Monday, August 30, 2010

Goodbye, "Tick"...

The past few weeks have brought much loss and sorrow to the wrestling world. There have been tributes everywhere you look around and, as a rule, I usually try not to follow suit. I make my best attempts to keep the content here upbeat, which is difficult in a business that often brings the most raw human tragedies to center stage. This entry is an exception, and the previously promised "next" entry will see the light of day.

Nothing more can be written about the seemingly non-stop deaths in professional wrestling. The questions have been asked endlessly and the debate will rage on forever. The answers lie in the individuals themselves, and since they are gone, we will never learn those answers.

For those of you who are unaware, women's wrestling superstar Luna Vachon passed away last Friday. Vachon was only 48 years old.

As with many wrestlers who would go on to become favorites of mine, I first learned of Luna through the great wrestling magazines. With her insane style of dress, physicality, and that classic voice, who wouldn't want to feature Luna? She wasn't a cookie-cutter blonde or even a big bruiser. Instead, Luna was a compact 5'6 package of insanity...with a hidden heart of gold.

The first time I truly remember seeing Luna outside of the magazines was in her surprise debut at WrestleMania IX. I can recall excitedly explaining to my fourth-grade pals just who this crazy-looking woman was. Re watching the show, I found that my monologue greatly mirrored that of Bobby Heenan, who provided a similar synopsis for Jim Ross and Randy Savage on the broadcast.

Throughout her associations with Bam Bam Bigelow, Bull Nakano, Goldust, and others, Luna grew to be one of my favorite wrestlers on the scene--female OR male.

In 1995, Luna became the first female wrestler to be a playable character in a wrestling video game with her appearance in WWF Raw. That in itself is a feat that only could have been achieved by someone who carved a true niche in their chosen profession.

In the past few years I've had the opportunity to both meet and correspond with Luna. Even the first time I met her, Luna treated me like an old friend. She had that way with all of her fans. I truly feel honored to have been able to meet, hear stories from, and express my gratitude and fandom to this great lady.

I'm not going to speculate on her death. It isn't my place and you can get plenty of it elsewhere. Something else that you will hear elsewhere, however, is that Luna was often hard on her own work and could be her own worst critic.

Well, Miss Vachon, I'll tell you once again, I don't think anyone did it better than you. Infact, no one else did it LIKE you. Uncomparable is the word that I'm searching for. Unforgettable is the word that will be attached to you forever.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

So WWE & TNA...What's New?

As August ends, so does summer. Sure, it's still technically summer, but once school is in for those who still attend and vacation season is over, you may as well bring on the colder temps and call it fall. With fall comes new products in the stores just in time for the holiday season. What's in store for the next couple of months?

WWE has plenty from their many licenses of toys, games, and trading cards. Every WWE fan knows that November is when the latest version of Smackdown vs Raw hits for the various game consoles. While new and exciting features seem to diminish each year (paralleling the wrestling product itself...?) sales don't seem to follow suit. For those who are tired of the Smackdown vs Raw game play, a new game entitled WWE All-Stars is scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2011. This game is slated to have arcade-style game play with a fighting game feel.

Mattel is expected to have a slew of new products just in time for the holidays in the form of action figures and other WWE toys. Legends, single figures, and two-packs will all be available in time for holiday gift-giving. The long awaited first figure of Sheamus will be released as will Toys R Us exclusive Legends two-packs including The Rockers and Kerry & Kevin Von Erich. All of these will be eclipsed in early 2011 when Mattel releases the first figure of Randy "Macho Man" Savage in over a decade.

Topps will be upping the ante as well with their latest offering. While details are sketchy, it is rumored that the next Topps WWE card series will include randomly inserted autographed cards from both Triple H and The Undertaker. Both of these stars signatures have been absent from trading card sets for years. Expect to see these available at the end of this year or early 2011.

The once dominate wrestling figure producer Jakks has much promised product that has seen little appearance in stores. Their TNA figure and toy line is just beginning to roll out with lines of single and two-packs as well as a six-sided ring. Many collectors are clamoring for the Jakks Legends of the Ring line. As has been previously documented here, Series 1 contains Sting, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Jeff Jarrett, and Kurt Angle. Recently prototypes of Series 2 were unveiled including Andre the Giant, Terry Taylor, Jim Cornette, Jeff Hardy, Samoa Joe, and AJ Styles. Styles, Hardy, and Joe are clad in their earlier TNA attire while Andre, Taylor, and Cornette are true classics. This is Taylor's first figure and Cornette's second. The Cornette figure will look great posed next to the WWE Classic Superstars Midnight Express figures.

It should also be noted that a new figure of former WWF star Dan "The Beast" Severn has recently been released in the Jakks UFC action figure line. This figure, similar to the previous releases of Brock Lesnar, should have much crossover interest into the realm of wrestling collectibles.

Tristar has once again released another stellar set of TNA trading cards. The latest set, TNA Icons, is another heaping helping of autograph and memorabilia cards as well as parallels and numbered cards of all kinds. The release itself is also numbered and limited like the last few Tristar TNA releases, so once again the best bet in locating the cards may be by purchasing "Blaster Boxes" at stores such as Target and Wal Mart.

Many stars, such as Tommy Dreamer, make their TNA card debut in this set, and there are even cards featuring the recent feud between Ric Flair and Jay Lethal. Much to the chagrin of some collectors, the boxes and packs feature the likenesses of Hogan, Flair, and Sting as opposed to the younger talent. Good or bad, these are still the names and images that sell, therefore they are continually used on products.

This is just a quick overview of some of the upcoming items from the two biggest wrestling promotions. As more are announced they will be featured right here. You can also now follow the blog on Twitter at:

Be sure to follow us as our Tweets will feature news on the blog itself, breaking news, and other great info you won't want to miss.

Next time...cue up "The Chase"...look out for the "Veg-o-Matic"...and get ready for a big dose of southern style action. It's a look back at Jim Cornette, the Midnight Express, and how they revolutionized tag team wrestling. Put down that tennis racket!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

From Anticipation To Memories--Fanfest Is Something You Take Home Forever

It's a shame that most of the things a person looks forward to in life are gone in a flash. The preparation and anticipation may seem to last an eternity, but once the particular happening or event has occurred, most of the time there is little more to show for it than memories.

If you read the last two entries of this blog, hopefully I was able to convey the fun and magnitude of this past weekends NWA Fanfest. Although the entries were short and could not even begin to cover everything that went on, there are plenty of articles, photos, and even videos elsewhere to get a bigger grasp of the event as a whole.

The purpose of this blog has always been to celebrate the memorabilia of the great sport we know as professional wrestling. There were many great items available to purchase at Fanfest, and there were even more brought by fans for the purpose of being autographed. Items from both of these categories are more than just regular wrestling memorabilia. Rather, these collectibles can help ensure that the memories of this and every other Fanfest can be held just as long, or longer, as the anticipation and build-up of this great event.

The following are just five examples of my collectible memories in no particular order. Hopefully these will bring more appreciation for the memories others took away from the event, and maybe even inspire other fans to start creating their own in the near future.

1) JR's BBQ Sauce

One of the biggest names on the Fanfest lineup this year was one of wrestling's greatest announcers, Jim Ross. The appearance of Ross had fans both young and old extremely excited, as JR's career has spanned through virtually three or four different wrestling eras.

Early on, it was announced that Ross would be bringing bottles of his famous sauce for purchase. Each bottle was autographed and included a ticket that entitled you to briefly meet JR on Thursday night. On Friday, Ross was on the schedule for photo ops and autographs as well as inducting Danny Hodge into the NWA Hall of Heroes.

JR delivered a touching, informative, and hilarious speech with a wit that almost rivaled that of the Hall of Heroes emcee, Jim Cornette. After the event, Ross wrote about all aspects of the event in his own blog with glowing sentiments that seemed to echo the hundreds of satisfied fans who met with the legendary announcer.

If you'd like more information on Jim Ross and his sauce, please check out

2) Danny Hodge Autographed Magazines

It makes sense that we segue from JR to the man he inducted on Friday night, Danny Hodge. While Hodge may only be known to younger fans from an appearance on Raw a few years ago, he is considered by many to be the greatest wrestler alive today. At age 79, Hodge can still crush apples with one fist. Think about that for a second. Better yet, search out the YouTube video where he demonstrates the feat.

Hodge may also be the one wrestler who has more fun at Fanfest than the fans themselves. Making his first appearance at the 2009 Fanfest, Mr. Hodge has made it known that he does not want to miss another one. The fans are in total agreement with the sporting legend.

Like a lot of the stars, Hodge enjoys seeing memorabilia from his career. While a number of lucky fans were able to present the 1957 issue of Sports Illustrated to Hodge for him to autograph, it was another magazine that I had along with the SI issue which had Hodge in awe.

In the April 1973 issue of Wrestling Revue, Danny Hodge is named Wrestler of the Year with a great cover photo of Hodge and one of his various championship belts. Hodge said that even he did not have this issue and called it a true treasure.

I think Mr. Hodge himself is the true treasure. Every Fanfest goer should have been truly honored to share a few moments with a giant of a sportsman and an even better human being.

3) Magazines & Programs

Old school collectors have been growing ever more frustrated with the selection of vintage memorabilia available at conventions over the past few years. While many of us can remember a time where there simply wasn't enough money in the budget to purchase all of the treasures available at these events, the selection in recent years has been largely confined to overproduced DVDs and clearance aisle action figures.

While Fanfest had a great many vintage items if spotted with a keen-eye, any vintage magazine or program collector had to have gone home happy. The selection was abundant with prices that were very reasonable. Vintage Pro Wrestling Illustrated issues, regional programs, and even the well-produced Fanfest programs themselves were all available to get autographed or simply take home and cherish.

4) Sting

As I've explained in other entries, at Fanfest there are two types of stars. The first group is the featured legends for which anyone with a VIP Pass is able to obtain two autographs from. The other group is the vendor guests who are brought in by outside vendors. While with most of the guests anyone is able to go up and say hello, there is a charge to take photos with or obtain autographs from these guests.

Being an autograph collector, I've been asked the same question by many non-collectors over the years: "Why would you pay for an autograph?" These stars are not being flown in for free nor are they appearing for free. It's a gig that they are paid for just like you and I would be paid for doing our jobs.

This year, one of the vendor guests was WCW legend and current TNA star Sting. Sting got his big break in the NWA, so it only makes sense that the promoters of the New Jersey "Legends of the Ring" convention would bring The Icon to Fanfest.

With the Sting "Superfan" package you were entitled to an autographed TNA promotional photo, an autograph on one of your own items, and an 8x10 photo of you with Sting that would also be autographed when printed.

Sting is a rather private individual and is not a frequent guest at signings and public appearances, so most fans knew that this would be a meeting that they could not pass up. The picture above shows the promotional photo as well as the 1990 WCW Wrestling Wrap-Up magazine from my own collection.

5) Cornette's Collectibles

Controversy doesn't even begin to describe Mr. Jim Cornette. Just like Ole Anderson, Cornette says exactly what he thinks, doesn't back down from his opinions...and is also a gem to his fans.

A few years ago, Cornette decided that he simply couldn't hold onto every single piece of memorabilia in his personal collection. A collection that, for the record, would make every other wrestling collector weep.

Cornette's collection ended up bringing tears of joy to many fans when he decided to begin selling many items at more than fair prices to collections around the globe. Fanfest has become the event where Cornette brings out some of his best items. 2010 was no exception.

DVDs, photos, and books covering Cornette and the Midnight Express were available as always, but this year the "Louisville Slugger" decided to truly open the vault and offer ring-used tennis racquets, jackets, and even neckties to the fans. Ever want a Smoky Mountain Wrestling paycheck endorsed by your favorite star? Done. How about rare WWF pay-per-view shirts? Done. Sealed vintage NWA/WCW Turner Home Videos? Done.

It's easy to see why the buzz around the vendor room was Jim and Stacy Cornette. Not only did they have the best stuff, but they're two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. I'll have another entry on Cornette's Collectibles in the very near future. For more information you can visit

There you have it. Whether you attended Fanfest or wish you would've, this is again simply a small sample of everything that goes on at this great event. Next year, make your own memories and join Fanfest 2011 in Atlanta, GA.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fanfest 2010 Rolls On...NWA Championship Style!

Terry Funk. Harley Race. Dory Funk Jr. Mr. Wrestling II. The champions of yesteryear.

Bryan Danielson. Mickie James. Davey Richards. Paul London. The champions of today.

At NWA Fanfest 2010 "Saturday Edition," these superstars and their eras collided in the setting of pure wrestling heaven.

Hundreds of fans were treated to the best of both the old school and new school wrestling worlds. While stars such as Ted DiBiase, Kamala, and Jerry Brisco signed autographs by day, Bryan Danielson challenged NWA World Heavyweight Champion Adam Pearce at night in a match that wowed the rabid audience.

A special thrill to all Fanfest goers was the annual appearance of Ole Anderson. Mr. Anderson is famous for holding court in the lobby, captivating friends and fans with stories from his long and legendary career. Due to health issues, it was much to the chagrin of those fans when originally it was announced that Ole wouldn't be making Fanfest this year. Fortunately, Ole once again thrilled fans just as he did so many years ago, but now words have replaced his backbreaking slams and suplexes.

