Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Interview

I’ve said time and time again that I don’t like to make this blog about me. It’s about the memorabilia and the personalities who’ve inspired it. Sure my picture shows up now and then, but I like to keep 95% of the content as items that YOU yourself can own. With that out of the way, I thought it would be nice to go a different route. I’ve been interviewed several times in the decade plus since I began the blog, both in writing and audio. Some of those made it out, some didn’t. Since I do often get asked a lot of those same questions, I thought it’d be fun to throw a sort of “FAQ” out there. Remember when every site had a FAQ? It’s a collection of questions (and my answers) from several different interviews over the years. And yes, you get a generous dose of my mug, too.

What made you decide to start the blog?

The blog initially rose from the ashes of my newsletter. I published an online newsletter in the late ‘90s, when AOL was still a big deal. I had thousands of subscribers all over the internet, but since AOL was still so prevalent I did two versions, one with AOL supported “graphics” and one without. I loved doing it, but being high school age at the time I had all of the other time-consuming activities that come along with that, so it just sort of faded away. In the decade or so between the two I always had people asking what happened to the newsletter. I even had people asking friends of mine what happened. I knew I had to do something. Blogging was getting big and in 2009 I decided to return in that form.

Why wrestling memorabilia?

No one was writing about it then. In the late ‘90s especially, but even in 2009 when the blog came along it just wasn’t a thing. Everyone wrote about the latest episode of Raw or reviewed old shows. No one was doing memorabilia. Even today while everyone and their mother are talking figures, very few are doing the “deep dive” into other forms of merchandise. I’m very proud to say that the blog is still the only source of information on so many of the items that we’ve covered.

Does all of the memorabilia shown belong to you?

99.9% of it. Very occasionally I’ve done otherwise. For a small handful of entries I was provided with some photos by someone who was involved with an interview or what have you, but I’ve mainly stuck to my own items. When it’s not being photographed it’s just sitting collecting dust, so it may as well be useful. Also, it eliminates the issue of getting clearance from others to use the photos. The photos from the blog show up everywhere. If I had a buck for everywhere I’ve seen my “glamour shot” photo of Michael Hayes’ “Off The Streets” album… But ultimately I don’t mind. I enjoy a brief link posted if someone does use it. I never got into watermarking photos other than a few vintage shots that I’m fairly confident have been printed nowhere else.

How did you decide to go weekly?

I just sort of fell into it. At first it was whenever. Then it got into “Thursday at 7” to the point that I had people saying that to me at conventions. Now that was cool! A few years ago I quit doing it weekly. I try to do it twice a month, but sometimes it’s more and sometimes it’s less.

Why did you drop the weekly format?

I felt myself doing more and more filler content. Not that those entries weren’t as enjoyable, it always surprised me which ones drew more attention that others. I just felt that the old adage of “quality over quantity” was beginning to come true. I still cringe when I do so many modern figure reviews in a row, but sometimes it happens. The figure reviews, despite all of the other figure resources out there, still seem to get the most attention. When something begins to be less enjoyable to me, I send to shy away from it as I think most people do. The “no deadlines” format makes it much more enjoyable.

You’re well known for attending many wrestling conventions over the years. Why not more coverage on that?

I think that aside from “what happened to the newsletter?” this is the question that pops up the most. I’ve done my share, but when it came up that I was going to a show I’d always hear “I can’t wait to read the blog entry!” I loved that. Anytime that people actively want to read your work is an honor. I just didn’t want to get into reviewing the shows. I did a lot on the Charlotte Fanfests, both in advance and in retrospect, but they were different. I have countless stories from virtually all of the conventions that I’ve attended. I’m fast approaching the 20th anniversary of my convention-going and 35 years of meeting wrestlers, so the stories are coming eventually. I’ve always thought they’d be best in a format different from the blog itself. Though I’ve strayed on occasion, memorabilia should still be the focus.

Can you at least tell us your favorite to meet?

