Thursday, December 28, 2023

Looking to the future…

Another year has passed. The fifteenth active year of this blog to be exact, though the actual fifteenth anniversary itself isn’t until 3/22/24. I set a blog goal for myself this year that I actually surpassed. I wanted to go back to the weekly format and stick to it. Thanks to a few “extra” happenings I actually surpassed that. If you read any or all of those entries I truly and sincerely thank you. Every bit of feedback, whether it be in some private comment or even a social media “like,” means the world to me. It means that what I’ve done here has in some way entertained, informed or enlightened and that is what I’d always set out to do since day one.


I didn’t advertise this entry on any social media entities for a reason. It’s an entry that only needs to be read by the “diehards,” if any such readers exist for this blog. If you automatically come here on your own, then it’s information that you’d be interested in. If you don’t, you may come across it eventually or just wonder “hey, what happened to that guy?” In 2024 I’ve decided to “pull back” a bit. That’s both personally and in public forums such as this. A time for reevaluation on all fronts. I absolutely detest “I’ve had enough, I’m leaving” announcements that folks make on social media. No one cares and the people that respond as such are the only ones being truthful. Instead I’ll try to give you more of an “update.”


The truth of the matter is that I’ve done everything that I’d set out to do, and probably more, with this blog. It got me some recognition in the early days, helped me realize my dream of writing for the magazines before they became all but extinct and gave me some recognition among other wrestling fans and collectors which is always nice. I can keep on doing what I’ve been doing, but it’s repetition. One can only take me talking about Dusty, The King and Bruno so many times.


I set out to give friendly and lighthearted looks at the topics that I covered. Sadly, that just doesn’t work anymore. The world has changed. Some pinpoint it all the way back to 9/11. I think that I’d go a little beyond that, but it’s just a different place. The key to success in this day and age is being an asshole. There’s no way around it. I don’t know if I speak for every genre, but look at who’s making it big now covering what I cover or even those who cover the wrestling business in general. Assholes. Some with knowledge, some without. If they’re not an asshole then they speak in ridiculous slang or act like they’re edgy when, ultimately, they’re talking about toys or other items coming from a product that’s always, like it not, been aimed at children. Then there are those who’ve literally bought their way into your consciousness. They spent their money to get in, you, in turn, spent your money on them and they’ve literally insulted you and laughed in your face. You know exactly what I’m talking about and, unless you’re in denial, hopefully you’re feeling a bit of shame for letting yourself be used like that.


I’ve never talked down to anyone that’s honored me with following my content. While I’ll admit to winning for a long time going by that belief, my successes have indeed stagnated. Add that to the fact that I’m a creative person who’s never had an outlet for creativity that’s truly been sustainable. That’s ultimately the great trick in being creative. I never made money on this. The reward was entertaining and enlightening you, which I mentioned above.


I’m sure that a few of you still get that from this blog, but it’s time for something else. I don’t know what that is. I don’t feel that the blog is completely ending. Again, I think that 2024 is a great time for reevaluation. I doubt that there will be fifty-five entries in this coming year. There may not even be five. There may be an entirely new format or maybe another project altogether. I’ll even be pulling back from most of the social media associated with the blog. That being said, I implore you to watch out for updates. If you enjoyed the run thus far and have stuck with me I can promise you that I’ll put even more of myself into whatever follows. The trick is figuring out what that is.


Again, thank you all for all of the support over the past decade and a half.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Figure Of The Year 2023

It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time once again. What was the single best figure of 2023? Maybe I shouldn’t say single since, as far as this blog is concerned, there were two winners in 2022. There’s no denying that there are now more figures than ever to choose from since, for better or worse, there are now a multitude of manufacturers. Well, at least there are a handful of manufacturers and some kids playing dress up and trying to be manufacturers. Thinly veiled shade aside, more names than ever are immortalized in plastic and as long as they’re available to all it’s ultimately a better market. Let’s take a look at a few of the choices this year, some which were reviewed on this blog and some that weren’t.

You know him and you love him. Virgil was back in 2023 with a new figure from Mattel. This is only the second action figure of Virgil in his wrestling gear to be produced and just the fourth overall. For such a ubiquitous character in the glory days of the WWF it’s hard to believe, but at least he’s finally getting his due. I’m not sure why the choice was made to do this one as a Build-A-Figure as he would’ve been a hugely popular character in the Legends series, but there’s always room for that, too, just change it up to the look he had in the Hasbro figure. (George Foreman on Nutrisystem?) While we’re at it, why not a “Bodyguard Virgil” Retro figure?

