Thursday, May 31, 2018
Like the figures themselves, the packaging is similar to its counterpart from the past. Also like the cardbacks of the figures, the cardboard used on the ring box is just a tad lighter than that of the original. It's also a bit smaller, but that will be explained shortly. It's actually nice and compact, in case anyone is looking to pick up an extra to keep sealed. Instead of The Ultimate Warrior pounding George South as in the Hasbro version, we get a live action shot of AJ Styles flying through the air. AJ's figure is displayed, as are several from the 4th and 5th series.
The ring comes unassembled and the pieces are neatly packed into the underside of the ring. Everything easily slides out of the box, enabling you to slide into the DMs...err...accessories. The first point of order must be the logo sticker. It wouldn't be retro if you apply it neatly, either, so I expect every example of this ring to have the logo just a tad off center. There are things that you purposely just don't do perfectly. This is one of them.
The aforementioned reason as to why the box is smaller than the original is that the ring steps, announcers table, and title display that jut out from the four sides of the ring are removable. They are also very easy to snap in. Though Randy Savage is depicted on the box as using the steps as a weapon, you would have to lift the whole thing up to actually remove them. As with most Mattel rings, the posts come tied together with the ropes. After some maneuvering, they eventually untie.
The box shows the WWE Universal Championship being used with the removable title display. This is the accessory included with the large Mattel figures. Since no belts...err...championships have been included with any of the Retro figures, this seems to indicate that we are "officially" supposed to use the already released ones from the regular line. The problem is that these belts do not fit on the display as shown. They can be displayed on a tilt, but that isn't how it's utilized on the box. It's really surprising that they let this happen, unless they plan on releasing some retro figure-specific championships down the line.
Is this another cool retro toy?Absolutely. It's a great way to display
the retro figures, even if most of them aren't from the "blue ring" era. There are some negatives (title display, lack of stickers...and no flag?), but it's a worthwhile purchase. It might be cool to see it re-released in another look, too, as was done in 1993 with the Hasbro yellow ring. Perhaps remolded in modern colors, since most of the figures are current stars? And speaking of things that could be done, how about finally utilizing that trench that stretches all the way around the apron (just as it did twenty-eight years ago) and finally get a cage match going...
Blue bars, anyone?
Thursday, May 24, 2018
The nice thing about collecting Von Erich signatures is that the boys signed a lot. Just pull up any World Class Championship Wrestling episode on WWE Network and you're bound to see a photo or two being signed. WCCW sold many 8x10s for the stars to autograph, and many of their fans have kept these treasures over the years. The boys, being the Texas heroes that they were, also did any number of personal appearances where autographs were given to send the legions of fans home happy. My favorite member of the family, Kerry, was no stranger to this. Even though we just hit the milestone of twenty-five years since his death, his autographs can still be found.
One of the most popular 8x10s of Kerry sold by WCCW included his dog Bo. Another featured Kerry seemingly caught in the light of a sunburst. In the example that I own, father Fritz even signed in the "sun" itself, as if he were the shining light to guide Kerry to stardom. Both of these photos, as shown, feature full "Kerry Von Erich" signatures, but that was not always the case. Some examples were simply signed "Kerry," likely in a rush situation as shown so often on World Class television episodes as the boys were being rushed to the ring at the Dallas Sportatorium.
Many stories of the Von Erich boys signing exist. When you can acquire a signature with a story or even appearance advertisement it makes the item all the sweeter. Many of the female WCCW fans held onto their collections over the years which has been a prime source for myself acquiring the signatures of Kerry and other family members.
Kerry was signing right up until his death in 1993. In January of that year the former "Texas Tornado" appeared at a convention and show in Philadelphia. A series of photos of the stars who appeared at this event seem to have originated here. They are made to look like promotional photos and have a "Legends of Wrestling" logo on them. There are items out there, including my example of the aforementioned photo, signed by Kerry in some sort of silver pen. While normally this would be a red flag when associated with someone who passed away before silver Sharpies came into existence, there were other writing apparatuses at the time which produced a similar look.
