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CIRCA
50 Years of Pro Wrestling Trading Cards
September 16, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com

 

Of all the pro wrestling merchandise one could collect, trading cards are an old standby for many reasons. They don't take up much space. They're compact and easy to store. They're part of a set, which adds an element of fun to the collection-minded wrestling fan. They're a quick glance at the years of wrestling history they depict. 

And most of all, they're relatively cheap, in comparison to other junk like foam rubber fingers, T-shirts and action figures. 

1954-1956
Interpromotional
Brand: Parkhurst

Card Quality: Let's put it this way: these things are half a century old, and you can still find them in reasonably good shape. If you keep an eye on eBay, it's not uncommon to see these babies show up in fairly large numbers. To my knowledge, this is the oldest pro wrestling trading card set of this size that you can still find. There were probably promotional cards released in the early part of the 1900s by various vendors, but I doubt there's an older set of this magnitude to be found. The card stock is average - think 1970s and 1980s-era Topps - which means you'll be hard pressed to find cards from this set without corner and edge wear. But again - FIFTY YEARS OLD! Five-Oh. These cards are a treasure for anyone who appreciates the old days of rasslin', even if they are a little worn.

Look: Each card has a white border and an artistically-doctored photograph of the wrestler(s) being featured (they look to be black and white photos that were artificially colorized for the cards). There is no text anywhere on the card, but there is a colorful block in the corner displaying which number the card is in relation to the entire set. The back of the 1954 set has a trivia question along with the answer to the question from the previous card. If the wrestler has a nickname, it'll be on the back (Hans Schmidt - "The Munich Menace"). There's a brief paragraph about the man's career in English, followed by the same paragraph in French (these sets were Canadian).

The Set: There are two known sets of Parkhurst pro wrestling cards: 1954-55 (75 cards), and 1955-56 (121 cards). The first set has a red block number on the front of each card, and the second set has a yellow block. Some of the featured wrestlers: Gorgeous George Wagner, Buddy Rogers, Hans Schmidt, Dory Funk Sr., Don Leo Jonathan, Whipper Billy Watson, Yvon Robert, Lou Thesz, Argentina Rocca, Verne Gagne, Yukon Eric, Bobo ("Bo Bo") Brazil, Larry Moquin, Johnny Rougeau, Sandor Kovacs, Warren Bockwinkel (Nick's father), Reggie Lisowski (a.k.a. The Crusher), Prince Maivia, Luther Linsday. 

Sample Cards

 
1985
WWF Pro Wrestling Stars
Brand: Topps

Card Quality: Average. Standard Topps-traditional brown card stock, color illustrations and light papering on the front, two-tone reddish-brown back featuring kid-oriented wrestler info.

Look: White border on each card with a yellow logo at the bottom - either a fireworks-like graphic with the wrestler's names or a the shape of a title belt with a cheesy photo caption ("Leggo My Arm!"). Full-color photographs on the front... some action shots from the ring, some posed. There's a mini-set which shows wrestlers during TV interviews - Piper's Pit, TNT and the sort - which has a drawn TV around the photo and cartoonish quote balloons above those talking, usually with a very kid-friendly line.

The Set: The inaugural 1980s Topps set (66 cards, 22 stickers with the sticker backs forming a puzzle image of Hogan) is a fond memory of any child of the Rock-N-Wrestling era. This was all over the stores at the same time WrestleMania was taking off, LJN's giant WWF action figures were popular, and CBS started airing a cartoon about the WWF. You could grab it in wax packs - complete with a petrified stick of bubblegum - or in the trifold rack packs. Back in the day, wax packs of these cards only set you back about 30-35 cents. Some of the wrestlers featured: Hogan, Roddy Piper, The Iron Sheik, Big John Studd, Tito Santana, Mr. Fuji, Jesse Ventura, Chief Jay Strongbow, The Junkyard Dog, Hillbilly Jim, Superfly Jimmy Snuka, Andre the Giant, The Fabulous Moolah, Wendi Richter, Paul Orndorff.

Sample Cards
          

 
1986

WWF Pro Wrestling Stars Series 2
Brand: O-Pee-Chee

Card Quality: Exactly identical to the 1985 Topps set in quality and style. Incidentally, this set was released only in Canada by O-Pee-Chee, which had been the Canadian distributor of the first Topps set in 1985. This "Series Two" of sorts was never sold in the United States. That is, until eBay was born.

