Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hitting The Home Stretch To Fanfest 2011

Over the past couple of months it's come to my attention that many readers have discovered this blog while searching for information on NWA Fanfest. Although the best route for info on the event is the official site, I'm very happy to know that people are getting to see first hand perspectives of the last two Fanfest weekends right here. It really isn't a hard message to convey. For those who've experienced the event before, you know that the memories alone are enough to keep you coming back each year. You also aren't getting any sleep this week in anticipation of this year's installment.

It seems like everyone has that one particular item of interest at Fanfest. The event is designed to appeal to all wrestling fans. If one activity or name isn't your personal cup of tea, ten other options will be offered to your liking. Not an autograph fan? How about a photo opportunity with your favorite star? Interactive question and answer session? Live wrestling card? Each and every wrestling fan will go home satisfied.

While there are names who've become "staples" at Fanfest over the years, promoter Greg Price goes above and beyond to include stars who may not only be brand new to this event but to any wrestling convention. Later this week in Atlanta, most fans will get their first opportunity to meet legendary ladies star Leilani Kai.

From being one of The Fabulous Moolah's top pupils in the 1970's to runs as WWF Women's Champion and co-holder of the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship in the 1980's, Kai has made very few public appearances in recent years. Fanfest will reunite Kai not only with her fans but also former "Glamour Girl" partner Judy Martin.

"Greg Price called me and suggested that I be a part of Fanfest. Greg is a long time friend and top notch promoter," said Kai. "Also, I've heard stories from dear friends and fans about how much fun the event is. It gives us a chance to spend time with friends and fans alike."

Meeting the stars themselves is always the top thrill, but seeing them reunite with former friends and colleagues can be equally as thrilling. Ms. Kai says that she has heroes that she herself looked up to in the business.

"Penny Banner, Ann Casey, Joyce Grable, Steve Regal," recalled Kai. "The Honky Tonk Man is (also) a great performer who I always enjoyed watching."

It cannot be understated that Fanfest is more than just obtaining an autograph. The weekend is designed to be able to chat and share some memories with your favorite star. Questions ranging from "Would you consider a return to the ring?" to "Do you still follow the sport?" are often asked.

"Wrestling is a sport that most don't ever retire from," offered Kai. "I keep my eyes on all the talent out there and there are more than a few lady wrestlers that I would love to step in the ring with. Santana G, The Great Cheyenne, and Sara Del Rey all come to mind."

Ms. Kai obviously has her mind on the future both in and out of the ring. Her fans are simply grateful that the former WWF and NWA champion will be coming out to meet them. If hearing from the legend herself still isn't enough to bring you to Atlanta, she would like to pass along a message.

"Thank you for the support that you have given me over the years. For anyone that can't make it this year to Atlanta, next year's Fanfest is in Charlotte August 2nd-5th, 2012."

The Hawaiian Princess of wrestling has her pulse on Fanfest, shouldn't you?

Visit for more information. See you in Atlanta!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just An Old Sweet Song, Keeps Georgia (Wrestling) On My Mind...

Each year around this time I become nothing more than a walking advertisement. In turn, this blog becomes an advertisement. It's nothing that I'm paid for, just something that I believe in. If you don't believe in what you're promoting, no one is going to believe your words. I can honestly tell you that the weekends I've spent at the NWA Legends Fanfest were some of the greatest in my life.

On August 4th thru 7th, Fanfest returns yet again to provide another dream wrestling weekend. This year the event so closely associated with Charlotte, NC ventures down to Atlanta, GA. Although the events are never officially themed, this year the flavor is most definitely that of the legendary Georgia Championship Wrestling promotion.

WWF, Crockett, Florida, Memphis, or even ECW fan? No worries. That's the beauty of Fanfest. No wrestling fan is left unsatisfied. This year's guest list? Rowdy Roddy Piper, Rob Van Dam, Nick Bockwinkel, Harley Race, Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, Mr. Wrestling II, Stan Hansen, Ron Simmons, Teddy Long, Judy Martin, Leilani Kai, Joyce Grable, Jimmy Snuka, Greg Valentine, Ron Garvin, Thunderbolt Patterson, Baby Doll, Tully Blanchard, JJ Dillon, Ole Anderson, Masked Superstar, Tony Atlas, The Assassin, David Schultz, Tim Brooks, Eddie Mansfield, Tommy Rich, Austin Idol, Gypsy Joe, Ron Bass, Moondog Rex, Buddy Colt, Lars Anderson, Ivan Koloff, The Mongolian Stomper, Big Mama, Pat & Randy Rose, Scrappy McGowan, Bill Apter, Joe Pedicino, and Boni Blackstone.