Andre the Giant, as usual, saw a multitude of new releases but none stood out to me more than the suited version finally released in Mattel Elite Series 100. It’s a look that’s been ignored for decades and was finally done, complete with a variant. The big man was perfect for all of the “35th Anniversary of WrestleMania IV” celebrations that were held worldwide (you weren’t invited to one? Where were you?) and filled a gap in collections everywhere. My one gripe with the figure was that the huge “paw” hands that were used on about two Andre figures and a Big Show release several years ago were not included and seem to be forgotten by Mattel altogether.

Figures Toy Company added some absolutely great names to their Legends line with the first ever figures of Dr. Tom Prichard, Brad Armstrong and Mr. Hughes among others. Many collectors sleep on these offerings and will be sorry when they’re no longer available. It’s the one line that I would absolutely guarantee a monetary value raise for once they’re no longer in production. The company has also recently announced that going forward there will be a brand new body type for all future released figures. This could be a game changer with some of the unique names that only FTC is seemingly willing to make. As the kids say, “I’m here for it.”

The Coliseum Collection gave us some nice possibilities with Ravishing Rick Rude and Jake “The Snake” Roberts as well as the Rowdy Roddy Piper and George “The Animal” Steele releases that you saw featured here last week. I honestly think that Steele could be my “First Runner-up” this year, if I had one, and I’ll reiterate a point that I made last week: availability is key. All of The Coliseum Collection releases are still available to order at press time. Remember, one of the factors in my choice of “Figure Of The Year” is availability. No one should be left in the cold buying what is nothing more than a children’s toy. Speaking of toys, George came with plenty including a turnbuckle and Mine!

No one could talk “Figure Of The Year” without mentioning the first six PowerTown Wrestling releases. Stan Hansen, Bruiser Brody, Verne Gagne, Kerry Von Erich, Lou Thesz and Magnum T.A. will forever be immortalized as the first figures in what will hopefully become one of the greatest lines of all-time. There were some hick-ups along the way and maybe a questionable marketing choice and tactic or two, but with the upcoming lineup announced I think we’re in for more FOTY possibilities in 2024. Let’s not forget their new “Remco” line, either! Dory Funk Jr, Wahoo McDaniel, Madusa, Junkyard Dog, Kamala and Jack Brisco will make up Ultras Series 2.

We can’t forget Mattel’s Mr. America, Gobbledy Gooker, Rhythm and Blues Greg “The Hammer” Valentine in both Elite and Retro formats as well as various entries from the Remco-styled WWE Superstars line. Perhaps the figures that could’ve caused another tie would have been Samu and Fatu. The Headshinkers were long overdo for a return to the action figure world. Nearly three decades, to be exact. While I got everything I needed from the releases I have to believe that some collectors didn’t end up with what I feel were the more desirable variants, The Samoan Swat Team versions. The boys had never before been done in this style as figures and it’s a shame to think that someone may not have been able to grab them. An honorable mention goes out to their manager, Paul E. Dangerously, who was released in the same series. It was “the mad scientist of wrestling’s” first figure in that look and name.

The winner? The 2023 Figure of The Year? From Junkshopdog it’s none other than Aja Kong. The Junkshopdog line should be familiar to anyone reading this. It’s a line based on the Japanese Popy wrestling figures of the early ‘80s. The fully licensed line has taken on names not only from the original era in which it replicates but also newer stars from around the world. You may recall their Bruiser Brody release reviewed right here on the blog several years ago. Recently the company was proud to announce that through a licensing deal with WWE they’re able to add Hulk Hogan to their lineup. This is especially fun since The Hulkster was indeed part of that original ine by Popy.

Aja Kong has long been one of my favorites. Her appearance in the line follows the release of fellow women’s wrestling star Bull Nakano who is equally amazingly captured. While I’d still like modern articulated releases of both of these ladies, the ability that the company had to take their unique likenesses and translate them perfectly to the Sofubi figure style is amazing. Another huge plus is that these figures come to you in one-hundred percent “collector friendly packaging.” This is a term used for decades which means that you can remove the figure from the packaging without damaging a single thing. Mattel has adopted this with their Retro line, but I’m not as fond of it there. In that line it’s a poor late-in-the-game change that disrupts the flow of the collection itself. Junkshopdog has been doing it since their first release. Best of all, while the company has had some sellouts on limited editions, most of their figures are available to purchase directly from them. No need to play the scalper game here. No “Biggin’” is buying his next bag of Cheetos off of the hard work of these guys, that’s for sure.