Look: Exactly the same as the 1985 Topps set, with the only difference being the fireworks and belt graphics on the front of each card being red, as opposed to yellow.

The Set: 75 cards strong, this set would have been golden in the United States. Actually, I have no clue why they never sold it here... the WWF was gigantic and gaining momentum in '86. Some of the popular mid-80s WWF names that missed the cut with the original set are present here, including some rarities: The British Bulldogs, Randy Savage & Elizabeth, Ricky Steamboat, The Killer Bees, Bobby Heenan, Siva Afi (!), Magnificent Muraco, Cowboy Bob Orton, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, King Kong Bundy, Uncle Elmer and Jimmy Hart are among those with cards.

Sample Card

 
1987

WWF featuring Wrestlemania III
Brand: Topps

Card Quality: Same exact thing as the previous two sets.

Look: The card backs have the same child-friendly descriptions of each wrestler, with height and weight. The card fronts have a red, white & blue patriotic design. Main wrestler cards have red & white stripes at the bottom and blue backgrouns with white stars on top, along with a yellow banner with the wrestler's name and classic WWF logo. Cards where the photos are "in action" have a blue border, red ring ropes around the photo, and a yellow banner with the appropriate tag line ("Bearhug").

The Set: Sometimes called the "WrestleMania III set," these cards were sold on the fact that some cards depicted scenes from the Silverdome. You get another nice dose of the usual suspects - Hogan, Savage, Steamboat, Andre - but plenty of newcomers, too. Among them: Killer Khan, Kamala, Billy Jack Haynes, Koko B. Ware, Outback Jack, Hercules, Butch Reed, Ken Patera, the Islanders, the Honky Tonk Man and "King" Harley Race. The full set is 75 cards and 22 stickers.

Sample Cards
         

 
1990

WWF
Brand: Classic

Card Quality: Physically, the early-1990s WWF cards by Classic are among the worst ever. The cards are printed on weak, white card stock... more flimsy than even the modestly-sturdy Topps stock.

Look: The backs of these cards are plain white with black text and no graphics whatsoever. The front somewhat redeems the set, with some very nice photograph choices and each wrestler's official logo on the front. If you never flip these cards over, they're pretty good looking.

The Set: This is the first major WWF card set of the Ultimate Warrior era, which means plenty of new faces. For this particular set of WWF stars - and among the three different sets made for the WWF by Classic in a three-year period - this set is the best in terms of looks and nostalgia. It's a 145-card set, with the last 10 cards being plain white with a big wrestler's logo and no photo. Wrestlers included in the set: Ultimate Warrior, Demolition, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, Mr. Perfect, Ravishing Rick Rude, Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, The Bushwhackers, Roddy Piper, The Rockers, Ted DiBiase, Big Boss Man, The Red Rooster, Haku, and Gorilla Monsoon. Some of the more rare appearances include Barry Windham as "The Widow Maker," Rugged Ronnie Garvin, announcer Sean Mooney, The Brooklyn Brawler, Bad News Brown, Brother Love, Dusty Rhodes and "The Genius" Lanny Poffo.

Sample Cards
        

 
1991

WWF "History of WrestleMania"
Brand: Classic

Card Quality: Same as above. Not very good.

Look: Same as above, except for the official WrestleMania logo gracing the front of every card instead of the wrestler's individual logo. Every photo is from WrestleManias I-VI, with the exception of the last five cards of the set.

The Set: Overall, there are 150 cards in this collection, nearly all of which feature scenes from the big moments of the first six WrestleManias. Matches depicted: Greg Valentine vs. Junkyard Dog (WM I), the NFL vs. WWF battle royal from WM II, all of the big matches from WM III, the title tournament from WM IV, and so on an so forth. Five non-'Mania cards feature the Ultimate Warrior, the Bushwhackers, the Rockers, Dusty Rhodes and Brutus Beefcake.

Sample Cards
      

 
1991

WCW
Brand: Impel

Card Quality: Just a shade better than the Classic cards. These are still pretty light, but at least the back is just as slick as the front. Still, calling the card quality average would be a bit kind.

Look: If we're in 1991? Hell yeah, these are sharp! Today? Terribly dated, with the pseudo-hip design featuring loud colors with a confetti pattern. Has a certain "Saved By The Bell" quality to it. Otherwise, the front photos are pretty decent in most cases. Cropped in the shape of a vertical parallelogram, the photo is accented by a black box with white lettering of the wrestler's name, and a multi-colored WCW logo in the upper left corner. The back actually has a full-color head shot of the wrestler with the usual stats and info.