You want more?

Outside vendors will be bringing even more guests to meet the fans, take photos, and sign autographs. How about Jerry Lawler, Bobby Heenan, Dick Slater, Fit Finlay, Bill Dundee, The Rock & Roll Express, The Iron Sheik, Honky Tonk Man, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Maria Kanellis, Manny Fernandez, Paul Bearer, Luke Gallows, Candi Devine, and Pampiro Firpo just to name a few? From the legendary to the modern to the absolute hardest names to meet on the convention scene, there really is something for everyone at Fanfest.

Meeting and greeting is just part of the greatness of Fanfest. Since the convention takes place from Thursday to Sunday, there are events scheduled throughout. Question and answer sessions, a true blue NWA wrestling event, and the famous Hall of Heroes banquet and induction ceremony are just a few of the highlights.

The Hall of Heroes is an especially unique event at each years Fanfest. After an amazing banquet where you will dine with a wrestling star at your table, several legendary names are inducted into the Hall of Heroes. The evening can prove to be very emotional and memorable as many of the stars are inducted posthumously. Some of the late stars were once even guests at Fanfest, bringing back personal memories for attendees themselves. This year the inductees are The Assassins, Ron Garvin, Sir Oliver Humperdink, Gordon Solie, Ray Stevens, The Masked Superstar, and Ted Turner.

The induction of Humperdink will be especially poignant as this is the first Fanfest since the legendary manager's untimely passing. Many Fanfest attendees have great memories of the man lovingly known as "Humpy" as he was a virtual staple of the event. I had the opportunity to share Mr. Humperdink's Hall of Heroes banquet table two years ago and feel honored to have had the chance. It will be another honor to be present at his own induction where I know that both he and his good friend Gary Hart will be in spirit.

A new addition this year is also one that has many fans buzzing. After a night of NWA wrestling at an off-site location, fans returning to the hotel will be treated to a night entitled "All My Rowdy Friends" starring the one and only Roddy Piper. Fans will also have photo opportunities to not only pose with Piper in his legendary Pit, but to also hold the Starrcade "dog collars" used by Piper and Greg Valentine...while standing next to the legends themselves.

If you haven't already made plans, what are you waiting for? Check out for more information and stay tuned...more Fanfest memories, stories, and previews next time!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Summer of *Wrestling*

I'm not one to put something down just for the sake of doing so. I'll give credit where credit is due. While I'm no huge fan of the current wrestling scene it seems that this summer, in particular the last couple of weeks, everything is going right in the industry that we all know and love.

Coming off of a great pay-per-view event headlined by one of the greatest matches that I've ever seen, WWE finally seems to be understanding their audience. There has always been a way to present the product in order for all of their target viewers to get what they want out of it. Did it take an "approved shoot" promo and storyline involving CM Punk for the company to "get it?" Maybe. For all we know, this current wave of interesting angles and amazing in-ring action could end by next week. This time the WWE's signs of change just feel...different.

The unheard amount of in-ring action coupled with continued twists and turns concerning the future of the storyline side of WWE's authority figures made this past Monday's episode of Raw yet another glimmer of hope. Results from the taping of the next Smackdown episode seem similarly promising.

Aside from Punk's win, the winner of the Smackdown Money In The Bank match at the pay-per-view pleased many fans as well. Daniel Bryan, just highlighted on this very blog for the release of his first action figure, could very well be on his way to winning the approval of WWE fans the way that he captured independent fandom for so many years. Similar to the Punk situation, given the proper time and build Bryan has the opportunity to be another breakout star.

The pay-per-view also made headlines on the memorabilia front as well. An exclusive CM Punk shirt dated and emblazoned with the statement of "Best In The World" completely sold out at the live event in Chicago. Since then the shirt has sold on eBay for several hundred dollars. Fakes and unauthorized reproductions have already shown up on the auction site while the authentic versions continue to sell.

