Things happen. Plus, what's cooler than a rookie figure in unique, eye-catching packaging? It was recently revealed that Paul Ellering will receive a figure in this line. This is the second legend, after Larry Zbyszko last year, to receive only their second figure in their career thanks to Mattel. Both had their first in the Remco AWA back in 1985.

We've seen a lot of great figures this year, and I thought that I'd already had my choice for "Figure of the Year" (Give me a break!). But with all of the product yet to come, I'm just not sure. My five all-time favorite wrestlers will finally be fully represented by Mattel with the release of an amazing looking "King" Harley Race. In addition, Bobby Roode will be getting a "Glorious" third release and the very first figure of "The Leader of The Four Horsemen" will be some tough competition for my first choice. One thing is for sure: collectors are ready. But are their wallets?

Thursday, April 5, 2018


As the world gears up for WrestleMania XXXIV (we still use the Roman numerals around these parts), it feels like time again to look at the memorabilia of the big event. Instead of keepsakes sold to promote the show or at the event itself, these are items from after the fact. These are the vessels in which fans can take the show home themselves and treasure for a lifetime. These are the pieces of  physical media on which WrestleMania can be played over and over again. It's the entire WrestleMania event that you can hold in your hands.

If I had to bet, I would say that WWF WrestleMania hit more VHS tapes in Pittsburgh before anywhere else. Why? After the closed-circuit feed of the inaugural WrestleMania failed at the Pittsbugh Civic Arena (nearly causing a riot in the process), the WWF presented much of the show on the city's ABC affiliate WTAE around a week later. Surely many Steel City fans pushed the record button on their VCRs to capitalize on this momentous event. Vince McMahon's introduction for this broadcast, done from the set of TNT, recently surfaced on YouTube. A few more weeks would pass before Coliseum Video released the official VHS of the event, which also found its way to Laserdisc as one of four WWF offerings in that form of media. The Laserdisc, the size of a vinyl record, presents the famous Hulk Hogan and Mr. T cover art in a way that the smaller VHS couldn't.

Coliseum Video would continue to present the shows, albeit with some edits, on VHS through 1997. One show that saw few edits but featured a lot of added content on the Coliseum Video release was WrestleMania IV. The show was released as a double VHS set, but the box itself was not to be outdone. Housing these two tapes was a package which opened up into a cardboard "pop-up" of The Hulkster himself. Even thirty years later, few fans would be able to resist just how cool this addition was. The Coliseum Video exclusive interviews and features on this set also truly add to the shows and give it an even more epic feel.

1998 saw WWF Home Video take over for Coliseum Video, and the first thirteen WrestleMania events were re-released in a box set under the new label. The set featured dubs taken straight from the original pay-per-view broadcasts, often with portions of intermissions and merchandise commercials that had been long eliminated from home video versions. While the picture quality suffered in this release, there are zero music edits. Yes, even "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," "Easy Lover," and other unlicensed numbers are all there. I'm still unsure how they got away with that one, but I've always been proud to own the set.

In 1999, the WWF released its first DVD in the form of WrestleMania XV. A few years later came a DVD anthology that was released several ways. These sets were very disappointing thanks to intense, and often unnecessary, music edits as well as blurred WWF logos and a very bland packaging design. They are not unwatchable, but I largely ignored them for years, instead favoring homemade DVD transfers of the 1998 VHS anthology. A limited edition version with a leather outer box signed by Vince McMahon was just about the only decent variation on this otherwise bleak release.

WWE continues to release its biggest annual event on DVD and Blu-Ray. While physical media was supposed to be dead by this point in the digital age, it continues on. There will always be fans like me who enjoy having a tangible item in their hands. Is it any wonder that vinyl records have made a comeback? How about WrestleMania back on Laserdisc? Stranger things have happened...

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Shake It Up!

Bobbleheads. Nodders. Whatever you want to call them, it's hard to imagine a brand in sports or entertainment that hasn't seen a few created in the images of their respective stars. Pro wrestling is no different. While WWE has had their share of these collectibles over the years, it's a few that were outside of that famous marketing machine that are most interesting. Some collectors may not even realize that a few of these exist...

