Friday, May 23, 2014

What you gonna do when Electric Zombie Runs Wild on you Brother?

(Editor's Note: I started this article/review about four weeks ago 
and since then many of the products covered in this article have 
sold-out or been discontinued. In that regard this piece becomes 
more a review of the designs and their connection to popular culture. 
Check products for availability.)

Back in the day, when I was just a little Strange,  I was really into professional wrestling. While I drank up major brands like the upstart World Championship Wrestling and the notoriously violent Extreme Championship Wrestling I was always true-blue to the World Wrestling Federation. From the superhero characters of the golden era all the way to the assholes of the attitude era, I've always had a love for the titans of "sports entertainment" and most youths of the 80/90's can agree.  I'm not sure what it's about males from my generation but we loved two things growing up: the WWF and Dragon Ball Z. 
Funny, I don't see any connections between the two.
  Eventually I grew bored of the storylines and moved on, but I still have all those nostalgic memories. Which is why when Electric Zombie revealed it's newest line I was transported straight back to my early days of attempting the sharpshooter leg hold on friends and peers (yep, we were those idiot kids who tried it at home). Thus, I'm proud to review:

This the the second in the series of Electric Zombies' "Legends Never Die". The first line consisted of zombiefied or sinister versions of well known wrestling legends. Consisting of shirts, stickers, posters, and even a special box set, you could tell this line was close to the heart of its creator (why else would it feature Adam Bomb, am I right?).

Visit Stand Out Stickers for more of the Series 1 designs.
For series 2 Crawford has scaled back in certain depeartments (no dog shirts) and gone full-tilt in others, but we'll get to that later. First, the shirts.

I was never a Big Boss Man (Raymond Walter Traylor) fan growing up. I got the gimmick. I knew how it worked. I saw why it worked. I understand it goes perfectly with the parallel gimmick of The Mountie (Jacques Rougeau). I still wasn't a fan.  The corrections officer gimmick works better as a heel than a face in my view. I actually really enjoyed him more when he returned as a darker character in the late 90's and made people eat their dogs, but that's me. This design is really cool as it not only features the EZ brand in the badge it also has ties to another cult polic officer, Mat Cordell of 'Maniac Cop' fame.

Here we go, talk about a wrestler I enjoyed the hell out of. Jake "The Snake" Roberts (Aurelian Smith) was an awesome wrestler with a equally awesome character. No elaborate backstory, no colorful costume, he was essentially just a scheming asshole who would use the fear of snakes to prey on his opponents. He was one of the best wrestlers to use psychological warfare in, and out, of the ring. His promo were always quiet affairs with a sense of dread. You could never really trust Jake, even when he was a face he was still a schemer. This image represents the infamous worked segment when Jake used a cobra, instead of his usual python named Damien, to attack Randy Savage. I love this design if not just for the fact that it features Robert's fiery tights, his cooler costume when he was at his most sinister.

Fun Fact: Soon after this segment the cobra died. Did I say "fun fact"? I meant "horrible miscalculated animal abuse".
'SHAMAN' $20
I loved Papa Shango. Besides the Undertaker, and later Mankind, Papa Shango was my go-to spooky wrestler. I was kind of a weird kid. Everything about Papa was done with an air of mystery and suspense. Was he really evil? Did he have powers? Had he possessed Bob Backlund (look it up)? To a kid my age he was creepy, unsettling, and cool. Then he was gone. 

Now, I wish I could go on and describe how the look or the storyline of Papa Shango worked but I can't. Time has robbed that from me. Instead I must take a moment and put on the post-modern hat in order to discuss a serious topic: race in wrestling. Papa Shango was a wrestler by the name of Charles Wright. Charles started of as a bartender but was noticed for his unique look (a.k.a. awesome tats) and was persuaded to make a living as a wrestler. When he came over to the WWF they packaged him as Papa Shango, a takeoff of the vodou Loa Baron Samedi. Now, we can ask who a gifted black athlete had to be packaged as a voodoo doctor? Was "normal African American who also wrestles" taken? OK, it was the height of the "gimmick era" and everyone had one. Eventually the gimmick was dropped and he became "Kama", a ultimate fighter style wrestler. Finally, the name is still a little un-PC but we can work with that. A somewhat positive focus now...that then was changed to Kama Mustafa, an militant black Muslim (it was ever said but.."Nation"..."of Domination" Really?). Sigh. Then he was slowly transformed into the "Godfather". Like a gangster you ask? No, like a pimp! I'm not African American, I'm a liberal white kid from the suburbs, but all this in hindsight makes me kind of annoyed. Why did professional wrestling not know what to do with it's black wrestlers? "Vincent", the manservant. "Men on a Mission", the hip-hop tag team. "Flash Funk", the funky dancer. "Kamala", the Ugandan Giant! With body paint and a spear no less! 

Sorry, I'm done. This design is awesome. Best of all of them. I wish I could have it on a print to frame it. I still miss Papa Shango. I still have white guilt. Let's move on.    

