Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The 2010 J\/\/ Awards

And so it has come to this--wrestling memorabilia awards. Where better to award them than right here on the blog?

There was no polling or voting. The choices were made simply using my own humble opinion. You may agree or disagree, but that's why these awards aren't the Tonys, the Grammys, or even the Slammys. These awards are named after the person awarding them. No, the world is NOT ready for...

The Joshie

(Because...uh...yeah...the "J" in "J\/\/" stands for Josh)

We have five categories total: Best Figure, Best Cards, Best Magazine, Best Product Line, and The Future Holy Grail Award. Without further ado, let's get going!

2010 Best Figure

With both WWE and TNA having brand new action figure lines in 2010, the possibilities for both companies to have a "Best Figure" were nearly endless. The only argument I will completely shoot down in this category would be for the Mattel WWE Defining Moments Randy "Macho Man" Savage figure. The figure was not considered this year due to it not being available on a widespread basis as of press time. There's no doubt in my mind that it easily could take the award in 2011. A legend does claim the 2010 award, however...

Jakks Legends of the Ring Series 1 Sting wins "The Joshie" for 2010 Best Figure. For the entire run of the Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line, fans clamored for a Sting figure. While the packaging is slightly different, this figure fits right in with any of the Classic Superstars figures filling a huge void in the lineup. "Surfer" Sting is well represented with great colors and a perfect neutral head sculpt. The award is a bittersweet reminder that as of now, the Legends of the Ring line is planned to only be integrated into the basic TNA figure line.

2010 Best Cards

Again the two major companies benefited from having two great manufacturers on their team with Topps and Tristar for WWE and TNA respectively. Both companies had fantastic showings of product in 2010 and are already showing huge promise for 2011.

Topps WWE cards win "The Joshie" for 2010 Best Cards. While the middle of the Topps production year showed a trend towards kid-friendly collectibles, it is to be expected with the WWE's current PG-rated business model. Topps did a great job early in the year saturating stores with the remainder of their Topps 2009 set, while beginning this fall the company rolled out the Topps 2010 set. Filled with a great basic set including the first NXT group (now Nexus), handsome championship and nationality subsets, as well as great autograph and relic cards, the Topps WWE 2010 set is truly hard to beat.

2010 Best Magazine

The wrestling magazine market is smaller than it's ever been, but with both the WWE publishing several titles in-house as well as the omnipresent Weston magazines still on shelves, there are still enough publications to warrant an award.

Pro Wrestling Illustrated wins "The Joshie" for 2010 Best Magazine. I never claimed to be completely unbiased, but PWI is truly still the best wrestling magazine out there. WWE's main publication is more of a PG-rated Maxim with reviews of items completely unrelated to "sports entertainment" and constant "reminders" of why today's product is better than anything else the industry has ever produced. Well, someone has to believe that...right? PWI not only continues the traditions that have made them number one since 1979, but also opens up to new trends in the business such as the very blog (and author) you're reading right now.

2010 Best Product Line

This award is for the best overall wrestling related product line put out this year. Literally any company that produced anything related to the industry is considered for this award. One company came immediately to mind for this award in 2010, and it's one that may surprise longtime readers.

Mattel wins "The Joshie" for 2010 Best Product Line. I have been very critical towards Mattel since their products first hit shelves in the last days of 2009. A huge media blitz and perhaps the biggest support WWE has ever shown towards one of their licensees did nothing to change my mind. A completely new type of figure has been produced by Mattel for WWE. Likenesses and the general appeal of the toys have been hit or miss. Promises of more new characters than repaints and re-releases have only been half fulfilled. That said, no company has shown more ambition for their line in 2010 than Mattel has. With a constant stream of new product and a renewed energy towards capturing the best of the WWE past and present, Mattel has come a long way and shows much promise heading into the new year. Mattel has gone from producing He-Man to Triple H. Hot Wheels to Hot Rod. Barbie's Pink Dreamhouse to The Dream's Purple Splotch. Let's see just how far they can go.

2010 Future Holy Grail

It takes a lot for a collectible to be dubbed "Holy Grail." Very rarely do they even come about unless it's on a personal level. A "Holy Grail" to me could mean absolutely nothing to the next guy. This award, while titled "Holy Grail," is more of my nomination for an item released this year that I believe will be very collectible in the future.

WWE & TNA Live Event Programs win "The Joshie" for 2010 Future Holy Grail. At their respective live events both promotions offer large event programs. The publications are more books than they are the traditional style program and most of the time simply feature large pictures of their rosters. In an era where so much tradition in the industry has fallen by the wayside, it's nice that there is still something to look forward to purchasing when you attend a live event. While the programs have been available through the websites of both companies at times, nothing beats picking one up at an event as a memento. Many fans use these as "autograph projects" to try and get each and every photo in the book signed. TNA helps in this pursuit by promising to have many of the stars at their live events sign any program purchased at the shows. Either way, these large, glossy keepsakes are something that fans will be trying to snap up years from now. Get them while you can!