Where else would we start on this blog than with The American Dream? Yes, Dusty Rhodes has a Bobblehead. This particular doll was a promotional item at a Florida Championship Wrestling event in Punta Gorda, FL on July 30, 2010. The Dream was in attendance that night and thus many of these are signed on the base. FCW would, of course, later morph into NXT where it is well known that Rhodes played a big part in the training of the future stars there.

The early days of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling saw a variety of stars pass through the TNA rings. One of those was D'Lo Brown. If anyone was made to be a Bobblehead, it's the former Nation of Domination standout. After all, his head bobbing back and forth became a trademark. This Bobblehead was available exclusively through TNA and provides possibly the best likeness of any D'Lo figure to date.

Roll out the barrel, The Crusher is here. Though he has yet to have an actual action figure, The Crusher received a Bobblehead in his famed hometown of Milwaukee. On February 21, 2016, the Milwaukee Admirals hockey team gave away these Bobbleheads to the first 5,000 fans at the game. Lee Jeans was a sponsor, which is prominently featured on the base as is Da Crusha's trademark beer barrel. The dollies had to be going wild over this one.

The latest Bobblehead to be featured here was a giveaway on August 26, 2017 at a Gwinnett Braves baseball game. The subject? Their play-by-play announcer Tony Schiavone. Of course, wrestling fans remember him fondly for his work in Jim Crockett Promotions, the WWF, and WCW. Along with his dog, Bug, Tony sees his first representation as a figure here. Only 2,500 fans received this doll at Coolray Field on what might have been the greatest night in the history of Bobbleheads...

Announcers. Legends. European Champions. You never know just who in wrestling will receive a Bobblehead next. They're great collectibles that fit well in any collection...and cause a whole lotta shakin' goin' on!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Wrestling MarketWatch: WWF Wrestling Superstars '89

The legendary final series. The "black cards." Or, as they were deemed on the cardbacks, "Wrestling Superstars '89." They were the last hurrah of the legendary WWF Wrestling Superstars line by LJN. "Those big, rubber wrestlers" as they have been referred to so many times. The last series, distributed by Grand Toys of Canada, made it here and there but certainly not everywhere. I can recall seeing some of them at a Circus World store at Ross Park Mall outside of Pittsburgh. Others were only able to obtain them through "The Wrestling Ring" mail order store that famously advertised in the wrestling magazines of the era.

The limited distribution has caused their value to only rise over the years. The astronomical prices for carded examples are well-documented, but how about loose versions? This time in MarketWatch we look at recent selling prices for five of the figures in out-of-the-package status.

*As it was just as his rise to the top began, many fans recall searching far and wide for the first action figure of The Ultimate Warrior back in 1989. Just as all versions have since, this first Warrior figure reflects the color and intensity of the character. What kid wouldn't want this one? Best of all, it's in a pose that could easily recreate slams, clotheslines, and body tackles just as the Warrior was known for. The future WWF World Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion recently sold for $250.

*Though they were frequently on the opposite sides of the ring, the Warrior and rival Ravishing Rick Rude also saw very different debuts in the figure world. While both saw their first figures in this series and were highly detailed, the comparisons end there. As mentioned above, the Warrior's figure was easy to play with thanks to the pose. Rude's figure, due to the way it was sculpted, was more of a statue. With his hands at his hips, Rude just stood there. The addition of the tattoo, however, is very cool. Rude's lack of playability may still affect his pricing, as it recently sold for between $60-$100.

*Another great ring villain debuted as a figure here, that being the Polynesian superstar Haku. Prototype pictures, as well as the included poster, indicate that this was originally planned as a figure of King Haku. The crown and royal-themed trunks were dropped before production. It would be almost two decades before Haku received another figure, at which time he became part of the Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line as both King Haku and Meng. This original Haku has always been one of my favorites and was sculpted to appear as if he was about to drop one of his legendary headbutts. You may have to drop more than that to own him, as the former king recently sold for $230.