The Set: Back in the day, WCW marketed this set as "The Stomp Collection." Today, it's better known as the least expensive (and most readily available) pro wrestling card you can collect. You can pick up an entire unopened box of these bad boys on eBay for like $3 if you keep looking. As noted above, the set does feature some nice photography, but what brings it down is the incredibly repetitive selection of wrestlers. You could reasonably shuffle through two packs of these cards and get nothing but Sid Vicous or Sting, and none of them would be a double. Featured wrestlers include: Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Sid Vicious, Lex Luger, Sting, The Steiner Brothers, Doom, Ricky Morton, Tommy Rich, Mr. Wallstreet (Mike Rotundo), Brian Pillman, Tom Zenk, Terry Taylor, Dutch Mantell, El Gigante, The Fabulous Freebirds, Missy Hyatt, announcer Jim Ross. 162 cards total.

Sample Cards
       

 
1991

WCW
Brand: Championship Marketing Inc.

Card Quality: They look much sturdier than they actually are. It's like a Classic WWF card physically, with a better quality laminate on the front. Looks great, but wears easily.

Look: The front is high-gloss with a black background, accented with gold stars and the World Championship Wrestling logo in gold (the collection has been referred to as the "Black and Gold set"). Small lettering at the bottom describes the photo. Simple design, but it's much nicer than some of the more ambitious ones. The back of each card has a thick gold borderwith a white inset, a black and white head shot of the wrestler, and a fairly extensive profile. You can find out everything from their toughest opponents to their favorite holds and their greatest achievement at that point in their careers.

The Set: 110 cards fill out the roster, and it's one of the better early WCW sets you'll find in terms of photo quality, appearance, and nostalgia. Featured wrestlers include: The Four Horsemen (on the same card... I believe that's a first), Sting, Luger, Missy Hyatt, El Gigante, Paul E. Dangerously (Heyman), Brian Pillman, Rick & Scott Steiner, The Wild-Eyed Southern Boys, The Freebirds, Bobby Eaton, Ron Simmons, and once again, "Dirty" Dutch Mantell. With the exception of Paul E., it's basically the same roster as the Impel set, but with much better design and more photo variety.

Sample Cards
        

 
1991

WWF Superstars
Brand: Classic

Card Quality: It's WWF. It's Classic brand. It still sucks. It's one layer of front-side gloss away from being one of those subscription cards that falls out of magazines.

Look: Because they're Classic, they stuck with a very simple front design - thick blue border all around, red block running up the left side with the wrestler's name, and the WWF and Classic logos in the upper left corner. The back of the card was a bit improved from the 1990 set, which looked as though they left the back plain and ran it through a typewriter to add the bio. This time around, we have the wrestler's logos on the back and a color illustration of ring ropes and turnbuckles surrounding the text. Still shitty, but it'd have been tough for them to do worse than their previous try.

The Set: If there's one reason to get this set, it's for the uniqueness of who's featured - and how. For instance, you can get yourself a Sgt. Slaughter card where he's wearing the Iraqi sympathizer turban. You can pick up a very nice card featuring "The Doctor of Style" Slick. If you're very lucky, you might even find a Mountie in your pack. Others featured: Ted DiBiase, Davey Boy Smith, Earthquake, Savage, Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, The Legion of Doom, Kerry Von Erich, Mr. Perfect, The Rockers, the Nasty Boys, Ricky Steamboat (as "The Dragon"), Jake Roberts, Roddy Piper, and The Undertaker.

Sample Cards
        

 
1995

WWF
Brand: Action Packed

Card Quality: In the 1990s, Action Packed cards were all the rage due to their unique construction. The sides are "edgeless" - they're folded around the back and glued, so the card actually doesn't have a *back* so much as a folded-around front. The corners are round, lessening the possibility of corner wear. Otherwise, the cards are extremely glossy, the front text is embossed in gold, and the features of each photograph are grooved to give it a slight 3-D quality. It's durable, all right... but it's also kind of weird-looking.

Look: these are pretty sharp, actually - except for the hot pink background. It isn't as shocking on the front, where it only serves as the backdrop for the gold-embossed name and Action Packed logo. But it gets really obnoxious on the back of the card, which is entirely pink with small white lettering complimenting the wrestler's name in giant green letters.