There's no doubt that the shirt is being coveted now, but my advice for anyone who's in possession of one and wants to make some money is to sell now. Just because the shirt is dated does not mean that WWE won't reproduce it. Since the event is most likely to become the defining moment in Punk's career, there would be no reason that WWE couldn't reproduce the shirt date included. As always, time is of the essence when trying to make a profit. With the DVD and Blu-Ray of the event already schedule for release on August 16, it would not surprise me to see a package deal of the event and shirt available for purchase on the WWE's shop website.

Elsewhere in the world of memorabilia comes this weekend's San Diego Comic Con. The SDCC has almost become a second Toy Fair where companies unveil their future products. Both Mattel and Jakks (for WWE and TNA respectively) are slated to have booths as well as stars from both companies making appearances. Video has already leaked showing a very brief glimpse of Mattel's WWE offerings. Certainly didn't look poultry...I mean...paltry!

Collectors are as interested in hearing from the companies as they are in seeing new product. The popular Legends lines from both manufacturers are rumored to be in jeopardy. Jakks continued production delays on all of their TNA products is another topic sure to be brought up by those attending the show.

And of course the arrival of August marks the annual NWA Fanfest. This year the event will be held in Atlanta, Georgia with more than 100 wrestling stars including "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Rob Van Dam, Harley Race, Terry & Dory Funk, Nick Bockwinkel, Jimmy Snuka, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Ted DiBiase, Greg Valentine, Jerry Lawler, The Glamour Girls, and so many, many more! Over the years this event has meant more to me than any other wrestling related event that I have attended in my life. I'm definitely not alone in this feeling and will be marking my fifth Fanfest with a preview in an upcoming entry! If you've ever counted yourself a fan of Roddy Piper, you will not want to miss this event.

There's a reason why you are reading this and why any of the names mentioned in this entire text mean anything to you. You cared. Whether you cared twenty years ago, two hours ago, or never stopped caring, something in this industry captured your emotions. This summer, whether it be a fleeting moment or a feeling carried well into the future, you have a bevy of reasons to care once again. Wrestling is back.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CM Punk: Before The Collector's Cup

There's certainly been a buzz around the activities on Monday Night Raw over the past few weeks. It hasn't been the matches, which have remained relatively the same. Rather it's been the words and actions of someone that I've been on the bandwagon of all along: CM Punk.

Remember how Jesse Ventura would brag that he was on the "Macho" bandwagon since day one? That's how I've been with CM Punk. JW is to Punk what Ventura is to Savage. Hmm. Not exactly the same I guess, but it works for me!

In all seriousness, CM Punk was on the very first indy card that I ever attended. Back then, no one could've predicted that he would one day make it to WWE, become champion, and go on to be the hottest name in the company during the summer of 2011. That said, even ten years ago he was a great young wrestler and very entertaining to boot.

There's speculation going every which way as to just how "real" Punk's threats of leaving the WWE are. It's been widely discussed that his contract with the company is indeed up, although at this point it seems very odd that the WWE would be putting this much emphasis on a man who is planning on abandoning the company in a few short weeks.

After last week, my vote would be to do a classic double turn. Many fans have been asking for a Cena heel turn for years. The alleged reasoning for holding back on this twist was reported as the company not wanting to give up the huge merchandising cash cow that Cena provides as the classic "good guy." If reports of Punk's merchandise completely selling out at this past Monday's Raw are true, the WWE just may have found their replacement.

Cena is the perfect corporate champion. How about Cena siding with Vince against Punk who would represent how the fans truly feel? The WWE has been wanting to recapture the Austin-Rock dynamic for a decade now. I see the answers standing in their very ring.

Regardless of how the Punk buzz turns out, the "Second City Saint" has had some nice memorabilia over the years--collectors cup and ice cream bar aside!

For those of you who haven't attended an independent show, it is not uncommon for the wrestlers on the card to peddle their own wares. The "gimmick table" where fans can buy photos, autographs, and other merchandise is a staple that not only pleases the fans but helps the often struggling young stars monetarily as well.

Punk was no different and in fact often had some of the nicer indy merchandise out there. Shirts, promotional photos, and even video tapes showing the "Straight Edge Superstar" against such stars as Low Ki, Colt Cabana, Rey Mysterio, and even Eddy Guerrero. I was fortunate enough to sit ringside for a Punk-Guerrero match that was held shortly after Guerrero's 2003 WWE return. Although the match was excellent, one of the best matches I've ever had the pleasure of watching live was between Punk and "Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels. This match, held on 9/28/02, was an iron man match and is worth tracking down for tape collectors and fans of both stars.