I’m looking forward to what 2024 brings us as far as wrestling figures. In my opinion Mattel has had disappointing “preview” showings and, aside from Virgil, the often bright lights of the Build-A-Figure sets have been huge letdowns. They’re also completely becoming slaves to retailer exclusives. Jazwares has seemingly lost as much steam with their AEW line as the wrestling company itself has. Why pre-order any of the figures when most characters are going to be clearance out at $4.99 by the end of year? Maybe it’s the smaller companies such as Junkshopdog that we should be looking to. The issue there is that for every Junkshopdog, which has proven itself to be a legitimate contender for your money, there are five or ten other little boys pretending to be toymakers with varying results. Caveat emptor.

We’ll be back next week to “wrap it up…”

Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Mouths That Roared…And Chewed Turnbuckles

I may complain a lot, but I do try to be fair about it and admit when that complaining is unfounded. Initially, I complained about The Coliseum Collection. I don’t recall how public my complaining was, but I definitely groused a bit. “Here we go again.” “More expensive remakes of figures that we already have.” “The SAME Jake The Snake that we just got in the Legends line?” Well, I was wrong. Between the figures themselves, the packaging and the overall presentation I’ve really taken to the line. That’s why I was actually sad that the latest entry, Rowdy Roddy Piper vs George “The Animal” Steele, was met with a delay. In a few ways, which we’ll get to, these were actually the most anticipated Coliseum Collection entries to date for me, personally. No, we’re not seeing never before made names here. That’s not what The Coliseum Collection is about. We’re seeing top quality modern representations of the characters that made up the beloved LJN Wrestling Superstars line. It’s a true testament to that line that both of “the biggies” (Mattel WWE and Jazwares AEW) are paying homage in their own way at the same time. Let’s see the latest that Mattel brings to the table…and to the turnbuckle!

For as many Piper figures as have been produced I still feel that the longer haired look has been better represented than the short hair style. As far as Mattel goes, the short haired look was long due an upgrade. We were given a taste several years ago with the absolutely great “boxing” Piper figure and, thankfully, the head sculpt from that set is included here, as well. Steele is returning to the Mattel lineup for the first time in years altogether. Both of his previous releases were the same base figure. It was a nice figure but the torso was just a tad too thin for the bulky brawler. I always said that for your shirtless George Steele needs you’d go with the Jakks Classic Superstars version. Since the first Mattel release had a shirt, he was your “go to” for pre-match Animal. Now we’re hopefully getting definitive versions of both.

The packaging on these is grand. There’s no other way to put it. The sturdy and immense outer box featuring spectacular art of these legends opens up to house individual carded versions of the figures in packaging directly paying homage to LJN Wrestling Superstars. It’s a fun touch that the figures are even posed inside of the boxes the way that the old LJN figures were sculpted. The accessories are housed in the boxes below each figure which is were the old LJN posters would’ve been packaged. The Coliseum Collection is certainly growing, as evidenced by the back of the cards! Though he was shown on the back of the debut Coliseum Collection set, the SDCC exclusive Ultimate Edition Sgt. Slaughter is no longer shown on the back. It’s up to you to decide if he’s part of The Coliseum Collection or not, just as it is with the Hasbro LJN-styled figure on which this Slaughter is based. We know that The Hitman and The Anvil will be joining this card back next year. It should be noted that, unlike that SDCC Slaughter, the packaging since has not been 100% “collector friendly.” While you can certainly return these figures to look exactly the way that they came, several of those useless plastic restraints hold them into their individual bubbles.

