Tuesday, December 31, 2019

And The 2019 "Figure Of The Year" Is...

And what does the year boil down to? Why it's "Wrestling Figure of the Year," of course! Once again collectors were inundated with plastic representations of their favorites from yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Some stars saw their first time being immortalized in such a way while others made their first journey into the toy box in quite some time. Before we get to the winner (as far as this blog is concerned), we'll take a brief look at some other possible choices.

When you're talking wrestling figures, you have to be talking Mattel. Unfortunately, the company which holds the WWE license decided to louse up a lot of the fun of collecting by making many of the most desirable characters limited. This practice looks to be continuing into 2020 much to the pleasure of no one. Two great figures were released in that asinine way, those being Pat Patterson and Sensational Queen Sherri. Patterson saw his first ever action figure in an over 60 year career while Sherri saw only her third and arguably coolest.

Mattel brought other characters back with "Ultimate" editions. While there was a separate figure line called "WWE Ultimate Edition," I was ultimately more partial to the most recent release of "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. Included in the now cancelled "WWE RetroFest" line designed to evoke memories of the WWF WrestleFest video games, Mattel's newest Duggan figure reflects three different periods in the brawlers WWF career. Depending on which accessories you use, ol' Hacksaw can wear his late '80s t-shirt, his regal "King Duggan" crown from 1989, or his 1993 singlet. They even created an all-new "tongue out" head to recreate some of Hacksaw's goofier moments.

The company most famous for Barbie wasn't done there with creating cool figures or cancelling cool figure lines. At long last, "Big Daddy Cool" Diesel made his debut in the WWE Retro figure line. The line was virtually a continuation of the legendary Hasbro WWF figure collection of the 1990s. While Diesel was planned for that line, the figure never saw the light of day. In 2019 Diesel was finally produced in the beloved style...and the line was abruptly cancelled. Thanks again, Mattel.

But the constant disappointment from Mattel didn't damper 2019. Bringing smiles to many was the company Mego, brought back to life a year earlier by its original founder Marty Abrams. Though the company originally began creating action figures a half century earlier, it wasn't until 2019 that Mego introduced its first wrestling figure. Who better to start with than Andre the Giant? While the mammoth Frenchman wasn't quite as lifelike as other releases, the figure included a certain charm that only the classic Mego figure style can capture.

But enough with the runners up. The 2019 "Figure of the Year" is...

Exotic Adrian Street! Yes, in a shocking and unexpected move fitting from the Welsh grappler, the flamboyant and gender-bending wrestler had his own figure produced. While clicking his name in the labels below will bring you to a full review of the figure, what are you waiting for? Hop over to eBay and grab one for yourself. They're only available from Street himself!

2019 is over! Some are cheering, others are lamenting. Whichever camp you find yourself in, remember that 2020 should be even bigger in the wrestling figure world. Will the new NJPW figures prove to be major players? Will AEW reveal a figure line? Which legend will Mattel produce and screw us over on by making limited next? Let's watch the ball drop and find out!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Wrestling MarketWatch: Hidden Gems

Just when all seemed pretty okay in "the new world of wrestling," our window into seeing new content from the past just may have closed. At least a bit. It seems that the WWE Network's weekly additions to their Hidden Gems section are coming to an end. Whether this is a permanent end has yet to be determined, but many of us have consistently looked forward to the weekly release of something either rarely viewed or downright never-before-seen. It was just a few weeks ago that one of my top requests suddenly popped up.

How do the Hidden Gems tie into memorabilia? Let's take a look at recent selling prices of items related to some of the stars who've been featured in the Hidden Gems section. As always in MarketWatch, prices listed are for unsigned examples.

*So just what was that top-requested Hidden Gem of mine? I don't know that it was my most-wanted, but it was certainly something that I'd always wanted to see. When WWE Network decided to post Survivor Series Showdown 1992, they didn't just leave us with the original show as broadcast on USA Network. They also included many dark matches that occurred at the same taping. What I was most interested in seeing was a never-aired platform interview conducted by Mean Gene Okerlund. His interview subject? Jimmy Garvin. In an obvious tryout for an announcer or manager role, Garvin plays heel while reviewing the then-upcoming Survivor Series card. A fun fact learned upon viewing is that a sound byte of Garvin from this interview was used for the "Are you ready for the Survivor Series?" line that comes at the beginning of the 1993 WrestleMania song. Garvin had just come off of his WCW run as part of the Fabulous Freebirds. The U.K. exclusive Galoob figure produced from that run has recently sold in loose condition for prices ranging from $20 to $80.

*WCW itself was featured in one of the longest Hidden Gems. World Championship Wrestling produced two "All-Nighter" specials in 1994 and 1995, respectively, featuring matches spanning the run of the company to that point. Only the 1995 version has made WWE Network as of yet, but it would be nice for the first version to show up eventually to "complete the set." After his arrival in '94, Hulk Hogan dominated merchandise for the company. Around this time, a cool toy race car convoy set based on The Hulkster was produced by Matchbox. The set recently sold for around $40.

