Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Winds of Change...

And with that we wrap up yet another year. It's hard to believe. It's also hard to believe that in just a few months we'll be celebrating ten years of the blog. More on that in a bit. First, I must address your questions, "Where are the J\/\/ Awards? Is the coveted 'Joshie' not being awarded this year?" Well, yes and no. There will be a Figure of the Year named, but other than that we have seen the last of the awards. To be simple and to the point, there just isn't enough great new merchandise out there anymore to warrant so many awards. That, coupled with the news at the end of this entry, should explain it.

How about that "Figure of the Year?" Just who is it? In a year with many great figures, the top choices reviewed on this very blog, I must go with one that hit fairly early on. It would be the first Mattel WWE release of none other than everyone's good, close, personal, longtime friend, Mean Gene Okerlund. While it was a retailer exclusive (an ever-growing blight on the Mattel line), the Gene Mean figure was near-perfect. Many had issues keeping one arm attached while the other became a burden when switching it out to change the included blazer colors. Ultimately the greatness of the likeness won out.

It didn't hurt that Mean Gene is one of the most beloved wrestling personalities of all-time. On camera he was a complete character, often with a stronger personality than many of the wrestlers. That helped those lacking in the "mic skills" department, however, as Gene knew how to bring a story out of them. Off camera, he's exactly as you would imagine. Mr. Okerlund still tours the appearance circuit frequently, so if you have the chance to meet the Hall of Famer, take advantage of the opportunity.

There is one more J\/\/ Award for 2018. That would be the "Thanks For The Memories" award. For the first time since that award started, this individual is very much alive and well. This gentleman always let me know how much he'd love to one day be awarded a "Joshie," and there has never been a better time. The 2018 honoree is a man by the name of John Wroblewski, known to many as Johngy. A journalist with a strong mainstream background, I first discovered " Johngy's Beat" many years ago thanks to his frequent coverage of meeting wrestlers and other celebrities. Soon, Johngy began featuring me on his site and in-turn greatly helped the success of this blog. Thank you, Johngy, for all of that help. We *will* finally meet one of these days, and maybe I'll have a physical "Joshie" for you at that point. Did you all notice his resemblance to Jay Leno? I mention that in hopes that I can join an elite club. I'd be remiss if I did not mention the photo here, with both of the 2018 J\/\/ Award winners celebrating the news.

And with that, J\/\/'s Wrestling Memorabilia Blog moves in a different direction. This is the last weekly post of the blog. By no means is the blog ending, I've simply come to the decision that weekly posts are no longer sustainable. It was not an easy choice, but many things factored in. We will still be looking at the best in wrestling memorabilia and memories, but on a less structured basis. The tenth anniversary is rapidly approaching, and there is no way that we won't all be celebrating. Keep an eye on us on all forms of social media including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit for information on when new entries post. Trust me, this blog isn't going anywhere...

...and if you like the blog, you'll love the book. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

RIP 2018 -- Legendary Losses of Many We Thought Were Immortal

As our favorite stars age, they begin to fade away. In the world of professional wrestling, dozens of those individuals are leaving us each year. For the past fifteen or so years, it's been an overwhelming trend. 2018 held many shockers, including one that many of us thought would truly live forever. This annual entry remembers just a few of those names, but as always is no sleight on any who may have been overlooked.

This year saw the deaths of Bruno Sammartino, Big Bully Busick, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, Don Leo Jonathan, Dynamite Kid, Nikolai Volkoff, Brian Christopher, Brickhouse Brown, Johnny Valiant, Masa Saito, Matt Cappotelli, Frank Durso, Paul Jones, Rockin' Rebel, Big Van Vader, Larry Hennig, Dick Slater, Chris Champion, Doc Dean, Mt. Fiji, Frank Andersson, Jose Lothario, and Villano III.

