Thursday, October 26, 2017

Every Girl's Crazy Bout A Sharp Dressed Man...

In the above photo, you see at least two semi-sharp dressed men, and one in a Dusty Rhodes t-shirt. But the two surrounding the latter were fabulous ones. In fact, they were THE Fabulous Ones. Stan Lane and Steve Keirn took much of the wrestling world by storm in the 1980's and even paved the way for other "pretty boy" tag teams along the way.

Created in Memphis, The Fabulous Ones were initially supposed to be the proteges of "Fabulous" Jackie Fargo. Not a bad endorsement in the city that Fargo ruled. Runs in Florida, Texas, and even the AWA followed.

In the picture, I am holding a popular souvenir in sports the world over, a pennant. For a team that did not have WWF exposure, Lane and Keirn certainly had their share of merchandising. While signing the pennant, Lane explained that Keirn had a whole plethora of items created during the duo's run in Memphis including the pennant, shirts, key chains, and more. Both of the men were surprised to see the pennant after all of these years.

Of course, most collectors remember The Fabulous Ones for their most famous piece of memorabilia: the Remco AWA figure two-pack. Thanks to their fairly brief run in that company, the team was immortalized in plastic in 1985. Removable bow ties and suspenders only add to the fun of these figures, which the team even showed off on Memphis television at one point.

WWE has often cited the music video featuring "Sharp Dressed Man" and the Fabs to be something odd and/or rare from their library. It really isn't, but it's nice to see the team remembered, regardless. When compared to other teams in the same vein such as The Rock N Roll Express, The Fabs may be a bit underrated, but they were the originators and are definitely not forgotten.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

WWE Unreleased: Just What The Longtime Fan Ordered

Gold. Usually I wait until the last paragraph of a review to summarize, but I choose to do it right now instead with just that word. WWE Unreleased is a DVD treasure trove of matches and segments that wrestling fans have been asking for for years.

It's well-documented that the WWE vault is massive and contains footage from the classic yet common to the ultra-rare and unseen. It's the latter that is contained in WWE Unreleased. Mainly consisting of dark matches from television tapings with a house show match or two thrown in, truly everything on here is never-before-seen to my knowledge. It's stuff that we've heard of, yet always had to visualize in our heads.

The set is hosted by Charly Caruso and, one of my all-time favorites, Sean Mooney. The interstitial segments display that Mooney still very much gets the company and its humor, as it's jokingly implied that the former WWF announcer actually lives in the film archive below the "Event Center." There are a few nods to Mooney's frequent broadcast partner, the late Lord Alfred Hayes, and be sure to stick around after the WWE Home Video logo pops up at the end. There's also a great gag in the last hour or so of the set that is sure to make frequent WWE DVD watchers smile.

The set is labeled "1986-1995," which in a way doesn't please me. I know that there is loads more unseen footage from that era that didn't make the cut. Missy's Manor? Jimmy Garvin's 1992 tryout? The last encounter between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant (a tag match pitting Hogan and Big Boss Man against the Colossal Connection at a 1990 tv taping)? Pay-per-view dark matches? Griping aside, what we do get is honestly unheard of.

If you're a fan of Andre, The Ultimate Warrior, or Randy Savage, this is the set for you. All three seem to show up very frequently early on. There is also a big dose of The Hulkster, with The Undertaker and Bret Hart generously peppered in as well. The real gems here, for me, are the tryout matches. We see the Warrior, Owen Hart, Crush, Earthquake, Tatanka, The Smoking Gunns, and Taz all in some of their initial appearances. We also get the never aired 1992 return of Piper's Pit featuring the Brooklyn Brawler and an absolutely shocking line for the time from "Hot Rod" regarding what the company was facing in the real world.

We are reminded that Mike McGuirk, in addition to being an extremely sweet individual, was criminally underrated as a ring announcer. We see some obvious "run thru" matches to prepare for the "real deal" down the line. We also see the infamous (thanks to Toxic Turtles match which clearly was never intended to go beyond the venue in which it was held.

Picture quality changes from match to match, as obviously some of the master footage has deteriorated. There are some odd frame rate issues in a couple of matches, and some wavy sound problems in others. Nonetheless, we aren't seeing this stuff any other way. I'll take it any day. As far as music changes, I only noticed two: the horrible Rick Rude music edit that crept up earlier this year, and a change for the Smoking Gunns tryout entrance theme. Speaking of tryout entrances, be sure to check out those for both "Earthquake Evans" and "War Eagle."

A few of the matches are seen only from the hard camera view, and it should be pointed out that there is no commentary here at all. Some would probably argue that commentary could have been added, but I would be against it. These are dark and house show matches. View them as originally intended with the natural audio of the event as your soundtrack. Nothing more is needed.

Buy this thing. Why? One reason is because it's one of the most interesting and unique WWE DVD releases of all-time. Another reason is that if sales are great, we may see more content like this down the line. While matches from after the time frame covered in this set wouldn't interest me quite as much, we have no idea what WWE has stored away. In the meantime, let's enjoy what has been unleashed with "Unreleased."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Household Wrestling Items That You Never Realized You Needed...

If you've followed this blog for any amount of time, you already know that we celebrate all forms of wrestling memorabilia. The weird. The wacky. The wonderful. It's all covered. But how about...household items? Sure they've popped up here and there over the near decade since the blogs inception, but they've never really had the spotlight. Need to host a wrestling themed luncheon? These items may just please the most difficult of guests...

