Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hall Of Fame Merchandise--2014 Edition

I steal a line from Jerry Lawler each year, but it's true: the Hall of Fame is my favorite night of the year in WWE.  It has plenty of detractors, but the one thing that cannot be denied is that in the eyes of the mainstream public, the WWE Hall of Fame is *the* Wrestling Hall of Fame.  As long as WWE is around, it will be the most recognized and accepted, especially if the rumored plans of a brick and mortar version come to full fruition.  In an industry like wrestling, you can't really say who should or should not be celebrated for their career efforts, but I think last year's long-awaited inclusion of Bruno Sammartino should satisfy many.

Being present for Sammartino's induction last year is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.  I've already told why it meant so much for me to be there, at Sammartino's 188th sellout of Madison Square Garden, so I can only pass along some advice to anyone attending the events of WrestleMania XXX weekend: get to the Hall of Fame!  This year's class is another star-studded list of superstars from a variety of eras.  While no class will ever top 2013's in the minds of those who were there (and many who weren't), 2014 is definitely a class without a weak link in the bunch.

The Ultimate Warrior, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Lita, Paul Bearer, Carlos Colon, and Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall make up the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014 along with Mr. T for the Celebrity Wing.  Each of these names made an undeniable impact on their respective eras (or area in the case of Colon) and therefore spawned multiple pieces of merchandise in their likenesses.  In honor of each inductee, we'll take a look at some of the most memorable items to come from these stellar careers.

Although some may not have actually seen him wrestle, most children who collected wrestling action figures in the '80s know the name Carlos Colon.  He was the figure in the Remco AWA line that came packaged with Abdullah the Butcher.  It was a no-brainer, as Colon and the Butcher have had countless battles in the past three or so decades, including many on the island of Puerto Rico.  Colon's figure is memorable for its bright orange (or red) cloth singlet, but the scarred forehead of the figure makes the likeness perfect.  Colon, the owner of Puerto Rico's WWC, is also the father of Primo and Carlito and uncle of Primo.

Another man who likely made his first impression on young wrestling fans of the 1980's was Scott Hall.  A solid hand in the AWA among other areas, Hall made his toy debut just as Colon did, in the Remco AWA line.  "Big" Scott Hall was another Magnum P.I. lookalike similar to Magnum T.A., but the mustached star would go through several identities until finding his greatest fame in 1992 as Razor Ramon.  "The Bad Guy" seems to be the incarnation of Hall that WWE is focusing on for this induction, but there is no doubt in my mind that the man who "Oozes Machismo" will return to the Hall of Fame again as a founding father of the nWo.

After 2013's induction of Trish Stratus, it is only fitting that her #1 contemporary should follow suit.  Amy "Lita" Dumas was not only one of the top female wrestlers of the late' 90s and early 2000's, but also one of the biggest sex symbols ever to hit WWE.  An unconventional look, an aggressive attitude, and the feeling that any fan could "hang out" with the redheaded beauty helped cement her legacy in the business.  It was those qualities that landed her on so many magazine covers of the day, both with and without her partners in "Team Xtreme," The Hardy Boys.

It was only a year ago at this time that the entire world was mourning the death of Paul Bearer.  The legendary manager of The Undertaker, famous the world over for his ghastly look and unmistakable wail of "Ohhhhh Yes!", left a legacy that will likely never be matched.  A manager was never so closely associated with his charge as Bearer was with The Undertaker.  Despite not being a regular wrestler, Bearer's unique persona still lent itself to countless pieces of memorabilia.  I can still remember the excitement when the first Paul Bearer figure was slated to hit stores.  The figure is part of JusToys WWF Bend-Ems line, and was originally included with the Bend-Ems ring.  The ring was first slated to include Dink, but when Doink and his midget companion were being phased out, Bearer was made as a very suitable replacement.

Jake Roberts may be as well-remembered for his exploits away from the business as he is for his in-ring work, but there's no denying that he provided countless great memories for fans of the '80s and '90s.  Roberts had a fine career before he began carrying bagged pythons to the ring, but it's that image that is best remembered.  My favorite Jake "The Snake" Roberts item is one that was featured not long ago in these pages: the Hasbro Jake Roberts "snake" toy.  For what could have been several reasons the snake is not named, nor does it closely resemble any of Jake's more infamous pets.  Even still it is one of the most unique and fun WWF items from that era.

The "main event" induction of the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame will more than likely be for a man who is no stranger to main event status, The Ultimate Warrior.  The Warrior, as controversial a superstar as there ever was, will no doubt provide one of the most memorable induction speeches ever to grace the Hall of Fame stage.  Over the years, his action figures have been some of the most memorable as well.  Hasbro, Jakks, and Mattel have all provided some great representations of the Warrior, but the LJN version was the first.  As part of its final series packaged on black colored cards and released by Grand Toys of Canada, the Warrior is one of the most desirable in the entire line.  The figure captures the wild then-futuristic look of the Warrior while still allowing it to fit in with the rest of the line.

Memorable merchandising is only what we focus on here on the blog.  There's much more to these men and women than just that, and we'll be reliving so much of that in just a bit over a week from now.  With the Hall of Fame ceremony scheduled to be broadcast on the WWE Network, there's no excuse for anyone in the United States to miss my favorite night of the WWE calendar.  And if you do?  Well, I pity da fool...

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