Thursday, November 25, 2021

Introducing...The Warlord

Over four years ago here on the blog I predicted that Mattel would "never go the Powers of Pain route." I like to admit when I'm wrong and I was indeed incorrect. In that entry I was reviewing the initial Mattel release of The Warlord which represented his look from 1990-1992. As he and many others had just become involved in a class action lawsuit led by an ambulance-chasing lawyer (the suit was ultimately thrown out), it was said that the figure just escaped cancellation. While the WWE/Mattel stance on those who were involved in the lawsuit is still murky at best, we finally have another version of The Warlord in the line.

This figure of the burly brawler represents his "Powers of Pain" look. The tag team with The Barbarian began in the NWA and lasted until 1990 when the team was split up in the WWF. The figure is an exclusive to Wal Mart and is part of the "Collector's Series" program that I've lamented many times on this blog.

The packaging has never been among my favorite designs, but I don't hate it. It works for the purpose. I'm glad to see some new, very attractive packaging taking its place shortly. With the combination of The Warlord naturally being a larger figure and only one extra pair of hands included, there isn't much floating in the bubble to distract from the figure if you're a carded/boxed collection. I will admit that this is one that I picked up an extra of for autograph purposes. The Warlord is wearing his Powers of Pain entrance gear inside the box and it looks great. Just looking at the box it's hard to fathom that we're getting this figure from Mattel, but it's certainly not the first surprise to come over the years.

There's a ton of detail in this figure from the removable arm band to his name on the back of his entrance vest. There was some initial whining from the peanut gallery as part of "Powers of Pain" is missing from the text on his leg. It was covered in real life as well. You either want realism or you don't. Like a lot of instances in society these days, they want it both ways. In truth there isn't an unrealistic part of this figure. You can argue that it's easier to get a good likeness when face paint is involved, but you still have to some semblance of a good facial scan/sculpt. The torso is the same as used from the first Warlord figure and obviously fits the bill.

Other criticism for the figure, again unfounded in my view, was that there are no known plans for a figure of The Barbarian at this time. Mattel has made it very clear that, in one of their better moves, they are fully on-board with making a half of a tag team should the partner become available for them to make somewhere down the line. The "British Bulldogs" version of Davey Boy Smith is another recent example of this thinking. I damn the company on a lot of things, but this isn't one of them. Give us more unique looks like this. 

A few weeks ago I spoke of a then-upcoming figure review where I'd look at a "Figure of the Year" candidate. This is it. In addition to being a great figure, in my view a "FOTY" must be widely available. While some have come across the figure in brick and mortar Wal Mart stores, it has been available for at least a month on their website. If you wanted this one you have no excuse of not having it. That is how all figures should be, especially cool and unique ones like this. And remember, just because a figure is easily available initially does not mean that it can't gain value in the future.

Now WWE, it's time to widen the legends variety. Bring us The Barbarian!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Territory Photo Albums--Pittsburgh 1969

Since its inception this blog has always had something of a Pittsburgh flavor. After all, I've made my home in Pittsburgh for my entire life. But "The Burgh" is somewhat underappreciated for its rich wrestling history. Of course we claim Bruno Sammartino as our own, but it's sometimes forgotten on a larger scale just how many big names of wrestling's past spent their time here. Bruno needed challengers, allies and plenty of other talent to fill out cards at the Civic Arena and on the immensely popular "Studio Wrestling" program.

The Pittsburgh wrestling office, like many territories, periodically released photo album publications to remind you of the great wrestling roster in your area. There were five total, all released under the banner of "Tri-State Wrestling." I've featured them on this blog before, with the 1967 edition being a previous entry in the "Territory Photo Albums" series, but today we're looking at the final one that was produced in 1969. 

While the first editon, published in 1963, has Buddy Rogers featured most prominently, Bruno has clearly become the star in his six years as champion. In fact this edition features more Bruno than anyone else. There's no doubt about it, though, he was the man. While most associate New York as his top town, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who grew up in Pittsburgh in the '60s who didn't know The Living Legend. The Italian Superman. The Champ. He was, and still is, a Pittsburgh sports icon revered alongside the likes of Roberto Clemente. 