It’s difficult. You’ve got the ones who gave an outstanding experience, you’ve got the personal favorites and then you have the ones who went beyond just the proverbial “meet and greet.” I’m a fan. Have I made a few paychecks from the business? Yes. But I am not nor will I ever be “in the business.” I have never been out to make friends with any of the stars, either. I show a lot of respect in my interactions, as all fans should, and that often endears me to the stars who are used to every sort of behavior that there is. Because of that, I do count some as friends. To answer the question (finally), I’ll give a safe and true answer: Rowdy Roddy Piper. They didn’t get any better as far as fan interaction. Bar none. I can remember something from each time that I was “In The Pit” with Piper.

How about your favorite piece of memorabilia?

I always go back to “Big Dust.” I have five all-time favorite wrestlers and I’ve said countless times that if I had to pick one it would be “The Dream.” He was such a unique person and equally as unique to meet. That being said, it makes sense that my favorite item is one of his. It’s a (larger than) life size standee for the Mello Yello advertising campaign featuring Dusty and the NWA collectible cans. Getting it signed was my second-to-last time visiting with The Dream and one of the most memorable, for sure.

Do you sell memorabilia?

Ah, here we go, one of the other most often asked questions. I do have an eBay account and have been selling for over twenty-five years. Although I do list “doubles” of things that I have in my own collection, it isn’t all wrestling. I very rarely, if ever, sell anything shown here on the blog. Would I for some crazy, ridiculous amount of money? Everyone’s got a price, but the amount that I would ask for my personal collection is far beyond what it’s worth. I hesitate to say even that much, but unless I can sell the whole deal and comfortably retire, it isn’t happening.

What’s in the future?

I think that the blog will always go on in some form. I’ve recently started vlogging and find it very enjoyable, though not as convenient to create as a traditional blog entry. The word “podcast” has come about both in my own mind and from others mentioning it to me. It’s intriguing, but I don’t know that it will happen. I’ve also noticed a troubling trend. It seems to me that the most success in recent years, between wrestling podcasters and wrestling entrepreneurs in general, has come to those who are assholes. I hate saying it so bluntly, but so many of these successful folks treat their fans/followers/paying customers like dirt and/or act like God’s gift. I don’t have to name names. I always based my writing style, especially here in the blog, off of three people. Two of them are/were outside of wrestling, but the third was the late “Wrestling Chatterbox” Georgiann Makropoulos. She was one of the kindest people you could ever encounter and, despite all of that, was a great success in the business for five decades. I wanted the blog to emulate her easygoing style and be sort of a “bright light” in the wrestling world. In the past five, six, seven years it’s obvious that it doesn’t work that way anymore. The fans would rather be called marks. That’s fine. I’m glad that so many readers reach out to me and let me know that they’re still with me after all these years. It means more than they know.

Any final thoughts?

Quite simply, thank you! Thanks to everyone who’s ever read any of my content, even if it was just something on social media. I didn’t get a chance to rant about that topic, but I will say that I most closely favor Instagram. Some may disagree, but I feel that it’s the least toxic of the bunch and I always enjoy coming up with new content for that account. The blog will continue to “enlighten and entertain,” as I’ve always said, for the foreseeable future in several different forms. You never know what will come up down the pike, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

From The Musty Yellowed Pages--New York Daily News WWF WrestleMania VI Supplement

Though I’ve been very much in a WrestleMania IV frenzy over the last several weeks, with more likely coming as next year marks 35 years, it remains my second favorite WrestleMania event. My first is and will always be WrestleMania VI. You’ve got Hogan-Warrior, Dusty, Macho King (my favorite version of Randy Savage), Andre’s turn (and “final” match, although we all know better), The Twin Towers colliding, the final team-up of Monsoon and Ventura and even Mary Tyler Moore. It was a star-studded affair and the first Mania that truly looks slick. No, not “The Doctor of Style.” I’m speaking of production values. The first two Mania’s greatly resemble any other WWF event of the day. WrestleMania III is visually amazing being at the Silverdome, but you can still see the WWF growing in terms of how to properly present a spectacle. IV and V are there, but the intimate atmosphere of Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall doesn’t allow them to truly show off what they now know. WrestleMania VI at the cavernous Skydome in Toronto does just that.