I've mentioned before that it honestly makes me a bit proud to see these young men, who I saw beginning their careers, not only make it to the "big time" but also see perks of immortality such as magazine covers and action figures. The very first CM Punk figure is still one of my favorites. Although many Punk figures have been released by 2011, the very first version is still the best. Produced by Jakks in 2007 for the WWE ECW line, this figure is the only one to feature the most realistic tattoo designs. Although the Pepsi and Cobra (G.I. Joe enemy) logos aren't perfect due to copyright, they ARE present unlike the rest of the Punk figures produced.

Punk also particularly shines in the merchandise aspect on the cover of the April 2010 WWE Magazine. Truthfully, the magazine has 26 different covers in all to celebrate WrestleMania XXVI, but the Punk cover is one of the best of the lot.

How about the best CM Punk collectible of all? Until the ice cream bar is produced, I have to be biased and go with a one-of-a-kind item. From ringside at an IWC event on 1/25/03, I snapped a photo that was caught out of pure luck. Punk is flying out of the ring towards his opponent then-IWC Heavyweight Champion Jimmy Vegas...and me! Although Punk did not win the match, he did sign the photo a few months later for me.

The sky is the limit for CM Punk. Although he is a veteran by now, I don't think that we have seen the best from this man.

After last Monday Night, I think we may even be seeing that ice cream bar and collectors cup...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Macho Madness Lives Forever

To his legions of fans worldwide, it's still unreal to think that Randy Savage has passed away. A truly larger than life and seemingly invincible character, Savage and his "Macho Madness" phenomenon will go on as long as classic wrestling is remembered. This has already been proven by the many tributes and memories presented by family, friends, and fans in the period since Savage's death.

It's similarly unreal to think that just this past January, many factors had led fans to believe that 2011 would be a "comeback year" of sorts for Savage. A new action figure, a WWE video game appearance, and a reappearance of the reclusive icon himself truly gave fans hope. As we all know by now, this was simply not meant to be.

With the 2010 announcement of the Defining Moments Randy Savage figure, Mattel made it clear that more figures of the legend would be on the horizon. The first to hit stores was in a series of 2-packs packaging a legend and current star together to capitalize on the release of the WWE All-Stars video game. Savage, clad in green tights, was packaged with John Morrison. Many fans passed on this figure in favor of the figure to be released in Savage's iconic orange and yellow. This figure, in Mattel's WWE Legends Series 5, is our focus here.

While this series has been available for a few months now, many Toys "R" Us stores are receiving the wave as part of a Vince McMahon figure promotion. Select locations will have a cardboard corrugate display packed with a variety of Mattel's WWE toys. If certain figures (including WWE Legends, Defining Moments, and Deluxe) are purchased within a two month span, collectors can send away for a special figure of Mr. McMahon himself. This is the first figure of McMahon to be produced by Mattel and has collectors buzzing.

There's no better way to obtain the McMahon figure than purchasing figures of those who made his business what it is today. No one reflects this more than Randy Savage himself, especially during the era of which this figure represents.

Savage is most remembered wearing the orange tights around the time of his first WWF title reign. A pink variation on the tights came a bit earlier and was represented in the very first Randy Savage figure produced by LJN. The orange version was previous produced by Hasbro in 1990.

This Mattel production comes complete with removable sunglasses, "Macho Man" bandanna, and "Macho Man" t-shirt. The bandanna and shirt are amazingly detailed and are exact replicas of the actual items. For reference, the aforementioned All-Stars 2-pack version of this figure includes the bandanna and glasses but not the t-shirt.

The paint detailing is sharp and very accurate to the costume. "Tape" painted onto the hands is always welcome and seeing as that this is the same head sculpt as was used for the Defining Moments Savage, I'm still pleased. It's a great likeness and the holes used to hold the sunglasses on are again very unnoticeable when the glasses are removed.

I like this figure but I'm not as overwhelmed with it as I was with the Defining Moments figure. When both figures were announced, I thought for sure that I would prefer this version as this is my favorite look of the Macho Man.