Our cover features Bruno sharing the spotlight with Tony "Battman" Marino who we just recently lost. Marino is showing off his famous physique without the costume of The Caped Crusader covering it up. With the Batman television series being off of the air for over a year at this point, the gimmick was about to come to an end as well. Mr. Marino was a class act and is much missed. When I had this particular album signed, he even brought the original "Battman" cowl. Did I mention that the gentleman, well into his '80s at that point, had a patch of hair, on his otherwise bald head, shaved into the Batman logo? 

Inside we get Bruno right off the bat! It's actually the entire Sammartino clan. Carol, David and the twins. Despite what we know about Bruno and David's relationship later on, it's nice to see some family time shown here. This album also includes several pages dedicated to "The Bruno Sammartino Course Of Body Building." This was actually also released as its own publication around the same time as well and I would imagine that it set many a Pittsburgh youth off on the right foot as far as training is concerned. I won't go on a tangent, but there aren't any true role models left in sports today. Bruno was the role model in every sense of the term.

As mentioned above we get great glimpses of so many legends who either starred in the Pittsburgh area or at least passed through. Domenic DeNucci, Ivan Koloff, Lou Albano and Tony Altomare, Waldo Von Erich, Gorilla Monsoon and George "The Animal" Steele. We also have the Pittsburgh mainstays like Bobby "Hurricane" Hunt, Jumpin' Johnny DeFazio and Frank Holtz. The latter may actually be the final living Pittsburgh wrestling star of this era following the recent deaths of DeFazio, Marino and DeNucci.

The Tri-State albums always featured bits on non-wrestlers, too, such as Pittsburgh broadcasting legend Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille who was our voice of wrestling, promoters (including Vincent J. McMahon in one of the early books) and the man credited with discovering Bruno, Rudy Miller. This last installment also features a full page photo featuring three young women labeled "Judo Girls." Darlene Kalb, Donna Waxter and Jordie Ludwig were local judo champions who performed exhibitions during cards at the Civic Arena. I have no idea if the three are still with us, but adding their autographs to the book would certainly be fun as would hearing their stories from the era. 

While we always hear about WWF Magazine, pay-per-view event programs and other similar publications, very little is ever written about these great photo albums. I'm both thrilled and honored to document them for posterity. For more photos of this edition, including more of the autographs that I've filled this one with, follow us on Instagram @jws_wrestling_memorabilia. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Move Over Dick, Earl & Danny...Aubrey's Entering The Ring

Let me start off by making a statement upfront: I hate "real scale" rings. I don't care what anyone says, they're all too big. They're cumbersome, hard to build and who has room to display them? None of them really seem durable to last long in a kid's hands, either. Sure, I would've taken care of mine, but remember those kids who would come over and slam the figures together as if that was how to properly wrestle? Yeah, these rings wouldn't last long with those brutes. Nevertheless I now own four. I've had various reasons to purchase them over the years and now in 2021 I've been given yet another reason: the first female wrestling referee figure.

A Ringside Collectibles Exclusive (it's printed right on the box so I don't see Amazon getting this thing), the ring is said to be the only way that we'll get a figure of AEW's Aubrey Edwards. For someone like me who just doesn't care for real scale rings it's quite an investment for one figure, but it isn't like I'm throwing the ring away or anything. I built it. I photographed it. It will likely now be disassembled and shoved in a closet. But what we're really here to highlight is Aubrey herself so let's start out with the positive of this playset.

I had a chance to briefly chat with Aubrey about the figure last month in New Jersey. You could tell that she was thrilled by it and she seems like someone who recognizes what a milestone that it is. The figure is spot on. From the scan to the body type, it even features a tattoo on her arm. Extra hands are included with the best being those counting "one" and "two." Aubrey had told me that it was going to include gloved hands for when blood spills. I would imagine that this was something that Jazwares told her and/or was included on the prototype as it didn't end up happening. It's a shame, but not a deal breaker.

