Thursday, July 29, 2021

A Beefcake In The Oven For 35 Years

Yes, "The Barber" has had plenty of action figures. "Brutus Beefcake," however? One. LJN. 1986ish. Sure it was released a few times (original, Dream Team two-pack, and as "The Barber" on the black card), but every other figure of Beefcake has been as "The Barber" complete with shears and resembling his look post-WrestleMania III. Finally, in another nice surprise from Mattel's WWE Legends line, the strutting, cocky man of questionable profession from San Francisco returns to the figure world.

As is Mattel's calling card, WWE Legends Series 10 has had some odd distribution. Despite all four being available for a few minutes on pre-order day through Target's website and app, Big Van Vader and John Cena shipped first. Months early, actually. The two shipped to Target stores as well and if you weren't able to get them then you honestly weren't trying. I normally hate that kind of phrasing, but they were plentiful. Beefcake and Diamond Dallas Page were a different story. Shortly after the several minute pre-order window was over, Mattel announced that the latter two would be released months later. It then also came out that they would strictly be released online. This did two things: it automatically made collectors who missed out on the joke of a pre-sale very upset. It also automatically drove up the secondary market price upon the eventual release.

Adding to the upset is that Brutus Beefcake is the figure in the set with a chase variant. The tights are blue with a spotted design as opposed to the yellow and black stripes with the standard. It's hard to say so early into the release if one will truly be more desired than the other. Previously Legends line releases have seen instances where the standard and chase have seemingly been equal (Jake "The Snake" Roberts) and others where both have been a highly desired figure ("Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase). As this blog has always been on the side of collectors getting what they want, we'll hope that the former ends up being the rule.

The figure itself? I love the entire presentation. Nothing different in the packaging yet. I'm assuming that this will change eventually as there is said to be a revamp coming to the main line. Time will tell. I've never been a big fan of the entrance gear being packaged away from the figure and here we get the coat right on Beefcake. The tights are quite visible enough to tell which one you're getting and the colors are different enough to make it obvious. The belt is nicely positioned and the extra hands don't cause any distraction to the figure itself. I do like that the sunglasses are off in order to see the facial scan.

Speaking of that! This is one that is in my "look at it long enough and you feel like he's standing there" grouping. I don't know how many that I've included in this elite club (I know that it started with the Survivor Series Jeff Hardy of a few years ago) but Brutus really takes the...cake. Due to the hair this is an all new head and I really want to see it again. I'll get to that in a bit. The body is the same as the previous Mattel Beefcake figures and the thicker torso really works for him, especially when positioned near a Hulk Hogan figure. I've felt that some of the Mattel WWE figures have been a tad too slender since Day 1. We're not seeing that here.

You get a nice lot of accessories, too, including the coat, hands, sunglasses, bowtie and WWF Tag Team Championship belt. This is the first time that the silver colored tag team belt has ever been done in figure form. While it's not shiny vac-style, it looks great. The only question is who will we see another one with down the line? Do we still have the rights to Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda?

Now comes the hard part. This would be an instant Figure of the Year candidate for me...if it had better distribution. I lucked out on this one. I received one of each in two orders through two different accounts of two different people. I didn't cheat. I simply wanted one to open and one to keep carded. I certainly don't get these things handed to me like some unnamed blowhards that many of you love. I've been doing it the right way for 35 years. But just because I lucked out doesn't mean that the distribution on these is great. Thus far it's awful. Could this improve? Sure. If they're going to be Target online exclusives then make them available for days on end as Vader and Cena were. It's that simple.

And since you have this new head done, Mattel, how about a Beefcake-Valentine two-pack? Brutus in the black and yellow lighting motif and Valentine in purple. It can even be basic and include the silver titles. Too much of a dream, team?

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

When Memory Making Becomes A Memory Itself...

Time is flying. Even with the world the way that it is where it seems there's very little to believe in or hope for, our lives are going by. Now more than ever it feels as if people know that it's time to get out and do what they want. Eat that meal. Go on that trip. Take that risk. When it's over, it's over, so do it now. Thankfully, around two decades ago, I decided that was how it would be when it came out to living the memories of pro wrestling's past. The stars were coming out and it was time to mingle. We knew the time would be limited, but who knew just how limited it would be? Exactly one decade ago was the perfect example.

In August 2011, Greg Price took his already legendary NWA Fanfest out of Charlotte (for what would prove to be the third and final time) and land in yet another wrestling hotbed of the past, Atlanta. This event would have a decidedly Georgia Championship Wrestling feel yet still work to honor many areas of wrestling's past. Even the then-recently released Rob Van Dam became a part. He'd wanted to attend the event for years but wasn't able until his WWE tenure was complete. NWA Fanfest was an event that the wrestlers wanted to attend almost as much as the fans did.

I know that I'm not going to do justice to the list of talent who attended, but among them were Mr. Wrestling II, Terry Funk, Ole Anderson, Stan Hansen Tommy Rich, Ron Simmons, Austin Idol, Joyce Grable, Baby Doll, Manny Fernandez, Fit Finlay, Paul Orndorff, Eddy Mansfield, "Dr. D" David Schultz, Pat and Randy Rose, Thunderbolt Patterson, Masked Superstar, Teddy Long, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Debbie Combs, Paul Bearer, Jerry "The King" Lawler, Ted DiBiase, "Superstar" Bill Dundee, Raven, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, Nick Bockwinkel, Jimmy Hart, Referee Mac McMurray, Darlin Dagmar, Candi Devine, Action Mike Jackson, Superfly Jimmy Snuka, Bushwhacker Luke and likely a bevy more that I'm forgetting.