As amazing as the t-shirt accessory is, I'm ultimately disappointed in its inclusion. I would've much preferred one of his robes from the era. Certainly a robe accessory made of a bit thinner material and some light decoration (think Jakks Classic Superstars Michael P.S. Hayes robe) wouldn't have upped production costs. In fact, costs may have been lower to produce a robe than they must've been to have replicated the t-shirt. Savage wore this shirt, but nowhere near as much as he did his robes.

This is a nice figure and certainly one that you'll want to pick up if you're going for the McMahon promotion. If you simply want a Mattel figure of Savage, you may want to look elsewhere. While a bit higher in price, the Defining Moments Savage is already my choice for figure of the year and has been since I first reviewed it. Mattel has already said that we have not seen the last of Savage in their WWE line. Personally, I'm hoping that this means we will be seeing another Savage figure from this era but this time with a robe. Time will tell.

If these figures prove anything it is that Randy Savage's legacy, even in merchandising, will be requiring a lot of "Pomp and Circumstance" for some time to come.

Ohhh yeah...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, & Wrestling

There's just something about pro wrestling that exudes patriotism here in the United States of America. Sgt. Slaughter leading the Pledge of Allegiance. Hacksaw Jim Duggan chanting (and singing) the famous three letters. The pride (and vitamins) running through your veins while listening to "Real American."

Back in the "good ol' days" nothing was more American than packing up the family and friends, heading to the local venue, and enjoying a night of great wrestling action. Done at the right time in the 1980s, this could have meant attending a stop on the Great American Bash tour.

Twenty-four years ago today saw the Great American Bash tour host the very first War Games match in Atlanta, GA. Pitting two teams of five, War Games was both brutal and innovative. One huge cage. Two rings. Ten men. Although many great War Games matches have been held since, the original is still the best. The battle captured exactly why pro wrestling was loved by blue collar America. Blood, guts, brute strength, and the hard working common men (Rhodes, Road Warriors, Nikita) against the uppity showboat athletes (The Four Horsemen). It just doesn't get any better than that.

Some wrestlers carried their patriotic message far beyond the Fourth of July. Certainly Slaughter, Duggan, and Hogan would leap to mind as far as characters bleeding the red, white, and blue. Perhaps no one wore the countries' colors better than Del Wilkes, aka The Patriot. Be it in the GWF, WCW, or WWF, the masked star took a relatively dated gimmick and suddenly became relevant in a decade where the boundaries of good and evil were often blurred.

During his short WWF tenure, The Patriot had a particularly easy time capturing fan allegiance in his home country. In a sport known for its jingoistic showings, in 1997 a wrestling war began between the rather unlikely opponents of the United States and Canada. This conflict was ignited a star usually known for his universal appeal--Bret "The Hitman" Hart.

The Canadian Hart had recently reformed The Hart Foundation stable and in the midst of doing so began spouting anti-American rhetoric. The Patriot, new to the WWF scene, was able to capitalize on this and, until suffering a career-ending injury, became one of the WWF's top stars. One particular July evening in Pittsburgh on a live Monday Night Raw, The Patriot even scored a pinfall over The Hitman leading to one of the Steel City's most memorable modern wrestling moments.

Even the biggest wrestling event of the year has had patriotic overtones. WrestleMania VII in 1991 (subtitled "Superstars & Stripes Forever") featuring the Los Angeles Sports Arena decked out in red, white, and blue to witness Hulk Hogan attempt to regain the WWF Championship from Sgt. Slaughter. Slaughter, in a storyline that stirs controversy to this day, had recently turned on his beloved United States and sided with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Hogan disposed Slaughter in typical Hulkster fashion and became champion for the third time covered in a crimson mask while waving Old Glory.

While many of us get patriotic feelings from the fictional battles recalled above, celebrating our freedom and remembering how we obtained that right is what it truly boils down to. For the better part of a decade, WWF/WWE has put on an annual holiday special for the U.S. Armed Forces entitled "Tribute to the Troops." Vince McMahon and many of his superstars have traveled overseas to visit with the troops and provide a bit of entertainment reminiscent of the ventures put forth by late comedian Bob Hope in years past. These events have provided much joy for the men and women in service and are a great example of the industry giving back.

Whether fireworks, barbeque, or just relaxing is on your list for today, have a great Independence Day...

<span class=