I never thought of this. I never even brought the two together, not even when Chainsaw Charlie a.k.a Terry Funk was with him. I never connected the two and I feel that it will never be seperated again. What hasn't been said or written about Mick Foley a.k.a. Mankind a.k.a. Cactus Jack? The man is as much a living legend as Terry Funk or Abdullah the Butcher (Lawrence Robert Shreve). He has seen it all, done it all, and fallen through it all. The man was infamous before he even debuted in the WWF. The pitch for Mankind, as far as my mind can imagine, was that of tortured mental patient they allowed in the ring. From the squealing and the screaming during matches you could tell this was a different kind of character they were putting out now. It makes so much sense now, of course he was Leatherface. Absolutely love this design.

Demolition (Bill Eadir and Barry Darsow) were a team I never could get into. At the time I was more into The Nasty Boys (Jerry Sags and Brian Knobbs) due to them being seemingly better brawlers, more punk rock, and true bad-asses (and also famous for working stiff, meaning actually making contact). That being said, Demolition were also pretty bad-ass. Face paint, leather, and spikes have a tendency of doing that. What really made Demolition an awesome tag team was that they were managed by the devious one himself, Mr. Fuji (Harry Fujiwara) . He may be the king of heel managers and has thrown his weight of salt in the eyes of many wrestling legends (Who else can say that? Really, who else throws salt?). Another thing about Demolition was that they would come to the ring wearing black hockey masks making them appear as Lord Humungous from 'The Road Warrior'. The shirt's design forgoes this connection and instead focuses on the duos names: Ax and Smash.

Oh yeah, say hello to the bad guy. If you're not so much into graphic T-shirts then Electric Zombie has two prints for you in this line. The first print is based on Razor Ramon a.k.a. Scott Hall. I've decided not to go into a Scott Hall review, many have already covered that ground already, and instead will focus on his run in the WWF, which was pretty epic. Scott Hall wrestled for years before heading to WCW as the Diamond Stud managed by Diomond Dallas Page (Page Joseph Falkinburg) and then eventually to the WWF as Razor Ramon, a heel character based off Tony Montana from 'Scarface' (I really want to make a cocaine/Scott Hall joke but I won't). I know he had a long face run but I always enjoyed the Razor character as a heel, he just was just a perfect jerk with a great finisher. (Called the 'Razor's Edge'. Once again, no cocaine joke). This Print features the working of the Electric Zombie logo not only onto Razor's vest but also in the classic razor blade logo. Also, these f***king backgrounds textures are amazing. They scream 90's wrestling. 

This print features Diesel a.k.a. Kevin Nash. He was involved in a WWF backstage group known as "The Kliq".  He also played the Super Shredder in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze'.

That's about it.

I'm not a big Kevin Nash fan 
(But the print is still awesome looking. "Die EZ". Loving it.)


Honestly, the only time I had a liking for Nash was really when he was with Hall as The Outsiders during the nWo days. In that spirit EZ has decided to make a deal where you can get both prints. Pretty sweet, in fact dare I say "too sweet"? Haha...I'm funny.
'DEATH MATCH 2' Box $100

The Road Warriors. The Legion of Doom. LOD. Inventors of the "Domesday Device". Masters of the interview. Managed by a puppet. Yeah, I was a Road Warriors fan. Could you ask for a cooler tag team? They had the spikes. They had the face-paint. They had the attitude. And, most of all, they had it before Demolition. Truely, The Road Warriors were busting heads and wrestling stiff in the NWA/WCW long before Axe and Smash teamed up. Many believe that Vince McMahon created Demolition in response to the heat the Road Warriors were receiving in the other wrestling organizations. When he finally did acquire them they became the Legion of Doom but were still refereed to as Road Warrior Hawk (Michael Hegstrand) and Road Warrior Animal (Joseph Michael Laurinaitis) individually. Why drop the Road Warriors title? I don't know, intellectual rites? This design was actually showcased in the first 'Legends Never Die' line and I'm happy that Kyle choose to bring it back for the second 'Death Match' box. While the box lacks a cut-out belt like the first it makes up for it with a simple color scheme and great design work. What comes in the box you may ask? Damn near everything! You get all the shirts and the 'Outsiders' bundle. AAAOOOHHH, WHAT A RUSHHHH!

Well, I guess that's all that Electric Zombie has to offer. Oh wait, there seems to be something left. What could it be? Well, let me see...

I think Electric Zombie just crashed my nostalgia center. It's flooded with memories of power-bombing my pain away with my friend's Million Dollar Man Wrestling Buddie while pretending it was that guy who always shoved me into the lockers (he was a jerk just like Ted DiBiase was). For those without an awesome childhood Wrestling Buddies were pilliow like creations in the likeness of many 80s/90s WWFsuperstars like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. I can only assume they were created out of need due to so many children paralyzing their younger siblings with suplexes. No need to worry when you could DDT Jack the Snake (and give him a taste of his own medicine) on your bed or tag in you dog as he used his patent "caine cluch", which was really just him shaking the stuff toy vigiously. And once you were done throttling your buddie you could head to bed with them as they doubled as teddy bears with attitude. Who wouldn't have wanted to cuddle with the Big Boss Man? No one? OK, never mind. 