The ring itself is nice looking. I will not dispute that. I'm just not a fan of the size of any scale ring from any company that's been released as of press time. Although it wasn't as frustrating to build as some in the past, it definitely tried my patience. I like the rubber turnbuckles and how they apply just as the real AEW pads do. Tag ropes are always a nice bonus and here they are. The steps are pedestrian but necessary. I've been a fan of the square AEW turnposts since day one and they're well-represented here. A negative is that the ring is themed to the pay-per-view event "Double Or Nothing." The first scale ring put out in the line was the basic AEW ring, but was not worth buying for the figure. It would be nice if Jazwares released a generic AEW ring accessory pack down the line, though I wouldn't bet on it. It serves them better to keep releasing more rings. The mat is fabric and that's yet another scale ring feature that I've never warmed up to.

I found a way to make room in my budget for this thing being a fan of the miniscule amount of referee figures that we've received since the 1980's. At a price point of over $100 it isn't for everyone and, at least at this point in time, not everyone is going to have Aubrey in their collection because of that. I can't imagine that the AEW line will end before she gets another figure but there isn't anything guaranteeing that. I will advise that the best action figure ring that I've encountered in years is the AEW version sold at retail. It's a bit bigger than the basic Mattel WWE rings and isn't quite "scale," but it's certainly a solid and unique looking ring. I've kept the stickers off of mine and in doing so it works with just about any era of wrestling figure.

Congratulations to Aubrey Edwards for breaking ground and in the process becoming a fantastic addition to the AEW figure line! Now, don't count me out...

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Bull Naka-naka-naka-nakano

Don't even lie to me. You've had that in your head for twenty-seven years just like I have. Thanks, Macho Man. You've also wanted this action figure for that amount of time or perhaps even longer if you're a longtime devotee of Japanese women's wrestling or joshi. Hasbro ignored female wrestlers (and basically anyone in the WWF at the time other than male wrestlers) and Bull has never been part of any domestic legends series. Although there were some toys released in Japan that didn't truly fit into any actual figure series, thanks to Chella Toys we finally have Bull Nakano as part of their "Wrestling Megastars" line.

You may recall my review of The Blue Meanie from this line earlier in the year. Each figure is a tribute to the aforementioned Hasbro WWF line and thus far has been much truer to that series than the Mattel WWE Retro figures were just a few years ago. As you can tell by a line featuring both The Meanie and The Bull, there are seemingly no rules as to who all can be included. Between Nick Aldis and Hayabusa already being produced and with such names as The Dynamite Kid, The bWo and British legends "Big Daddy" Shirley Crabtree and Giant Haystacks on the way, it's quite the mix.

One thing that I love about this line is the packaging. The card stock is on point with Hasbro and even without any semblance of a WWF/WWE logo in sight, it's still closer to the originals than anything Mattel did. This isn't a bash Mattel fest. There were some great figures in that line. They simply failed a lot more than they should have and it's both amazing and refreshing that these smaller companies are getting it right.

The thing that is very noticeable even while the figure is carded is that Bull is rather small. The official explanation is that the women wrestlers are smaller. It's not a deal breaker for me, but seeing as that Hasbro's were never really about scale, I'd have her preferred her to be a bit bigger. We'll see how this progresses as the line goes on as the second female figure has already been announced in the form of Luna Vachon. While Luna already has two figures, she's one that I would've gone absolutely bonkers for in the original Hasbro line. She deserved to be there with Bam Bam Bigelow and will finally take her rightful place.

Bull is designed in the image of the Hasbro "suplex mechanism" figures that included such names as Mr. Perfect, Crush and Adam Bomb. The Wrestling Megastars do not have the mechanisms, but as far as I'm concerned they aren't exactly missed, either. This was a feature designed to attract children to the line. While many of us are children who never grew up, I can honestly say that even back then I rarely utilized the "Real Wrestling Action." That's why we kids never had an issue integrating the non-moveable Galoob WCW figures right in with the WWF Hasbros.

The likeness is good and her gear is perfectly captured. I would say that the skin tone is a tad too dark, but she still looks good. The face is just the balance needed between realism and a slight cartoonish flare. This is something that has to be difficult to do, as many of the other Hasbro tribute lines just can't seem to capture it.

At the price point that they are sold at, these retro lines aren't for everyone. If you are a fan of the Hasbro line and wish to extend your collection, this is a great opportunity to do so. My advice is to do as I do and pick and choose which ones you want. That way you have the exact collection that appeals to you. There are names coming from Chella as well as the other companies making similar figures that I simply would never want in my collection, so why would I buy them? It should be noted that another Bull is also coming from Junk Shop Dog in their line continuing the Popy Japanese figures of the early '80s. I know I won't be able to resist that one, either, so expect her to show up here just as their excellent Bruiser Brody figure did.