But we’re not here today to look at why it’s my favorite event. Today we’re looking at yet another effort by the WWF to get you to watch the event back in 1990. Newspapers were still a huge deal thirty-two years ago. My family religiously purchased our Sunday paper (on Saturday night, of course) and I knew many people who had the paper delivered daily. It’s no surprise that the WWF heavily advertised anywhere from USA Today to your own local paper and even those on the more "tabloidian" end. If you picked up The New York Daily News on Friday, March 30, 1990, hopefully you saved what you’re seeing here. The WWF purchased an entire pullout supplement not only hyping the WrestleMania VI matches but also giving a bit of history on the past five events.

The articles are obviously expertly written, possibly by in-house historian Howard Finkel himself? At a glance the only visible mistakes are deeming Rick Rude as “Ravish” instead of “Ravishing" and mislabeling Jake Roberts as Rude in a photo, but we’ll forgive those. A complete rundown of April 1, 1990’s matches is included with my four favorites listed as the top four. I had nothing to do with it, though you do get the feeling that Boss Man-Akeem really was supposed to be a lot more than it ended up being due to time cuts. After all, just a year prior these two were main eventing shows around the country and even NBC’s Saturday Night’s Main Event.. The Boss Man himself was also about to begin a major babyface singles run. At least here, in the NY Daily News of all places, it gets a boost being listed fourth.

Plenty of ads fill our supplement, both WWF and local in nature. Need a VCR to record the big event? Look no further than Cameo Camera & Video conveniently located in Brooklyn! Don’t want to miss a call during Hulk-Warrior? Try The Beeper Connection! And it may not be Sy Sperling and The Hair Club For Men, but Hair Replacement Systems will get you growing in three locations including Yonkers! The Hulk Hogan vitamins certainly would’ve had you growing hair…somewhere! Anyone else remember the embossed box? Regardless, “This Call’s For You!” on the WWF Hotline. No, that’s not 1-900-909-9900. That’s some other number. It’s 1-900-909-WWF6. I would totally pay whatever charges today if I could hear an exclusive Dusty and Sapphire promo. If you think I’m joking you’re on the wrong blog.

In all seriousness, this thing is a great hype job. It discusses the Fan Festival events that began in Atlantic City and will continue in Toronto. It gives some good background on the The Ultimate Challenge and there’s even a fun little article on the WWF Fan Club. Apparently there were promotions associated with the club such as “Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s 2x4,” “A Day In The Life Of The Million Dollar Man,” “The Ultimate Weekend” (where the winner is said to have been rewarded with merchandise and live event tickets) and even “What’s In Jake The Snake Roberts’ Bag?” Hmmm. Knowing what we know now I’m hoping that no kids were the winners of the latter.

Little things like this really did a lot to spread the word of WrestleMania. They don’t need to do it today due to the oft-discussed name value that the event now holds. With newspapers all but gone, something like this likely wouldn’t even reach that many people. That being said, this is a yellowing time capsule of both wrestling and culture itself. In any event, I’m fired up. I think I’ll settle in and watch The Ultimate Challenge now. The hype obviously worked on me, I think I’m up to viewing #100, at least…

Thursday, May 5, 2022

JW’s Wrestling Memorabilia Vlog Vol. 1

Not a true entry here but a bit of a “digest” of sorts for a few recent vlog entries that I’ve made as a supplement to the blog. You’ve wanted to dive a bit deeper into the classic press kits of wrestling? Look no further!

Enjoy and thanks for watching!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Carded...For The Last Time?

For months now I’d put off reviewing Topps WWE Heritage 2021. Since they ended up being delayed until December, they’re essentially a 2022 product. I received the hobby box that I’d pre-ordered many months prior, opened it and even took pictures for an eventual blog entry. A few different factors made it clear to me that I just wasn’t ever going to actually complete the review. As always I loved the style of the Heritage cards. As they do for many others they remind me of my childhood. I also liked the style based on the 1990 Topps Baseball set, direct from the era in which I collected sports cards. I even pulled two autograph cards which is not a guarantee. Still, I was less than enthralled with the set. 

I’m sure it wasn’t the delay. We’ve been facing delays on products across the board in many instances over the past several years. Was it perhaps that this is likely the last WWE Heritage set since Topps lost the license to Panini? Possibly. But I think it actually boils down to the fact that the set itself was just plain uninspiring to me. I’ve done many reviews on items that I don’t care for, but this set is just sort of…there. Nothing about it sticks out and it reminds me more of a general Topps WWE release than a Heritage set which is expected to stand out. Instead of wasting my time and yours with a review that really wouldn’t accomplish anything, instead I’ve decided to look back on some of my favorite WWE Heritage sets of the past. A “goodbye” of sorts to the popular and long-running card type. 

My favorite WWE Heritage set has always (or at least for the past decade) been the one from 2012. Being styled after the 1985 and 1986 Topps and O-Pee-Chee WWF product always made it stand out. It was also the grand return of WWE Heritage cards after a hiatus of several years. While it’s a shame that major names such as Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage were unavailable to the license at the time, it’s more than made up for with the inclusion of Dusty Rhodes, Mean Gene Okerlund, Jimmy Snuka and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Even The Machines make an appearance in a subset. And who bigger to adorn the boxes and packs than Andre the Giant? 

The 2006 WWE Heritage set, officially known as “Heritage II,” is another well done set. The 1963 Topps Baseball design just works right for wrestling. While many big names are included, there were other stars in the set who had very few cards elsewhere. While at the time I can recall wrestling fan friends and I asking the question, “How will there ever be nostalgia for this era?”, there clearly is now. Many of these stars are now experiencing new popularity thanks to nostalgia for this era which is fast approaching two decades ago. It goes to show that sometimes it is about what you grew up on and a returning fondness for that content in adulthood. When something isn’t part of our own childhood we often forget that. 

The 2017 WWE Heritage set was a double whammy from 1987. Not only were the base cards based on the iconic Topps 1987 Baseball set, but a SummerSlam subset heavily borrowed from the 1987 Topps WWF/WrestleMania III set. I’d always wanted the latter to feature in its own WWE Heritage set, going so far as to create several cards myself for a “fantasy” blog entry of sorts about a year prior to release. Still, it was nice to see the design used, even in a subset. Perhaps the design is just too “patriotic American” for todays audiences. That’s a rant in itself. Nonetheless, both WWE Legends and then-current roster members were well-represented. 

As you can tell from the accompanying pictures, the Heritage sets have always held one big advantage for me: ease of getting them signed. Modern glossy cards haven’t always been the easiest to deal with when it comes to obtaining an autograph. Many collectors want nothing but the “authentic autographs” as pulled from a pack. That’s fine, too, but there isn’t anything quite like getting the autograph yourself. Plus, like seemingly everything these days, the modern cards just feel “cheaper.” Thin and almost plastic-like, nothing beats classic cardboard. Nothing. 

Although there’s plenty more to talk about with cards from the past, I do fear that this could possibly be the last “new” card set to be featured on this blog. That’s why, even though the main topic was my favorite Heritage sets from the past, I have included a few photos from that “lost” blog entry detailing the 2021 set. They’re part of my collection now, it isn’t a bad design and I could’ve done way worse on the autograph pulls. With the change in manufacturers, I can’t imagine Panini putting out anything close, especially with the inability to produce classic designs. I remember the days when Panini made my sticker books and kept to that… 

…get off my lawn.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Check out that figure!

