Thursday, July 12, 2018

Wrestling MarketWatch: More From The Bookshelf

Summer reading, anyone? If you're undertaking such an endeavor, you need some quality wrestling-related reading on the menu. No, this isn't the sports entertainment version of Oprah's book club, but just as in with any other forms of wrestling memorabilia, the values of books rise and fall as time goes by. Several years ago books were looked at in Wrestling MarketWatch, but in this sequel we only revisit one title to see what has happened with its secondary market value.

*Kicking it off we have my all-time favorite wrestling book. From a man who saw it all in the business came "Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls." Wrestler, manager, and office man James J. Dillon was part of the business through several of its hottest periods with virtually all of  the major territories and companies. Undoubtedly Dillon has enough stories for several volumes, but it's here that we get a rare look into the inner workings of late '80s - early '90s WWF, a time period still rather clouded in mystery. Other books have given us a story here and there, but here is the man who was working directly with Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson at a very hot, and sometimes tumultuous, time for the company. The book recently sold for $52.

*Looking back on our first MarketWatch entry covering books it's time to once again check out "Killer Pics - A Collection of Images from a Pro Wrestling Legend." From Hall of Fame villain Walter "Killer" Kowalski comes a book featuring his own photography illustrating both wrestling and the world around us. The book was in much demand at one point and was selling for as much as $52 when we last looked at it. More recently it sold for $14.50.

*Widely considered the first wrestling book, "Whatever Happened To Gorgeous George" was first published in 1974. Author Joe Jares, who passed away two years ago, was the son of a wrestler and put the book together based upon his childhood memories from touring with his father. If a book were to endear the mainstream public to pro wrestling before Mick Foley wrote his first autobiography, this may have been the one that did it. The book recently sold for $40.

*No longer in publication and, according to Jim Cornette, not in any reprinting plans, The Midnight Express 25th Anniversary Scrapbook has become highly collectible. The book is a complete history of the storied tag team and is very autobiographical for their manager Cornette as well. Thanks to copious notes kept by Cornette during the run of the team, we can easily find out where the team was, who they wrestled, how well the show performed, and even what the boys made for their efforts. Peppered with road stories, behind-the-scenes info, and plenty of reprinted press and rare photos, you could not ask for a better treasury of any wrestler or tag team. It's no surprise that the book just fetched $129.

*Do you remember Pro Wrestling U.S.A., the alliance attempted by Verne Gagne and Jim Crockett to try and combat the WWF? Did you know that it had an official book? Mat Wars was the name, and this large, glossy publication by Gagne and late wrestling journalist/historian Jim Melby can prove difficult to find for a decent price. Recently it sold for $23, considerably less than in years past.

Another five that you may already have on your bookshelf. If you don't, all offer plenty in terms of learning more about different eras of classic professional wrestling. And although we did not look at any released by the company, keep in mind that wrestling publications do not lie solely with those put out by WWE. Amazing works by men like Mark James and Scott Teal are widely available online and offer a variety of stories about some of the greatest stars ever to set foot in a wrestling ring. Got a "staycation" coming up? Google those authors and order up some great reading.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Beauty & The Brain

It's amazing how little managers factor into wrestling these days. Certainly this is another misguided executive decision by the number one sports entertainment company in the world, but the concept is much missed. It would probably be hard for a newer fan to fathom that a non-wrestler could be just as big of a star in the industry as some of the wrestlers themselves, but it's true. Look no further than two favorites from many of our childhoods: Miss Elizabeth and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan.

With beauty and class, Miss Elizabeth won her way into the hearts of fans both male and female. She rarely spoke, but conveyed the thoughts of her character through her actions at ringside and loyalty to her charges. "The Brain" was the opposite, with his gift for gab among the greatest to ever grace the wrestling business. Two very different individuals who made their biggest marks on the industry in the same position: manager. And both beloved and much missed.

Both of these legends have made their way into the Mattel WWE figure line once before. Now, in two separate retailer exclusive series they see their returns. Elizabeth's newest figure comes in the Wal Mart "Then, Now, Forever" line while Heenan weasels his way back in the "Fan Central" series which was exclusive to Toys "R" Us. Both lines saw difficult distribution. Not all Wal Mart stores seemed to have the latest "Then, Now, Forever" series while the problems for Toys "R" Us hardly need to be repeated here.

My issues with the first two Mattel releases of Heenan and Elizabeth are fixed with these figures. Both of the first figures were done in event-specific attire. Heenan, as released in the Heenan Family WWE Hall of Fame set through Target, only wore the white "waiter jacket" (thank you, Gorilla) at WrestleMania III while Elizabeth wore her white outfit at a famous photo shoot, WrestleMania IV, and possibly in a few other appearances. While it's nice to have these figures, I'm more for attires that are recognizable and common, especially when it comes to managers who may not see that many releases to begin with.

In my opinion this is the first "perfect" Bobby Heenan figure. "The Brain" was released by LJN in his blue sweatshirt followed by a few releases by Jakks that didn't quite exactly match what we mostly remember him wearing. Here, not only does have his "Walk of Fame" jacket, but it's removable. Essentially, Heenan can enter the ring if duty calls. Are customizers already preparing a brown dog handlers outfit for Heenan to deflect the threat of the British Bulldogs, Matilda, Koko B. Ware, and Frankie?

Elizabeth is seen here in a green dress which is boldly announced on the packaging as her accessory, as if putting her in a dress was a favor to us all. Although the same facial sculpt is used, the earrings on the first figure are gone in favor of a necklace. I don't know that her wearing this exact outfit has been pinpointed, but it's exactly what she would have wore on an average night at ringside during the glory days of "Macho Madness." I wouldn't call the facial likeness as spot-on as that of "The Brain," but it's very good.

If I had to choose, I would pick these versions over the first two in a heartbeat. Although I still love the Heenan Family set for giving us the first "Colossal Connection" era figure of Andre the Giant, "The Brain" finally gets his greatest release here. Though the distribution on the "Then, Now, Forever" set with Elizabeth was odd at best, she's showing up on your favorite A to Z online retailer for under the retail price. Heenan will cause you a little more difficulty. They can still be had for just around retail, but this could change with official word that the series will not be re-released due to the closure of Toys "R" Us. I'd like to think that Heenan will see an additional release down the line, possibly in a "Basic" set, but we don't know that. Needless to say, if your Mattel WWE Legends need guidance from the brains behind the brawn, act now!