You get plenty of accessories with these figures including a total of three heads for each and multiple hands. Piper has his shirt, microphone, belt and kilt while Steele includes his own shirt, turnbuckle and Mine. You don’t have to ask who Mine is, do you? Mine has long been a beloved (and pretty) face here on this blog and if you follow the blog on social media you just saw the real deal in an “ad” for this entry. Mattel was the first to bring Mine to the figure world (Jakks showed a bendy-styled prototype at a preview event, does ANYONE have that picture saved???) and it’s good to see him making his return here. The turnbuckle is from the Mattel New Generation Arena set but this one is cut at the top and includes removable “stuffing” for George to gnaw on. You’ll note the lack of red trim on Piper’s shirt and that is due to it being missing in the Piper LJN release. Prototypes of that figure showed the infamous Piper “panther face” shirt which will ultimately never be released. That shirt was white with no trim and LJN likely just replaced the panther with the “Hot Rod” logo thus bringing us what we got in the ‘80s and now on this tribute figure. Other figures in the Mattel line have had the on-screen Hot Rod shirt with trim included if you don’t already have it.

I like the array of heads and hands included. Since the two really aren’t far off in skin tone ultimately any hand here can be used on either figure. The hands that come attached to Steele in the package have only been released once before to my knowledge, with the NXT Cameron Grimes figure. For him they were used to grasp money. Here they’re perfect for George to clutch the turnbuckle. I love the new more pensive George Steele head sculpt, though I think we could’ve had our first no-tongue-showing head in the history of figures of “The Animal” had it been done a little different. Piper’s heads are great, too, especially the aforementioned one originally used in the boxing two-pack with Mr. T. This is exactly the face that you remember any time that Hot Rod was going off on a rant in Piper’s Pit.

I think we have the perfect George Steele here. It’s absolutely everything you’d want in “The Animal” and the body type is exactly right this time around. Does it make the original Steele releases useless? Not in my book. That one can represent ‘60s-‘70s Steele when he was making Bruno’s life a nightmare. As far as ‘80s “boom era” Steele ready to chew turnbuckles on Saturday Night’s Main Event and/or attempt to rescue Elizabeth from “The Not-so-Macho Man,” this is your Animal. Piper is great, too, and fits right in with the inaugural WrestleMania figures that we’ve seen over the past few years such as Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. As with most Piper figures I think it’s a tad too muscular, but with most wrestling figures your eyes will just overlook it. Picture Roddy running his mouth as only he could and a few extra bulges really don’t make much of a difference.

The Coliseum Collection has really become a highpoint of modern wrestling figure collecting for me. It isn’t so much the “Ultimate” body type. It’s the packaging presentation to the accessories to the availability. You know that with the latter I am a huge champion. Everyone should have a fair shot at getting everything introduced in a figure line. Even if it’s a short twenty-four hour window, in 2023 that’s enough time for anyone to pause and place an order on their phone. All three of the Coliseum Collection sets released thus far are available to purchase and that’s a great thing. If someone is just getting started with the line they should absolutely be able to go back from the beginning. With The Hart Foundation joining the ranks in 2024 it’s definitely a growing line. I would not even poo poo the idea of Mattel branching out to “What If’s” by including names who weren’t necessarily in the original Wrestling Superstars line but maybe could’ve been.

I also want a new Hillbilly Jim. Was there anyone more iconic in the original LJNs? Don’t go messin’ with my figure wants!

Thursday, December 7, 2023

The Underrated Living Legend

Not that long ago I made what some would consider to be a controversial statement to my friend. No, I didn’t endorse a political candidate (they’re all awful!). I didn’t denounce Taylor Swift (although I don’t quite get it). I didn’t even say that classic wrestling is better than modern wrestling (though if you think otherwise I doubt you’d have been reading this particular blog for fifteen years). The declaration that I made was that, in the realm of two wrestlers who were very similar in a lot of ways and were also contemporaries, I prefer Larry Zbyszko to Tully Blanchard.

I don’t dislike Tully. Don’t take it that way at all. I’m a big fan! He should’ve had a longer run in his prime, but sadly his salad days and prime earning years collided. Still, even though they had little if any interaction despite being contemporaries, I think that Blanchard and Zbyszko are very similar in a lot of ways. Both had great careers but each left you wanting a bit more. Both had great singles runs but could tear it up in tag teams as well. Both were excellent tag team partners for “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson, each with their own comparative style, in teams that could’ve gone on longer! Tully was a founding member of The Four Horseman. Larry was a pillar of The Dangerous Alliance. They do size up quite nicely.