That concludes The 2010 J\/\/ Awards. Agree? Disagree? Let us know via commenting or leave your opinions on our Facebook fanpage.

Thank you for reading and supporting the blog throughout 2010. 2011 will be even bigger yet. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Remember Those Who Left Us In 2010...

As Christmas wraps up and the new year fast approaches, many begin to reflect on the year about to depart. For wrestling fans, years full of sadness due to the deaths of wrestling stars and heroes are all too common.

While the reasons for this will be debated time and time again, I'd like to briefly take the time to honor the grapplers and personalities in a completely controversy-free environment.

Several former NWA Champions left us this year, taking with them a great part of what made the "classic" years of the business so great. Jack Brisco, Gene Kiniski, and Edouard Carpentier were all honorable champions both in and out of the ring. Each were all integral parts of the rich history and lore of the business.

Classic characters such as Grizzly Smith, Baron Mikel Scicluna, and General Skandor Akbar were also among those who departed in 2010. While Smith (father of Jake Roberts, Rockin' Robin, and Sam Houston) and Akbar made great contributions to the industry both in the ring and behind the scenes, Scicluna spent the majority of his career making others look good. Although he was a title holder, Scicluna will be best remembered for making such stars as Bruno Sammartino and Gorilla Monsoon look all the better.

Tragically, there is always a number of stars each year that pass well before their time. Bastion Booger, Ludvig Borga, Lance Cade, Jorge Gonzalez, and the unforgettable Luna Vachon top that unfortunate list this year. We can continue to ask why, but in reality any death can be looked at in that manner. Rather, we should remember their success and the impact they individually made on us.

2010 also saw the passing of Angelo Poffo, Jerry Valiant, Ted Allen, Hans Mortier, Sandy Scott, King Curtis Iaukea, Tony Borne, Paul Morton, Skip Young, Chris Kanyon, and Ida Mae Martinez.

One other mention goes to the first lady of wrestling journalism herself, Georgiann Makropolous. Georgie, as she was known to friends and fans the world over, was part of the business for decades. Starting off writing in the wrestling magazines and founding the Bruno Sammartino Fan Club, Georgie carved a niche in the industry like no one else. Her passing is still a great shock to me nearly one year later.

If I left anyone out, I apologize. I'm going by memory as far as all who passed and no disrespect is intended.

May all of our fallen stars rest in peace.


Among a blitz of DVD product released by the WWE this holiday season, one set has garnered a ton of attention. The 3-disc set entitled WWE Top 50 Superstars of All Time is a very controversial and political product for sure. Beyond the rankings and omissions lies a great collection of matches, many of which have never before been released on DVD. Putting any feelings or arguments on the rankings aside, I have created a special gallery on our Facebook fan page featuring the DVD set itself. Gradually, all 50 stars will be represented by an individual piece of memorabilia shown in the gallery in order. #50 is up now and will be joined by more in the near future. Check it out, become a fan of the blog, and enjoy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's red, yellow, Hasbro, and rare? Not The Hulkster...

In the last entry you were treated to the 2010 King of the Ring. This time, we take you back to 1994...

Although all of the vintage wrestling figure lines are popular and highly collectible, Hasbro hysteria has reigned supreme in recent years. From 1990 through 1994, Hasbro produced their legendary WWF figure collection. Each figure had an action feature and although many different characters were produced over the years, the line clearly lacks managers and other non-wrestler figures.

A classic blue ring was released with the first series of figures and highly marketed in commercials starring Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Including an American flag and figure-sized replica of the WWF Championship, features on the ring itself have long made fans wonder if perhaps more was originally intended.

A deep groove around the ring apron of the toy has led fans to speculate that a steel cage attachment (similar to one released with the Galoob WCW ring of the same era) was planned at some point. Although the ring was released in the United Kingdom with a soundbox attachment, no evidence of a cage toy has ever been found.

With the line growing and the WWF always changing, 1993 must have seemed like a good time to Hasbro for them to update their ring.

1993, you ask? I thought we were going back to 1994? While it is true that the ring hit the shelves in 1994, nearly every toy in those days took about a year to make it from production to retail. This is perhaps why this ring is styled after 1993's new WWF pay-per-view event, King of the Ring.

While the original 1990-released blue ring could still occasionally be found on shelves, the box was greatly outdated with pictures of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, and Rick Rude. All of the aforementioned stars were either no longer in the main WWF spotlight or out of the company altogether.

While the style of the ring itself changed, most everything else was the same. The same style box and molds for the ring, posts, flag, and belt all remained the same. A dynamic artists rendering of Bret Hart literally punching Yokozuna out of the ring was an instant attention grabber.

Adorned with three King of the Ring logos, it is somewhat curious that the base is yellow with red posts and turnbuckles. One could go as far as to speculate that this may have originally been intended as a "Hulkamania" ring planned during Hogan's brief WWF return in 1993.