The Set: This is essentially a 42-card set, but if you count the random gold leaf inserts - which are the same cards as the "Dirtiest Dozen" subset in the regular collection, only with a different gold-embossed logo and different numbering - then it's 54 cards. This is a small set, but it's very unique and it features a lot of the names that participated in the late-1990s wrestling boom. For those reasons, it's one of the better sets to collect. Featured wrestlers: Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, Owen Hart, Bob Backlund, Alundra Blayze, Bull Nakano, Jerry Lawler, Jeff Jarrett, Bob "Spark Plugg" Holly, 1-2-3 Kid, Adam Bomb, Bam Bam Bigelow, Well Dunn (they got a gold leaf insert!), Duke The Dumpster Droese, Doink the Clown, DINK the Clown, Smoking Gunns, Undertaker, Mabel, Tatanka, Crush, Yokozuna, Lex Luger, The Heavenly Bodies.

Sample Cards
          

 
1998

WCW/NWO
Brand: Topps

Card Quality: Very good. Both sides laminated, very sturdy, nothng major wrong with it.

Look: This is a great looking card. The photo dominates the front with no real border at all. There's a small logo on the front for either WCW or the nWo... remember, this is during the time when they still put the New World Order forward as a separate entity from the promotion. The WCW wrestlers get a yellow WCW logo and a red font for their name. The nWo crew gets a red or white nWo logo and a yellow name. The back has another nice, colorful photo of the wrestler aligned left, with the bio aligned right.

The Set: The basic set is 72 cards, unless you get into the extracurricular stuff like retail-only sticker cards (there are 10) or chromium cards (there are 10, but they were only available in hobby boxes), or authentic autograph cards (37 different wrestlers, but you could only get them in a hobby box). Like the Action Packed WWF set, this one is worth it for the roster alone, if not for the overall quality of the cards. It features, among others: Hogan, Sting, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, The Giant, Goldberg, Scott Steiner, Bret Hart, Roddy Piper, Raven, Booker T, British Bulldog, Juventud Guerrera, Eddy Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Ultimo Dragon, Disco Inferno, Rey Mysterio Jr., Rick Rude, Psychosis, JAY LENO, Kaz Hayashi, Chris Jericho, and the Nitro Girls.

Sample Cards
         

 
1998

WWF Superstarz Trading Cardz
Brand: Comic Images/Duo Cards

Card Quality: Very good to excellent. The cards seem to get better in quality as the years go on. These are firm and crisp, glossy on both sides, with bright colors.

Look: The front is as simple as it gets, and that's a good thing: just a photo of the wrestler. No name, no logo, no border... just a full-color photograph. Flip the card ovr, and there are your graphics: red border all areound with a black background on the inset. There's the Attitude-era WWF scratch logo. There's the wrestler's name up top followed by a paragraph of text, and a small image to the right. If the wrestler was a champion, the back image will show the belt they're currently defending.

The Set: You know it's the "Attitude" era when everything endz in a "z" because that'z how the cool kidz spell. Such is the case with these here WWF Superstarz Trading Cardz. Another 72-card basic set, with an eight-card special subset of "Stone Cold's Greatest Hitz" available in select packs. This series also had random autograph inserts from the likes of Owen Hart, Road Warrior Hawk, The Rock, Mankind and Sable. Regular cards feature, among others: The New Age Outlaws, Mr. McMahon, Commissioner Slaughter, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, TAKA Michinoku, D'Lo Brown, Undertaker, Kane, Sable, Ken Shamrock, Shawn Michaels, Dude Love, Mankind, Cactus Jack, Owen Hart, Dustin Runnels (under that name), Steve Blackman, Marc Mero, The Godfather, Jeff Jarrett, "Dr. Death" Steve Williams, Giant Silva, Dan Severn, Scorpio, Steven Regal and Savio Vega. This is also one of the only wrestling card sets that bothers declaring anyone a rookie, with a rookie subset that features Edge, Val Venis, Darren "Droz" Drozdov, Papi Chulo and Tiger Ali Singh.

Sample Cards
         

 
1999

WCW/NWO Nitro
Brand: Topps

Card Quality: Same as the WCW/NWO cards, which is very good to excellent.

