Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Legendary Terry Funk

Any good journalist writes these things far in advance. It’s an old tradition/SOP for news obituaries. Whatever it says about my journalistic skills and/or integrity, I just don’t do it. I don’t even feel the need to rush tributes out, though I’m hardly a news site. Pretty much everything on this blog is a reflection and that’s certainly what we do when someone passes. We all knew that we’d be doing quite a bit of reflecting upon the passing of Terry Funk and, while we all knew that it was inevitable, we still were not fully prepared.

Terry Funk was real. While there may have been a few additions for the crazy world of wrestling like the classic “you egg suckin’ dog!” or unleashing that legendary branding iron, everything else about the man was just genuine. He was that Texas cowboy from the Double Cross Ranch. He did come from a family that lived and breathed the pro wrestling business. He didn’t have to put on a front to get you to believe. All he had to do was raise the voice of the real Terry Funk and you already got your money’s worth.

Being the genuine article probably greatly helped make the legend. No matter where he went he was a star. He knew how to adapt or reinvent himself but it never felt strange or out of place. You knew it was Terry Funk no matter which “version” you got and, again, you knew you were getting your money’s worth. NWA Champion? Texas bronco? Middle-aged and crazy? It was all the same guy with very few tweaks yet he starred in multiple eras.

If you listen to the stories of his contemporaries, Terry rarely wanted to be in the center of the spotlight. As long as he was entertaining the fans, and possibly helping someone else out in the process, he was a contented man. He didn’t need to be the winner of the match in a business where ultimately that doesn’t matter. He saw the bigger picture. He didn’t take any of it too seriously and still became one of the greatest of all-time, many say the greatest. Does it get any more amazing than that?

I’ve never heard a single soul say a bad thing about Terry Funk. Closer to my realm, I’ve never heard a single fan talk about a bad interaction with the man. In fact, I don’t think I know a fan who had met him who doesn’t have a great story to go along with it. He never seemed to meet a stranger. He was always willing to sign each and every autograph. He knew that, as amazing as he was in the ring and on the mic, keeping the fans happy is what ultimately keeps the gears of the business moving. No one did it better.

I’m fairly sure that my first glimpse of Terry came on the back of the LJN Wrestling Superstars figure card. While at a VERY young age I may have seen him on a Saturday Night’s Main Event, I remember that wild-looking cowboy figure shown on the packaging and knew that he was one I wanted. Little did I know that some of my best wrestling memories, both on television and in person, would come from that man. In what turned out to be the final time that I got to see him I had brought a ticket from his first retirement in Japan. After he signed it, in that unmistakable Terry Funk voice he said to me, “I really did plan on retiring. You know why I didn’t? I ran out of money!”

I miss him already.

Terry Funk


Saturday, August 26, 2023

Thanksgiving Came A Little Early This Year…

They gave us The Bunny. They almost gave us Santa. We have Hacksaw to cover any holiday that involves the good ol’ red, white and blue. What else is there? Oh yeah. Just my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving! You mean to tell me that The Gobbledy Gooker still didn’t have a figure after nearly 33 years of life? He didn’t, but he does now! Of course, it takes buying the ten millionth release of someone that I haven’t given much of a care about in three decades, but due to the ideas that were hatched in the creation of this set you’ll see that it’s actually worth it.

In the latest Amazon exclusive entry in the Mattel WWE Ultimate Edition collection we get a two-pack that celebrates the 1990 Survivor Series. It’s a show that’s fairly historical for several reasons and has always been a favorite of mine. I can’t say that those aforementioned historical reasons are why it’s always been special to me, though. I’ve always just loved the absolute multitude of stars on one card, as was the case with the first four editions of the Survivor Series. It’s also a rather transitional show. Some debuts. Some departures. Three impactful names over the previous years in Rick Rude, Bad News Brown and Akeem were even slated for the show but, due to various reasons, ultimately didn’t appear.