I will say that, in my opinion, Zbyszko is a tad underrated compared to Blanchard, especially when he had a comparatively longer career. “The Living Legend” celebrated his 72nd birthday earlier this week and was still making the occasionally in-ring appearance less than a decade ago. I’m sure that many, like myself, would’ve enjoyed a WWF run during the national expansion. In my opinion he would’ve fit right in and probably been upper-mid-card as far as roster status, but it wasn’t meant to be. It could be a lack of a run there, something that Tully did have, albeit briefly, that gives him less of an edge in comparing the two. Another advantage of Tully’s, being part of the aforementioned best-remembered supergroup or faction, is something that I would’ve enjoyed seeing Zbyszko part of as well. 

That being said, Larry Z made his own impact. He was definitely of the more recognizable faces in the dying days of the AWA. He had video tapes, action figures and plenty of magazine covers. He was a frequent coverboy for the WWWF programs of the ‘70s and later into the very early ‘80s once his famous feud with mentor Bruno Sammartino shocked wrestling fans in the northeast. His too-brief run with Jim Crockett Promotions in the late ‘80s, between stints with the AWA, landed him several trading cards in the famous Wonderama set, including with The Western States Heritage Championship belt. He once told me that he had been signed by Jakks to be part of the Legends of the Ring figure series (part of their TNA line) and that the figure would include that particular belt. It didn’t end up happening, but Larry did finally get his due with a modern figure in the Mattel line around the time that he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Let’s not forget his several year stint as a WCW announcer, though he never seemed to have the top color commentator spot that he really deserved. With zero disrespect to Bobby Heenan, “The Brain” just wasn’t anything close to what he was in the WWF after he went to WCW. Zbyszko should’ve had the prime spot but, again, it just was not meant to be. The announcer position did lead to a few returns to the ring, but the thought of Larry being part of that great 1993 active WCW roster really brings some regret that it didn’t happen. Didn’t like the Paul Roma version of the Horsemen? Why not try Larry in there? Ultimately we did get that great feud with Lord Steven Regal, but I always felt underwhelmed when Larry feuded with “the new World odor.” Perhaps if Dusty had stepped into the ring during his brief nWo run we could’ve had an intriguing legends feud.

I enjoy seeing Larry at shows and conventions. He seems to be one who got out of the business with happiness and contentment. If he didn’t, he’s putting on an awfully good show. He doesn’t take it too seriously and is always up to talk to fans and reminisce about all of those GLORIOUS years. He truly is a star, that while underrated, made his mark in all of the biggest promotions of the day. He’s certainly memorable, still discussed to this day and best of all he lived to talk about and enjoy it. I don’t think that it gets more successful than that. Oh yeah, and like me, he’s a Pittsburgher! It doesn’t get much better than THAT, either!

Thursday, November 30, 2023

The 1983 Era

What a great year! No, not 2023. I don’t know anyone who had a great 2023. Forty years ago, however, I bet the sentiment was a lot different. It was 1983. What was not to like? We were just coming out of that “the first few years of a decade are part of the previous decade” time period and we were going headfirst right into the ‘80s! But in between listening to “Thriller,” going to see “Return of the Jedi” and spending time with me in my first full-calendar year on earth (now you know how old I am), you needed some great wrestling reading. As was the norm in the ‘80s, Pro Wrestling Illustrated was your answer.

Why 1983? A few reasons. First off, it was forty years ago. Not quite a half-century but a definite nice chunk of time regardless. Again, it’s just a smidge shorter than I’ve been alive. It’s a scary thought. Secondly, look at all the cool covers we got from PWI in ’83. We have a total of ten true blue Hall of Famers spread over twelve covers. A “Who’s Who” of wrestling and definitely some of the most recognizable visages ever to grace the squared circle. Not to mention that three of my top five all-time favorite wrestlers are here. Lastly is that one day, probably around a decade ago, I suddenly noticed something regarding these covers in my own collection.

I’m honestly not sure if I’d just gotten one of them signed or was just enjoying my collection, but I noticed that I was very close to having a complete signed run of the 1983 PWI lineup. At the time all ten “cover boys” were still alive and I’m thinking that I was down to three autographs necessary in order to “complete the set.” Looking at them all my best guess is that two were February (Dusty Rhodes) and July (Rick Martel). I remember specifically getting the February issue signed in one of the final times that I saw “The Dream” and it’s been quite a long time since Martel has made an appearance. Since then I’ve thought about how, while it isn’t my favorite Martel magazine cover (he has two other PWI covers that are much better), I’m glad that I ended up getting this one signed for the sake of the lineup. While he has done a private signing or two in recent years, I have not personally run into him since I had the issue signed.

