MERCH FROM 1990
Back in 1990, I experienced my first WCW house show. Well, the next time they came back later in the year, I spent a few of my hard-earned dollars on Wrestling Wrap-Up, WCW's weird hybrid of a program and wrestling magazine (which WCW would begin producing itself a year later).
The Wrap-Up was a decent little publication, but what I remember most about it was WCW's own merchandise catalogue, which.... was interesting, to say the least, but didn't quite measure up to what the folks in the World Wrestling Federation were selling fans.
Let's take a look at the wares that Jim Herd & Co. were trying to hawk to us 25 years ago...
Back in 1990, Sting™ was quite officially the shit in WCW, being groomed for his very first run at the top. This merchandise catalogue more than reflected it.
The Stinger's facepainted mug was plastered on everything (although, ironically, not mugs) - T-shirts, hats, buttons, posters, water bottles, condoms.... you name it, Sting™ had it.
I definitely understand the rationale behind pushing everything Sting™, but if you look at some of the T-shirt designs below, you'll notice that some of them are.... well, artistically-speaking, stuck at the third grader level.
But perhaps wearing the crudely-illustrated logo of WCW's franchise player wasn't enough for you. Perhaps you wanted to look exactly like Sting™. Perhaps you wanted to dye your hair blond, wear hot pink trunks, descend from the rafters, clobber people with baseball bats and steal your opponent's statues.
Could you accomplish all that by using the Official Sting™ Face Painting Kit! Or, if you felt so inclined, you could pretend the hot pink was red and could be an alternate version of The Road Warriors"?
Here's what I want to know about the Official Sting™ Face Painting Kit: isn't it less of a face painting kit and more of a paint palette one might find stapled to the bottom of a coloring book entitled "My Little Pony and her Magical Friends."
Of course, WCW had other stars at the time besides Sting™. They also had The Steiner Brothers, ranked by this website as the top WCW tag team of all time!
Now.... you may be wondering why Scott Steiner looks more like Steve Guttenberg of Police Academy fame.... or why he doesn't appear to have any legs but is, instead attached to the ass of Rick Steiner.... or if you're wondering why the hybrid Rick/Scott monster is seemingly crapping bones out of its collective rear end.
But that's none of my business.
Not all of WCW's merchandise was targeted at main eventers or half-man/half-dog combinations.
For example, they had a shirt of Captain Mike Rotunda (initially a Captain because of his Varsity wrestling pedigree and then transformed into a sea captain for some reason) with his head and neck literally driving a speedboat. That's creepy on a lot of levels.
Then you had Tommy "Wildfire" Rich, reduced to opening card fodder by 1990, jobbing to the likes of The Samoan Swat Team and Jimmy Jam Garvin. I'm still to this day not entirely sure why such a shirt would be commercially available, unless it was sold, like, the week after Rich beat Harley Race for the NWA Title in 1981 and then never sold again.
Other midcard shirts (not pictured) include Flyin' Brian Pillman, Z-Man Tom Zenk and The Fabulous Freebirds.
Speaking of mid-carder shirts, how about El Freaking Gigante?
For those too young to remember El (a/k/a Thee Giant), he was a 7"7 basketball standout in Argentina that was drafted to Ted Turner's Atlanta Hawks franchise in the late 1980's. When b-ball didn't work out, Turner decided to give him a shot in his rasslin' company, which played out roughly as well. He later became the WWF's sasquatchesque Giant Gonzales.
Anyhoo... so you have a guy who's a billion feet tall, and the best you can come up with for a shirt design is.... a giant shadow against a skyscraper? SERIOUSLY? How that does shirt allow a fan to rally behind the guy?
Was Jim Herd booking merchandise at this time, too?
Last but (definitely) least, we have a stuffed teddy bear for fans of Norman The Lunatic, a 400-pound escaped mental patient that was so dangerous to society that WCW turned him babyface and allowed him to hang around ringside with children.
You know how some of the wrestling-themed teddy bears are kind of designed to look like the person they're patterned after? For example, how Macho Man's bear has crazy sunglasses and The Undertaker's bear has a wittle bitty trenchcoat? Well, this didn't look anything like Norman, who certainly never wore a T-shirt that said people are crazy about him. Crazy - get it?
But my biggest issue with the Norman Bear is that it's an item that someone from Turner Broadcasting probably found at a store that sells greeting cards and repurposed it for WCW! Seriously, there are probably a bunch of others in the line including "I'm Crazy About Kevin", "I'm Crazy About Lisa", "I'm Crazy About Gertrude" and "I'm Crazy About Sting™."