The Pittsburgh wrestling community was rocked to its core with the death of Bruno who was the cornerstone of a once thriving wrestling hotbed. There is no doubt that with his passing, the Pittsburgh wrestling scene as it was is gone forever. The deaths of Busick, Valiant, and Volkoff also factor into the Steel City, with all three having major ties. In December, journeyman Frank Durso also passed. Nicknamed "Slip Mahoney" by the late voice of Pittsburgh wrestling Bill Cardille, Durso ended up getting back into the local independent scene up until a few years ago and possibly enjoyed his greatest fame.

Dick Slater's death was not unexpected due to many issues over the past decade. Though he spent time in nearly every major organization of his era, one must wonder if his career could have been much more than it ended up being. Though not a national household name, Slater had the respect of fans and peers alike for his in-ring work and truly living up to his WWF nickname of "The Rebel."

Paul Jones was always a personal favorite of mine, though I only came in on his managerial career. Looking back at old footage, reading the magazines, and hearing the enthusiasm and testimonials of so many old school fans at the Charlotte Fanfests over the years, the real "Number One" really came to life. Possibly too small to have caught on nationally, Jones was a bonafide superstar in areas like Florida and the Carolinas. He was also a really fun guy to talk to who kept it real with fans in his later years.

The list of 2018 almost seemed endless as it continued to grow. A variety of situations, circumstances, and ages surrounded these deaths. All we have left are the memories, carried by each and every fan who these individuals touched. As the rings get emptier and the convention guest lineups get shorter, the ring in the great beyond just grows more crowded.

To paraphrase Jim Cornette, "They aren't making any new legends."

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Very Dusty Christmas

Here we are, Holiday 2018, with more living proof that The American Dream still lasts. If you've been a good little boy or girl this year, you may just end up with Big Dust under your tree. Though "The Dream" has had Elite style figures before, this is his first inclusion in the actual Elite lineup. Keeping with the holiday season, where better to take a look at this figure than beside the Christmas tree? Warning: if fake white Christmas trees offend you, I would go no further. Personally, I think Christmas trees of any make, color, or material are eye candy...canes.

As we go into 2019 with Mattel making many fumbles along the way that have already been documented here, it looks like we're keeping something positive: the rectangle packaging! My love for it has been well described on this blog, as has my dislike for the flimsy plastic/cardboard "backdrop" stands. The latter? Seemingly gone! They looked terrible, were cheaply made, and could not have been appealing to the kids or adults who are buying these figures.

New to the line is what is being called "True FX." Touted on the bubble of the packaging, this is supposedly a new digital scanning tool. We know it isn't used on this figure, as this Dusty facial likeness has been utilized on figures for nearly a decade. It's a good likeness, but not as good as the Dusty figure included with the Target exclusive WCW ring set. For whatever reason, that sculpt/scan has not been seen again to date.

What I love about this figure are the accessories. You get Dusty's truckers hat, sunglasses, elbow pad, "Big Gold" belt, two interchangeable fists, and removable t-shirt. Along with "True FX," interchangeable hands are another new feature going forward. So far, they seem relatively easy to switch in and out. I don't know that it's necessary to include them with every character, but it's a lot better than the aforementioned stands. The hat fits well, but the sunglasses want to pop off. They are not as snug as those recently released with JJ Dillon and Ric Flair.

The key here is the t-shirt. It's a reasonable facsimile of the old NWA/Jim Crockett Promotions "American Dream" shirt that Dusty frequently wore. Though you do have to remove the elbow pad to put it on, it fits Big Dust very snugly. Honestly, it will look even better on the Target exclusive Dusty that I mentioned above, which is ultimately the better figure. Still, this is a very nice figure on its own merits. The belt is the standard release with the WWE logo, but it is what it is. It's just nice that we get yet another accessory included.