Clowning with the Paul's--London & Bearer respectively.

Tomorrow will wrap up yet another Fanfest. Autographs, photos, and memories will be taken away from the event, but never taken away from the hearts, minds, and collections of those who received them.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Live! Update From NWA Fanfest 2010

It's late here in Charlotte, but Fanfest just gets better and better as the hours and days go by. Fans have been reliving great times and creating new ones since Thursday afternoon when Fanfest officially opened.

Thursday evening was highlighted by a quick meet and greet with Jim Ross, a chance to try out his sauce on various food items, as well as question and answer sessions with the legendary Mr. Wrestling II and the always bombastic Jim Cornette.

Friday's activities included the first autograph and photo op sessions as well as the opening of the vendor floor. Keeping in the spirit of this blog, many of the items purchased will be included in entries following Fanfest. One item can already be seen in the accompanying photos. The tie worn by yours truly is from the wrestling wardrobe of Mr. Cornette himself.

Friday night was the annual Hall of Heroes banquet and induction ceremony which is always a highlight of the weekend. Seeing Greg and Johnny Valentine, Billy Robinson, Danny Hodge, Mr. Wrestling I & II, Reggie Parks, and Joe Blanchard inducted into the NWA Hall of Heroes was a real treat. Being joined at the banquet by my friend Tammy "Sunny" Sytch made that treat all the sweeter.

Tomorrow and Sunday hold many more great times to be had and more memories to be made. Keep it locked here on the blog for further photos and updates!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Feel The Heat!

As I may have mentioned in my last entry, the highlight of the summer for many wrestling fans is right around the corner. SummerSlam? No. NWA Fanfest.

THIS entry, however, is indeed about that other highlight of the "wrestling summer," that being WWE SummerSlam.

As many of you know, SummerSlam began in 1988 joining WrestleMania and Survivor Series as the third addition to the WWF pay-per-view year. Since then, the event has been positioned as the #2 pay-per-view, just behind WrestleMania, as far as hype and magnitude of the matches.

While the quality of the show, like all events, has varied from year to year, the merchandise centered around SummerSlam has always been highly prized among collectors. That, as usual, is what will be highlighted here.

Being as that the first SummerSlam took place in 1988, the WWF marketing machine was already in full force. While the company was more interested in promoting its individual stars rather than its shows, the first merchandise was largely to confined to the standard fare of the time. Programs, video tapes, and t-shirts featuring Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Miss Elizabeth as well as the original, sleek, SummerSlam logo were among the offerings from the first event.

The main event of the show featured Hogan and Savage managed by Elizabeth taking on Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant. The end of the match features Elizabeth "shockingly" removing her skirt to distract the evil "Mega Bucks" team. After the victory is taken, Hogan picks up the skirt and tosses it into the audience. I'm sure that I'm not the only collector who has wondered over the years just what lucky Madison Square Garden attendee has that skirt hidden away...and hopefully not thrown away!

Slowly, SummerSlam merchandise would become more frequent and the logo would find its way onto a lot of cool items. In 1992, a European company called Merlin produced several series of SummerSlam cards featuring pictures from the '92 edition of the event that emanated from London's Wembley Stadium. Later into the '90s, a number of series of Jakks' action figures would be titled "SummerSlam" and even promotional items such as sunglasses and Slurpee Cups "felt the heat" of SummerSlam.

Programs from SummerSlam events beginning in the mid '90s are rarer due to the majority of them being available solely at the arenas themselves. The 1994 event is known to have had two programs available while SummerSlam 1995 had several items available in the Pittsburgh area. Laminated event posters and promotional cardboard standees, most of which featured the likeness of then-WWF champion Kevin "Diesel" Nash, are known to exist in collections.

WWE paid a particularly nice tribute to the event in 2008 with a DVD anthology release of the first twenty SummerSlam events. While the DVDs were available individually in four sets of five, they were first released all together in an ultra-cool package designed to look like a picnic cooler.

Just last year, WWE returned to their program "roots" with the release of a SummerSlam 2009 program. The program is similar in size and design to other company programs of the past decade, being over sized and printed on thick stock. In addition to being available at the event, the program was sold for a short time through the WWE website store.

In a "sports-entertainment" world where one pay-per-view a month is enough to overwhelm any "universe," it's nice to know that the "Big Four" are still highlighting the calendar, and devoted fans minds, each year.