Other sticker changes include a WWF logo replacing the stars and stripes on the flag, as well as a different WWF Championship logo. Also of note is the sticker which is to be placed on the tv monitor molded to the base. While the original ring featured a sticker of The Hulkster, this version featured a blank white sticker. A look at the rarely seen instruction sheet reveals that a sticker of none other than Vince McMahon was originally intended here.

The instruction sheet also includes a listing of nearly every WWF figure produced by Hasbro at that point. If you were not fortunate enough to have been following wrestling at the time, believe me when I say that ANY reference to past WWF superstars was a shock in and of itself.

When the ring was finally released in 1994, it coincided most closely with the "red carded" series of figures. Yokozuna, Lex Luger, and Bam Bam Bigelow all made their Hasbro debuts in this series and were accompanied by re-paints of Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect. A re-released Undertaker including his trench coat rounded out the series of six.

Even in 1994, the ring did not last on shelves for very long. Production on the item was no doubt short thus leading to high collectibility. The box, instructions, flag, and stickers are least often found. The belt and ropes are exactly the same as the blue ring release and thus are replaceable. The two King of the Ring logo stickers on the side apron are most often lost as they did not completely attach to the ring due to the grooves in the apron mold. The ring is dated 1989, as the original ring mold was undoubtedly one of the earliest items designed by Hasbro (the initial line did not hit stores until mid-1990).

Even a stripped-down version of this item will sell from $50-$100, while examples with more of the original stickers and accessories can go for quite a bit more. Boxed examples would be correctly priced at several hundred dollars. It is one of the highest valued pieces in the entire Hasbro collection.

While many collectors want the item today for display, it all boils down to the fun originally had with the toy. Many King of the Ring tournaments were held in the ring with the WWF Hasbro line, but the most savvy young collectors knew that crazy cross-promotional matches could be had using figures available from years past.

All Hail The King!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Hottest Wrestling Item of the Holiday Season...Fella!

It really isn't hyperbole. Sheamus truly is a hot figure nowadays. Certainly not as hot as some sellers (or scalpers) would've had you believe a few weeks ago, but very sought after nonetheless.

Why so hot? New character. Fast rise to the top. Huge delay in production. In the era of six month turnarounds between superstar debut and production of first figure, a Sheamus figure is long overdue. The rumor mill claimed a snafu in production regarding the Irish champions famous skin tone. Certainly a company as old as Mattel would have no problem in that department. Or did perhaps the years of churning out suntanned gods and goddesses such as He-Man and Barbie blind the company just a bit?

Regardless, store shelves are now seeing, albeit not for very long, figures of the Celtic Warrior himself. There are actually three figures of the "Jar of Mayonnaise with eyes" in total. The most desired is the figure released in both the "Basic" 7th series of Mattel WWE figures as well as the Royal Rumble Heritage series. Despite the slight difference in packaging, the figures themselves are identical. The third is in the gimmicky "Flex Force" line which is aimed more towards kids. The figures are less for posing and displaying and instead more for the "Flex Force" built-in action feature. The figures are only half covered in their cardboard packaging so that kids can check out the features in-store. The figure reviewed in this entry is the one featured in the Royal Rumble Heritage Series.

I can recall a time when most figures were "hot" at initial release. This was because for many of the stars this was the one and only time their figures were available. Re-releases and repaints simply weren't a part of the sales model unless your name was Hulk Hogan. These days, most figure series are lucky to see one new character. This is why Sheamus sticks out on the store pegs among seas of Randy Orton and John Cena figures. Well...that and his skin tone.

Packaging is again your standard fare. Not downing anyone for it, as I think figures should have some continuity when it comes to packaging. I dare say that I may like the basic figure packaging just a bit more than the Mattel WWE Legends packaging which seems much too large for the figures. Mattel seems to have dropped their inclusion of stands/name cards for the figures which was a nice, but not necessary, touch.

The scanning/sculpting on Sheamus is perfect. While I'm unsure if the torso is brand new to this figure, it certainly looks like Sheamus. The face and hair are dead on, with striking red hair and blue eyes capturing the former WWE Champion's intensity.

I still can't put my finger on it, but the joints on the figure continue to feel rather stiff and immobile. While this is good compared to some of the hit-or-miss joint issues on the Jakks figures, perhaps a child would be better off with a "Flex Force" figure to play with. For display, however, this figure is perfect especially noting the lack of mid-torso joint that I've continually expressed disapproval of in my reviews.

If you're collecting the current products, you're going to need a Sheamus. Although I predict he'll be an easy to find figure once Mattel includes him in more series, for now it's a good idea to grab one while you can.


Celebrating The All-Time Greats...

When I started this blog, I realized that I would never get to highlight and/or show every great item ever produced. I try to limit the number of photos in each entry so that the images that are chosen highlight the actual story--not overrun it. After all, you guys are way too smart to just be looking at a glorified picture book.

That's where our Facebook page comes into play. In addition to keeping you up-to-date on updates to this blog and other items of interest, the page has become an outstanding supplement to the blog itself. All those great collectibles that may never make it to a blog entry of their own? New photos are posted weekly on the Facebook page and you are welcome to add any of your own to the mix!