Even the packaging for this set reflects the show. Once you open the WWE Ultimate Edition logoed brown box you pull out a graphically intense inner box housing the figures. This box is designed to resemble the Coliseum Video box for the 1990 Survivor Series since both of these figures, the Gooker and The Undertaker, debuted on that show. But why is it so big? There are only two Ultimate Edition figures in there, right? Think again. Also included in its own box is the Gobbledy Gooker’s egg, complete with removable “hatching” lid. If that’s not enough, the box housing the egg is actually the black Survivor Series question mark stage that the egg sat upon. But wait, Ron Popeil, there’s more! You get not one but two double sided sheets of cardboard. One side is a small Survivor Series 1990 crowd background while the other is the brick wall backdrop used for the promo photos taken before the event (likely at SummerSlam). As much as I give it to Mattel for the frustrations that they often pass along to collectors, this is the kind of detail that is greatly appreciated.

Both of the figures themselves are in the standard Ultimate Edition boxes and, unlike some of the figures included with The New Generation arena set, are sealed just like figures you’d buy at retail. As usual the plentiful accessories are displayed accordingly which, in my opinion, doesn’t make for a great “keep in the box” visual. Still, aside from autographing purposes, who would keep these in the box anyway? Toys are meant to be played with and if ever there was a toy made to be played with it’s The Gobbledy Gooker. I like that Mattel included Mean Gene and Brother Love in shots on the boxes to further commemorate the event being recognized.

We’ll get The Undertaker out of the way first. I know that I’m in the minority but I’ve never made it a secret that I’m no big fan. As my friend Chris so correctly stated, “Guy was cool for three years and sucked for thirty.” I couldn’t have said it better. For me, he’s always had an air of self-importance that’s very off-putting. He lucked into a character that resonated with a lot of fans in an era where such characters were championed. The whole “locker room leader” stuff that we began to hear a lot about in the late 1990s really went to his head. That being said, I’ve always been able to separate the person from the character, so if I liked the character beyond 1992ish I guess I’d be good, but I didn’t. Regardless, we’re here to talk the figure and I’m sure that this is one that many of his fans have been clamoring for. I, myself, would rather have had the person who he ended up replacing on The Million Dollar Team, Bad News Brown.

What’s cool about the figure is that you do get the black gloves (and multiple hand positions at that) which he debuted in at the event in addition to the more common gray. He also comes with his trademark hat, ubiquitous duster coat, tie and an additional head with alternate expression. The faces are perfect and really run the gamut since, at that time anyway, he was fairly limited in his facials. The duster is soft goods which, as in most cases, I appreciate. It’s a bit stiff coming out of the box and I just didn’t feel inclined to straighten it out much before the photography was done so if he looks a bit rumpled that would be why. The tie fits on when you remove the head. There feels like something’s a bit off when it’s on but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe I’m just not covering it well enough. The body of the figure seems very poseable and should please any Taker fan looking to play, display or do some photography.

Now onto the main event, the Thanksgiving icon himself. I don’t know if this is exactly the figure that Mattel showed a prototype of many years ago and stated would never be released, but from my recollection it’s just as good if not better. Not counting the egg you get two heads and an extra set of hands. Two heads for a costumed character? Yes. In the eleven years between his birth at Survivor Series and his WrestleMania debut in 2001 his appearance differed greatly! We’ll have more on that in a bit. The design on the costume captures those feathers perfectly. The arms are removable like the head and you can remove the “torso feather” piece, too, though I’m not sure that it’s really supposed to be taken off. When you put the big bird inside of his egg for a “popping out” effect I actually feel like this is some sort of Disney set around piece rather than a wrestling figure. It has that “cartoon-character-becomes-three-dimensional” look to it. It’s just fun all around and should have been done years ago.

How about that egg? The “cracked lid” lifts right off to put The Gooker or any figure inside. You could even have certain figures “hide” inside. Maybe “The Eggman,” Andre the Giant or King Kong Bundy (as were all rumored at the time) could finally emerge from it? No, Mean Gene, we’re not having Miss November pop out. This is a family blog.