I will always remember the last autograph needed for the set being Mil Mascaras on the April issue. While I’d met “The Man of 1,000 Masks” many times, for whatever reason this magazine never ended up signed. With an absolute plethora of covers from the ‘70s to choose from and loads of other merchandise, there are always plenty of autograph options when it comes to Mil. Somewhere around 2018 I finally ended up getting the issue signed and “completing the set,” as it were. I will also note that Mascaras has never been anything but gracious with me and I’ve always enjoyed my interactions with him. He’s actually a lot more personable than the self-proclaimed “world’s friendliest wrestler” who likes to complain about the match he had with Mil on TBS, but that’s another rant for another time.

In addition to the aforementioned three we’ve got another Rhodes cover as well as appearances by Ricky Steamboat, Bob Backlund, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Tommy Rich (twice), Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bruno Sammartino and Harley Race. We get great representation of both the WWF and the NWA as well as their respective championship belts at the time. Someone was obviously pretty fond of armbars as the move is shown in all three of the “action shot” covers featuring Rhodes, Martel and Rich, respectively. I wonder if this choice was made on purpose? I know most will agree that the studio shot covers are the ones that really stand out here. The only thing that could make the collection even better would be if the Jerry “The King” Lawler cover from the following year had been done here instead. 

The issues themselves are still plentiful but sadly it’s no longer possible to get the set autographed yourself. With the amount that all of these men signed I’m sure that there are other copies of each signed, but who knows how many. I’d venture to guess that the studio portrait covers are more likely to be out there signed with how nice they look autograph-adorned. I’m never usually a completist on anything myself as I prefer a bit of this and a bit of that, but once I saw how close I’d gotten with this set, how could I stop then? And hey, maybe I looked into the future a bit. Maybe I knew that 2023 just wasn’t going to be all that great and that we’d need a nice, pleasant fortieth anniversary to look back on. It worked.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Greatest Hits Of The Legends

Four true blue wrestling legends on Thanksgiving? Sounds like a winning Survivor Series team to me! Instead of once again talking about the past glories of wrestling on Thanksgiving night, I thought it’d be fun to look back at four Mattel WWE Legends figures that are suddenly new again. It’s the Mattel WWE Legends Greatest Hits series. Exclusive to your favorite bullseyed retailer, the set started hitting stores earlier this month. And what about that phantom fifth figure? He’s still on the back! Grab some bread, Dukes mayo and either white or dark meat. It’s time for your first turkey sandwich of the night and a look at some toys!

While the initial Mattel WWE Greatest Hits line has already had several legends included, a retailer exclusive subset has now been introduced and is dedicated solely to the stars of yesteryear. The Greatest Hits concept itself brings previously released figures back to the line, almost always with some sort of upgrade. For the first set of Legends we’ve got The Ultimate Warrior, The Honky Tonk Man, Terry Funk and The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith. The four are packaged in the Legends box design that we’re all quite familiar with. It will also likely be the last set to be in this particular box design as the next regular Legends set release is already known to be coming in brand new packaging. This set has been arriving to the stores in a “sidekick” (those cardboard displays that hang at the end of an aisle) featuring the same art as the individual boxes.

These four figures were originally released before three major design changes in the Mattel line: “True FX” facial scans, extra elbow jointing and removable hands. If you already have the four it’s up to you if picking up the new versions are worth the upgrade. Interestingly, Bruno Sammartino is still shown on the back of the box. The Living Legend was originally scheduled as the fifth figure in the series but was ultimately moved to a main line release in the Elite Series 110. Seeing as that this figure was, arguably, the best of the series, it may not be such a bad move. Bruno has only ever had one release in the Mattel line and that was a decade ago. This figure will seemingly have a greatly updated face thanks to the new technology and, for the first time as a figure anywhere, Bruno will be released in green trunks. It should be noted that while he remains on the packaging for this series, he was omitted from the store display art.