The weekend was special for me for a number of reasons. While I'd previously met the wonderful Judy Martin, her "Glamour Girls" tag team partner and former WWF Women's singles and tag team champion Leilani Kai had sort of dropped off of the radar. She resurfaced for the show and even granted an interview for this blog in the weeks leading up to the event. At the "Hall of Heroes" banquet held over the weekend, Greg put my friends and I at a table with Kai, Martin (who, along with myself, loved the carrot cake), her sister Cathy who briefly wrestled as well as Joyce Grable. Miss Kai gave me enough stories to fill a book as soon as we met and we continue to stay in touch.

There were also a few stars in attendance that I sadly never had the opportunity to meet with again. Those names would include Joe Pedicino (who, along with wife Boni Blackstone, hosted the event), Buddy Colt, Cora Combs, Gypsy Joe, Killer Tim Brooks, "Dirty" Dick Slater and "The Wild Bull of the Pampas" Pampero Firpo. It's these meetings that make me so glad that I took the opportunity to go on these trips when I did, even when I was living a bit above my means during the leaner years.

More highlights that can't ever be recreated surrounded Rowdy Roddy Piper. The Hot Rod was in full force that weekend doing photos on a replica Piper's Pit set as well as performing his one man show late on the Saturday night of the event, complete with a guest appearance from his son. My personal favorite moment with Piper that weekend was a photo op tribute to the famous Starrcade dog collar match in 1983. Piper, Greg Valentine and you, the fan, posed with the exact dog collars from the match around the wrestler's necks. Talk about history!

I'd be negligent not to mention the great vendor room, as well. While many of the aforementioned stars were available for autographs and photos at the vendor tables, the true gems are often hidden among the madness. Even in 2011, at the end of what should be known as "The Golden Age of the Wrestling Convention," vendor tables were more often than not cluttered with overpriced then-current action figures and DVDs that largely go unpurchased. It's an issue that continues to this day, however I do remember picking up quite a few finds that weekend. I even tasted a little "Badstreet" right there in Atlanta, GA.

I've always said that I'd take any opportunity given to go back in time. 99% of the time I'm meaning time periods before I was born. Here's the odd example of a weekend just a decade ago that I would love to go back to. I'll expand upon why in the future (maybe in book form...?), but 2004-2011 is just about the span of "The Golden Age of the Wrestling Convention" that I had mentioned above. NWA Fanfest went on for another few years and of course there are other events, but those shows that still exist are now listing unknown names who had cups of coffee in NXT as "legends" of the ring. No thanks. I'm glad that I took my trips, and my risks, back when they were worth it.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

It's A Wonderful Memory...

We're losing them. It seems like it's almost weekly. The wrestling stars of our past are disappearing. It's a tad different from twenty years ago when we were seeing the same. Back then it was men and women in their 40's leaving us fast and furious. Now we're seeing older, yet not old enough, stars who lived hard and fast lives passing away or suffering from ailments which will inevitably lead to that. The latest is a man who seemed in such terrific shape during his career that it's hard to fathom that he'd ever actually die.

"Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff is one of the earliest wrestling names that I knew as a child alongside Junkyard Dog, King Kong Bundy and, of course, The Hulkster. Though he was variously a "good guy" during that time, I primarily remember thinking of him as the opposite. He was made to be a heel. He looked too perfect to be anything but an egotistical narcissist long before the latter word ever entered the vernacular of most wrestling fans.

I don't have a direct memory of it, but since we seemed to tune into Saturday Night's Main Event most often I feel that I saw the famous Hogan-Orndorff cage match as it aired. Later on I definitely had it on a Coliseum Video and it remains, along with Hogan-Volkoff and the pre-WrestleMania III Battle Royal, a SNME match that I feel was totally made for prime time network television. It was a quintessential "big fight feel" match. You may be able to argue that other promotions had "better matches," but no one topped the World Wrestling Federation in that era when it came to presenting a match of importance. In those early years "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff was a big part of that. He wasn't in the main event of the first WrestleMania by accident. Not only could he get you to watch, but you stayed interested to see what he did to his opponent. He was a complete performer in every sense.

Although he didn't seem to make quite as many appearances on the circuit as others from his era, I did meet Mr. Wonderful more than a few times. He was consistently a pleasure to deal with even as he battled his health issues. There wasn't a shortage of items to get signed ranging from action figures to cards emanating from the WWF and WCW alike. Though he changed little in appearance, I still would like to see a proper figure representing his WCW years somewhere down the line.

As much as we have to enjoy from Paul Orndorff, I've always felt that there was a bit missing from the times that he wasn't on the national scene. He's the type of talent that should've always had a spot in the big time, so it was likely his own choice that he wasn't as visible. I also feel that he could've been used a lot better in that often-forgotten 1990 run in WCW where he was allied with Sting, Lex Luger and JYD. 

Another legend is gone. I'll miss seeing him in his occasional appearances on television and at conventions. I knew that when I saw him in late 2019 that it would likely be the final time. As always in a tribute entry I leave you a photo with myself and the subject. It's "Mr. Wonderful" while he was still in the good years as we all should choose to remember him.

"Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff