THE SPECIALISTS COLLECTIBLES COLUMN: A guide to collecting WrestleMania's biggest stars from WrestleMania 1 to 27
Mar 31, 2011 - 2:23:25 PM
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By Michael Moore, PWTorch collectibles specialist
At the close of WrestleMania, one star always shines brightest. Sometimes it’s the main-eventer around whom the show was built, such as Hulk Hogan or John Cena. Other times, it’s an undercard wrestler who steals the show with a spectacular performance, like Ricky Steamboat or Shawn Michaels.
Here’s a look at key trading cards of the stars who have shone brightest at each WrestleMania. Note that each wrestler only appears once, so the wrestler chosen for a particular wrestler may be someone not obviously associated with that particular show. For example, the first several WrestleManias were built around Hulk Hogan, so finding a star from WrestleMania II or V who has been included in key sets was a little more challenging.
The Wrestler: Hulk Hogan
The Match: Hogan teamed with TV star Mr. T to defeat Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. Make no mistake: the first WrestleMania was all about Hogan, the biggest star in wrestling at that time.
The Card: 2005 Topps WWE Heritage Autograph ($125-$150). Hogan’s signature has been included in a variety of sets, but this is his only certified autograph from a WWE product.
The Wrestler: Andre the Giant
The Match: Andre outlasted 19 other wrestlers and football players to win a battle royal.
The Card: 1982 Wrestling All Stars ($125+). Andre was included in this landmark set, which includes the biggest stars of the era.
The Wrestler: Ricky Steamboat
The Match: Steamboat defeated Randy Savage to capture the Intercontinental title in the first truly great WrestleMania match.
The Card: 2009 Topps WWE Autograph ($15-$20). Steamboat’s first certified autograph was released on the heels of his memorable run with Chris Jericho in 2009.
The Wrestler: Randy Savage
The Match: Savage defeated Ted DiBiase in the finals of a tournament to crown a new WWE champion. He became the first wrestler besides Hogan to have a serious run with the belt in more than four years.
The Card: 1994 Action Packed Autograph ($75-125). The “Macho Man’s” autograph can be a tough one to find. He’s got only two certified autos, and this one is the more affordable of the two.
The Wrestler: Curt Hennig
The Match: “Mr. Perfect” made his WrestleMania debut by defeating the Blue Blazer. This was the start of Hennig’s push; he would go on to be the WWF’s best in-ring performer for several years.
The Card: 1999 Topps WCW/nWo Nitro Autograph ($100-$150). Hennig’s only autograph is found in this very popular set, and is a tough one to find.
The Wrestler: The Ultimate Warrior
The Match: Warrior became the first wrestler to cleanly defeat Hogan since Hulkamania was born in 1984. He captured his only WWE title at this event.
The Card: 2007 Donruss Americana Autograph ($75-$100). Warrior’s lone autograph is found in this set from Donruss, which incorporated pop culture icons from all walks of life.
The Wrestler: Sgt. Slaughter
The Match: The former American hero became an Iraqi sympathizer in the midst of the first Gulf War. He dropped the belt to Hulk Hogan in a surprisingly brutal brawl.
The Card: 2006 Topps WWE Heritage Chrome Autograph ($15-$20). The Sarge has been included in a few sets, and has a very affordable autograph.
The Wrestler: Roddy Piper
The Match: Piper wrestled the best match of WWF career when he lost the Intercontinental belt to Bret Hart.
The Card: 2008 SportKings Autograph/Memorabilia ($35-$60). Piper has a few different autographs. This one is unique because it features a swatch of a shirt worn by the “Hot Rod,” and variations of the card featuring a multi-colored swatch of the shirt command a premium.
The Wrestler: Ted DiBiase
The Match: DiBiase teamed with IRS to defeat Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake by disqualification in the worst WrestleMania in the history’s event. Yokozuna won the WWF title from Bret Hart at this event, but has no significant cards.
The Card: 2009 Topps WWE Dual Autograph ($15-$25). This card features autographs from both “The Million Dollar Man” and his son, current WWE star Ted, Jr.
The Wrestler: Razor Ramon (Scott Hall)
The Match: Ramon defeated Shawn Michaels in the groundbreaking ladder match to become the undisputed Intercontinental champion.
The Card: 1999 Topps WCW/nWo Nitro Autograph ($50-$75). Hall’s only autograph is from his days as an Outsider, and can be found in this historic set.
The Wrestler: Bam Bam Bigelow
The Match: Bigelow carried Lawrence Taylor to a match that turned out to be better than it had any right to be. It was undoubtedly the peak of Bigelow’s career.
The Card: 1999 Topps WCW/nWo Nitro Autograph ($50-$75). Noticing a trend? This set remains such a staple of the hobby due to the presence of so many of wrestling’s biggest stars, many of whom passed away at a young age.
The Wrestler: Shawn Michaels
The Match: Michaels defeated Bret Hart in a 60-minute iron match for his first WWF title. For the third year in a row, Michaels was involved in WrestleMania’s best match. It would be a trend he would resume seven years later.
The Card: 2005 Topps WWE Heritage Autograph ($60-$90). Michaels has a few autographs to choose from. This one features a cool action shot of him dropping an elbow from the top rope.
The Wrestler: Bret Hart
The Match: Hart defeated Steve Austin in what remains arguably the best match in WrestleMania history. This match gave us the unforgettable image of a bloody Austin refusing to submit, and was the bout that launched the Stone Cold era.
The Card: 2009 SportKings Autograph/Memorabilia ($50-$75). This set featured athletes from all different sports. Hart has a few different autographs, but the best one is this, which also includes a piece of a shirt worn by the “Hitman.”