*Just as Ax was released around a year earlier as the only LJN produced member of Demolition, The Warlord follows here without Powers of Pain partner The Barbarian. LJN also seemed to predict the future as they inexplicably put The Warlord in short trunks which he would not begin actually wearing for a few more years. The paint on the figure is fantastic and makes you wonder what an LJN version of The Barbarian would have looked like. Both The Barbarian and Smash along with Brother Love, Bad News Brown, and The Bushwhackers were planned per cardbacks. The Warlord recently sold for between $100-$200.

*Then a new enemy for Hulk Hogan, most famously in a cage on Saturday Night's Main Event, the Big Boss Man is a true gem of the entire LJN line. He carries a big stick and towers over many of the other figures. His sunglasses are on, but he can definitely mix it up with the best of them. The blue of the shirt is very vibrant and the paint detail truly stands out. Although One Man Gang had been produced, it's a shame that an LJN version of Akeem did not happen to create The Twin Towers. The Slickster is there to manage, however, stylish hat and all. The Boss Man recently sold for $250.

Rounded out by Andre the Giant wearing his one-strap black singlet, the final series of LJN was a great way to go out. Later in 1989 the Hasbro WWF action figures would begin being designed thus launching a new generation for wrestling toys. Still, it's a shame that both couldn't have continued in some way. After all, they were completely different scales.

Some would not even deem the LJN Wrestling Superstars as action figures. I certainly would. Any kid of the '80s could tell you that these were figures that saw plenty of action. Most, even missing some paint, have survived as mementos of a great era and some great childhood play times.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Don't Go Messin' With A Hall Of Famer

Several years ago there was a feature on this blog entitled "Hillbilly Jim...Hall of Famer of Humanity." It took a look at the large, country superstar when it seemed as if he would be the only cast member of WWE Legends House to not enter the WWE Hall of Fame. Nearly two and a half years later, Hillbilly is about to join his legendary pals.

So much has been written about what a nice guy Hillbilly Jim is. He's just a genuine soul in an industry where there are many on the opposite spectrum. To watch him with fans young and old is a joy. While others on the Legends House series were working the cameras, Jim was being himself. A man who is simply happy to have lived a life that he enjoyed every day of.

Now, over WrestleMania XXXIV weekend, Hillbilly will have several more special moments. The WWE Hall of Fame inductees of each specific year almost always take part in multiple events throughout the weekend, but you have to imagine that Hillbilly will be all over. For years, Jim worked as a goodwill ambassador for WWE, especially leading up to WrestleMania where he would tour the country to spread word of the event. Now, he gets to enjoy the grandest stage of them all once again, and this time again in the spotlight.

While Hillbilly was involved in WrestleMania II, III, & IV, it's probably his appearance at XVII that sticks out the most. Though his six-man tag involving midget wrestlers at III is always remembered, his inclusion in the Gimmick Battle Royal at XVII was moving. Hillbilly, looking in incredible shape, entered the Houston Astrodome to a tremendous pop. His music and dancing may have even spawned the best reaction of all the participants.

Is it any surprise? Sure, it was nostalgia at its finest. But ask any child who grew up watching even a bit of wrestling in the '80s and they can tell you about Hillbilly Jim. He was a friend to The Hulkster! He was a hero battling the likes of Brutus Beefcake, King Kong Bundy, Nikolai Volkoff, and other notorious villains. He was even immortalized in the Rock n' Wrestling cartoon show, which briefly appeared in Hillbilly's WWE Hall of Fame video.

The one lament is that Hillbilly Jim's famous self-vocalized theme song, "Don't Go Messin' With A Country Boy," is often edited out of WWE programming these days and was not included in the video. It would be nice for WWE to license the song one last time as a tribute to one of the biggest characters, personalities, and hearts that the company has ever known.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The WWE Hall of Fame: The Banquet Years

Sure, it's always been and always will be a subject of contention and controversy, but take it just a little less seriously and it's just plain fun. Like it or not, the WWE Hall of Fame is what the mainstream world will always recognize as the wrestling Hall of Fame. It's simply how it is. Aside from having the WWE banner, the broadcasts are award show-quality as far as production and now attract arenas full of fans. It's hard to believe now, twenty-five years after the creation of the Hall of Fame, but it wasn't always that way.