One of these figures is brand new to me, personally, and that would be Davey Boy Smith. This was the very first figure of the British Bulldog released by Mattel over a decade ago and, at the time, I simply wasn’t sold on the changeover from Jakks. I was basically buying figures such as Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage who Jakks hadn’t made or previously released characters with all-new looks from Mattel such as short-haired SummerSlam ’90 Rick Rude. For whatever reason, short-haired Hart Foundation Davey didn’t make my cut back then. Now he does. I’ll say that he isn’t quite bulky enough and maybe that put me off of the original release. We all remember how big Davey was at the time, albeit with tragic consequences. Still, I’m glad to finally get the figure and the soft goods Hart Foundation vest is great.

The Ultimate Warrior is always a favorite and a hot seller. This look has been done several times but the Elite version here was first available in a Flashback series that I reviewed here on the blog so many years ago. Included are the Macho King’s “breakaway” scepter (the plastic-y Royal Rumble ’91 version that was used to cost the Warrior the title while he was wearing this attire) and the WWF “winged eagle” championship belt on the never-before-released pinkish-purple strap. The inclusion of a “new” belt should cause this figure to be popular alone. While I have tons of fists from other figures, as I’m sure you do as well, I really feel a set should’ve been included here. The Warrior’s fists were always flying.

The Honky Tonk Man in his blue jumpsuit was a welcomed addition to this set by many. Not only is it an iconic look, but the original release has deteriorated in the eyes of many. This blue jumpsuit with The Honky Tonk Man caricature was originally included in the Retrofest line a few years ago which is best remembered for being packaged in cool arcade game cabinet-styled boxes. What the line is infamous for is that the blue jumpsuit has faded to a light purple for many collectors. Hopefully a different dye/material/whatever was used to prevent this for this re-release. The face is sort of neutral here and I wouldn’t say that it really looks EXACTLY like ol’ HTM, but it’s not someone completely different, either.

For a few reasons, the star of this set for me is The Funker. We may have just lost him, but we all knew that he’d live on. This version of Funk relives his reign as ECW Champion. The face looks pretty much identical to the original but it’s two other features that I enjoy. The first is the inclusion of taped fists. You know you’ve seen countless photos of The Funker posing with those legendary and lethal taped fists. The other feature, which is included with all of these figures, is that the head is removable. Because of this you can take one of the heads from the Terry Funk figure out of The Coliseum Collection and attach it to this body. While the tights are a tad more colorful here, this “mix” is very close to an ’89-era Funk look. I can feel the figure photography already.

This is a solid set. It would have been even better with Bruno, but at least we are eventually getting him. I predict good sales, too, as it’s hitting just as the holiday buying season is kicking in. That’s not to say that these guys will evade clearance completely, but you just don’t know. Grandma Mabel Bertha Ethel remembers these names and is sure that her grandson, Hunter Axel Liam, is going to want these under his tree. It’s also hard to say if stores will be getting shipments beyond what comes included in the sidekick display. Whatever the case may be, it’s a nice lineup to kick off the Legends Greatest Hits. Now go! Get outta here! Grab another sandwich or make your first leftover plate. Why not fire up a classic Survivor Series? To make it simple for you, I’ll suggest 1989. You know you want to hear Vince yelling the names.

“Gobble, gobble.”—Gorilla Monsoon

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Wrestling MarketWatch: Back To The ‘80s!

I remember my early days of going to toy shows. You know, that great time before every single event labeled itself a “con.” When you could pull a loose “black card” LJN from a 75 cent box. The good old days, as it were. Anyway, I’d often see the same guy in those peaceful morning shopping moments. Physically he wasn’t always the same person, though sometimes he was. It was more of his style, if you can call it that. It was men in their 60s or 70s. Always hunting items from old sci-fi entities like “Forbidden Planet” and discussing the nuances of “Robbie the Robot.” Loudly, for everyone to hear. Always slicked back silver hair, drenched in a half bottle of Aqua Velva and, sadly, just the picture of loneliness from top to bottom. I didn’t pity these men. I guess, in my mind, I sort of applauded them for putting themselves out there and thinking nothing of it. Those types don’t show up much anymore. They’re either, sadly, gone, or are just no longer interested. Have us fans of ‘80s entertainment and pop culture replaced them? In a sense, I guess. But I’m not lonely, I don’t use Aqua Velva and I cannot stand hair product. I guess I have those three things going for me.