So after three decades we finally have the big guy. You could argue that it’s a one off and, especially in this style, I’d be inclined to agree. However, knowing Mattel’s penchant for scheming as to how they can reuse tooling, I do have a thought about yet another Gooker that could be done. Remember when we talked of how our favorite wrestling bird was a bit different in 2001’s Gimmick Battle Royal? I could definitely see the alternate head being reused, possibly in a Basic (or whatever they’re calling them now) two pack with another GBR entrant? The costume in that match was MUCH smaller and had far less detail. The legs here would likely be reusable, too. For the Taker fans, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a much more basic version of this look down the line, either. 

Until next time…or Thanksgiving…gobble gobble!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

SummerSlam Stories

The Biggest Party of the Summer! Well, it was. In fact, before the Royal Rumble really took off, I’d say that SummerSlam was the second biggest WWF event of the year behind WrestleMania. I’ve never been a fan of summer nor the weather that comes with it, but it was the one time of the year that I was happy to “Feel The Heat,” and I know that I’m not alone. Even now it seems that the company still views it as a big show, complete with fan events that resemble those during WrestleMania weekend. Whether or not it appears a huge deal to fans is a different story altogether.

I do believe that the inaugural SummerSlam, held in 1988, was the first one that I ended up seeing, though not right away. Just like the first WrestleMania it was held in Madison Square Garden and was headlined by a tag team spectacle. The lineup is interesting and, at times, feels like it’s trying to showcase many stars who didn’t get much of a spotlight months earlier at WrestleMania IV. It’s also interesting that several names on the show including Junkyard Dog, Ken Patera, The British Bulldogs, Don Muraco and even commentator Superstar Billy Graham would be gone from the company in just a matter of months. The opening montage featuring “The Mega Powers versus The Mega Bucks” has always been a favorite of mine. Bobby Heenan is shown laughing at one point which, for whatever reason, amused me to no end. Some kids would say “Bloody Mary” three times into the bathroom mirror. I would emulate “The Brain” laughing. I don’t know what that says about me.

“The Slam” has always had a lot of hype. My hometown (a town that’s made some large and tragic headlines in the past few weeks) cable company was, fortunately, the recipient of a lot of the goodies that came with that. They would hold little “Enter your name and win!” contests to give away the goods. I’m guessing that not many people entered, as it seemed as if I always won when I’d enter. I’d assume that cow tipping took precedence over writing your name down for free WWF merch. One of those contests was to promote SummerSlam 1993. I won the program as well as the famous SummerSlam shades! Apparently these sunglasses existed for a few years as Jimmy Hart can be seen sporting them back in 1990.

What I wasn’t privy to, despite being a hardcore WWF devotee from the greater Pittsburgh area, was the pre-sale for the SummerSlam 1995 tickets. In fact, I only learned about the pre-sale while waiting in line for tickets on July 8th 1995 – the REGULAR on-sale date! What matters now, nearly thirty years later, is that I do have the pre-sale letter explaining how these fans were specifically chosen by Jack Tunney to receive this info. Gee, thanks a LOT, Jack! Best president since Noriega! Jack “On The Take” Tunney! Boy, I’m feeling a lot of Heenan in this entry, aren’t you? Anyway, I do know that this particular flyer came inside of materials sent to a holder of the WWF MasterCard. That…I did not have. Perhaps that’s why I was shunned.

Of course we all know that I ended up at SummerSlam that year. It was the first WWF pay-per-view ever to be held in Pittsburgh and really the first large-scale televised wrestling to be done in “the Burgh” since Pittsburgh’s “Studio Wrestling.” You could argue that point since a bit of the 1987 Bunkhouse Stampede finals, which were also held at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, did air on TV but just as an opening to regular Jim Crockett Promotions programming. I’ve told many stories centering around that show over the years, but one thus far left untold actually happened years later. As I was collecting autographs on the program cover, I failed to tell a certain wrestler (who’s gone through many names, possibly Syxx different ones?) which name to sign. This was ultimately a mistake of mine as most collectors have countless stories of wrestlers accidentally signing the wrong gimmick name. Well, needless to say, the wrong name was signed. I was stunned but politely asked for the name that I wanted to be signed, as well. That wrestler has always been as nice as can be, so it wasn’t an issue, but it did make me not want to look at the program for quite awhile. I stuffed it away somewhere and forgot about it. A few years later I read that, on certain materials/textures, an autograph could be removed with acetone. I obtained some and, voila, the program is fixed and you’d never know the difference.