*A major treat with Hidden Gems is getting to see many of the legends from the territorial area in matches and situations that we haven't seen before. One of those stars is "Dirty" Dick Murdoch. Not only is the Texas outlaw featured in several full show uploads, but also with his most famous tag team partner, Dusty Rhodes. In the most recent Hidden Gem featuring Murdoch, the Waxahachie-born grappler is shown battling Harley Race in a match uploaded to memorialize the recent death of the latter. Murdoch's only figure, a "Big Head" from Japan, recently sold for $12.

*Answering the wishes of many fans, full shows from various companies have been included as Hidden Gems. Many of these shows were even thought not to exist. Among these shows were several complete Great American Bash cards from various years. While a match here and there may have been featured on NWA television or even a home video release, it's likely that the full events had not been seen aside from those who bought a ticket to attend. A show from the 1988 Bash tour was uploaded and the corresponding program recently sold for around $40.

*While a variety of promotions have been featured, World Class Championship Wrestling featuring The Von Erich family may have topped the rest in terms of frequency. David, Kerry, and Kevin Von Erich have all appeared in rarely seen matches against foes both foreign and frequent. While WCCW and the boys produced a variety of merchandise, it's the board game that often gets the most talk. Produced at a time when generally only the WWF was churning out such merchandise, the WCCW board game recently sold for $125.

I can't see Hidden Gems going away for good. I certainly hope not, anyway. If what has been uploaded already is any indication, more exists on tape than we ever thought possible. And if the company has Garvin's infamous "tryout" interview, you know those pay-per-view dark matches exist...

Monday, December 2, 2019

Well, I'll Be A Son Of A Tongan King

In the "new world" of wrestling, most chatter is still on WWE and its up and coming rival AEW. There's also my favorite of the bunch, NWA (usually called NWA Powerrr due to the title of their show) as well as holdovers from past decades like Impact, Ring of Honor, and Major League Wrestling. But one company that has a chance to be a major player in the future, and in many ways already is, has been around since 1972. That company? New Japan Pro Wrestling.

NJPW has made major strides in the United States market in the past several years with its program on AXS television as well as the enduring popularity of "strong style." How far this can go is set to be tested with New Japan opening offices here in America. It has also been announced that a line of New Japan action figures will debut in the U.S. next year. While we have seen the logo on figure releases here in the States and a full line in Japan, this is the first figure line of the company to be readily offered to U.S. collectors.

While Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay are among those announced for the first offering, one name notably missing who instantly translates into an action figure by appearance alone is Tama Tonga. Fear not fans of this founding member of The Bullet Club, Tonga actually already has two figures. Several years old already, Tonga debuted as part of Figures Toy Company's Rising Stars of Wrestling line which included several New Japan stars who struck their own figure deals with the company. There are both painted face and non-painted versions. Here we go with the much more exciting painted version.

Several years ago Figures Toy Company decided to re-enter the wrestling figure game with three separate lines: Ring of Honor, Legends of Professional Wrestling, and Rising Stars of Wrestling. While exciting names were announced, many making their figure debuts, it was soon discovered that quality control on these was less than stellar. Figures were arriving to consumers with loose or broken limbs and the quality seemed brittle as best. The Blue Meanie figure was reviewed on this very blog with somewhat of a bad taste in this author's mouth after the figure arrived with its head popped off in the packaging.

To their credit, Figures Toy Company responded to the concerns voiced both here and elsewhere on the Internet. They promised that the quality would rise with future shipments. While that did not help those of us who purchased the already-shipped items, it did improve the odds of the company getting another chance.

With Tama Tonga, I would have to say that the improvements are there with room for more. The loose limbs and popped heads aren't here, but this figure still does not feel as well made as the Jakks product on which the design is based, at least not the early Jakks figures which were fairly sturdy. The look of the figure, as with many of these Figures Toy Company figures, is superb. From the facial sculpt to the detail on the attire and vest, it is a great looking figure. These figures fit perfectly with the Jakks WWE "Ruthless Aggression" style figures, and Tonga looks great posed with figures of his father, King Haku.

The packaging on these is also unique with the resealable "clamshell" packages that Figures Toy Company also uses for their retro superhero and TV lines based upon the classic Mego figure molds of the 1970's. Drawings of the stars are used in lieu of photos, probably to avoid any copyright issues. I don't particularly care for the way many of these figures are twist-tied into the plastic trays within the bubble. It makes many of the figures look as if they're in some sort of bondage. That, coupled with the fact that heads and other parts have been found disassembled in the packaging, keeps me from getting any of these autographed. It should also be noted that despite Tonga being a major star for New Japan, the companies logo does not appear here as this is not an NJPW release.

It's hard to give a green light to actively pursue these figures due to the quality issues coupled with price point. It's difficult to find them under $30 per figure. On the other hand, the company is bringing us names like Meanie, Francine, Vince Russo, PCO, and others who've never had a figure and likely won't ever again. Will Tonga even appear in the upcoming New Japan line? Status unknown, but if you're concerned about owning him at all you may want to pick one of these offerings up while the price point is at the aforementioned $30. As unpredictable as wrestling is, the demand for its stars is as equally enigmatic.