The Bull is running wild!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Move Over "Bullseye," There's A New Dog At Target!

The two earliest wrestling names that I recall uttering (thanks to the magic of '80s Memorex cassette tapes) are King Kong Bundy and The Junkyard Dog. I still remember my family purchasing the LJN Stretch Wrestler JYD for a relative for Christmas 1987. As my mother was wrapping it, I asked if we could slide him out (the boxes were not taped) so that I could pull the chain. Pull it, I did! Knowing that relative, that figure is probably long gone (sadly even the Bundy and Hogan that I owned are, too) but Target is giving us all another chance to yank that silver chain and grab them cakes, too.

Target's exclusive WWE Legends Series 12 is another wave that's causing both excitement and frustration for collectors all over. I won't go into the distribution issues this time. I've done enough of that this year already. Plus, I have to say that I was personally pleasantly surprised as far as the chase figure in the wave goes. The lineup consists of Rowdy Roddy Piper, Kevin Nash, Billy Gunn and our man of the hour, The Junkyard Dog. The JYD also happens to be the chase figure for this set, with the version in blue tights said to be the chase as opposed to the more common red.

This is actually the first time that JYD has seen a figure release in blue. Both LJN and Jakks produced him in red while Jakks and Mattel have given us The Dog in his white design which is probably his most famous style. The blue is actually one of his lesser-used looks, so if we must have a chase it's the best version to set as such.

The pre-orders for the set were manic as usual. Those of us lucky enough to have folks in their lives with separate Target accounts can try for two, as the figures are limited to one per person. I would never try for more than two, I simply want a fair shot at receiving both versions. With this figure, as well as Brutus Beefcake in a previous series, I lucked out and did in fact receive one of each. For Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase and Greg Valentine I had to resort to reasonable secondary deals while the Jake "The Snake" Roberts chase seemed to be as abundant in stores as the regular version was. Once released the figures do occasionally pop-up with Target online giving another opportunity for the chase. If that doesn't work out for me it gives me a chance to hook friends up with the basic versions as generally even those are hit or miss in stores. It's a silver lining on the black cloud of poor distribution.

With this version of JYD we get his classic collar and chain as well as King Harley Race's crown. Initially I thought that the former accessory was longer than the one from the first JYD Mattel release from years ago. It isn't, though the links used are different. To me, the latter accessory just serves to anger collectors a bit. For one thing the company already re-used it with the RetroFest King Duggan figure. After all, it was his crown, too. However with the confirmation that Race is no longer signed for further figures to be made coupled with the frustrations and anger over the controversial release of his sole entry in the line, I don't think that we really need to revisit his accessories. Yes, JYD famously "stole" and put the crown on at WrestleMania III, but a much better accessory would've been a re-creation of that classic baby blue JYD t-shirt. Not to split hairs, but he was also wearing the white tights at Mania when he put the crown on. Well, at least it fits the figure snugly.

The only brand new part of the figure is the head. I'm not sure that it's better than the initial Mattel release, but it does have a totally different facial expression. It may have been fun to have bushier hair with this one. If they want to revisit JYD again down the line, it might not be a bad idea to re-release the white tights version with a thicker body. The Dog infamously bulked up as his years in the World Wrestling Federation moved along. Honestly, the legs could be a tad thicker too, though that's a common complaint with many figures in the Mattel line. 

Looking back on how big of a star The Junkyard Dog was and of course associating that with how much money he drew, in my opinion he would be the perfect candidate for a figure in the "Ultimate Edition" line. With Target having an upcoming separate line of Ultimate Edition Legends, why not add The Dog? Include the aforementioned shirt, a stockier body and multiple heads representing his various hairstyles. It would fly off of the shelves just like this figure is going to.

