Thursday, November 15, 2018

Your Guide To An Evolution

Programs. A collectible that is produced less and less as the years go by, especially by WWE. Sure there are those produced for WrestleMania each year. There have been a few for SummerSlam in the past decade and even the 2011 Survivor Series had one. But in a world where pay-per-view lineups change continuously until the day of the event, the era of the program is largely done. However, out of nowhere, we have a new one. To coincide with the first WWE-branded all-women's pay-per-view event, we have a program for WWE Evolution.

The program itself is very much like the other ones that have come along in this era. It's oversized and glossy with thicker-stock pages than a magazine-style program would have. This design first appeared in the very early 2000's. It is also more of a roster guide for the women rather than displaying actual match-ups. Again the pay-per-view lineups change too much for them to be accurately printed too far in advance.

The first page is a shot of the folks who brought you this show, Triple H, Stephanie, and Vince McMahon. Let's all thank them. Then, of course, we get to Ronda Rousey. Obviously she will begin the program being the center of the women's division. So far, she seems to have dedicated herself to the business in a way that many of us wouldn't have imagined. She has largely been a plus for the product, or so it has seemed in the little that I follow the weekly product. All of the larger stars such as The Bella Twins, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch get their own pages, as well.

The interesting portions come later in the book. We get pages with a smattering of smaller pictures of NXT stars and even trainers Sara Del Rey and Serena Deeb! The Mae Young Classic tournament is also chronicled with results of both the 2017 edition as well as the 2018 version which saw its finals held at the Evolution show itself. And yes, "spoiler alert," winner Toni Storm is shown here in all of her British glory.

My favorite portion, of course, is the section featuring the legends. Not only do we get Wendi Richter, Mae Young, and my friend Leilani Kai, but also shown are Cyndi Lauper, Sapphire, Bull Nakano, Rockin' Robin, Mildred Burke, Bertha Faye and Velvet McIntyre just to name a few. The biggest shocker? An inclusion that shouldn't be shocking at all. In fact, she should be front and center. Yes, folks, The Fabulous Moolah is here. Did somebody call Snickers? I think we have a program to burn. Get Twitter on it...

A cool collectible for a first of it's (WWE) kind event that not only looks at the current stars but pays respect to the past as well. It's hard to say what value this will attain. Some of the larger programs such as this have held or risen in value while others just languish. To me, any event-specific program is welcome in a collection. While the live event programs are rather cookie cutter, these are at least specific to a show even if they don't necessarily reflect the matches. If you want one of your own, grab it while you can. There could be an Evolution in demand before you know it.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Return To The Love Shack

I may have grown up on Cactus Jack and Mankind certainly took the wrestling world by storm in the late '90s, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Dude Love. The least utilized of the "Three Faces of Foley," The Dude grew out of a character that Mick Foley created as a teen. The WWF version, who debuted in 1997, took on a more colorful vibe than Foley's original adolescent creation. This look is well represented in Mattel's recently released action figure, the first of Dude Love in over ten years.

Dude Love joins several releases of Mankind and Cactus Jack, not to mention a modern day Commissioner Foley figure. He's part of the Elite collection and definitely the highlight of his particular series. I still love the current packaging for the Elite figures. It's basically a showcase for the figure. No more, no less. Let the figures themselves do the selling. A standout figure will have no issues in that department. Dude Love does just that.

I'm still not a fan of the cheap cardboard backdrops and flimsy plastic stands that are being included with these Elites. As Mattel goes deeper into including more accessories such as alternate hand sculpts, perhaps these will be dropped altogether. They serve no purpose for children (who are going to be playing and not necessarily displaying) nor collectors who will find better ways to display. The marking advertising the backdrops is also the main detractor from the packaging and, thus, the figure.

Dude Love had several looks and shirts, but the latter portrayed here
definitely has a tinge of blue. Any fan will remember when this shirt was readily available from the company at the height of Dude Love's initial run. Dude's pants are also blue and I don't necessarily recall him wearing any other ones. Who remembers the shot of his boots "strutting" in the back just before his debut? The Summer of Love for the WWF, indeed.

Accessories included are Dude's headband and sunglasses. Like his shirt, the headband changed several times but the color scheme works. This isn't the look that is in the better remembered publicity shots, but I'm sure they took it directly from somewhere. The sunglasses stay on well enough, which is always a plus. Dude's "tattoo" is also here, which disappeared somewhere along the way. I definitely remember it in the days of Dude's short-lived segment called "The Love Shack." I must also mention how much I appreciate the inclusion of "The Love Handle," the short lived and often forgotten Dude Love version of "The Mandible Claw."

Last but not least, the facial likeness is on point. I believe that it is a completely new one for Foley, and captures Dude Love perfectly. In a year of great figures, we have another challenger for the title of best. I don't know that Mattel will give into temptation and do a Three Faces of Foley set, but I could see more of Dude down the line since he did alter his look a bit as the character went on. Needless to say, the fact that this long-awaited figure finally saw the light of day can be summed up in one word...


Thursday, November 1, 2018

John Cena: Author

Remember when "Big Match John" told The Rock that he would never venture out beyond WWE? Well, times have changed. We can't fault him. John Cena has been very successful in branching out into mainstream media. In fact, I would say that it is the one thing that was missing from his career. Sure, WWE fans knew who Cena was. Mention his name to anyone outside of the wrestling bubble and you may have heard otherwise. Thanks to acting, media appearances, and philanthropy, Cena's name gets bigger every day. Now, he's decided to put a little "Elbow Grease" into it.

Meet John Cena, children's book author. Random House recently released the first book penned by the champ, entitled "Elbow Grease." Per the back flap, Cena was a big fan of Richard Scarry (as was I) and his beloved line of books for children. The illustrations do remind me a bit of the late author's works, but I don't remember as much dialogue in those. This is a story very reminiscent of Disney's Cars, in looks anyway.

Elbow Grease is the youngest in a family of monster truck brothers. Instead of having any special skills, "Bo" seems to be a smart car, as he needs plugged in at night whereas the other do not. In this short story, Bo decides to step out of his comfort zone and enter the Grand Prix. Despite many obstacles in his way, Bo just won't give you can imagine would be the determination of a main character in a John Cena-penned story.

I won't ruin the ending for you, but it is a cute tale with a positive message. You can hear John's voice reading the text in your head. "Elbow Grease" is coffee-table book sized, but otherwise a nice short, children's story in length. The size of the book itself lends to large illustrations, some of which you can lose yourself in while picking out all of the details. Be sure to hunt around in the back of the book for a funny little Easter egg, too.

Upon release, Cena went on a short but well-publicized East coast book tour. He used his Today Show appearances to propel the book and likely endeared himself to many parents and grandparents who will now snap up the book for their own kids. Cena is really proving himself to be yet another good spokesman for pro wrestling, even if he is slowly leaving that world. His weight loss during these appearances is said to be attributed to training with Jackie Chan for an upcoming film.

"Elbow Grease" is a fun little tale. I'm not sure if John has anymore children's stories in him, but the characters introduced here could easily be seen on a cartoon series or even feature. It's easy to imagine John doing the voice of Bo, though I'm not sure that he would have the time. I never got the "hate" for Cena, though I'm not sure that was every really the case, either. Aside from a few instances, I think the crowd booed him because it was the thing to do rather than any real dislike. Again, in my opinion, the only missing ingredient from the career of John Cena was a breakout beyond the squared circle. Now that he's put a little elbow grease into it, the sky may be the limit...