Look: Another very nice design from Topps. They again go borderless on the front with the photo taking full command. The name of the wrestler appears at the bottom next to the Nitro logo, as if on the chyron during their TV entrance. The upper right corner has a small WCW logo in yellow. Flip the card over, and you have a promotional photo of the wrestler aligned left, with a paragraph about them in the middle and the WCW Nitro graphic on the right.

The Set: Just like the first WCW/NWO set, this one has 72 basic cards, some chromium cards for the hobby collectors, and some randomly placed autographed cards inserted in hobby boxes (among the autographed cards are Curt Hennig, Ms. Elizabeth, Sting, Scott Hall, Randy Savage, La Parka and Goldberg). The regular set features another big selection of superstars, including all the big names from the first WCW/NWO set, plus rare cards featuring the likes of Super Calo, Norman Smiley, Lenny Lane, Lodi, Silver King, Bobby Duncum Jr., Hector Garza, and WCW Security cheif Doug Dillinger.

Sample Cards
         

 
2001

WWF Ultimate Diva Collection
Brand: Fleer

Card Quality: Excellent. Very similar to the 90s Topps WCW cards. The card is sturdy and laminated on both sides.

Look: The main set is a collection of Diva glamour shots, set against various colored backgrounds, with a green bubbles forming a border on the left and right sides. A bigger green bubble near the bottom serves as the backdrop for the Diva's name. The only ugly thing about the back of the card is the logo for The Ultimate Diva Collection, which features a big WWF scratch logo and a blocky, yellow bowtie shape outlines in red scratch lines. Otherwise, the back looks good, with a right-aligned pertical photo of the Diva and a paragraph about them to the left.

The Set: This is the 2001-era Divas roster, which means no Stacy, no Torrie, no Dawn Marie or Jackie Gayda. The set is loaded with subsets, such as "Ring Presence" (10 cards), "In the Ring" (20 cards), Divas in Hedonism (15 cards, hobby only), Bad and the Beautiful (15, hobby only), National Assets (15, hobby only), and Kiss and Tell (12, hobby only). Bonus cards found in some packs include ring accessories memorabilia (pieces of clothing worn by the Divas at live events), matching set memorabilia (two swatches of event-used memorabilia on one card - one for a Diva, and one for a male wrestler), "Signed with a Kiss" and Private Signing autograph cards. If you're careful to collect the hobby packs/boxes, you could come up with some pretty cool memorabilia and signed cards. The main set is 100 cards, with a subset of the ENTIRE set available as Gold Parallel cards. Just a ton of different cards you can collect with this set. Featured Divas: Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Ho! lly (still blonde), Jacqueline, Ivory, Terri Runnels, and Debra. Stephanie McMahon is included in a pair of "Kiss and Tell" cards (one Triple H, one Kurt Angle), but she's not featured by herself as a "Diva." If they had waited about six months to release this collection, they could have nearly doubled their roster of women to choose from.

Sample Cards
           

 
2001

WWF Championship Clash
Brand: Fleer

Card Quality: Same as the Ultimate Divas Collection, but with a rougher gloss on the front of the card. Not as shiny.

Look: This depends on the card. I'm not a big fan of horizontal cards in general. This set has some of those featuring in-ring action, with a cool affect of the wrestlers being higher gloss while the background - the ring, the crow, etc - is slightly whitewashed. The vertical "Profile of a Champion" cards are the same way, but they look much better. Maybe it's because those photos are closer cropped and usually staged for promotional use. But with the action cards, Fleer seems to go out of their way to include lots of uneccesary backdrop just to show off the gloss/no gloss feature. Shiny or not, I don't think an extra wide crop is the best use of the limited space a trading card allows.

The Set: Again, we're loaded with subsets and memorabilia cards here. The main set is 80 cards, half Profile of a Champion and half action cards. Among the gems to be found in hobby boxes, there are Divas memorabilia cards as well as signed Diva cards, "Piece of the Champion" memorabilia cards for the male roster, and an intriguing set of "Main Event Memorabilia" cards. Among the unique pieces of history you can get on those cards, there's an event-used garbage can from Shane McMahon vs. Kurt Angle, a piece of a steel chair used in a triple threat match between Steve Austin, Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle, and ring skirts and mats from various other matches. Among the main set roster: K-Kwik (Ron Killings), Jerry Lynn, Tazz, Spike Dudley, William Regal, Rikishi, Albert, "The One" Billy Gunn, Triple H, The Rock, The Undertaker and the rest of the main crew.