Yes, I even go modern, and somehow I ended up with a SummerSlam 2009 chair. Ok, so 2009 isn’t quite modern anymore (scary, huh?), but it was when I picked up the thing. I don’t remember how much it cost, but it couldn’t have been very expensive or I wouldn’t have it. It will probably make some folks cringe to hear this, so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t like things being utilized practically, but I have, at times, used this like any other folding chair. Obviously I’m not painting the room with it or taking it outdoors, but it’s definitely had a butt or two in it for Thanksgiving. I’ve cleaned my dog while sitting in it. It’s held packages by the door. Hey, what good is something if you can’t get the maximum use from it?

Between this entry and previous ones I think that I’m tapped as far as SummerSlam 1995 stories. That being said, God willing, we’ll all be back here in two years to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the show. Like it or not it’s a true reflection of The New WWF Generation and, as I’ve said in the past, it was just a really FUN time to be a wrestling fan living in Pittsburgh. Interest in pro wrestling may have been pretty low nationally but they certainly knew how to drum up the buzz around here. Love Diesel, King Mabel, ladders and demented dentists? Come on back in two years!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The Greatest Boxer Or The Greatest Referee?

Hard to believe that it’s already the tail end of summer. Nice for someone like me who doesn’t care for the heat, though the ease of not having to worry about coats and things nor weather prohibiting travel is always nice. With the end of the season always comes the San Diego Comic Con exclusive to many of our doorsteps. This year it seems that more of these are being delivered as something changed with the availability. As far as my beliefs go, that’s a good thing. Nevertheless, Mattel once again created a SDCC WWE exclusive to thrill not only wrestling fans but also the masses. The name? Muhammad Ali.

Ali had several tie-ins with wrestling over the years. He was said to have been a fan growing up and attributed his “promo style” to Gorgeous George. It was later contested that he was likely confusing the household name of George with who he was really watching – the similarly able-mouthed Fred Blassie. He would end up working with Blassie in his first foray into wrestling in 1976 when he fought Antonio Inoki in a “Boxer vs Wrestler” match. While the match was considered less than spectacular both in athletics and money-drawing power, it is well-remembered. In the ‘80s Ali was a special enforcer during the main event of the first WrestleMania and became involved in a Mid-South Wrestling match featuring Jake Roberts. Later, Ali would make a brief appearance or two with WCW.

For their SDCC exclusive Mattel has brought us a two-pack representing Ali’s first two ventures into wrestling. His iconic boxing look, patterned after the Inoki match, is one while the other is in is referee gear from WrestleMania. The figures are “Ultimate Editions” and come in the same type of elaborate packaging that Mattel has brought us with The Coliseum Collection and other exclusives. An outer box houses a very striking inner “hinged” box featuring a mock WWF Magazine cover on one side (The Referee) and a mock boxing publication (The Boxer) on the other. When opened (held closed by a magnet) you see both figures displayed behind plastic adorned with Inoki (unnamed) and Hulk Hogan, respectively. It’s a stunning display though a bit much for openers.

Packaged below “The Boxer” is a box full of accessories. You get a plethora of additional hands, two extra heads and Ali’s terry cloth robe. While the variety of hands is great, it’s curious that the set of “gripping” hands is repeated. Would you really want to display those on both figures at the same time? The larger grip hands, included with many figures over the years, should have been included for completely accurate “raising the victor’s arm” poses. Yeah, you can do it with the completely open hand, but it isn’t quite the same. Also one of the heads is completely repeated. I can understand that a bit more if you want a neutral facial expression on both figures at the same time. The “two-count” hand is the most pivotal piece here for me as it seems like Ali was flashing the peace sign a lot in his day.