*Breakfast in bed? Frozen dinner in front of the television? The entire Brady Bunch is sick again? Never fear, the WWF Superstars lunch tray is here. Big Boss Man. The Ultimate Warrior. Hulk Hogan. The Texas Tornado. All four are ready, willing, and able to provide that extra needed flavor, and maybe even some vitamins, to your meal. Can you imagine bringing Virgil some Olive Garden takeout (extra meat sauce) on this tray while he regales you with highly-fictionalized stories of the four featured superstars? I can't.

*Maybe you don't want to eat your lunch at home, but you still need some early '90s WWF Superstar power with your cuisine. That''s why we have WWF Superstars lunch bags! The Boss Man, The Warrior, and The Hulkster are all back from their lunch tray antics to bring you action on the go. Joining them are none other than Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Damien! These aren't the boring, plain, brown bags that used to float around WWF locker rooms near Allentown! These bags are full of ingestable items sure to make you bigger and stronger! Oh, wait...

*Certainly you need something to wash all of these power packed meals down with. And that something, whether it be milk, juice, or whatever you want has to be contained. There have been plenty of wrestling related cups, mugs, and suck cups (thanks, Dusty!) over the years, but for this outing we went with a glass featuring Ax and Smash. Yes, Demolition themselves. There were a few different series of glasses featuring WWF superstars produced over the years, but who are more exciting to drink from than my personal favorite tag team? Before you take a sip, a word of warning: you better say your act of contrition.

*Watch it! Don't you dare put that glass down on the end table without a coaster. But not just any coaster, mind you! This is a Mid-South Wrestling coaster! Used as a promotional item sometimes even given away by owner and WWE Hall of Famer himself, Cowboy Bill Watts, these coasters actually say "Mid-South Sports." Also illustrated are the address and phone number of the promotion. Who's using this to pick up the ice sweat from their drinking glass? Not me! Especially when it's autographed by Watts himself!

*So the host has kicked you out of the house, without your drink, for refusing to use a coaster. How else are you going to beat the heat? With an FMW hand fan, silly! Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling may have been founded by the legendary and infamous Atsushi Onita, but the high-flying Hayabusa is arguably its best remembered star. As with many Japanese promotions, some interesting and unique memorabilia came out of FMW, including this fan. Just sit back, wave the fan, and think about such relaxing concepts as exploding ring barbed wire steel cage matches!

And there you have a sampling of wrestling memorabilia that you can still put to good use around the house. Why sit around just staring at these great items when they can aid in special occasions, holidays, and pleasant family time? Utilize these tips wisely. After all, you're getting them for free. Martha Stewart would've charged you $25 for this information in book form...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Voice of Memphis Wrestling Passes...

It seems like just yesterday when Pittsburgh wrestling fans were mourning the loss of Bill Cardille, the voice of wrestling in the Steel City. A little over one year later and Memphis is feeling the same grief with the loss of the legendary Lance Russell. While both men made their mark in specific regions, in both instances fans from around the world are mourning just as much as those in the respective home cities of the men.

To live ninety-one years is a long life, but as always it's what one packs into those years that matters. Lance Russell certainly did that, first with a career in television that led to widespread notoriety as the voice of Memphis wrestling. Russell also raised a family, along with wife Audrey, who passed away in 2014. Sadly, that family suffered two losses in the span of a week as Lance and Audrey's daughter passed away on Friday from cancer.

My first exposure to Russell came in the form of the antiquated VHS video tape. An early non-WWF/WCW release titled "Masters of Mayhem" came into my possession at a young age. The tape was full of Memphis-area matches featuring stars who had gone on to find fame on a national level. The voice calling those matches? Lance Russell, of course! A fitting title for the tape considering that Russell was famous for often using the word "mayhem" to describe the action.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Russell at the 2009 NWA Legends Fanfest. There, the announcer was joined by his former commentary partner, WMC-TV weatherman Dave Brown, as well as Memphis wrestling icons Jerry Jarrett and Jackie Fargo to create a mini-reunion. It would be my only opportunity to meet the famous host, although I did correspond with him in years following. A long, hand-written letter from Mr. Russell is something that I cherish. It is just a small reflection of his well-known persona of being an absolutely wonderful individual.

I once heard Lance Russell's announcing style described as the "grandfather" trying to keep peace among all of the wild "grandchildren." I wish I could credit the source, but it is absolutely true. You trusted and believed what Lance was telling you, and there is no better talent to have when calling pro wrestling. Russell also spent time in WCW and Smoky Mountain Wrestling, but he is a firm entry on the "Mount Rushmore" of Memphis wrestling, likely alongside Fargo, Jerry Lawler (who he famously broke into the business), and Sputnik Monroe.

I usually end remembrances with a photo of the personality in question and myself, but Mr. Russell's passing made one photo and one photo only pop into my mind. I can still remember taking it at the Hall of Heroes banquet in Charlotte. I did not snap the photo because of who was speaking on stage in the background. I took it because I had noticed Lance and Audrey Russell holding hands. A simple sign of everlasting love after a lifetime together.

Lance is now at her side again. It's a spot that I imagine he never wanted to leave.

Lance Russell