“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
…Or so they say! Professional wrestling is entertainment….but it is also a business. Over the years, promoters would find out that there was more to this business than just filling seats in an arena. There was money to be made in other ventures related to their product in a wrestling ring. Whether it was shirts, hats, video games or even those little circular cardboard pictures called pogs….money could be made elsewhere. Today we look at some of the more random pieces of wrestling merch.
The successful promoters would try and capitalize on merchandise, while the promoters who refused to adapt or just couldn’t afford to adapt were soon finding themselves out of business. There were some great ideas and there were some really bad ideas through the years. This piece will take a trip into the pro wrestling time machine and see many of these bits of wrestling merchandise Some of which we will think back and remember fondly…while others we just may scratch our heads and wonder what the heck were they thinking?!?
Of course, what article about old wrestling merchandise would be complete without a proper host? Who remembers Barry Didinsky? He was Don West before there was a Don West in pro wrestling. Didinsky was employed by the World Wrestling Federation back in the early 1990’s. He was nicknamed, ‘The Mayor of Merchandise’ and often appeared on WWF programming in between matches to shill the company’s latest items for sale.
Now keep in mind, before the internet boom of the mid 90’s, Didinsky had to sell the WWF’s merchandise by asking fans to call a telephone number to order stuff. 1-800-Titan-91 was the number to call to get your official Smoking Guns foam hat or a pair of Bret Hart bendable sunglasses. Please don’t bother calling that number anymore, as it is no longer in service. As for the Mayor of Merchandise himself…he was fired….perhaps because he wasn’t selling enough of the company’s stuff. He now runs a memorabilia store and plays professional poker. (I am serious!)
As far as the merchandise itself, we can start with the very traditional, old school foam finger. Ah yes, many of us as kids had this classic piece. Not much you can do with a foam finger, but the WWF/E found different ways to change it up…whether it was foam hats, urns or even Hacksaw Jim Duggan foam 2X4’s.
As we got into the ‘Attitude Era’ the pointer finger was subtly changed to the middle finger.
The WWF and Vince McMahon wanted to dominate the wrestling world very early on. Not only did he want to run the territories out of business, he also wanted to take on breakfast cereal and run Trix and Lucky Charms out of business too. The WWF came up with Superstars cereal that were shaped like what else…stars and had a vanilla taste to them.
As you know, wrestling dolls are a multi million dollar business. As the years have gone by, the quality and detail of each figure has improved. The WWE really has mastered the wrestling doll industry…but that hasn’t stopped other promoters to try their hand at the business. ECW, WCW and TNA have all come up with their own brand of action figures.
They weren’t the only wrestling promotions to make action figures…who remembers the AWA dolls made from the company Remco? Yes, even the old school, stubborn Verne Gagne saw potential in a line of wrestling action figures. The dolls made included wrestlers like Scott Hall, the Road Warriors and the Fabulous Freebirds. They have now become very sought after collector items.
Let’s stay with Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association and look at other merchandise they decided to sell in their day. Like tee shirts!
Another promoter you may be surprised to hear about trying to capitalize on merchandise was Fritz Von Erich. Fritz, the promoter for World Class Championship Wrestling saw dollar signs with his sons and came up with a couple of interesting ideas for merch.
The first was a limited edition Von Erich comic book.
The other was a Von Erich Family board game! I have no idea how to play…but I would be willing to learn fast.
Not to be outdone by his fellow promoters, Jim Crockett Jr. saw a big money maker in his world famous faction named the Four Horsemen. Would it be tee shirts? Yes. Would it by posters? Yes. Would it be vitamins? Yep, that too!
That’s right, Crockett felt that the Four Horsemen were so popular, why not sell vitamins with the Horsemen name to it? The vitamins or “Performance System” as they called it…came in two different versions. 1 gave you energy and two gave you power and stamina.
Raise your hand, who remembers the George ‘the Animal’ Steele Mine Doll? To sell the Mine doll to the little kids watching, George Steele would come to ringside with him every match. It was furry and had a green tongue.
With the birth of the home gaming systems, it was only natural for wrestling promotions to develop video games related to the stars in their respective companies. WWE, WCW and ECW all had games at one point or another…even New Japan had games. The most infamous game however, didn’t come from any of those aforementioned promotions, but from Nintendo itself.
It was called coincidentally, Pro Wrestling and was released in 1986. The graphics were weak by today’s standards, but was a successful game for its time. It had colorful characters like King Slender, Great Puma, The Amazon and Star Man.
The most famous part of this game is when you win a match, the graphics say “A Winner is You!”
WCW Nitro Cologne: Smell great for 88 weeks and then smell awful the rest of the time.
WCW and Eric Bischoff tried to keep up with the WWE’s marketing machine by developing a line of hot sauces with stars like Buff Bagwell, Sting, DDP and Goldberg on the bottles.
When you had enough hot and spicy…maybe it is time to cool off? Nothing says summer like ice cream and the WWF back in the 1980’s had the best cure for those summertime blues. It had authentic WWF ice cream bars on a stick! It was made with vanilla ice cream with a chocolate shell on the back and a cookie with a WWF “Superstar” monogrammed in the front.
Music has also become a very important part of pro wrestling/sports entertainment. The WWF knew this back in 1985, when they produced ‘The Wrestling Album’ with such hits as Tutti Frutti, Eat Your Heart Out Rick Springfield and Land of a Thousand Wrestlers.
Some much wrestling merchandise and so little cash on hand. Don’t fret, just apply for an authentic WCW credit card and charge all of these items!