They were soft. They were durable. They were awesome. And now, thanks to Electric Zombie and their partners at HorrorDecor, thier back...from the grave! Yes, not content to let sleeping legends lie EZ has decided to bring back two of our favorite WWF superstars as undead versions of their Wrestling Buddies called "Deadies".

Let's examine the first, and now currently out-of-print, Deadie 'MADNESS WRESTLING'.

Clearly meant to represent the late Randy "Macho Man" Savage (Randy Mario Poffo) during his gawdy "Madness" era. Wait, when wasn't Randy Savage gawdy? Whether it was black and white or  red and yellow or gold and silver and neon teal...whatever, Randy Savage was a great wrestler. He was perhaps the only man who gave Hulk Hogan a run for his money as the most recognized.

What about Roddy Piper?

Damn it Jerry! Yes, Roddy Piper is a living legend in his own right but he didn't have the kind of recognition that Macho Man had at his height. Jesus, can anyone even chew a Slim Jim now without connecting it to Savage? This Deadie features "Madness" in one of his more somber outfits with a pair of his famous sunglasses (broken because, well, he's a zombie). I love the pink color Kyle was able to re-create. It takes a true macho man to wear that much pink.
This is the one everyone was going to take note of. How could there be a 'Legends Never Die' series without an appearance of the man who made up the Golden Era of the WWF. You know, there is no point in discussing the legacy of Hulk Hogan (Terry Gene Bollea) so instead I'll tell this fun little story. I grew up in Clearwater, Florida and for whatever reason there has always been a lot of professional wrestlers that have lived in Clearwater. I'm not sure if it was the beach or the sunshine or what but I couldn't count how many former stars had places there, the most famous being Hulk Hogan. If you grew up in Clearwater you would at some time in your life experience a Hogan sighting. One day I was ridding in the car with my best friend as my mother was driving us around town, as she tended to do, when all of a sudden a custom chopped  Harley-Davidson pulled out from a blind alley. My mother was thankfully quick on her feet and merged with a quickness I never knew she could achieve. As we regained our composure we examined the asshole who pulled out in front of us as we passed. The blonde rider looked over, smiled, gave us a salute, and sped off. My friend turned to me and calmly said "I think your mom almost ran over Hulk Hogan."

And that's the tale of how my mother almost killed the greatest wrestler of all time.

Visual Approximation
If she had not been faster with the wheel then this Deadie is how the Hulkster might actually appear today. "IMMORTAL WRESTLING" comes in a classic red and white attire, which goes well with the zombie sky-blue skin, with an incorporation of the Electric Zombie brand. There is no way you could separate who made this piece of pop culture nostalgia now. As of writing this "IMMORTAL" is still available, but I doubt that will be forever. If you want more references and a test drive then check out Rondal's review at Strange Kids Club. I feel that this will be the most memorable item from 'Legends Never Die' Series 2. 

I wonder if 'Legends Never Die' gets a third series if we could see more Deadies. Maybe a recreation of the Jack the Snake design above or a zombified Ultimate Warrior (too soon?)? I would personally love a Roddy Piper with torn face revealing a They Live! alien face underneath. Could happen.

When someone would to tell me "wrestling isn't real" I would get seriously pissed. How could it not be real? This was on television. These were real athletes, with names like Rick Rude and Brutus Beefcake. They really had pet parrots and grew up around atomic fallout. They really hit each with chairs and fell onto tables. How can you say it was fake?!

Then I got older. The veneer started to shine off. I became somewhat soured on the sport. I was never not going to be a fan, but that golden era of absolute faith had left me. Now I was a culturist. A curator. I started to study the past of the sport. I grew to apperciate it for what it always was: childhood drama theater. The bad guys were bad, the good guys were good, and things were simpler. No, Rick Rude was not his real name but he was a hell of an athlete. No, Mankind was not a tortured soul but he went through that table just the same. Professional wrestling can be viewed as the modern equivalent of the Coliseum and the gladiators of Rome. They put their lives and health on the line, taking real falls and real bumps, just to amuse us. And we were entertained.

What Kyle and Electric Zombie have done, in only the twisted way that he can, is view our childhood through a lens darker. Eveything is extreme, much how it was in the Golden era of wrestling (for Christ sakes, Akeem The American Dream?!). It's dark and kinda scary, but that's how it was presented to us. If nothing else EZ has taken us back to a simpler time. A time of putting the sharpshooter on a pillow person. And this time, no one gets screwed out of a championship.
Till your vegetables and say your prays,

I mentioned  Horror Decor worked with Electric Zombie to help create the Deadies. The reason being that they are also now in the 'pillow-friend" business with a line called 'Horror Buddies'.

Right now only the 'Jason' and the 'Clown' Buddies are available for purchase with the 'Motel Hell' coming soon. Unfortunately, as of this moment, the 8-bit Jason is no longer available as it was a Freddy in Space limited exclusive. *sign*

No comments:

Post a Comment