Sample Card

 
2002

WWF Royal Rumble
Brand: Fleer

Card Quality: Excellent. Just as sturdy as the previous two Fleer releases, plus they went back to the full two-sided gloss for this one.

Look: We've still got horizontal action cards, but since they gave up on the lame whitewashed background look, the photos are cropped closer, and therefore the cards look much nicer. For vertical cards, you also get some action shots. There's an L shaped border on the bottom and one side of the cards which is a black design with varied color highlights. We've now evolved to the WWE scratch logo, which appears in the upper right corner. Card backs have no photos of the wrestlers, but a small Royal Rumble logo up top, wrestler name along the left side, and a little info in the middle. There are still some promo pics in the set, but for this collection they went much heavier on action photos.

The Set: 90 cards fill this one one, including the "AKA" subset, which is included because it isn't special in any way, in terms of how difficult they are to find. Hobby-only subsets include "Gimmick Matches" (10 cards), "DIVAstating" (15 cards), "Royal Rumble Recap" (10 cards), and Factions (5 cards). There are also autographed and memorabilia card versions of each of the subsets, with a few notable cards being a Hulk Hogan event-worn T-shirt (the red Hulkamania shirt), and an Ivory event-worn undergarment card. Some of the talent you'll find in this set: Hulk Hogan, Brock Lesnar, Ric Flair, Shawn Stasiak, Tommy Dreamer, "Deacon" Batista, Eric Bischoff, Victoria, Lance Storm, Shane McMahon, Maven, Nidia, The Hurricane, X-Pac, Paul Heyman, Randy Orton, Kevin Nash, John Cena, Chris Nowinski, and Goldust.

Sample Cards
      

 
2002

WWE Raw vs. Smackdown
Brand: Fleer

Card Quality: Excellent. Highly durable, both sides laminated. But as you'll see below, this is approximately the time when WWE apparently cut costs on producing these cards.

Look: Best-looking horizontal cards I've seen. The photos are bright and close-up, the graphics are attractive with L-shaped borders in the colors of whichever show the wrestler currently worked for, Raw or Smackdown). The Raw vs. Smackdown logo is in the upper left corner embossed in silver. Each card also has a replica signature of the wrestler, also embossed in silver. Very slick, very nice cards overall.

The Set: Counting the two general subsets (non-rare, non-hobby) and checklist cards, this is a 92-card set. The regular subsets - available in any pack - are the "Queens of the Ring" (cards No. 66-75) and "Raw vs. Smackdown" (cards No. 76-90... and no, I don't know why there's a subset with the exact same name as the collection). There's also a 10-card hobby subset of Pop-Ups, a 15-card hobby subset of Catch Phrases, and a 10-card, all- Divas hobby subset called "eXposure". The memorabilia and autograph cards - which by this point have become almost a given for any newly-released set - feature a very cool card commemorating the Rock vs. Hulk Hogan from WrestleMania 18, with a piece of the mat they wrestled on that night in Toronto. Otherwise, you can get anything from a piece of Torrie Wilson's stockings to DDP's pants, forever immortalized on a trading card. Thsi set features a similar cast of characters to the last one, with such names as the New World Order, Chris Nowinski, Hulk Hogan, DDP, Matt Hardy, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Vince McMahon and Bradshaw, to name a slight few.

Sample Cards
 

 
2003

WWE WrestleMania XIX
Brand: Fleer

Card Quality: Sometime between this set and the last one, Fleer and/or WWE decided to cut costs, and we're back to the rough, non-laminated card backs again. The card durability takes a small hit due to this, but the front side is as glossy as previous releases. Call it "pretty good, but worse than before" card quality.

Look: On the plus side, this set favors the vertical, close-up action shots. The photos are mostly action with a few promo photos mixed in for the hell of it. Small WrestleMania XIX logo appears above the wrestler's name at the bottom of the card. No photo on the back, just a dull blueish-silver background and some smack talk about the wrestler.