The figures themselves are great. You won’t be sorry if you add them to your collection. I don’t know that we needed a referee in the “Ultimate” style, but it does help to resemble Ali’s body shape. They got “The Boxer” version down pat, too. You not only have three other “boxing” figures for him to tangle with (Rowdy Roddy Piper, Cowboy Bob Orton and Mr. T) but you can slide the boxing gloves onto many of the other figures that now have removable hands. I already have an idea for some figure photography there. Also in that realm I can see “The Referee” figure making it into shots as a generic classic ref. It’s all about smoke and mirrors.

As mentioned above, this one was not hard to get. In fact it’s still available as of press time. Why is that? It can only be that Mattel realized that making enough for collectors to buy directly from THEM is the way to do it and not to let secondary market scalpers get all the money. It will sell out eventually and will rise in price a bit, I’m sure. There will always be a market for Ali from all angles. I’d say that these two will also be the “definitive” Ali releases. Just like when Mattel grabbed the license for Mr. T, there’s already another Ali on the way in the form of a Retro figure. While I feel it’s unnecessary, I’m sure that I’ll enjoy it in-hand. Anyone can also see them milking the license as much as they can. Suited Ali? Could happen. How about his look when he jumped into the ring to confront Gorilla Monsoon? I’m sure the company has it all thought out. Again, I can’t see us getting standard sized boxing and referee versions outside of this set. 

Another cross-genre SDCC release from Mattel and WWE. I could definitely see Mike Tyson fitting that mold. And boy could they get their money’s worth out of that one. Boxer. Referee. Degenerate? But that’s not who I want. I want Mona FlambĂ©. I just wanna have fun…

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Imagine What He Could’ve Done To You!

Exotic Adrian Street was a wrestler who I became a bigger and bigger fan of with each bit of his story that I learned. His was a name that I knew mainly through magazines and maybe from one or two tape appearances. Despite his being a star throughout the 80s, his appearances never lined up with the wrestling that I watched. We all know the WWF’s gender-bending “Adorable” Adrian Adonis, but what about the originator? Back then I’d often wondered if there was any connection between “Exotic” Adrian and “Adorable” Adrian. While I’m sure that many would claim otherwise, I’ve always felt that “The Adorable One” was in fact the WWF’s answer to “The Exotic One.”

At 5’7, Adrian Street was a bit shorter than even some of the WWF’s smallest stars such as Koko B. Ware. It was the land of the giants then and it doesn’t surprise me that the act of Exotic Adrian and Miss Linda didn’t make it to WWF rings. The WWF’s loss was the rest of the wrestling world’s gain. Incredible devotion to a gimmick, a great and unique talker, built-in valet (who could also get involved) and a look like no other. That’s what drew me to Street even if he wasn’t part of the organizations that I was most familiar with.

Despite not being with the WWF, Street knew that his visage was marketable. With the styled hair, outlandish makeup and even more flamboyant costumes, Street made an impact wherever he went. When his homeland of the United Kingdom was no longer big enough for the character, Street and Linda came to the United States to ply their trade in many of the most successful wrestling territories of the day.  Mid-South, Stampede in Calgary, Memphis and Continental in Alabama are just a few of the areas that got a taste of what Exotic Adrian could do to them.

Street did cross through the doors of Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling for a time but ultimately didn’t make a huge impact. It’s surprising as that is where I could’ve seen him becoming a true household name in the U.S. as opposed to the WWF which may have toned down the character too much. Then again, with things like Adorable Adrian, Rude Awakenings and even The Bobby Heenan Show, Street may have been able to get away with more than one would think had he went to “New York.”

