Merch From '97
It was the winter of 1997 (or at least, it was by the time this particular issue of WWF Raw Magazine arrived on newsstands; the material would be a tad dated otherwise) and the good folks at the World Wrestling Federation were enticing us to buy tons of wrestling crap for the holidays.
Although this was technically before The Attitude Era had begun, we were getting little hints of WWF beginning to bend the rules a little. Nowhere was this more evident than on the two pages of Stone Cold Steve Austin merchandise.
Even as he was on his way to becoming a pop culture phenomenon, the WWF knew what they had on their hands and were fully prepared to exploit it.
Items for sale included the classic Austin 3:16 T-shirt ($25), temporary tattoos ($5), a black denim vest ($44), the "Cause Stone Cold Said Do" VHS tape ($19.99) and the T-shirt offered to the right for $30... which, hey, even comes with its own literal can of whoop-ass for you to open up. Unfortunately, the folks at WWF Shop Zone didn't think to list the nutritional content of said whoop ass can.
Likewise, everyone's favorite Dead Man had his own two pages of merch, everything from The Undertaker key chain ($15) to The Undertaker baseball cap ($22) to a 36" x 79.5" wall posted of The Undertaker standing in a pit of fire.
But my favorite item is the one pictured here - an Undertaker lapel pin and pendant done in an antique silver finish (chain not included), both available for the bargain basement price of $14. Now.... it's not the item that excites me so much, it's the photo of The Undertaker trying to sell it to me like he's on QVC or some shit.
"Take this pendant to fight off evil spirits," Taker seems to be saying as he hands the item over to me. "But beware - the lapel pin is cursed. CURSED, I tell you! Muhuhuhhahahahahaha!"
Are you tired of resting your head on pillows that have patterns on them or a single color woven throughout? Do you often look over at furniture and say "Yes, this six-seater sofa is made from the finest corinthian leather and elegant and everything.... but it probably could use some pictures of half-naked women on it."? And speaking of women.... are you planning on never, ever having any over at your house?
If you answered "Yes" to any of the above questions, perhaps it's time you added these black satin "Sultry Pillows" to your collection for just $36 each. Or if you decide a single pillow featuring Sable, Sunny or Marlena doesn't turn you into enough of a pervert, why not buy all three? It will be the best $102 you've ever spent.
Tissues not included.
And speaking of turning WWF fans into future stalkers.... the following page advertises "The closest.... you're ever gonna get!". I'm willing to bet a steak dinner that this merchandise copy was written by the same person who authored most of this month's Raw Magazine.... one Vince Russo. Prove me wrong, people; prove me wrong!
In addition to slutty shirts of Sable and Sunny that no person, wrestling fan or otherwise, could ever be shamed into wearing in public (a steal at $25 each), there are also T-shirts for Triple H, Chyna, Ken Shamrock, The Headbangers and The Disciples of Apocalyspe. Talk about your random grouping!
My first observation is that the Triple H "It's Good To Be King" tee looks like of like a horseshoe, so I'm not sure why anyone would want to wear that, wrestling fan or otherwise. The "Shamrock" tee is kind of plain.... it doesn't even say the guy's first name on the shirt! I guess it would be fine if you were, say, a big fan of the Shamrock Shakes they make at McDonald's. The DOA shirt isn't even worth discussing in this space, and The Headbangers one.... well, let's just it would be a decent enough shirt if there were even two or three Headbanger fans out there willing to wear that bad boy in public.
Although I'm hardly an action figure expert (outside of, of course, the prestigious Canadian Bulldog's World LJN Wrestling Figure Hall of Fame), I seem to think that these were shortly after Jakks Pacific launched their line of wrestling toys, because most of these were pretty effing terrible compared to how they look today. For example, The Godwinn action figures are so bad that only Henry will play with his (while Phineas opted for the generic referee). The Road Warriors are okay; The Headbangers appear to have spray paint on their head instead of stubble; and The New Blackjacks are.... how do I put this..... completely unnecessary? In fact, the only other time I can remember The New Blackjacks as action figures EVER being mentioned is when Mick Foley talking in his book about his son crying because Santa brought him those toys for Christmas one year. And hey, look - an official Vince McMahon microphone! Perfect for talking into as people line up to kiss your bare ass on national television!
Tag teams certainly aren't the only action figures to be displayed in this catalog. Though they're a little tough to see in the picture to the left, you've got Sunny, Sable and mild-mannered Raw Is War announcer Vince McMahon on the top row, each selling for $9 a pop.
Then from there, you've got Stone Cold Steve Austin; Rocky Maivia (note frizzy hair and lame tribal pattern on his wristband, trunks and boots); Savio Vega (decked out in his "I just turned heel and joined The Nation Of Domination, even though I'm apparently the only NOD member in this collection for some reason" gear); Flash Funk (decked out in his "remind me again why I couldn't come in as 2 Cold Scorpio?" pimp gear); and Ken Shamrock, better known to the world as SHAMROCK.
Wait - each of those guys are $10 - why are they more pricey than the women and announcer dolls? Does it REALLY cost $1 more for that plastic WWF logo stand? Or did they think Sable in a night gown would go for less than Sable in a nightgown?
Then there are the accessories. We have the "World Wrestling Federation Monster Ring" for $20, which to me looks more like a repurposed LJN "Sling 'Em, Fling 'Em Ring" from the days gone by. Look - The Headbangers and Legion Of Doom aren't tall enough to reach the top rope! Either they slapped new stickers on the old LJN rings or someone in the ring department at Jakks Pacific wasn't too fussy about the whole "to scale" thing.
And finally, we have a mini steel cage and mini wrestling figures. Awww.... how cute!
Last but not least, the catalog dedicates one page each to Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart/The Hart Foundation merchandise. There's nothing overly spectacular on either page - temporary tattoos, a few T-shirt designs... Michaels has fingerless gloves for sale while The Hitman has his trademark sunglasses.
The thing I found interesting about both pages is the timing. If this catalog came out around late-1997 in time for the holidays, The Montreal Screwjob had already happened. That means that Shawn Michaels was already well into his DX phase and Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith would have been over at the competition by then.
Again, I understand that these catalogs are made months and months in advance, so it's not shocking some information would be a little stale-dated. But here you have performers that were clearly meant to have gone down a different career path, at least by the point this magazine was being put together. Very telling.
While we weren't quite ready for The Attitude Era, it's important to remember this was created in a time where the WWF was losing the ratings war and attempting to get back on track. If it weren't some 17 years ago, I'd strongly suggest you get out there and support them.