For all of troubles that they eventually found, the Von Erich boys were said to be good to others and specifically to their fans. It doesn't surprise me that evidence of such, in this case pressed to paper, still exists long after they have become memories to those who knew them and legends to those who watched them in the ring.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Bruno Sammartino featured heavily in the five Tri-State Wrestling photo albums put out by the Pittsburgh wrestling office in the 1960's. It's no surprise that "The Living Legend" also made the cover of the 1976 World Wide Wrestling Federation album. Officially titled "Championship Wrestling Yearbook," Sammartino is shown on the cover in a fierce battle with longtime nemesis "The Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff. Of course, Koloff is also the man who ended Sammartino's first World Heavyweight Championship reign.
Also on the cover is the famous Madison Square Garden logo. These were likely sold at the Garden, though the inside cover shows that these were also marketed through the mail. Just $2.00 ($1.50 for the yearbook, .50 for postage and handling) was all that this forty-page treasure cost 42 years ago. As with so much shown on this blog, if we only had a time machine...
The many misspellings above are intentional. Those are the misspellings used in the yearbook itself, so I repeated them here for historical accuracy. Most of the photos match up, even if you'll be thrown for a loop at just how young and different the man later known as "The Taskmaster" looks here as regular Kevin Sullivan. It should be noted that the picture used for Toni Rose is actually her tag partner Donna Christanello. The two were often mistaken for each other in photos, and I always enjoy seeing my late friend Donna show up. She is sorely missed.
It's always a blast to look through these publications. Back then, they were a fun look at the stars of the wrestling world as it was in your area. Today they're a time capsule of a bygone era with men and women who are now legends. Featured here were the stars of what the wrestling world knew as "New York." They filled the Garden to capacity and then moved onto the next town, no matter how big or small. The promoters were happy with an ass every eighteen inches, the wrestlers were happy with a decent check and a six-pack.
May those days be remembered forever...
Thursday, May 10, 2018
It's been a tough couple of months for names associated with wrestling in the Steel City. First Johnny Valiant's tragic death, followed by the unexpected passing of the all-time Pittsburgh wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino. Now, Nick Busick, best remembered as Big Bully Busick, has died after a long battle with cancer.
Busick got his start in Pittsburgh in the late 70s, Though he was largely a preliminary wrestler in many areas, that made him no less a name among fans and peers alike. His most remembered stints would likely be in the GWF and, of course, the WWF.
The cigar-chomping Bully's run in the World Wrestling Federation, managed by Harvey Wippleman, was brief but memorable. He had matches with many of the WWF's top stars including Bret Hart and Sid Justice. His run yielded two trading cards in a European set produced by Merlin, as well as inclusion in the 1991 Survivor Series program as he was originally scheduled to be part of the event.
In the Pittsburgh and West Virginia area, Busick was a familiar face. He made various appearances at wrestling, mixed martial arts, and bodybuilding events over the years. Despite being a "Big Bully," Busick had a way of making everyone feel like an old friend, or even part of the family that he cherished so much. Welcoming one and all to his personal Facebook page, his love for his family was regularly waved like a flag.
It was also on social media that many fans learned of his cancer battle, which he was also not shy about. Few put up a braver fight against the dreaded disease, which I'm sure he raised awareness of as he often talked about.
From bodybuilder to wrestler to police officer to family man, Busick was another role model in the vein of Sammartino. His friends and family have a lot to be proud of when remembering "The Bully..."
"Big Bully" Nick Busick
Thursday, May 3, 2018
The WWE Fan Central series features Mark Henry (as Sexual Chocolate), Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Triple H, and The Big Show. They're in the 2018 boxy packaging that I love and really could have been part of the previous Toys "R" Us exclusive line, the WWE Network Spotlight collection. It's "The World's Largest Athlete" that we're focusing on today, who has always been one of my favorites to collect as an action figure. There's just something about a legitimate giant that translates well into plastic. Plus, stretching back to the days of the well-remembered and dangerous (did you ever hit another kid with one?) King Kong Bundy LJN figure, you just feel that you get your money's worth with the bigger guys.
Speaking of Andre, this is the second figure to include the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy. Just as in its original release, the trophy is "breakable" for jealous runners-up to smash in an epic tantrum. The trophy itself doesn't have quite the "shine" that the first release did, but unless the two accessories are side-by-side, you wouldn't really notice. It remains one of my all-time favorite wrestling figure accessories and looks great packaged with, in my opinion, the most deserving of the Andre Battle Royal winners to date.