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!