The Wrestler: Steve Austin
The Match: Austin defeated Shawn Michaels with Mike Tyson as a special guest referee. The Austin-Vince McMahon feud would soon lead the WWF to its most successful period.
The Card: 2001 Fleer WWF WrestleMania Autograph ($80-$120). This is Austin’s only certified autograph; he signed the card “Austin 3:16.”
The Wrestler: Mick Foley
The Match: Foley made the three-count as Austin defeated The Rock to reclaim the WWF title. Austin and Rock had more memorable WrestleMania moments than this, but this was quite possibly the peak of Foley’s popularity.
The Card: 1998 WWF Superstarz ($25-$50). Foley has several other autographs available, mostly in TNA sets. This card captures him in his crazed Mankind persona from the Attitude Era.
The Wrestler: Triple H
The Match: Triple H was widely regarded as the best wrestler in North America at this time. He defeated The Rock, Big Show and Mick Foley and became the first heel to leave WrestleMania as WWF champion.
The Card: 2002 Fleer WWF All Access Off the Mat Autograph ($250-$300). Triple H’s autograph remains the most difficult to find among all active wrestlers. He has only signed for one set, which features his signature on a piece of canvas.
The Wrestler: Edge & Christian
The Match: Edge and Christian, the Dudleys and the Hardys stole the show in a spectacular tables, ladders and chairs match. It marked the second consecutive year that Edge and Christian emerged victorious in a ladder match for the belts.
The Cards: Edge, 2007 Topps WWE Action Autograph ($15-$20); Christian, 2008 Tristar TNA Cross the Line Authentic Action Memorabilia Autograph ($15-$20).
The Wrestler: The Rock
The Match: The Rock defeated the returning Hollywood Hogan in an epic clash between icons from two different eras. This was Hogan’s first WrestleMania appearance in nine years.
The Card: 1998 WWF Superstarz Autograph ($75-$100). So far, The Rock has only one certified autograph, but that could certainly change with his participation in this year’s WrestleMania.
The Wrestler: Brock Lesnar
The Match: Lesnar narrowly escaped severe injury after a botched shooting star press against Kurt Angle. This was Lesnar’s first WrestleMania appearance, and one year later, he would make his last.
The Card: 2009 Press Pass Fusion Autograph ($15-$35). Lesnar’s autograph wasn’t included in any of Fleer’s WWF sets from his time in wrestling. However, he has several UFC autographs and this card from Press Pass, which features him in his days a collegiate grappler.
The Wrestler: Chris Benoit
The Match: Benoit defeated Shawn Michaels and Triple H in a thrilling main event match to capture his first World title in WWE. If not for Benoit’s heinous actions three years later, this match would probably rank as a sentimental favorite among hardcore wrestling fans.
The Card: 1999 Topps WCW/nWo Autograph ($150-$200). Benoit had a few different autographs made in several Topps WWE sets starting in 2005, but this card remains his most popular – and most expensive.
The Wrestler: John Cena
The Match: Cena defeated John Bradshaw Layfield to win his first World title. Cena went on to become wrestling’s biggest star since the Attitude Era.
The Card: 2010 Topps WWE Platinum Autograph/Relic ($50-$75). Cena has several autographs available. This one features autograph and a piece of one of his shirts.
The Wrestler: Rey Mysterio
The Match: Mysterio defeated Kurt Angle and Randy Orton to win his first World title. It was an emotional and exciting moment, by Mysterio’s reign was never treated seriously by WWE, as he was often fed to larger wrestlers like the Great Kahli.
The Card: 2006 Topps WWE Heritage Chrome Autograph ($40-$60). Rey has fewer autographs than many of the top WWE stars, but his autographs still remain affordable.
The Wrestler: Umaga
The Match: Umaga was Vince McMahon’s representative against Bobby Lashley, who fought for Donald Trump in the battle of the billionaires.
The Card: 2006 Topps WWE Heritage II Autograph ($50-$75). Umaga lost, but his shocking death just over two years later led to his only certified autograph becoming much more popular than any of Lashley’s cards.
The Wrestler: Ric Flair
The Match: Flair lost what was billed as his retirement match to Shawn Michaels. The following night on Raw, Flair received the most emotional sendoff ever bestowed upon a wrestler.
The Card: 1982 Wrestling All Stars ($75+). Although wrestling cards have been around for more than a century, this set is recognized as the first truly significant wrestling set by many collectors. Flair’s card is one of the crown jewels of the set; a raw, ungraded copy can run you upwards of $75, while a card receiving a gem mint grade can command as much as $575.
The Wrestler: C.M. Punk
The Match: Punk won his second consecutive Money in the Bank match. A few months later, he would successfully cash in his briefcase and defeat Jeff Hardy for the World title.
The Card: 2010 Topps WWE Autograph ($15-$20). Punk came on the scene as Topps started producing a variety of autograph cards, and has many available dating back to 2006.
The Wrestler: The Undertaker
The Match: Undertaker defeated the “Heartbreak Kid,” ending Michaels’ career and extending his WrestleMania streak to 18-0.
The Card: 1994 Action Packed Autograph ($100-$125). This card’s value has risen in recent years. Two years ago, you could find one for $40-$60 if you were persistent. Today, it’s unlikely you’ll find a copy for less than $100.
The Wrestler: The Miz
The Match: The Miz is wrestling in his first WrestleMania main event, surrounded by The Rock and John Cena. It’s very possible he’ll leave WrestleMania 27 a much bigger star than he entered.
The Card: 2010 Topps WWE Platinum Autograph/Memorabilia ($35-$50). This card features Miz’s autograph, along with a piece of a shirt worn by the current champion. A card with a multi-colored swatch will command a premium.
Author's note: Next week's column will include answers to reader-submitted question. If you've got a question about a certain wrestling collectible, e-mail Michael Moore at email@example.com.
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