A few weeks ago I began highlighting individual stars and collections of memorabilia celebrating their careers. Already on the Facebook page are groupings dedicated to "The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino, "The Original Diva" Sunny, and wrestling's original supergroup "The Four Horsemen."

If you're on Facebook, please take the time to join our page, enjoy the updates and photos, leave comments, join discussions, and share your own collections. You may even stumble upon some insight from the stars themselves. If you haven't already joined Facebook, what are you waiting for?

Thank you, as always, for reading the blog. And of course...stay tuned!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wrestling MarketWatch: Firsts!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, as far as wrestling memorabilia is concerned, right now it's a buyer's market. That isn't to say that all items are dead in the water as far as prices go, but many collectibles that went for high premiums just a few years ago can now easily be obtained for nominal prices.

In this edition of MarketWatch, we'll be taking a look at the latest going rates on collectibles that mark "firsts." Rookie cards, first figures, and more items that may surprise you.

*We'll begin with an item that's actually skyrocketed in price just recently: the 1982 Hulk Hogan Wrestling All-Stars card. While cards from all of the Wrestling All-Stars card series have usually commanded a few dollars more than other wrestling cards, the cards of Flair, Andre, and especially Hogan have began to sell for hundreds just this year. Each card in the set is considered to be the stars rookie card, yet the cards were only available in sets, so there should be a relatively even amount of each card available.

*With many of you knowing how near and dear Pro Wrestling Illustrated is to this writer's heart, I'd be amiss to leave the first issue of PWI out of this article. Sadly, the issue no longer commands the $30-$50 price tag it once did. The Sept. 1979 issue can now be had for a mere $10-$15. The issue was greatly hurt by the replica edition that was published a few years back. The real deal, however, is still something that collectors should not be without.

*Going from magazines to programs, the prices are still relatively low. The program from WrestleMania 1, featuring the incredible artwork of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, has been selling from between $10 and $25. At certain times over the years the price for this particular publication has risen, but like the PWI, this is really something that all collectors should have for sheer historical purposes. Find the program along with the original press kit for the event and all bets are off. So few of the WrestleMania press kits have shown up that it's impossible to gauge the value/demand at this time.

*For the modern collectors out there, the first action figure of the Celtic Warrior has been quite the hot topic as of late. Debut figures are usually always sought after at the initial time of release. Due to the long delay from Sheamus' in-ring debut to the release of the figure, in addition to his meteoric rise to the top, this "fella" has garnered extra attention and hysteria. Selling for $30-$50 just a few weeks ago, the prices have dropped considerably in the past few days. With a total of three Sheamus figures now on the market, any one of them should be obtainable for under $20. Even the "chase" versions including a 1 of 1000 belt can be had for that price. In this case, it pays to wait!

*Wrapping it up, we'll look at another item that's been "hurt" by a reproduction. The 1990 first edition autobiography of Bruno Sammartino first published by Imagine Inc. has long been one of the most sought-after wrestling books. Last year, Sammartino had the rare book re-released with an additional update. Still, the first edition published by the same company responsible for the Wrestling Legends trading cards is the more collectible of the two. When it shows up, the first edition can now be had for around $20.

That wraps it up for the "firsts," but stay tuned for many long-awaited items to be highlighted here on the blog!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's Time...It's Time...

...It's Review Time!

Tis the season for plenty of sales. Both in brick and mortar stores as well as online, the deals are there to be had. The WWE online store has seemingly had sales going on for the past month which included many of the new Mattel action figures.

Not feeling like spending $50-$100 on that new Sheamus figure? (If you ever listen to any advice from me make it this--wait for Sheamus! He'll be everywhere!) Then how about knocking $4-$5 off those new Mattel WWE Legends? That was one deal that this collector simply couldn't pass up, especially since one of the deals was the new Series 3 Vader figure.

Big Van Vader is a character that translates into action figure form like no other. With roughly around ten different action figures, give or take a few variants, the only disappointing version was the original Jakks "Bone Crunching" figure released in 1997. The figure was thin, looked like a monkey, and was just overall disappointing. Jakks more than made up for their error with their Classic Superstars Vader figures that included the huge helmet which Vader wore in Japan and WCW.

Japanese NOAH, Mattel, & Jakks Vader Figures

This brings us to the new Mattel version. Dare I say, this figure is customizable right out of the package. Between the "White Castle of Fear" cape from WCW to two different removable masks (one black, one red), you can change Vader from era to era all in one figure.

Body-wise the figure is most reminiscent of Vader earlier in his career. Mattel did a fantastic job on capturing Vader's look right down to the gloves. The figure seems a bit less stiff than some of the other Mattel offerings, leading to easier poses depicting Vader just as he was when he was considered the best "big man" in the business.

The packaging is again very nice albeit a bit over sized for the figures. The back of the card discusses Vader's legendary WCW feud with Sting. Match this figure up with the Jakks Legends Sting and WCW lives on.

