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...