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What a difference a year makes.
In 2014, no wrestler was hotter than Roman Reigns. Sales of his 2013 Topps Best of WWE Autograph surged following his performance at the Royal Rumble. Collectors sensed WWE was fast-tracking him to stardom, and within a month sale prices jumped from $15 to more than $100.
And then the 2015 Royal Rumble happened.
Reigns was booed out of the building and was ice-cold going into WrestleMania. Fans realized he was being pushed as the heir apparent to John Cena and rejected him throughout the year. At the same time, Topps was cranking out trading cards of Reigns. His autograph was suddenly everywhere, and lack of demand and excess supply drove values of his cards downward.
Reigns certainly isn’t a flop. Collectors recognize him as a top star on the rise, and fans seem to be rallying around him again as 2015 draws to a close. He was certainly one of the most popular wrestlers with card collectors – but there were a lot more wrestlers who were a lot more popular.
Wrestling collectors, like a lot of sports card collectors, are either looking for the next big thing or the Legends they grew up with. Stars like Reigns, Cena, and Randy Orton sell at pretty consistent levels, but collectors are willing to spend more money on promising young rookies or the legends who transcended pro wrestling.
Here’s a look at 15 wrestlers who captured card collectors’s attention in 2015, along with some other awards celebrating the best (and worst) in wrestling trading cards. Keep in mind this list only includes wrestlers who appeared on 2015 trading cards. Wrestlers like Dusty Rhodes and Roddy Piper got hot following their deaths, but Rhodes’s signature hasn’t been featured in a trading card product in years. Piper’s only autograph was in 2015 Topps WWE, released in January. It sold well during the first half of the year, and then sales were volatile following his death. During the last few months, the supply of this card has dried up, and there have been very few completed listings.
15 Hottest Wrestlers
(15) Dean Ambrose. Roman Reigns’s little buddy was over with fans and certainly had his share of collectors. But his horrible “DA” autograph – perhaps the worst signature in wrestling history – turned off a lot of would-be buyers.
(14) Roman Reigns. Reigns’s cards took off in 2014, but cooled down considerably in 2015. He failed to connect with fans, and his autograph was included in seemingly every Topps product in 2015. The excessive supply, combined with fan apathy, led to declining interest and lower prices. Still, collectors recognize him as one of WWE’s top stars, and his cards still decently – just not anywhere near 2014 levels. His lazy “RR” signature doesn’t help.
(13) Seth Rollins. Noticing a Shield theme? 2015 was a career year for Rollins, as he left WrestleMania as WWE Champion and reigned most of the year. While his cards sold well, collectors never quite warmed up to him the way they have other top stars. This was perhaps due to an abundance of new autographs in 2015, and a sloppy signature that’s only slightly better than that of his ex-Shield mates.
(12) John Cena WWE’s top star was never really hot with collectors in 2015, but he was always consistent. His autograph has appeared in multiple Topps products over the years, and could again be found in WWE Undisputed.
(11) Alexa Bliss. She may be unfamiliar to all but the most diehard NXT fans, but Bliss’s supermodel looks and sharp signature made her 2015 Topps Chrome Autograph a hot card. The basic and refractor versions usually sell in the $40-60 range.
(10) Charlotte. Ric Flair’s daughter was overhyped by everyone from Jim Ross to Mark Madden, who tried to convince fans she would somehow be WWE’s version of Ronda Rousey. Charlotte’s popularity was surpassed by a rival from NXT (more on that later), but her certified signatures from Chrome and Undisputed were popular collectors. Unlike a lot of her peers, Charlotte takes the time to sign a quality signature, a fact not lost on collectors.
(9) Shawn Michaels “HBK” has signed for Topps products before, but his autograph isn’t nearly as common as some others. Collectors jumped on his WWE Undisputed autograph, which featured Michaels’s first on-card signature in a WWE product since 2005. He’s also featured on a cool dual autograph card with Razor Ramon, which uses sticker autographs and is serial numbered to 25.
(8) Hulk Hogan Hogan would probably like to forget 2015. Nonetheless, his autographs were everywhere. He appeared in wrestling sets from Topps and Leaf, and his signature was also included in non-wrestling sets from Topps, Panini, and Leaf. His on-card autographs in 2015 Topps WWE Chrome were especially popular, usually selling for at least $75.
(7) Kevin Owens. Owens was WWE’s break-out star during the first half of 2015, thanks to a clean win over John Cena. His first autograph appeared in Canada-exclusive packs of WWE Road to WrestleMania. His more commonly traded signature can be found in WWE Undipsuted as one of the key cards in the NXT subset. Basic autographs usually sell for around $60, with some colored parallels selling for up to $150.
(6) Bret Hart. Bret’s signature has appeared in WCW and multi-sport products over the years, but 2015 Topps marked the first time his autograph was included in a WWE product. Those autographs tend to sell in the $50-75 range. WWE Undisputed will include Bret’s first on-card WWE autograph, but collectors will have to be patient; Topps was unable to include them and instead offered redemption cards. Topps also included exclusive autograph and memorabilia cards of Bret in the Canadian version of Road to WrestleMania. The memorabilia cards are especially cool since they feature a pink swatch of a singlet worn by Bret, whereas most WWE relic cards contain pieces of wrestler-worn t-shirts.