That being said, this is of course another one that you should grab immediately should you desire it. It isn't a Figure of the Year candidate, but it's damned cool. Both versions are a ton of fun and since there's never been a blue tights version released before, the chase is worth going out of your way for. As usual around this time of year, the figure reviews here on the blog will be coming in just a bit faster, including one reviewing a certain FOTY candidate, so keep an eye on all of the socials. You can also check out a shot of all three Mattel Elite JYD's on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, so follow the blog everywhere while you're at it!

And yes, I pulled both chains.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Will You Stop? -- Remembering Gorilla

This past week marked twenty-two years since the passing of Robert Marella, better known to millions as Gorilla Monsoon. Though I may have still been publishing my newsletter back in 1999, I generally stuck to wrestling merchandise. This blog was a decade away from being created. That being said, I never had the chance to properly convey my feelings on the life and death of one of my favorite wrestling personalities of all-time. While many wrestling deaths have happened since, many with men and women passing at a younger age than Mr. Monsoon, none have hit me harder.

While my parents grew up with Gorilla the wrestler, I grew up with Gorilla the announcer. One of the voices of the World Wrestling Federation. Almost the voice of reason in the crazy, wacky world of the WWF. While Mean Gene was the pitchman who hyped you up, Gorilla reassured you. When he told you that the world was watching WrestleMania IV, you believed it. When he said that the "SRO" signs went up early for a particular event, why would you even doubt him? He was an honest voice in a world that was built upon blurring reality. And while sometimes he would stretch the truth just a bit ("This match would be a main event in any arena in the world."), he always came back around.

You might even say that Gorilla was the king of the soft sell. Of course his words were meant to get you to come to the next event or purchase that upcoming pay-per-view, but were you ever annoyed or offended by the pitch like when suffering through the announcers of today? Highly unlikely! Another key was light-hearted banter. While it seemingly has no place in today's world, just tune into one of the classic WWF MSG or Boston Garden shows where Gorilla is teamed with Lord Alfred Hayes, Ken Resnick or even Hillbilly Jim. It wasn't all about cramming every second of airtime with the latest Twitter trend. Instead Gorilla and crew would comment on the location, a fan or two, even the food at the arena. It was fun, almost the kind of commentary that you'd hear between pitches on a baseball broadcast. The kind of fun that's been missing from wrestling longer than Mr. Monsoon has been.

And of course, Gorilla had two legendary foils in the broadcast booth, those being Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Jesse "The Body" Ventura. While Gorilla and Bobby are absolutely classic, especially on Prime Time Wrestling and the 1992 Royal Rumble, I actually preferred the Monsoon-Ventura team. Though they did do some regular television broadcasts early on, it got to the point that they were saved for special occasions. The mixture of banter and comradery between the two had a quality that, in my opinion, has never quite been duplicated. I'm also not ashamed to say that after over thirty years of repeat viewings, I've memorized nearly every line of their ten pay-per-view broadcast team-ups. I'm sure that I'm not the only one.

Sadly, most Gorilla Monsoon merchandise was released posthumously. A glaring omission from the LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars line, three Gorilla Monsoon action figures have since been produced and are rightfully sought-after. There have been some cool trading cards released, but perhaps no t-shirt that I've worn in my entire life has yielded me more comments than one produced by WWE around five years ago. You guessed it. A bright blue tee featuring a stylized portrait of Gorilla in all of his jovial, affable glory. Even Mean Gene himself took note of me wearing it once before his passing. It was truly a happening.

With the way that the industry has changed it's hard to imagine that Mr. Monsoon would have much if anything to do with the wrestling of today. It would have been nice to have seen him reunite and make appearances with other legends at conventions and other events, but I have a feeling that more family time would have been most important of all to him. He was a real guy. A real man. We're just lucky that, through professional wrestling, the world got to know him. Forget just knowing him. We loved him.


Robert Marella

"Gorilla Monsoon"

1937-1999

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Even for adults...it's O.K. to play!

There's no doubt that society is ever changing. For better or for worse ideals and situations that were once unacceptable to the general public have rapidly been making a complete 180. No, we're not getting political here. We're staying on the track of collecting but perhaps in a bit different manner than usual. Collecting action figures hasn't always been the most accepted practice. To some it's just "collecting dolls." But what about playing with them? Surely only kids do that. Interestingly enough, adults have found a new way to "play" with toys ranging from superheroes to Star Wars to wrestling: action figure photography.

Go ahead and plug that hashtag in on Instagram. You will be amazed at what you see. Real events and matches recreated. "Dream" bouts and settings that never occurred. "Bookers" creating their own promotions and lineage. Even custom figures of wrestlers who never truly existed. It's all there. Taken with cameras ranging from professional jobs to the one packed right in your cell phone. Go ahead and look around. See what there is to see. I'll wait.

Did you see all of those cool pics? The truth of the matter is that "action figure photography" is an adult way to play with toys. And it's accepted. Did you take a gander at the "likes" and "follows" that these account receive? Escapism. Art. Fun. Whatever you want to call it, it's here to stay.

The action figure manufacturers themselves have totally helped. Figures are becoming more and more realistic every day. You're hard-pressed to find a wrestling action figure these days that doesn't have interchangeable hands included, not to mention heads and of course clothing and accessories. With varying ways to make a single figure appear visually, a crafty photographer can place that figure in any number of different situations with a variety of interesting results. Even mixing accessories and outfits from a variety of different releases can surprise the most seasoned toy photographer.

There are even some companies away from the licensed groups that are getting in on the action. Any variety of dioramas and backdrops can be found to make these photographs completely immersive. Sure, the Rebels can hop aboard a starship or Batman can surprise The Joker in a dark alley, but now wrestling rings can be set up in full-sized arenas. Need a backstage area and/or locker room? You're covered there, too. And of course there's no substitute for imagination and a little elbow grease. Heck, Mattel has supplied some fantastic interview backdrops as cardboard backing with some of their releases over the years. You didn't throw that packaging away, did you?

Believe it not, I'm of the opinion that this hobby will have a lasting effect on the collectible market itself. With more and more buyers opening their figures to have some fun, less will be left boxed. While some will argue that these modern figures are mass marketed and thus will never hold the same value as their counterparts from the past, just point out how lack of proper distribution (thought I'd avoid that word in this entry...) on some of the figures instantly cemented their collectability.

Now then, open up that Mattel King Harley and take a great pic!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Bam Bam Goes Extreme

For being such a walking action figure as he was in life, Bam Bam Bigelow hasn't been immortalized in plastic near as much as he probably should've been. We've received one LJN, one Hasbro, two Toy Biz, one Jakks and now three Mattel figures. For a wrestler who looked like a beastly fireball with a career that spanned roughly two decades, the figure count is a bit underwhelming. It's also a bit surprising that not one of his figures reflects the outfit that he wore in what was easily his highest profile match. 

Mattel's WWE Legends Series 11 brings us Bam Bam in an outfit that we've seen once before as a figure but with a particular accessory that we have not. The series also includes Scott Hall, Big John Studd and Randy "Cream of the Crop" Savage. The packaging has remained consistent since the line returned and, according to those within Mattel, is not scheduled to change despite a new style soon to debut in the main line. With this particular color scheme, the shape has grown on me. The Legends line continues to be exclusive to Target and was the first wave not to be offered for pre-order. More on that later.

The Bammer is clad in his gray flame outfit worn most famously in WCW and ECW. The latter is what is being represented here due to the inclusion of a never-before released accessory: the ECW Television Championship. Bigelow also includes three individual sets of hands which are unique to the figure due to painted tape on the fingers. This gray costume was only seen once before in figure form thanks to Toy Biz in the late '90s. While Mattel easily could have reused the facial sculpt used in their previous two Bigelow releases, they instead chose to create an all-new one. I like both and I do feel that this one represents Bam Bam from later in his career as this figure is designed to do.

As there is a "chase" variant of one character in each WWE Legends wave (this time it's The Macho Man), I'm actually sort of surprised that it wasn't Bam Bam this time. The chase figure is a paint app variation of one of the figures while retaining the same sculpt and accessories. Seeing as the design of this gray costume with the "triple B" logo debuted with orange flames in 1995, the chase could've been that design. It wouldn't have hurt the value of the company's original release of that Bam Bam from over a decade ago as that figure had the original Mattel Bigelow head sculpt as well as his '95 entrance gear.

I'm still surprised that we've never seen "purple flame" Bam Bam done as a figure. It's the outfit that he wore from 1993 to 1995 as well as in his famous match against Lawrence Taylor at WrestleMania XI. Seeing as that it seems that Mattel's well is running dry as far as a wide variety of legends available to make, we could see the design pop up sooner than later. I'm all for it.

I'm also all for this figure. In addition to being a great likeness with a brand new accessory, it's proven to be easy to obtain. It has remained in stock on Target's website and many stores have received the figure in abundance. That being said, don't sleep on it. If you want it and see it available you already know to grab it. I will also add that this is a perfect candidate for "Figure of the Year." As I've made clear before, my qualifications include the figure being reasonably easy to obtain for a wide margin of collectors. This "Beast From The East" ticks all of those boxes. With WWE Legends 12 beginning to trickle into stores, grab the master of the flames before you get burnt.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Bring Home All Elite Action!

See what I did with the title? Anyway, LJN Wrestling Superstars are back! Again! Though this time it's actually for real. In stores. On the pegs.  I don't rally for either promotion in 2021, but I'll give credit when it's due. If there's a battle going on, AEW is certainly ahead on points in all aspects at the moment. They're simply hot while the other company is busy making bad decision after bad decision. But this isn't the Observer. We do what we've done here for over a decade: check out merch! Let's take a look at the latest and most unique entry into the action figure offerings from AEW: Unmatched Series 1  LJN Wrestling Superstars Cody Rhodes.

You'll notice a few things in my "official" description of the figure in the last paragraph. Cody...Rhodes? Yes, this is the first AEW Cody figure to have the last name included. Since I never took to referring to the second-generation star as simply "Cody," it actually took me awhile to even notice. He's just always been Cody Rhodes to me. You may also note that I did not include the word "style" after LJN Wrestling Superstars. Technically this is not a tribute figure but an actual LJN branded figure. 

Looking back you could argue that there have been attempts to recreate the LJN line as far back as 1995. That was when The Original San Francisco Toymakers launched their WCW line. The figures were a bit firmer and a tad smaller but the intent was obviously there. Years later, during the latter waves of the Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line an "LJN style chase" was included. These were even smaller than the Toymakers WCW figures. While the intent was there, the LJN branding wasn't. They're fun and a nice inclusion to a "classic" line, but something was missing.

I'm not going to act like the Young Bucks two-pack doesn't exist. Around the time that AEW was forming, there was an official "LJN Wrestling Superstars" two-pack of the super-kicking tag team released. It certainly counts, but it was something you had to seek out. You weren't walking into Target and buying one. Granted, Jazwares distribution thus far isn't much better than Mattel, so you may not be walking into Target and buying one anyway. Still, the chance is there. This figure is part of the first wave of the AEW Unmatched Collection which also includes standard figures of Kenny Omega, Darby Allin, Dustin Rhodes, Miro and the rookie figure of Dr. Britt Baker DMD. If you follow the social media for this blog you've already seen a cool story (bro) on the latter. 

So what's the figure like? The packaging is a LJN-stylized version of the standard AEW box. It's actually a lot like what the LJN-styled Classic Superstar packaging could've been had licensing been worked out. Just like in the '80s that baby blue is very visually appealing and stands out. The figure seems just right for the box and isn't too big. You get the notification of the included poster as well as a clip and save file card on the back. I didn't even realize that I missed that concept so much until this figure came along.

The figure is definitely an LJN-produced Cody Rhodes. It's not a perfect likeness but it's an LJN likeness. It's supposed to be just there. And it is. The pose is vintage Wrestling Superstars. The size is close. It's much closer to the original LJN figures than the Jakks efforts. Considering the original LJNs were all over the place in terms of size, Cody fits. He would also fit right in with the Toymakers WCW figures. The material used is probably a tad closer to those, too. 

Yes, you read right above. Included are the LJN poster and file card. There was obviously a great bit of detail put into this figure which I have no doubt will carry over into each one that is made. Even the fonts are the same. Now why wasn't I put into the crowd?