This series also includes Mr. Perfect, Brian Pillman, Davey Boy Smith, The Rock, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Vader is probably the best Legends effort put forth by Mattel thus far, and I'm hoping such upcoming figures such as The Von Erichs and Randy Savage only surpass him.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Gobble...Gobble..."--Gorilla Monsoon

Ah, the magic of Thanksgiving's wrestling tradition. From being the original date of Starrcade to later being taken over by the Survivor Series, the American holiday was once one of the highest grossing days for the wrestling industry.

While today's superstars get to celebrate the holiday at home, it was not long ago when after a day of cooking and eating, the family would pack into the car to celebrate Thanksgiving evening with a night of wrestling action.

The last time that live (wrestling taped at an earlier date does not count) wrestling was presented on a wide scale on Thanksgiving night would've been twenty years ago for the fourth annual WWF Survivor Series. The event included the debut of The Undertaker, the last time the original members of Demolition would together grace WWF rings, and the one and only time a "Grand Finale Match of Survival" occurred as the main event. All of these highlights could only be overshadowed by one thing...

The debut of The Gobbledy Gooker. And for all of you, on this Thanksgiving, I give you the gift of seeing the authentic autograph of the big bird himself...hatched 20 years ago and still going strong.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Old School Is...and always will be...Cool!

This coming Monday, Raw will be transformed into an "Old School" three-hour special. While we will probably receive a heaping helping of Santino, Nikolai, and Sheiky-Baby in "Foreigner Funnies" and Dusty dancing with the Bella Twins, it's still nostalgia. Nostalgia is something that goes a long way with me.

I'm of the opinion that a wrestling roster should always have a few veterans on hand. If you look back at the wrestling magazines and even films of wrestling from the 1960s and 1970s, many of the stars were ALREADY in their 40s and 50s. While building an entire promotion around seasoned stars may not be a wise venture, I've always felt that WWE should have been commended for including such names as Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Fit Finlay, and Tony Atlas on their lineup in the past few years.

I'm not the only fan who prefers wrestling of yesteryear to the present product, but it does my heart good to know that so many children are fans of today's superstars. Seeing the kids at live events make me recall my days of youth. Those days when the suspension of belief wasn't quite a leap and the thought that maybe, just maybe, that main event grudge match may not go as planned. Maybe these gladiators, in their top position, want that win just a bit more. Maybe tonight things are getting out of hand!

So while I don't necessarily feel the same magic as I once did, I'm glad that so many do. While I may covet those incredible 60s and 70s magazines, three items in my personal collection are just begging for John Cena's signature. A Nattie Neidhart autograph thrills me just as much as one from her father, "The Anvil." That Sheamus figure about to hit shelves? I'll be bringing one home.

As much as the business changes, a lot of it remains the same. Next Monday Night, hopefully the youngsters will get a proper taste of what they missed...or they'll get Gene singing "Tutti Fruitti."

Hey...wait a minute...are you putting me on?


For more information on the pictures in this entry and many other great wrestling collectible photos, check us out on Facebook:


And for a great "new school" wrestling collectible, pick up the January 2011 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated available on newsstands now. It's the "Greats of the Game" Collectors Issue featuring profiles on six of the top stars in the industry. Not to mention, the Bret Hart "Career Report" feature was penned by yours truly!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On this most political of days...The State of Collecting Address

When has wrestling memorabilia been a factor discussed in a political election? Without getting into specifics (you can get politics elsewhere on the net), it's an amazing but true fact. That point, coupled with the fact that I haven't discussed trends in recent weeks, lead us to have our first annual...State of Collecting Address.

I've been receiving a lot of feedback lately on current trends in wrestling memorabilia and current products. While the product itself is nowhere near as hot as it was ten years ago, there is still a ton of new memorabilia being produced. A lot of that can be credited to the WWE's current kid-friendly direction.

Without a doubt, the Mattel-WWE partnership has shown the biggest boost WWE has ever given one of their licensees. While many products have been seen on WWF/WWE television over the years, it has usually been items sold directly from the company. Items that were strictly sold in stores have mostly been shoved to the back burner.

Yes, the LJN and Hasbro action figure lines were frequently shown in the background on WWF programming, but Mattel's line has received the true red carpet treatment.

While I have not been shy with my varied feelings on the line, it's no secret that the figures have been a huge hit with collectors of all ages. Going into 2011 with long-awaited figures such as Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Sheamus, the Nexus, and even The Von Erich's, Mattel should have no problem keeping their momentum. The recent announcement of the first ever Magnum TA figure for Mattel's WWE Legends line only adds to their good outlook.

Mattel's Dusty Rhodes & Drew McIntyre vs Jakks' Suicide & Sting

Jakks, former WWE licensee now under contact to TNA, has disappointed some collectors. While much of the product that the company has released this year has been quality, slow releases and cancellations of some very anticipated products produces a large question mark in forecasting their 2011.

Their Legends of the Ring figure line, despite getting off to a great start in stores, has been all but dissolved. It's been said that some figures slated for release in the series will be integrated into the basic TNA figure line, but it seems that highly anticipated figures like Jim Cornette and Terry Taylor will never see the light of day.