In any case, this blog is certainly a place where we celebrate those who love the past, so this time in MarketWatch we’re goin’ “Back to the ‘80s!” It’s been a year since we last tackled the topic in MarketWatch and we’ll even check in on an item that we looked at back then, too. Did the price go up? Did the price go down? My lips are sealed. Well, until we look at that item, that is. As always, prices listed are for non-autographed examples unless noted.

*You might say that the ‘80s were beyond the heyday of Bob Roop, but he was still tearing up rings in Florida and Kentucky among other places. Long known for his legitimate wrestling skills (find the film of him “stretching” wrestling hopefuls under the watch of Eddie Graham), Roop is an excellent story teller as well if you engage him on social media or have the chance to meet him at an event. He’s particularly proud of his tours of Japan and has quite the memory of his career. He was included in one of the coveted Wrestling All-Stars trading card sets that have gotten a lot of attention over the past decade. His card has been recently selling at auction for an average of $40.

*One man who definitely had his best moments in the 1980s, despite starting the decade prior, was Don Muraco. The Magnificent One was a headliner virtually everywhere he went and owes his immortality to being a memorable face during the early WWF “expansion” years. While he ended his WWF career as a babyface in late 1988, Muraco was a pure heel. His antics with Mr. Fuji are the stuff of legend but I still think that eating a sandwich while demolishing a hapless enhancement talent sums up Magnificent Muraco just perfectly. He didn’t have too many magazine covers, oddly enough, but the May 1983 issue of Sports Review Wrestling, featuring Muraco with the classic WWF Intercontinental Belt, has long been considered a favorite by many. The issue recently sold for the very attractive price of just $12.

*Back in the ‘80s you had VHS, BETA and Laserdisc to preserve wrestling viewing for the future. Amazingly, the lesser of the three as far as quality, VHS, ultimately won out and would reign supreme until the late ‘90s. In the past nearly fifteen years of this blog we’ve talked about the Coliseum Video WWF Laserdisc collection a few times. There are only four titles and it’s a really fun set to have. The large covers/sleeves offer that same feel that records do. It’s why digital media will never truly replace physical for a lot of people. It’s sort of interesting that, when the autograph business (and if you don’t think it’s a business, check out the prices) is at a record high, some of the best items to be signed are on the downturn as far as being produced – that, again, being physical media. You can’t get the movie star to sign a digital copy of their latest film. Regardless, we have all the classic stuff and that’s what we’re celebrating here. The Laserdisc of the first WrestleMania recently sold for $75.

*One man who was a star in the ‘80s, but also the ‘70s and every decade since is Jerry “The King” Lawler. Whether it be as the absolute King of Memphis Wrestling, the cowardly heel wrestling/announcer in the WWF or as one of the most recognizable true legends of wrestling, The King reigns supreme no matter what he does. He even released music as you’ve no doubt seen on this very blog before. He likes to joke that his albums weren’t released, they escaped, but we know that The King has the talent for anything that he does. Though there was some sort of reprinting of his albums in recent years, nothing beats the originals. A copy of Jerry Lawler & The Nunnery Brothers Band recently sold for $40. Memphis music never sounded better. Well…

*Ah yes, the item we looked at one year ago! Who was bigger than The Hulk and The Hillbilly? Hillbilly Jim gets a lot of meaningless criticism from those who don’t realize that wrestling is a show. There’s a reason why he’s so remembered. He’s a mountain of a man, had a great character and a load of charisma. Don’t tell me “oh, but Jim Crockett wouldn’t have had him.” No, they had Hepatitis-plagued Boogie Woogie Man and crowds of 1,000 while Hillbilly Jim was “stinking up the joint” to electric audiences of 20,000. You know I’m kidding. You all know that I love JCP as much as anyone else. I’m just pointing out how silly it is to say one was better than the other. Anyway, I’m feeling as if the prices that surged in 2020 on most collectibles are finally coming down. They have to…who has any money? One year ago the LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars Hulk and Hillbilly tag set sold for $600. It’s now averaging half of that at $300.

And there you have another trip back to the ‘80s and maybe even a little social and wrestling commentary thrown in. Are us ‘80s fans REALLY replacing the previous nostalgia hunters? Eh. I think that some of us know how to keep it on a better level. Even still, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to be like them after all. What were they doing? Being themselves. If we had more people who weren’t afraid to be themselves perhaps the world would look a bit less clownish that it currently does. There you go. Some food for thought and reflection, as well.

Who says that you don’t get it all in the wrestling memorabilia blog?