We have a winner! As scale and other issues have been slowly worked out I've been getting more and more into the Jazwares product. I've found myself picking up at least one of each character and even multiples if I see myself wanting one for autograph purposes down the line. This was an easy double purchase for me, as who wouldn't want the thrill of opening official LJN wrestling figures in 2021? I doubt these are warming the pegs anywhere. If you see 'em, grab 'em! With the AEW roster as deep as it's getting, it's fun to think about who all may receive the LJN treatment. It should be noted that a Wal Mart exclusive variant of this figure is coming, but that shouldn't detract much from the popularity of this standard release.

And yes, I clipped and saved...

Thursday, August 5, 2021

From The Musty Yellowed Pages--UWF Beach Brawl 1991 Program

Maybe Herbie did have a use for all of that baby oil three decades ago. No, it wasn't another late night at the office. It was UWF Beach Brawl! We've all heard the stories of Herb Abrams and his ill-fated venture into the sport of kings. He didn't want to just be competition for the World Wrestling Federation, he wanted to be bigger than the Stamford-based company had ever been! TV shows! Pay-per-view! Andre the Giant! Cookies! While some of that did actually happen (do we have evidence that any cookies were ever produced/sold?), three decades later we know the ultimate fate of the man and the company. But one tangible product still exists and today we're looking at it: the UWF Beach Brawl 1991 program!

While there are hats, video tapes and a few other programs floating around (does ANYONE have evidence of those damned cookies?), the Beach Brawl program is my favorite bit of Herbie's UWF memorabilia that is out there. It isn't so much what it looks like, though it does boast a colorful cover and plenty of photos inside. It isn't even that I am an avid collector of programs like many of you reading this. I never sought it out. I believe I picked it up relatively cheap in the last decade. What's really been a blast about owning this thing are the reactions that it gets from the wrestlers signing it.

"I didn't even show up," recalled Don "Magnificent" Muraco as he became the first to sign it. He was correct, he did not show up for his match with Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy, but he is featured in the publication. The infamous Johnny Ace ended up subbing for The Magnificent One. Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell got a great chuckle when recalling working for Herb Abrams as "Masked Confusion" as opposed to their WWF "Killer Bees" personas. Even Mick Foley, the most recent to sign it, marveled at it and recalled Muraco not actually working the event.

The program itself isn't too remarkable and certainly nothing compared to what the WWF was doing with programs or even WCW when they would manage to squeak one out. It certainly isn't cheaply made like a mimeographed independent show program of the era, but color on the inside definitely could've made it stand out a bit more.

Despite not winning on this particular show, Candi Devine still has the UWF Women's Championship belt in her possession and gladly brings it to autograph signings and appearances. The still-popular Rockin' Robin was the winner here and has her original WWF Women's Championship. Where's the fanfest promoter who will book these two ladies with Alundra "Madusa" Blayze (who, of course, still has the 1993-1995 WWF Women's Championship) and brings them all together for a special photo op? 

Speaking of things for wrestling fans to spend money on, Herb of course loaded the program with opportunities to order UWF apparel and other merchandise. Again, we know that hats and videotapes exist. The "Bruno book" offered would be the first printing of his autobiography that was released around that time. It is interesting to think that a man who built himself on honesty such as Bruno Sammartino would be taken in by a guy like Herb. It's my feeling that Bruno was so anxious to stick it to the WWF at that point that he was willing to go with whoever was trying to create opposition.

Speaking of Herb, one of the last pages in the book is fully dedicated to him and offers a bio that he most-assuredly penned himself. Perhaps the one truism on the page is the feeling that Bruno and Captain Lou Albano being part of the UWF lent credibility. While the promotion ultimately ended up with zero credibility to speak of, it is reasonable to think that some at the time may have thought that the inclusion of such names would in fact mean that there was promise in the company and that would attract both sponsors and fans. 

There's really little joy in rewatching anything that was produced by the company. It isn't like a WWF or WCW show from the era where nostalgia hits you at every corner. You can tell by the performances that much of the talent was there for a payday and nothing more. Still, others worked hard and tried to make something of it. I'll leave it to you to decide which names fall under which category. It is worth seeking out at least some of the footage for the sake of history, especially if you watched the Herb Abrams documentary produced awhile back. It's also interesting to see Andre the Giant in his brief appearance. I'm sure he just wanted to hang out with his old friends.

If anything it can serve as a warning. You don't want to end up like Herb Abrams. He tried to warn you right in this very program...