Despite slow releases and delays, the basic single and tag team lines have done very well. Inclusions of stars such as Jeff Hardy, Mr. Anderson, and D'Angelo Dinero as well as Knockouts Velvet Sky, Angelina Love, and Daffney should continue to keep the line afloat.

Figures aren't the only collectibles out there and nor will we pretend that is the case. A couple of months ago I discussed the future of wrestling trading cards. Both companies are in good hands with the Topps WWE and TriStar TNA products. Both Topps and TriStar have a full grasp on how to release product in the same vein of other sport card lines. The releases have been wonderfully marketed to both wrestling and trading card collectors in general, which is why I believe the product continues to fly off shelves. Add that to the fact that, at $1.99 per pack, cards are still an item that "Johnny WrestleManiac" can convince mom and pop to buy on the weekly trip to Target.

Printed media is still in the game as well. WWE churns out two regular publications per month, as well as countless special issues covering individual stars, events, and even a Divas Calendar magazine. TNA has yet to venture into the field of magazines. With the popularity of their program book sold at live events, this is an avenue TNA may be wise to consider. Their program is a very well-done publication full of high-quality photography. Specials on Jeff Hardy and the Knockouts would be obvious high-sellers.

TNA 2010 Program

The legendary Stanley Weston wrestling magazines can also be found at newsstands nationwide. Pro Wrestling Illustrated and The Wrestler/Inside Wrestling are still the longest running wrestling magazine titles. Still featuring the best writing and photography covering the industry, the titles have kept with the times and feature the best in-depth analysis of the business. PWI's annual "Greats of the Game" issue, to be released within the next week, features a Bret Hart career overview put together by yours truly.

DVDs and video games, always hot sellers around the holidays, are last but certainly not least. All of the WWE and TNA pay-per-view events are released on DVD, often just a month after occurring. Both companies have released compilation DVDs in recent months with WWE's Chris Jericho and TNA's Asylum Years sets getting rave reviews from fans. WWE's release on Bobby "The Brain" Heenan this December should keep old school fans happy for the holidays.

Both companies have also released video games this year, with WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 getting the majority of the attention. While the games have changed little over the past few years, fans continue to enjoy playing as their favorite stars and legends. An arcade-style game featuring stars past and present entitled WWE All-Stars is set for a 2011 release.

Prepare your wallets for 2011. There will literally be "something for everyone" in the new year. While the onslaught of merchandise still won't be quite as overwhelming as in the days of the Attitude Era, there is still another wrestling "boom" on the horizon. Whether it comes in the next year or five years from now, its coming is inevitable. These are the times in which virtually anything wrestling, past or present, becomes "hot."

Now is a great time to prepare. A lot of items that were impossible to find at a decent price ten years ago are now readily available. My personal prediction is that vintage magazines, which can now be found for extremely reasonable prices on the secondary market, would be a wise choice to begin with. Issues that once sold for $50-$100 can now be found for $10 or under. As with any collectible, it's all about timing.

It all boils down to collecting what you like. Don't let prices or what another collector else has or covets decide what's in your collection. That Santino figure may be just as exciting to you as a Bruno Sammartino magazine is to me. Simply remember to enjoy what you have and continue to celebrate the sport of kings...

...or sports entertainment.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween--The Wrestling Spooktacular

There is no holiday better fit for the world of professional wrestling than the one that falls on the 31st of October. Since so many heroes and villains of the ring wars "dress up" to "scare" their opponents and even the fans, it's no wonder that countless Halloween costumes over the years have been inspired by the likes of Hawk, Animal, and even...Hulk Hogan.

Keeping with the theme of memorabilia, it's often the more colorful or bizarre grapplers that make for a better action figure or trading card. While many purists would prefer a wrestler in black tights with arms outstretched in a grappling position, others just live for the face paint, leather, and other outlandish qualities that so many Halloween-esque stars have had. The following will be a look at some of those stars and other "scary" situations from the squared-circle.

Before getting to the grapplers themselves, there's no greater connection to "All Hallows Eve" and professional wrestling than the WCW pay-per-view event called Halloween Havoc. From 1989 to 2000, Havoc was always one of the most anticipated yearly WCW events, usually due to brutally bizarre gimmick matches. The first event featured an electrified steel cage main event pitting Sting and Ric Flair against Terry Funk and The Great Muta. Four legends in their own right, the teams were joined by the late, great Gary Hart and special guest referee Bruno Sammartino.

While early stars such as Pampero Firpo, Maurice "The French Angel" Tillet, and even The Sheik certainly qualify as spooky stars, it wasn't until the '80s that the grotesque were brought out front and center. The Road Warriors and Kamala highlighted many magazine covers during the "Decade of Decadence," with the March 1984 Pro Wrestling Illustrated cover perhaps being the most famous in the magazine's history. The cover, featuring Hawk and Animal illuminated in "horror lighting," was even chosen by the magazine as one of its ten best.