With all of the options for wrestling action figures these days, it’s hard to believe that there are greats who still remain without a figure. About three times over the years I’ve taken to this blog to list my top oversights in the world of wrestling figures. Wrestlers, who despite the opportunity, just haven’t made it into figure form. I’m going to go back over those fifteen names, as well as a few others, and see just who is left without a figure amongst the squared circle’s best and/or most colorful. 

For a few reasons among the most shocking to me to never have a figure was The Blue Meanie. Here’s a wrestler who looks like a living cartoon character or action figure yet he did not have one. Add that to the fact that his most active years were during an era where nearly everyone was getting a figure and it becomes more baffling. Finally around five years ago The Meanie received his first figure. It’s been followed by several others with even more on the way. My favorite is the “Hasbro/Retro” styled figure from Chella Toys. While the character wasn’t around during the Hasbro era, the design of those figures completely fits him. 

Magnum T.A. was such a huge territorial star that sometimes his popularity is lost on those who only grew up on wrestling that didn’t include the mustached grappler. He would’ve been a good fit for inclusion in the Remco AWA line where stars from other areas were produced and should have been a must for the Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line. After being announced then cancelled for the Mattel WWE line all hope seemed to be lost. Magnum himself even told me that he was hoping to see it produced for his two (then young) sons. Terry Allen finally appeared as a figure in the Mattel WWE “Lost Legends” set, though Magnum was actually the only figure in the set who hadn’t previously been produced. The former NWA star has another figure upcoming which will be mentioned again at the end of the entry. 

Pat Patterson’s wrestling glory days were over by the time of action figures, but there were still a few missed opportunities. Jakks should have included him either during his run as a “stooge” for Vince McMahon in the “Attitude Era” or in the aforementioned Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line. Neither happened despite Patterson being planned for the latter. Mattel finally produced what is thus far the only figure of Patterson. Thanks to the company making the “stooge gear” removable, you get a perfectly good wrestling version of Patterson underneath. I’m glad that the Montreal-born star lived to see his action figure produced. Another accomplishment in a life and career full of them. 

While Tommy Rich still hasn’t seen a poseable action figure, “Wildfire” has joined the ranks of Pint Size All-Stars, a line that also saw the first figure of “Fantastic” Bobby Fulton. The “Pints” are an opposing subscription box company’s answer to Micro Brawlers. While both lines feature legends, the former often seems to include more of the old school stars. The Pint Size All-Star of Rich comes complete with the NWA Title around his waist. Jim Barnett not included, mmmmmyboy. I have a feeling that Rich could see another figure from any of the current boutique companies. 

While my initial lists had rules such as not including women wrestlers and non-wrestlers who hadn’t received figures (love both, but those lists are massive), I must give an honorable mention nod to James J. Dillon. For various reasons most of us felt that we would never see Dillon in figure form. It was hard enough to get the managers with WWF fame produced. Up until recently there weren’t any smaller companies doing figures. JJ himself even said that he was on a short list of names for Jakks NOT to include in the Classic Superstars line. What happened? Mattel shocked us all and produced him as a Build-A-Figure. With as much as JJ has done in the wrestling business, including but not limited to being “The Leader of the Four Horsemen,” it was well deserved. 

Others from my lists are on their way to plastic immortality. Dino Bravo, Gillberg and Mr. Hughes are all set for release in retro-styled boutique lines while Verne Gagne is slated for release in a line to be known as “Power Town.” This line is being produced by Greg Gagne and others from the Remco AWA days. The second Magnum T.A. figure is set for release here as is another legend who’s never seen a figure release: Lou Thesz. This is the type of line that would include names like Tommy Rich should it succeed. It should also be mentioned that soon to be joining the Figures Toy Company Legends line are Dr. Tom Prichard and Dennis Condrey, both names who have long deserved figure recognition. 