As mentioned above, Street did know marketing. He and Linda released an album “Shake, Wrestle ‘N’ Roll” with a backup band known only as “The Pile Drivers.” In recent years Street commissioned a figure which could fit right in with the Galoob WCW line. Due to its uniqueness in the years just before the “boutique” figure lines started popping up, the Exotic Adrian figure was named Figure Of The Year on this very blog. He and Linda certainly deserve a turn at modern articulated figures as well. Maybe we can get PowerTown on that.

I had the pleasure of meeting Adrian and Linda several times as well as corresponding with them. You could not meet two nicer people in or out of the wrestling business. My thoughts and prayers go out to Miss Linda following Adrian’s passing last week. A brighter and more flamboyant territorial legend there never was nor never will be.

"Exotic" Adrian Street


Thursday, August 3, 2023

PowerTown Arrives: Bruiser Brody

PowerTown is finally complete! Here on the blog, that is. With reviews of Stan Hansen, Lou Thesz, Verne Gagne, Magnum T.A. and Kerry Von Erich published and enjoyed we’re left with the figure in the set which was most anticipated by many. A towering and imposing figure in life, it doesn’t feel that Bruiser Brody has really gotten the recognition in the figure world that he deserves. I think that we’ve finally turned the corner on that and this figure is certainly a big part of it.

I don’t need to go over the packaging yet again. You know it’s unique, fun and something that I can’t even imagine being thrown away by loose collectors. A lot of time and love for the industry (and the stars of it) clearly went into these boxes. No annoying plastic bands, either. Simply a plastic shell holding the figure and accessories into another plastic shell. You could definitely even display the figures inside the packaging once you’ve opened and removed them, but I just wouldn’t want to hide these figures like that. They deserve to be fully seen with the accessories in use.

Just as in life, Brody is tall. Really tall. He towers over the other figures in the series and this may be the one time with PowerTown where a bit of compatibility with other lines is lost. Personally, as long as there isn’t an LJN-Hasbro style different it really makes no difference to me. Any good figure photographer can fudge a few inches between products from different lines. I think the height here really helps drive home that the Bruiser Brody character was indeed a monster.

I nearly got a splinter! Yes, Brody’s piece of wood is in fact made of a balsa style wood. How cool is that? Didn’t we hear that PowerTown has the rights to Hacksaw Jim Duggan? That could be insane, if so. Brody also includes an alternate “Huss!” hand, chain and vest. The chain is a tad thin but is just about scale to size as if a person were holding an actual chain. It can be worked into the hands of the figure. We also get the other PWF Tag Team Championship belt. We received the first with Stan Hansen and many collectors will remember that the second was to be included with Ted DiBiase who was pulled from the line over licensing issues and replaced with Brody. I think we won out on that deal.

The face is incredible and probably the best likeness that I’ve seen on a Brody figure to date. The scars are highlighted with the right color and the scowl is there but neutral enough not to detract. What’s interesting about Brody is that while he didn’t change much in terms of gear over the course of his career, there are different facial and hair sculpts that could be utilized should PowerTown release another figure of him in a future series. Like all of the PowerTown clothing the vest is done in a soft rubber. A soft goods fur vest could be another option down the line if “King Kong Brody” is revisited.

Frank “Bruiser Brody” Goodish has certainly become a rather mythical figure in the world of wrestling since his tragic and untimely death thirty-five years ago. The “What If’s” surrounding his career are endless but, despite being a truly kayfabed character, we must remember that he actually did one of the first “shoot interviews” of sorts not long before his death. There’s no doubt that, even had he had the opportunity to attend conventions and other fan related events, an air of mystique would still surround one of the best big men in the history of the ring.

That concludes the first PowerTown journey and what a run it’s been! I speculated in the last entry that perhaps Mattel was getting a bit concerned about “the new guys on the block” and stepping up their game with legends figures in the WWE line. After the recent disappointing showing at San Diego Comic Con I don’t think that PowerTown has much to worry about. Bring on Ultras Series 2 and the much anticipated return of Remco All-Star Wrestling! The blog will be here to cover all of the legendary action.