While WCW had Halloween Havoc and The Road Warriors and Kamala were products of the territories, no one can deny that the WWF/WWE has had the craziest cast of characters come through its rings.

The power of Paul Bearer's urn, the worm-eating maw of The Boogeyman, and the vomit-inducing powers of Papa Shango are just a few samples of the "supernatural" happenings to come from Stamford, Connecticut over the years. Even women's wrestling legend The Fabulous Moolah broke out a smoking cauldron and that pesky "horror lighting" along with her charge Leilani Kai.

The Road Warriors did indeed cross through the WWF in several stints before Hawk's death in 2003, but one WWF-born tag team continues to smear their face paint in rings throughout the world to this day.

"Here Comes The Ax...Here Comes The Smasher..." In 1987, Demolition were looked at as Road Warrior knockoffs. As the weeks and months progressed, Bill "Ax" Eadie and Barry "Smash" Darsow proved that they were far more. Taking nothing away from Hawk and Animal, Demolition carved out a style all their own, combining great brawling with excellent wrestling skills. While the debate over which team was better will forever go on, the teams both hold their place in the history of wrestling...and intimidation!

But what about the superhero powers of The Hurricane, hideousness of Bastion Booger, and hilarity of ECW original The Blue Meanie? All worthy contenders showing different sides of the "Wrestling Spooktacular" spectrum.

Events. Tag teams. Comic book heroes. Meanies. They all fit this category nicely. But one wrestler truly deserves to be kept for last.

The Lord of Darkness. The Phenom. The Reaper. A character that probably wasn't intended to last longer than a year or so, much less twenty.

The Undertaker. What more can be said that hasn't already been written? Few superstars have captured generations of fans as Taker has. A comparison to Andre the Giant would not be out of the question in terms of being on top of the game for such a length of time. Rolling into his 21st year in the WWE, Taker continues to cement his legacy as one of the best "big men" in the game, and without a doubt the king of "The Wrestling Spooktacular."

I hope you've enjoyed this look at some the most bizarre competitors, events, and concepts in ring history. I could not include everything or everybody, so let me know if you feel your favorite was omitted. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jakks "Ruthless" Style Lives On...For Now!


In January of 2003, Jakks released to the public what would be their most enduring style of wrestling figure. The "Ruthless Aggression" figure series, named for a phrase coined on WWE television the previous year, featured a style that met the needs of both collecting groups. Kids had a figure that was easy to play with and enabled them to recreate their favorite wrestling moves. Collectors had a figure that was great to look at and nicely represented their favorite stars. The style also carried over into the legendary WWE Classic Superstars figure line.

When Jakks took over the TNA figure license beginning in 2010, the majority of the figures were released in the "Deluxe Aggression" style. These figures are slightly larger and have a bit more articulation. While the Deluxe figures have a large fan base, many collectors prefer the Ruthless figures due to having seven years worth of WWE characters (and countless Classic figures) in this style.

Jakks Deluxe-Style Eric Young &
Ruthless-Style Kevin Nash

To appease this group, Jakks announced that not only would the Legends of the Ring figure series be done in the "Ruthless Aggression" style, but that a series featuring current TNA stars to be sold at (then unnamed) pharmacy and grocery store chains would be produced this way as well.

Just last month I brought you a review of several of the figures from the first Legends of the Ring series. This week, Jakks announced that the second series would not be produced due to an alleged lack of interest from collectors. It has been said that these and other Legends figures (Raven and Shane Douglas have been mentioned) will be worked into future regular TNA figure series while retaining the Legends packaging. I would not hold my breath.

Despite this setback, the other promised series of "Ruthless" style figures have indeed been released. An exclusive to Walgreens pharmacies, a six-figure series including Sting, Kevin Nash, Abyss, Kurt Angle, Jay Lethal, and Suicide has hit stores as part of the chains Christmas toy offerings.

Dubbed "Ruthless Impact" by collectors, the six-figure set seems to be showing up as one set per store. It is unknown if the figures will be replenished as the holiday season nears. Thus far, the figures have shown up individually carded and sold from a graphically-collectible cardboard display box. Since there is one of each of the six figures to each display box, many collectors have obtained the boxes to display the figures in.

Dating back several years, Jakks has had a long history providing many smaller retail chains with exclusive figures. At times, these figures have suffered from less detail than their counterparts sold at regular toy retailers. This difference does not continue with these figures. Characters such as Abyss and Kevin Nash feature great detail on their tattoos while Jay Lethal, clad in his "Black Machismo" attire to pay homage to "Macho Man" Randy Savage, even has "Machismo" on the back of his tights.

While the figures do not feature realistic scale, the same can be said for the "Deluxe" versions sold at mass retail. Scale is a feature that is difficult to produce correctly in order to provide a consistent product. For a good example of this, check out Mattel's figure releases of Rey Mysterio with a pea-sized head.