The first induction that began the Hall of Fame, Andre the Giant in 1993, was a mere announcement on WWF television. The following three years saw small ceremonies with inductions and speeches. These events were actually not much more than dinners held in hotel banquet facilities. The 1995 and 1996 ceremonies were held in conjunction with King of the Ring and Survivor Series in those years respectively.

Many of the all-time great WWE stars took their rightful places in the Hall of Fame at those early events including Buddy Rogers, Chief Jay Strongbow, Freddie Blassie, Bobo Brazil, Gorilla Monsoon, Arnold Skaaland, James Dudley, George "The Animal" Steele, Ernie Ladd, Ivan Putski, The Fabulous Moolah, Pedro Morales, The Grand Wizard, Antonino Rocca, Captain Lou Albano, Killer Kowalski, Johnny Rodz, Vincent J. McMahon, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Pat Patterson, Baron Mikel Scicluna, and the Valiant Brothers.

While it's nice that many of these now-deceased stars were able to enjoy their special night, their longtime fans can only wonder what the inductions of legends like Monsoon or Albano may have been like in the current Hall of Fame format. On the other hand, some of these early stars may have preferred the more intimate atmosphere that these ceremonies held, where fan attendance seemed to be more of an exception than a rule. No ridiculous chants at these banquets, for sure.

Though often unseen, these banquets yielded three individual Hall of Fame programs. Unlike the modern WWE Hall of Fame programs, these were small, four-page affairs printed on heavy paper stock reminiscent of a school concert or wedding program. Seeing as that attendance was greatly limited at these events, these programs do not become available very often. One in my own collection even has a small food stain. Could this have dropped from the fork of a Gorilla? Will you stop?

WWE Network does feature abridged versions of these events. While we may never see the full ceremonies officially released (there may be a "fan cam" version of one, but you didn't hear that from me), at least we have these fun and somewhat rare mementos of the nights where Rogers, Superfly, Blassie, and Patterson, among others, were finally and fully recognized by the company that they largely helped to build.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

5 More Wrestlers...Who Never Had An Action Figure

Back in 2011 and 2013 respectively, the blog featured two different lists of five wrestlers who never received action figures. The lists were limited to male wrestlers seeing as female wrestlers and non-wrestler names such as announcers have been sadly under produced as figures in the past, thus they would dominate the discussion. One name from each of our lists, The Blue Meanie and Magnum T.A. to be exact, have finally made their way into figure form. Now, after a five year hiatus, we introduce five more names of the "unmade."

If you want to see a wrestler who would translate directly into an action figure, look no further than Mr. Hughes. Immense, imposing, and just plain mean looking, Curtis Hughes' rather nomadic approach to the wrestling business likely cost him an action figure. Had his 1993 WWF stint lasted longer, he most assuredly would have been produced by Hasbro. The same thought goes towards his later cups of the coffee in the WWF with the likelihood of Hughes receiving a Jakks figure.

Though unlikely at this point due to his tragic death, "Gentleman" Chris Adams could have found his way into one of the various Legends figures lines at some point. The British star, who made his name most notably in World Class Championship Wrestling, was always a favorite of the female fans but could alternate between dashing hero and cocky villain. The lack of a WWF run diminished his action figure chances, but Adams did see some success with WCW during the Monday Nitro era.

Tracy Smothers is another name whose brief appearances in the various wresting companies led to a figure never happening. He was featured heavily in the early 1990's WCW trading card sets, so he may have been eventually included in the Galoob figure line of the time had it lasted longer. His WWF run as Freddie Joe Floyd came at a dark time for wrestling figures when little was being produced. Smothers would be a perfect candidate for the Legends line produced by Figures Toy Company which gave birth to the first figure of The Blue Meanie.

Still being burnt by sparklers on the independent circuit, Gillberg is one phenomenon who has never been immortalized in plastic. While there have been a few wimpy looking figures of Goldberg produced, the former WCW Champion's number one imitator has yet to officially be created. Gillberg would actually fit like a glove into the WWE Mattel line where a hearty sense of humor has recently been infused into the figure selections. An Elite release of Gillberg, complete with J.O.B. Squad t-shirt and WWF Light Heavyweight Championship belt, would fly off of the shelves. Sparklers sold separately.