(5) Finn Balor. Balor’s first WWE signatures were included in Topps’ Heritage and Undisputed releases. The basic Heritage Autograph usually sells for around $50, while colored parallels from Undisputed can sell for upwards of $200. His New Japan Pro Wrestling cards (as Prince Devitt) also caught collectors’ attention, with his 2007-08 BBM NJPW rookie card regularly selling for $20-25. Devitt’s NJPW autographs rarely surface, but when they do, they tend to fetch around $200.
(4) Paige. WWE’s booking of Paige was atrocious in 2015, but collectors stayed loyal. Her only certified autograph to date is in the 2015 Topps WWE product. A silver version numbered to 25 recently sold for $150.
(3) Sting. Topps included Sting’s signature and various relic pieces (including pieces from a boot, glove and pants) in Walmart-exclusive packs and boxes of its different products. Gold parallels (serial numbered to 10) of autographs and autograph relics usually sell in the $150-200 range.
(2) Brock Lesnar. Prior to 2015, Lesnar’s signature had never appeared on a WWE trading card. This year, Topps included a limited number of his signature in both Road to WrestleMania and Undisputed. Two black versions of the Undisputed autograph, serial numbered to 10, recently sold for $203.50 and $221.50, respectively.
(1) Sasha Banks. Autographs of top WWE women always sell high, and Sasha is no exception. Her first certified autographed trading cards were released just weeks apart in Topps’s Heritage and Undisputed products, and she was hotter than arguably any other WWE wrestler during the second half of 2015. Her basic Heritage autographs tend to sell for around $50. Her serial numbered autograph parallels from Undisputed sell much higher; the purple version (serial numbered to 25) usually sells in the $150-200 range.
Five Best Signatures
– Bruno Sammartino
– Bret Hart
– Jerry Lawler
– Sami Zayn
It seems like it’s the same story in all sports: the respected legends take their time to sign autographs (Dan Marino, John Elway, and Michael Jordan) while young rookies offer up absolute slop (Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor may be the worst ever).
Bruno and Bret always deliver incredibly crisp, clean autographs where every letter is visible. It should come as no surprise that accomplished artist Lawler always takes his time with a pen, adding a “King” inscription to his super clean signature. Charlotte and Sami Zayn are welcome exceptions to the sloppy signatures from most wrestlers their age. Charlotte always signs a legible signature – just like her father – and sometimes adds a “Woooo!” and a heart. Zayn’s signature isn’t really anything special, but it’s clean and legible and usually includes an exclamation point and sometimes a smiley face.
Five Worst Signatures
– Dean Ambrose
– Becky Lynch
– Roman Reigns
– Viktor of The Ascension
– Aiden English
Ambrose is incredibly popular with collectors, but the value of his cards is definitely hurt by his horrible “DA” signature. His sticker autographs are especially bad; even the “DA” is almost illegible. Fans were clamoring all year for Becky’s first certified auto, but were let down by her signature in Topps WWE Undisputed, which is something like a backwards “B” and an “L.”
Reigns’s “RR” is only slightly better than Ambrose’s “DA.” The Ascension were dead on arrival thanks to their poor LOD imitation, so there was no chance that collectors were even going to get into Konnor and Viktor’s cards. But, their horrible autographs make it even worse for unfortunate collectors who pull their cards. Viktor’s is especially bad, with what essentially looks like a “V” with a circle around it.
NXT’s Aiden English may be the worst of all. Collectors were frustrated enough when they pulled his autograph from Topps WWE Chrome, but his horrible “AE” signature just added insult to injury.
– 2014 Leaf Originals Wrestling Autographs.
Leaf’s latest wrestling offering had a little something for everybody. For fans of Jim Crockett Promotions, there were autographs of J.J. Dillon, Ole Anderson, and Ric Flair. For the ECW faithful, there were signatures of Raven, the Blue Meanie, Balls Mahoney, Francine, Sabu, and The Sandman. Monday Night War-era fans could pick up autographs of Goldberg, Scott Hall, Sting, Hulk Hogan, Gangrel, the Godfather, Kevin Nash, and Jeff Hardy.
There were also first-time autographs of Dynamite Kid and Kevin Von Erich, and short printed signatures of big names like Roddy Piper, Bobby Heenan, Mike Tyson, and Dennis Rodman. Nearly a year after their initial release, there are plenty of these cards on the secondary market at very reasonable prices.
Best Wrestler Card from a Non-Wrestling Set
– 2015 Allen & Ginter Hulk Hogan Framed Mini Autograph.
Topps celebrated the 10th anniversary of its wildly popular Allen & Ginter product with “Rocky”-themed cards. Rocky Balboa, Thunderlips and Ivan Drago all had their own trading cards, and Hogan’s Thunderlips signature was one of his most popular ever.
– 2015 Topps WWE Undisputed.
Topps debuted the first high end wrestling product in November, and collectors are eating it up. Each pack sells for around $20 and includes an autograph or autographed relic card. The set features rare on-card autographs from virtually every big name in WWE, including Roman Reigns, John Cena (via redemption), Finn Balor, Sasha Banks, and Kevin Owens, along with signatures from legends like Ric Flair, Bret Hart (via redemption), Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels, Jerry Lawler, and many others.
Collectors seem to love everything about the set – the base cards, the autographs, the rare booklet autographs, and the oversized Fistographs, which feature a wrestler’s fist print and autograph serial numbered to 10 copies.
– 2015 Topps Chrome A.J. Lee & Paige Dual Autograph.
There’s a good chance you may never even see this card. It’s incredibly tough to pull and limited to just five serial numbered copies. It includes signatures from two of the hottest WWE acts of the last several years in A.J. and Paige. In addition, it’s A.J.’s last certified WWE autograph.