In addition to the display box, the cards are nicely designed with bubbles that are firmly attached. Issues have arisen with the first series of Deluxe TNA figures to hit retail regarding poor package manufacturing. Of note is the use of Suicide's "symbol" rather than the name "Suicide" on both figure and card. This is, no doubt, due to TNA and Jakks not wanting to release a children's toy using a controversial word. While the argument can be made that the child will know the name regardless from TNA television, I believe the omission is more to avoid problems from interest groups that target such matters.

It will be interesting to see how the collectiblity of this set rises or falls in the near future. Collectors have been scouring Walgreens stores nationwide to find this set which has just begun to show up. If the current trend of one of each of the six figures PER Walgreens store continues, coupled with the price point of three of the figures for $13.98 (or about $28 for the set), things in the TNA collecting community could get interesting this holiday season. Add to the fact that the Ruthless-style Legends series has been cancelled for all intents and purposes, we may be seeing the end of one of the longest lasting figure-styles in wrestling toy history.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

WWWF Wrestling Action Magazine

Most wrestling collectors would agree that it is very hard to even make a shortlist of favorite collectibles. With the incredible array of items both current and vintage, it would be hard to even try and find a starting point. The five magazine issues that you are about to see and learn about will always, as a whole, make my personal top five.

Wrestling magazines are a unique breed of collectible. One can collect all issues of a certain title, focus on a particular star, or even a specific era. While the magazines have been produced en masse since around the time pro wrestling hit television and continue to fly off shelves today, the '70s through the '90s probably saw the widest variety of titles for the genre.

While the Stanley Weston (The Wrestler, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, etc.) and Norm Kietzer (Wrestling Revue, The Wrestling News) magazines were the first publications to rule the roost, the '80s and '90s saw in-house publications from the WWF, NWA, WCW, and even ECW.

There is one oft-forgotten in-house publication that was actually the first of its kind for the WWWF. While it's been claimed in the current incarnation of the WWE Magazine that the WWF's Victory Magazine was the first in-house WWWF/WWF published periodical, this simply isn't so.

The very first was the Wrestling Action magazine...

Published between 1977 and 1979, the magazine ended up only having a five issue run. While celebrated wrestling photographer George Napolitano provided much of the visual action, it was actually wrestling renaissance man Les Thatcher who held the title of editor.

Already holding the titles of wrestler, announcer, and trainer, Thatcher had been publishing the Mid-Atlantic and NWA wrestling magazines when Napolitano and Vince McMahon Jr. saw his work.

Similar to the aforementioned Mid-Atlantic and NWA titles, Thatcher brought incredibly designed covers to the WWWF publication as well. These covers, done by art director Cal Byers, visually set these magazines in a class by themselves. Billy Graham, Bruno Sammartino, and Bob Backlund are showcased on the first three covers while collages of stars are featured on the last two. Often you can even see the photos which inspired the cover art within the pages of the magazine itself.

Each issue contains two features that were not prominent in other wrestling magazines of the time, those being all "slick" pages and a good bit of color photos and graphics.

Packed with features on the stars both in and out of the ring, many articles were highlighted with special graphics and production techniques. Also impressive were the centerfolds in each issue, always featuring a top star or stars of the WWWF.

Reading these magazines, you can truly feel the excitement that legendary WWWF fans such as Mrs. Krieger or Georgiann Makropoulos (a wrestling publishing legend in her own right) probably felt while reading these back in the '70s. While wrestlers seldom need any help appearing larger than life, these issues certainly reinforced that to the WWWF loyal.

With the magazines produced over a period of two years, it is obvious that there was a great length of time between the release of each issue. A disclaimer even appears in later issues that apologizes to subscribers for the magazines not being published monthly.

Due to the fact that publication was stretched out for so long, the last issue gives us an automatic look at wrestling history. While the first four issues feature "World Wide Wrestling Federation" in the upper left corner of the cover, the fifth and final simply reads "World Wrestling Federation." Interestingly, that final issue is titled "Stars of the '80s" and among the cover collage is the man who would end up defining the WWF in the '80s--Hulk Hogan.

Sadly, Vince Jr. decided to pull the plug after that issue. With such a finely crafted magazine, it would be interesting to see how the beautiful covers and great content would've translated to the national expansion and even "Rock 'n Wrestling."

It's unknown how many copies of each issue were produced. All have become highly coveted by collectors, with the first issue usually gaining the most attention. When properly identified in an online auction setting, the inaugural issue has fetched as much as one-hundred dollars.

How about the original artwork from those fantastic covers? They are said to reside in the collection of photographer George Napolitano. He, and many of the wrestlers featured in the magazine, show great fondness for the issues when presented to them by fans. Graham, Lou Albano, Tony Atlas, and Ivan Putski are just a few who have enjoyed seeing the copies in my collection over the years.

I'd like to thank Mr. Les Thatcher for providing so much of the information about these classic collectibles. I recently had several opportunities to discuss Wrestling Action with the legend himself. When I began this blog nearly two years ago, this was one of my first ideas for a feature. I am extremely grateful to Mr. Thatcher for making it more informative than I ever could have on my own.