Finally, we look at a former World Heavyweight Champion sans action figure. Tommy Rich hit the peak of his popularity before wrestling figures ever hit shelves, but he's another name who is ideal for a Legends line. When "Wildfire" defeated Harley Race for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, it was both shocking and controversial. While his lack of a figure doesn't carry the same emotion as his short title run did among fans, he would be a very welcomed addition with collectors who love representations of the territorial stars.

Another five names. Will our track record continue and one name off of our list finally be produced? It would be nice. And perhaps the next time we visit this topic, we will take a look at some non-male wrestler names who need to see an action figure. With two of the biggest female wrestling names finally seeing figures this year, maybe for the next round we'll look at who else should be included in the "women's wrestling figure revolution..."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Double J Rides Into The Hall Of Fame

Jeff Jarrett in the WWE Hall of Fame? Talk about a Sammartino-sized surprise entry! Of course it seems as if everyone is eventually welcomed back into the WWE fold, even if posthumously. Still, ol' Double J has been persona non grata in the company for nearly two decades. Now he's back with a bang, or maybe a guitar shot, right into the Hall of Fame. For a long career, a few entertaining personas, and endless work behind the scenes in the pro wrestling industry, Jarrett is a more than Hall of Fame worthy name.

There is already a plethora of Jeff Jarrett merchandise out there, but like in our discussion about Goldust a few weeks ago, a new Double J item could fix a long-standing omission. Jarrett was at the height of his entertaining WWF introductory run during the beloved figure reign of Hasbro. His name is long been said to have been coming in another series that never arrived. Before Jarrett enters any other Mattel series, I would love to see Double J, complete with '90s attire, in the WWE Retro line.

My current favorite Jarrett figure already carries that look and was the rookie release for the Nashville superstar. The figure is still a major highlight of the Jakks "Bone Crunching Action" line and is the only figure to reflect the "electric cowboy" look of Double J. The cowboy hat and glasses are here, but a Mattel Flashback figure could include the complete "lighted" entrance gear that illuminated WWF entry ways in the 1990's.

Of course Jeff Jarrett merchandise spans further than his WWF run. Items from WCCW, WCW, and, Jarrett's baby, TNA all exist en masse. It was during these TNA days that Jarrett became a fantastic signer as he always took part in the autograph sessions and fanfests attached to the events in which he was a part of. And like so many babyfaces out of World Class Championship Wrestling, it's not unusual to come across vintage Jarrett signatures from the glory days in Texas.

Through TNA and later Global Force Wrestling, the signature laser-etched Jeff Jarrett guitars became a popular item. Though somewhat of a chore to store, no Jarrett collection is complete without one. I did cringe at shows seeing them filled up with signatures other than Jarrett's alone, but that was a selling point that TNA pushed. It's like having someone other than Stone Cold Steve Austin sign a Smoking Skull Belt replica. Someone like, say, Kelly Kelly. Yes, I've seen it happen...

WCW is also a prime source for Jeff Jarrett memorabilia, especially during the "Slapnutz" era. Pennants of many stars crept up during this time, but the ones featuring more of the nWo related talent seem to be the most plentiful. Double J's is one that does not show up very often. Jarrett was very surprised to see one himself when he signed mine. Even a bean bag doll, complete with guitar, was produced at this time.

But all of this merch? Just a stepping stone for the world's greatest singer, the world's greatest entertainer, and the world's greatest wrestler! That''s J-E-Double F, J-A-Double R-E-Double T! That's Double J, Jeff Jarrett! Ain't he great?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

An Ill Memory

Like so many thousands across this great land of ours, I've been caught in the clutches of sickness. Though I'm largely over it, the fatigue and general feeling of uselessness almost caught me blog-less this week for the first time since I went weekly years ago. Never one to disappoint, I had to think of a way to equate wrestling memorabilia and illness. Bingo!

