Monday, June 29, 2020
I've seen many remembrances over the years from fans who recall this being the first album that they ever purchased or owned. In a way, it's a smooth and fun introduction to music for any kid who already knows the wrestlers featured. Back in 1985 who didn't know JYD, Hillbilly Jim, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Mean Gene Okerlund? The cover is also the perfect blend of a chaotic rock and roll album image and the world of wrestling. It'd be interesting to know the whys and hows of who ended up on the cover. And why was The Hulkster simply inset? You've got Macho Man and Elizabeth, Ricky Steamboat, The U.S. Express (who Real American was famously originally meant for), Missing Link, and even Mona Flambé, the black-wigged alter ego of Cyndi Lauper.
Speaking of Cyndi Lauper, it's always shocked me how little Wendi Richter was involved in this album. She was a huge star at the time of its production, was directly connected with Lauper and David Wolff who produced the album, yet doesn't even appear on the cover. Her infamous departure from the company did not come until nearly three weeks after the album's release, so that obviously couldn't have played a factor. You would think an idea for a new theme song for her could've been in the pipeline to avoid future licensing of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," but that's only speculation. Aside from appearing in the video, the mega-hot female star is relatively disassociated with the project.
The album itself was initially released on vinyl and cassette, while a compact disc release had to wait nearly two decades. There were three singles, those being Grab Them Cakes, Don't Go Messin' With A Country Boy, and Land of 1,000 Dances?!!?, the last of which had a video filmed at a WWF taping in Poughkeepsie, NY. The trio was released as 45's complete with picture sleeves. A 12 inch single of Dances was done with a cover featuring photos from the video itself and includes both the dance and instrumental version of the song. I've also found a 12 inch single featuring Real American and Grab Them Cakes with a plain black sleeve. Variations could definitely exist out there.
Aside from the albums, promo flats/posters, and a reissue on colored vinyl from a few years ago, memorabilia largely remains limited to the original releases. Seeing as how Mattel seems to enjoy paying homage to the history of WWE, it would be fun to see a future figure or set packaged in some way as a remembrance to the album. If they were to get the rights to Cyndi Lauper (as they recently did Mr. T), this would be a no-brainer. It's also sort of surprising that the company hasn't recreated or paid tribute to the album and video in some way over the years. Somehow they feel that they didn't retain the rights to at least some of the music as Country Boy is no longer used.
All of the items that do exist have gone up in value. Even the basic album itself on vinyl will cost you around $30 on a good day. The various singles have gone up and down in price but rarely appear all at once. It will be a hunt, especially with the picture sleeves. Is it worth it? You'll be a Real American if you do it, but it's not For Everybody. Once you collect them all and Grab Them Cakes, you can tell Rick Springfield to eat his heart out.
Ok, I'm done, Cara Mia.
Thursday, June 18, 2020
In a cool twist, the Elite 77 packaging reflects SummerSlam not only with the logo of the event but also bright, shelf-jumping colors. Each character is also represented with a look that they appeared in at various SummerSlam events over the past three decades. Headlining the set we've got "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt, Viscera, Ravishing Rick Rude, Miss Elizabeth, AJ Styles, and Ronda Rousey. It should be noted that there is a "chase" Rick Rude in different tights and Mattel's first release of Classy Freddie Blassie ships in the same case as a "collector's edition." The latter is not connected to the set in any way other than being randomly dispersed in the case.
Looking at the re-releases first, I'll explain my bias. Yes, Elizabeth and Rude are re-releases, but they're legends or "Flashbacks" as Mattel prefers to call them. They don't have countless releases like Styles and Ronda, therefore I don't lump them all together. Styles happens to be one of my favorite modern wrestlers, so I never completely shy away from new figures of him. The gloved hands, shirt, and vest are all solid accessories. The journey of AJ's hair has been interesting to follow both in his WWE career as well as in his Mattel figures. Here we have what I can only describe as the "Marlo Thomas flip." If that's a meaningless reference to you, get off my lawn. Ronda is easily my least favorite figure in the set, but it isn't bad by any means. She has some face paint on here which makes her unique in my collection if not the whole line. I thought I was complete with her when the "Ultimate" figure was released, but one more won't hurt.
Many fans are seeing The Fiend as the star of the series, but my vote goes with Big Vis. Always a huge fan of Nelson Frazier, I will say that this is the definitive figure of Viscera if there ever was one. The figure easily wins the "LJN King Kong Bundy Award" for providing more-than-your-money's-worth. Not only is the figure massive with a picture-perfect likeness, but also included is the Hardcore Championship and three unique sets of hands including a pair posed in the "V" symbol. The Fiend is a winner, too, complete with the horrifying head lantern. I'll give Mattel one thing, they certainly don't shy away from content like many worried about when they took over the line. The body is also heavily tattooed and the scan of the mask looks great to me.
Another Elite set in the books and on the blog. I have a feeling that more will be here before summer's end. As much as I complain about Mattel, they're doing something right, and grabbing plenty of money from both you and me while they're at it.
Thursday, June 4, 2020
With how popular the merchandise from this era still is, the nostalgia is obviously strong. In this latest installment of Wrestling MarketWatch, we'll take a look at some recent auction selling prices for a handful of classic collectibles that capture the spirit of the era. As always, prices noted are for non-autographed examples.
*The World Wrestling Federation was waving their banner high. As high as the sky, in fact. This is the time when the WWF airship, or blimp, or zeppelin, would travel around the country proudly promoting the logo of the "worldwide leader in sports entertainment." An inflatable replica of the airship was briefly offered in the WWF Merchandise Catalog. As with many catalog items, rarity rules. This was actually given to me for Christmas 1995 as a gag gift. You see, my view of SummerSlam 1995 was partially obscured by the "Supersize Stridex Airship" which was present at events of the time. I guess this was to remind me of that. This inflatable toy recently sold at auction for $190.
*If you're talking HBK in the 1990's, you have to mention the man known as "Big Daddy Cool." Kevin Nash as Diesel was one of the great hopes of the WWF at this time, which is obvious by his year-long run with the WWF Championship. Fans were behind him, but he probably would've been more successful in another era. The company had two trading card series from the manufacturer Action Packed during this time, and the second set featured two "jumbo" cards that were roughly the size of promo photos. The one featuring Diesel recently sold at auction for $35.
*Speaking of centerpieces, the WWF year has always focused around WrestleMania. In 1995, that event featured Shawn Michaels against Diesel and football great Lawrence Taylor against Bam Bam Bigelow. Despite it being a time when wrestling was very much out of public and media consciousness, the latter match did garner some mainstream publicity which had to have pleased the company. Ringside celebrities Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy, however, remained looking bored. The program from the eleventh installment of WrestleMania recently sold for a rather conservative $45.
Were you a fan of The New WWF Generation? Obviously many were. As much as it would hurt many to hear, I actually find it more watchable than the "Attitude Era" which was to follow. Give me cartoony goofiness over gratuitous sex and smut any day. But maybe I'm just old-fashioned.