The Set: There's 91 cards in the main set, counting the generic "Multiple Mania" subset and the checklist card. Memorabilia cards for this round includes the "Mat Finish" subset (features 10 different wrestlers with a piece of an event-used mat), "Title Shots" (seven different wrestlers including Brock Lesnar, Kane, The Rock, Rob Van Dam, Triple H and The Undertaker, with event-worn clothing), and "WrestleMania Flashback" (six known cards with photos of past WrestleMania atches with a swatch of event-used clothing). Only a few new faces from previous releases, among them Johnny Stamboli, Ron Simmons (first time under the name "Ron Simmons" since the WCW cards in the early 1990s), Scott Steiner, Dawn Marie and Lilian Garcia. Call it a side effect of WWE taking over the world... wrestlers don't change rosters much anymore. The rarest of the set are the Torrie Wilson "DIVA Las Vegas" memorabilia card (150 in existence) and the Dawn Marie of the same (1,350 exist).

Sample Card

 
2003

WWE Aggression
Brand: Fleer

Card Quality: Same as above... pretty good, leaning toward average. Worse than the 2002 Fleer cards, though.

Look: We're still on the vertical alignment, which is good. They've added top and bottom borders, with the Aggression logo in the top border and the wrestler's name in the bottom. Various bright colors serve as the backdrop for the borders. Oddly, the back of the cards is horizontal again, with almost nothing of note besides a dull color backdrop (dull if only because of the rough paper the ink is on). Wrestler's name, two or three sentences of crap, scratch logo, thank you, drive thru.

The Set: A few new names in this set, including Brian Kendrick, Jamal, Rosey, Goldberg, Charlie Haas (but no Shelton Benjamin!), "Chief" Morley, Jazz, Bill DeMott, Jamie Noble, Nathan Jones, Nunzio, and Shannon Moore. Otherwise, the gang's all here from the previous year or so. A total of 90 cards in the collection, including the generic "DivaLicious" subset and the checklist card. Hobby-only subsets: Ring Leaders (15 cards), Queens of the Ring (10 cards), and Mattitude (10 cards). There are event-used memorabilia versions of all three hobby subsets, plus an additional version of the Mattitude subset which has not only a swatch of an event-used mat, but there's an image of a WWE superstar printed on the swatch. Now they're just showing off. Five "Queens of the Ring" autograph cards round out the assortment of special cards (Ivory, Molly, Trish, Stacy, and Terri are available).

Sample Cards
    

 
2004

TNA Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
Brand: Pacific

Card Quality: Excellent. It's got the durability of the Fleer WWE cards with a thicker laminate on both sides. Bravo to Pacific for making TNA's first card set look truly professional.

Look: Another big plus. This is a very good looking set, with a black and red design border around all sides of the car front. The TNA logo is centered at the bottom, a gold embossed Pacific 2004 logo in the upper left corner, and the wrestler's name in the right corner (of the photo, not the border). The back features another photo of the wrestler on the left, bio on the right, with card number and the TNA and Pacific logos at the bottom. All against the red and black design. Again, the set looks great.

The Set: The main set is 75 cards deep, with an entire parallel set available in hobby boxes. The red variation is slightly more rare. The cards also come with tattoo transfers of various TNA stars, with 28 different transfers completing the set (and didn't you always want a temporary tattoo featuring the likeness of Shark Boy?). Hobby subsets include tag teams (8 cards), Main Event Autograph cards (7 cards), Authentic Event-Used Cards (5 cards, all of which are swatches of a TNA ring mat), and the big one... a seven-card subset featuring TNA Legends & Superstars Autographs, where you can pull an autographed card from the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper, Terry Taylor, Harley Race, and Raven. The main set includes, among others: AJ Styles, Jeff Jarrett, Abyss, D'Lo Brown, Juventud Guerrera, Glenn Gilberti, America's Most Wanted, Frankie Kazarian, Kid Kash, 3 Live Kru, Jerry Lynn, Nosawa, CM Punk, Raven, Sonjay Dutt, Simon Diamond, Shane Douglas, Christopher Daniels, Sandman, Vince Russo, Trinity, Lollipop, Mike Tenay, and the immortal Don West.

Sample Cards
        

 
There you have it... roughly fifty years worth of cardboard, emblazoned with the image of every wrestling great (and not-so-great) from Lou Thesz to Hulk Hogan, from Ric Flair to Andre the Giant, from Duke The Dumpster Droese to Dutch Mantell. Reflecting on all of this: should we be happy or sad that they didn't have a such thing as event-worn memorabilia cards back in 1955? And how coveted will the Ivory event-worn undergarment card be fifty years from TODAY?

 
E-MAIL DENNY
BROWSE THE CIRCA ARCHIVES


  
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