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...