Yet there are still others mentioned in my past blog entries on the topic that remain figureless. Those stars would be Buddy Rogers, Dick Murdoch, Ron Garvin, Pedro Morales, Blackjack Mulligan, Chris Adams and Tracy Smothers. Any of those names would be prime candidates (and big sellers) from any of the smaller companies. Hopefully revisiting this topic in another ten years will see us placing these names and more in tiny rings of all sizes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Remembering The Bad Guy...

When time marches on, those steps often echo with a blunt thud. Scott Hall dead at 63. Wasn’t Razor Ramon an active WWF star in his prime just a few years ago? It was decades ago, but those decades feel like weeks. It’s a grim reminder of our own mortality. Even though Hall was one of the wrestlers often pegged as one who was at high risk for dying young, he found a turnaround in his life. 63 isn’t young, but these days it isn’t exactly old either. My own observations of the man tell me that heart is what kept him going and what allowed him to remain in the hearts of others even in tumultuous times. 

Even when a television program, one of two that are both quite infamous for witch hunts disguised as documentaries, “profiled” Hall a few years ago and pulled out every skeleton that there was in the closet, fans and friends never seemed to give up. Credit should be given to these shows for building audiences with a topic so similar to “shooting fish in a barrel” that they barely have to try. Hunting down and damning bad behavior of professional wrestlers is just about second in ease only to doing the same for NFL stars. My hat is off to those scammers, but that’s another story for another time. What matters is that despite this occurring just several years before his death, Hall is getting the positive posthumous recognition that he truly deserves.

 I often point out the wrestling names of the 1980’s that literally everyone who grew up in that decade would know: Hulk Hogan, The Macho Man, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake fly to mind. Say what you want about any of them, those are the characters and names that stuck out. For the 1990’s, the name Razor Ramon is at the top of the list with Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. While he fit the often still cartoonish world of the WWF, he brought a certain mystique and coolness that stood out. Wrestlers have often used a variation on the phrase “the men want to be me and the women want to be with me.” That was the Razor Ramon character to a tee without ever having to utter it. 

It's interesting to think that Hall spent nearly a decade in the business before becoming “The Bad Guy.” Some fans probably didn’t have a clue at first that the cool and cocky Ramon was “Big Scott Hall” of the American Wrestling Association and other territories just several years earlier. He was essentially a Magnum T.A. character who didn’t fit the role like Terry Allen did. Why? Because it wasn’t Scott Hall. It took the WWF’s ways of promotion and character development, with a bit of thanks to WCW’s gimmick for Hall of The Diamond Studd, to bring out the star in the man. 

That WWF promotional and marketing machine is also what leaves us with so many mementos of the man. While Hall did have a great figure in the Remco AWA line and a few program and magazine covers, Razor Ramon’s marketable visage found itself all over the world and continues to be on store shelves to this day. That wave continued when Hall became one of the founding members of the nWo and pretty much adapted the Ramon character to that role. If you don’t own an actual figure of Hall in some form, are you really a collector? From Remco to Hasbro to even a Funko Pop, he’s out there for you to add to your shelf. 

I had the pleasure of meeting the man several times over the years and have nothing but good memories. My favorite would be when, while signing his March 1993 WWF Magazine cover appearance, he told me how he actually signed a few in random visits to 7-11 stores and left them in the stores for fans to find a signed copy. He was that proud of the issue. Honorable mention would be when he stopped me while I was walking through a convention to admire the Dusty Rhodes t-shirt that I was wearing. He went on to praise “The Dream” and talk about how much he owed to the late legend. If you know me, you know that I loved that moment. 

Some of the other stars who’ve fallen pray to personal demons and similar traps of the business will never fully escape the scrutiny that follows them and their legacies. Scott Hall rose above it, I do believe, in part due to the fact that he never said that he was perfect. He was never going to come out and say “I’m 100% perfect and fixed and cured.” It wasn’t reality and it wasn’t the type of person that he was. He owned up to the fact that changing who he was would be something that he dealt with for the rest of his life. He didn’t seem to take it for granted and when he slipped up there was full admission by the man himself. To me, that’s truly what it means to be “oozing machismo.”

Scott Hall -- "Razor Ramon"


Saturday, March 5, 2022

Let's Talk WrestleMania...

I really didn’t think that I’d ever see the day where I had zero interest in WrestleMania, but that day has come. This isn’t going to be a giant putdown of the show nor the current WWE product, it just isn’t for me. Plenty of people still enjoy it. Instead, I want to celebrate what brought us to this point of WrestleMania 38. Personally, I feel that there were moments of brilliance in the show through WrestleMania 31. The spectacle is unmatched and that’s only enhanced when combined with a great match, a great story, or even both. The hype of the show has, for the most part, always been very real. There’s a reason that fans travel from around the globe to the event. As much as some fans would like you to think that it’s the piggyback shows and events that go on that weekend that draws those fans, it isn’t. It’s purely the name WrestleMania. 

As I admitted above, I could point to entertaining editions of the show even within the last decade. That being said, the true spirit of WrestleMania lives within the first six. When I first started encountering wrestling discussion on the internet nearly thirty years ago, I was shocked as to the little regard that those “fans” held these shows in. They would take whatever “five star” match from each show that they could and disregard the rest. Honestly, it’s the same kind of toxicity that’s killed wrestling fandom today. Nonetheless, if this is your mindset, stop reading now. My kind of wrestling fan is the type that appreciates The Big Boss Man versus Akeem as much as Steamboat – Savage. This is the fan that loves every second from the opening announcements to the final three count. The look and feel of the arena is as important and defining to you as the individual superstars. That’s you, isn’t it? 

Everything starts somewhere. For the World Wrestling Federation there was no better launching pad for their signature event than Madison Square Garden. While watching today you can sense that even the stars themselves know that something big is happening. When you can still get often-jaded wrestlers to admit that nearly forty years later, it was obviously a big deal even then. The fact that major mainstream stars of the time were involved and that others came out just to watch showed that the boom had begun. This is the “Rock ‘N Wrestling” WrestleMania for sure. While the look may be underwhelming to some, it captures the birth of a phenomenon coupled with the gritty “New York wrestling” feel that the WWF was built on.

WrestleMania 2 is when the “super show” aspect started to appear with the never-again-duplicated factor of having the show emanate from three different venues. The celebrities were tripled to ensure that each location (New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively) would each have their share. Many have doubted the impact of the true main event, Hulk Hogan versus King Kong Bundy, in hindsight. I think it was perfectly adequate for the time, with this being the first “Hogan against a monster” main event to be seen on this grand of a scale. While Roddy Piper was certainly one of, if not Hogan’s greatest villain, the grotesque Bundy brought a different sort of menace to Hulkamania that year. Throwing the company’s biggest villain in Piper against their biggest available celebrity in Mr. T into a boxing match certainly shows that even from the beginning, the spectacle could at times triumph over any other booking decision. The “What The World Has Come To” tag line from the show was a memorable prototype for a similar slogan which would arrive just about two years later and define a generation. 

So much has been said about WrestleMania III, but it truly was the peak of the ‘80s wrestling boom. The surge of a decade later was certainly as big, but it didn’t have anything near the heart and charm of the ‘80s. By this time everyone knew that WrestleMania was something special. I often point to a fun, but often overlooked, little Coliseum Video segment featuring Gorilla Monsoon and Lord Alfred Hayes. It’s a simple little scene discussing the advantages of home video, but the two veterans talking about the first two WrestleMania’s and the one about to begin is a lot of fun. It’s small, every day banter like that which is missing from today’s presentation and commentating. Monsoon and Jesse Ventura peppered their commentary with that very flavor, thus cementing them as my favorite WWF team for life.

I’ve often said that if you’re a fan of WrestleMania IV, we’re automatically friends. I still mean that. Of all of the classic WrestleMania events and WWF content that saw hate in the early days of the Internet, it was the 1988 edition that seemed to garner the most hate. It ranks as my second favorite of them all. While I’m not a boxing aficionado, that sport truly knows how to make an event feel special; it’s where “big fight feel” comes from. Maybe it was the Atlantic City setting, but WrestleMania IV had that feel. To this day there are those who are bitter that Savage – Steamboat didn’t happen again here. It’s time to move beyond that. Are some of the matches short? Sure. It’s a tournament. It’s no stretch to think that timed matches in a tournament where the biggest title in the game is up for grabs would cause frantic action. The whole presentation feels different from anything else the WWF has ever done and is honestly refreshing. It also feels like the most “eighties” WrestleMania to me. I don’t know that I can quite put that feeling into words, although this is the show that can be summed up in the company’s slogan at the time, “What The World Is Watching.” In a company that’s had countless catchphrases over the years, to me this was the best. Epic yet simple. Though we were a bit past the peak of the ‘80s wrestling boom, you DID know a ton of people who were watching the World Wrestling Federation at the time. Adding to the fun, I should mention that this is really when the extracurricular activities of WrestleMania truly kicked in, thanks in part to the show being held at Trump Plaza. Superstar appearances, meals and the 5K race were all created to make a big wrestling show into a family event. 

WrestleMania V does have a lot of the uniqueness that it’s predecessor had the year before, but I’ve never been quite as attracted to it for whatever reason. Still, “The Mega Powers Explode!” was enough to excite the many fans who were still fervently following. I will admit that the crowd does seem a bit more into this show than the previous year, but there’s just something missing that keeps V from being as memorable to me as IV. Nevertheless, both of these Atlantic City WrestleMania shows are chalk full of the legends that so many of us grew up with. I've eaten up the many fan recollections of attending these shows that have popped up over the years. There was even a gallery of photos that showed amazing candid shots of many of the stars in and around Trump Plaza on both of the weekends. Sadly, they seem to have vanished. (If anyone has saved those photos or knows where I can view them, please reach out to me.) Accounts from The Blue Meanie and Lance Storm can also be found on their respective sites and social media. While I disagree on a lot of wrestling philosophy with the latter ECW original (though we both loved the Gorilla and Jesse team), his photos from WrestleMania IV are an absolute joy if you love the event as much as I do. 

Finally, we get to what is and will always be my favorite WrestleMania. It has a main event that was an absolute clash of titans. It has Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire. It has ring carts. It even has Mary Tyler Moore. WrestleMania VI flows like fine wine. The transition from the crowd cheering Robert Goulet's rendition of “Oh, Canada” to the opening strains of “Do The Bird” as the opening match commences is impeccable. Can I be so bold as to insert a chef’s kiss here? The WWF production was absolutely on fire and this show honestly looked even more polished and glossy than many standard sporting events of the day. It also feels like a transition of the times. Of course Hogan losing was a big deal in that sense, but the list of stars featured spanning from Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, Rhodes and Piper but also including the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels is really amazing to think about.

The photos accompanying these Mania memories are what tie this whole thing into the theme of this blog, each picture being a mix of promotional materials. Some of the most inquired about items in my entire collection are the WrestleMania press kits. They are not easy to come by and, like most of my favorite items, are rather undocumented. Keep all the bland prototype figures that you want, give me these pieces of history any day. 

As for this year, I will not watch. I didn’t watch last year and sought out just a few matches in the years prior. Still, I’m very happy that the tradition lives on. Perhaps some day the product will veer back around to the presentation that I enjoy. Again, there is plenty of talent to go around and probably always will be. For those of you who still faithfully watch, I do hope it's an amazing event full of great matches and moments.

And remember, The Iron Sheik is scheduled to make it to the ring this year. If you know, you know.