Many years ago, when I was in the third grade to be exact, there was to be a birthday party at my house with a few friends and their parents. I was thrilled with the idea of multiple families converging at my house, as it just wasn't something that happened regularly. I was anticipating the evening greatly.

That afternoon at school, as much as I tried to fight it, the feeling hit me like a ton of bricks. I was sick. Although I managed to make it to the restroom or nurse's office before creating a disgusting mess, let's just say that I made it quite known. In fact, I did something that I never did at school. Between the pain of the bug, as well as disappointment in the inevitable, I cried. In some sort of private personal policy, I simply did not cry at school. I knew kids who did, but it just wasn't something in which I partook. Even my teacher at the time, a miserable boy-hating battle ax, was compassionate at this most pathetic hour of my life.

As I was picked up to go home, I knew that the parents would be called and the party would be cancelled. As my feeling improved in the evening, I was at least given my presents from my parents. What did I receive? Several Hasbro and Galoob wrestlers as well as a new ring! Although I already had the Hasbro WWF ring, this was a knock-off sold at Hills Department Store. It was vinyl, had a soundbox attachment, and was something that I'd had my eye on for a long time.

In the second disappointment of this birthday, the ring turned out to be a dud. Soon after assembly, the ring ropes caused the turn posts to cave in, thus rendering it useless. Never ones to waste money, my parents gave me a choice. I could either exchange it and try another, or return it and use the money to buy more figures. Of course I was going to expand my roster! I can confirm with certainty that Akeem, Demolition Ax, Butch Reed, and Rick Steiner were among the new talents to join my "company" because of this debacle.

Sick? I was sick? It was time to wrestle!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Golden Memorabilia

Back in 1995, who would've thought that in 2018 we would still be talking about the character Goldust in the present tense? Indeed we are doing just that. While no longer as edgy as the character was twenty-three years ago, everything else has just gotten better. In fact, the 48-year-old superstar shows no signs of slowing down. Perhaps the movie-quoting wrestler should set his sights on "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," as "The Bizarre One" truly seems to be aging in reverse.

Dustin Rhodes certainly could have had a respectable career had he remained "The Natural." He was always more than capable in the ring, but needed to leave the larger-than-life shadow of his father, "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. By shocking and changing the wrestling world, Dustin did indeed "shatter dreams" and created one of the most memorable personas that the industry has ever seen.

Though Goldust burst onto the scene in a "dark time" for wrestling action figures due to the Hasbro WWF line ending roughly a year before his debut, the character has had no shortage of representation in plastic. He was in the very first assortment of six figures produced by Jakks and made it all the way to the Classic Superstars line. It was there that he saw arguably his finest figure, complete with shiny gold packaging. Many of his figures have included his signature blonde wig while others featured several different versions of the classic Goldust robe. In recent years, Mattel has included entries into their line spanning all eras of the character. Even a Create-A-Wrestler figure featured Goldust in an Egyptian Pharaoh costume that fit right in with the style and antics of the golden star.

Notably missing from most Goldust merchandising are any items from his brief stint as "The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust" during the "Attitude Era." This version of the character, paired with the late, great Luna Vachon, had maybe just a few too many adult themes to translate into products aimed at the mass market. When Rhodes went to TNA, he brought to life a character similar to Goldust known as "Black Reign." Basically, the gold turned to silver in a rather forgettable takeoff of "The Bizarre One." This incarnation did spawn a trading card.

It goes without saying that Goldust's unique appearance made many magazine covers, photos, and, of course, face masks. The varying face paint designs over the "Decades of Dust" have lent their appearance to a variety of masks, an item which returned in recent years and have once again become available through WWE. And one cannot forget Rhodes' autobiography which notably documented his recovery from years of addiction.

The future is bright for "Goldie." He continues to be a valuable member of the WWE roster, most recently teaming with Mandy Rose in "Mixed Match Challenge." When his in-ring career is finally, and regrettably, over, he will likely have another WWE company role waiting for him and, without a doubt, a spot in the WWF Hall of Fame. As far as merchandising goes, a glaring omission can finally be righted. A figure in Mattel's WWE Retro line would fill the void left by just missing the Hasbro collection nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Even as things stand now, you WILL remember the name...