A nice treat from Mattel to end 2018 and begin the new year. This certainly covers more ground in the Dusty Rhodes figure world, although there are still three more looks that I'd like Mattel to tackle: jacket, red polka dots, and early 2000's/ECW. Let's be honest, though, I'd purchase any figure of The Dream that any company decides to put out. He is my all-time favorite, I have many personal memories with the man, and The Dream does indeed live on. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

From The Musty Yellowed Pages--WWF Magazine January 1995

Ahhh 1995. The New Generation. A gimmick that I never necessarily bought into, although I did appreciate that so many of the characters and talent that I started enjoying through wrestling were still around. The cover of this magazine featured three of those with King Kong Bundy, "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, and Jameson. So despite the '90s being well documented as a time that I least like to remember and have probably written about the least on this blog over the past decade, here we are. Let's take a look at what the World Wrestling Federation was made of during one of its most tumultuous times.

As evidenced by the cover, this is the 1994 Christmas issue. Although magazines are all but a memory now, for those of you who are too young to know, periodicals were usually dated far ahead. We would have purchased this off of the newsstand just as Christmas trees and Kris Kringle were fresh on our minds, thus King Kong Bundy dressed as Santa Claus.

I used the word "tumultuous" above to describe the WWF at this point in time and that was no exaggeration. In front of the cameras the fans were dealing with a constant trade-out of talent in an attempt to introduce new stars and create new superstars. This didn't always work, thus displayed by King Kong Bundy being a lead heel on the roster. Behind the scenes the company was dealing with the fallout of the infamous steroid trial that saw Vince McMahon front and center. In a rare acknowledgement of McMahon as being more than just an announcer, a two page article tells of the trial and McMahon's appearance with Chet Coppock discussing some very real-life situations.

We get a preview of "Caged!," which was the first entry in what was to be a regular series of magazines labeled as "WWF Limited Edition Collector's Series." While there only ended up being two editions, these magazines were to take a look at specific concepts such as steel cage matches and Monday Night Raw. The "Caged!" issue featured glimpses at many matches that were otherwise largely unseen back in the day, seeing as that many of these "blow-off" encounters were either dark matches or limited strictly to house shows. The shot of Rowdy Roddy Piper hoisting both the WWF and Intercontinental Championship belts has always been a favorite of mine.

The magazine had other interesting features that weren't part of the WWF's standard operating procedure back in 1995. There were both "The Informer" and "The Bite" penned "secretly" by Vince Russo. Both offered "rumor and innuendo" of "insider" information that pretended to pull back the curtain in an era where kayfabe still lived in a loose sense. "Rookies to Legends," in this issue featuring George "The Animal" Steele, looked at superstars from the past in an era where only current talent was mentioned 99% of the time. To appeal to the kids, we had video game reviews as well as the merchandise catalog showcasing overpriced (for the time) Hasbro WWF figures at $9.99 a pop, as well as now-coveted items such as the Doink the Clown teddy bear, complete with Dink bear.

Jeff Jarrett got a load of coverage in the magazine. This issue may show why. Double J has always had a relationship with Vince Russo and in this particular spread the writer is even shown speaking with Jarrett. This time Double J has invaded Las Vegas complete with showgirls and celebrity impersonators. A later issue has Jarrett, along with The Roadie, invading Hollywood and hobnobbing with the likes of "Golden Girl" Estelle Getty. Talk about a clash in my interests with me being an unashamed lifelong fan of the geriatric foursome as well as Double J.

This issue also features the second annual "Dubious Achievement Awards." It's a humorous look at the then-current goings on in the World Wrestling Federation. I remember the 1993 version being a bit funnier, but here we do get a rare shot of Heidi Lee Morgan in WWF Magazine (battling Bull Nakano) as well as one of the few mentions of announcer Charlie Minn. Though I was still an avid WWF viewer at the time, I recall not knowing who Minn was. I do believe that he hosted WWF Action Zone at the time, which I did not view or record for whatever reason.

We wrap up with a look at the WWF Holiday Wish tour, Lowdown (a collection of news worthy blurbs), a puzzle game, and "Scoop Sullivan," a largely forgotten back page cartoon. Though I missed many stars of my earlier childhood, at the time I still ate these magazines up. They were what I ultimately wanted to get into then. Thankfully, as an adult, I got to live out that dream albeit briefly. In 1995, I doubt I had many more Christmas wishes other than that...