Oh, How the Mighty Fall

I’ve been in the game a long time, 32 years to be exact. I’ve seen the birth of pack-inserted, certified autographs and the introduction of the game-used relic. I was on the ground floor for the debut of Bowman Chrome in 1997 and have spent thousands of hours of my life writing about sports cards for this site and others. In my collecting lifetime, I’ve never witnessed a greater, swifter fall than that of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm. Okay, maybe I called it with my title last week but the speed at which the WWE Prizm market has collapsed is something truly remarkable and one of a kind.

In the span of seven days, the same time it took “God” to start and complete creation, Panini America’s long awaited WWE debut came crashing down harder than a D’Lo Brown running power bomb on Darren Drozdov. Just a week and a half ago, boxes of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm were flying off shelves at near $1,500 a pop, if you were lucky enough to even find one. In group breaks, single packs were pushing $200, which was probably the most shocking part of it all and nearly all of social media, the collecting side anyway, was buzzing about the hottest wrestling trading card set to ever see the light of day.

The problem is that there are a few wrestling card influencers who spent the better part of 2-3 months pumping and pushing WWE Prizm. During the lone week Prizm dominated the hobby, these “influencers” were louder and more obnoxious than ever. As you can imagine, that same energy was nowhere to be found as Prizm began its descent. Suddenly the narrative went from “Prizm is the second coming of Jesus” to “Well, we all knew secondary market prices were going to tank”. Who knew, exactly? I certainly have never seen $150+ cards drop 98% a week after release.

There may actually be an exact event that broke 2022 Panini WWE Prizm. Something so symbolic of the greed in this hobby that possibly led to WWE Prizm’s downfall, and it came when an eBay user won a WWE Prizm John Cena Color Blast insert on eBay for $11,200 and refused to pay. Many speculate that the move was calculated to screw over the seller, Dary Rezvani. Shockingly, Rezvani, had to endure not only losing out on a major sale but the ridicule of fellow collectors who certainly appeared to be jealous of WWE Prizm’s week-long reign of dominance on the secondary market.

Below, you can see what the completed sales of the Cena Color Blast beginning with the first one that “sold” for $11,200 to the most recent sale just 9 days later for a more realistic $1,888. This is one of the more extreme cases but still a good example as pretty much all of WWE Prizm is facing a similar fate on the secondary market as we enter week #3. Another issue first-week WWE Prizm collectors are facing is the release of WWE Prizm retail, which will continue to devalue the product. Panini America is well known for printing into the millions so for those early buyers, my sympathies go out to you.

To me it appears the divide among wrestling card collectors is being driven by the age-old conflict of vintage collectors vs. modern collectors. To those who collected wrestling cards before it was “cool” to do so, 1982-’83’s Wrestling All-Star sets was the King of Wrestling Cards. For starters, the print run on these two sets is 2,000, which is lower than anything Panini America will ever produce. Second, the way the cards were shipped led damage so finding a “mint” copy is next to impossible. Third, the set was only available in a regional, obscure wrestling magazine as a mail-order special.

The WAS market has boomed since the pandemic era with raw, key issues demanding in and around the high 3 figures with mid-level, graded copies setting new records each and every week. Topps’ WWE cards, with their flashy Refractors and serial numbering was not able to make even a single dent to the WAS market but Panini’s Prizm tidal wave clearly ruffled many feathers. Furthermore, the company that printed the WAS cards 39 years ago didn’t anticipate on collectors one day demanding 35 shiny parallels, autographs, etc. The card market was a completely different business in 1983.

At the end of the day, it’s okay to collect what you please. Some like the new technology that Panini Prizm brings to the table, while other prefer the classic, more toned-down flavor of WAS. The world in general is already divided. It’s divided by political parties, pandemic guidelines, who to support in outside wars, and so much more. There’s no reason for collectors to be bickering online over something as silly as trading cards. Let’s face facts: 1982 WAS is truly a scarce and hard to find product but 2022 Panini WWE Prizm blows it out of the water, aesthetically speaking. There’s no denying each’s strengths.

So, can we all just get along?

Panini’s Shocking & Temporary Coup

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. This week, Panini America managed to rule the entire world of sports cards with the debut of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm. I cannot remember the last time a sports card debut had this type of impact since 1997’s top rookie brand, Bowman Chrome. WWE Prizm carried that type of hype and so much more thanks to social media. Is 2022 Panini WWE Prizm the biggest sports card brand debut of all-time? A case could be made to just that and sadly, this will be only be temporary as WWE kicked Panini to the curb even before their first release in favor of Fanatics.

As of Friday, unopened boxes of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm, which were just under $1,000 at the time of its release, hit as high as $1,300. That’s a box that comes with just 12 packs, a total of 144 cards (two sticker autographs) and a small sample of parallels. If you think that price is crazy, 1-pack group breaks were pushing as high as $200 earlier this week. The hype is absolutely insane but like most things, it can’t last forever. However, if you are one of the lucky ones with a sealed box, WHATEVER YOU DO, do not ever open it. You’re likely to make a fortune once the dust settles on this storm.

Panini America has flat out bested Topps Company and soon Fanatics in just one single try, at least in the wrestling market where MLB logos don’t come into play. Topps created $14,000 super high end products for WWE but ultimately failed the WWE market. To me this has to give Fanatics every possible sign that Panini’s brands, at least in WWE & NBA, cannot die out. If ever there was a shred of fear in my heart that Panini America would survive Fanatics’ monopoly, it is right now. Thanks to the enormous success of WWE Prizm, Panini America has now got to be on Fanatics’ $$$ radar.

Don’t get it twisted, the WWE Prizm market will crash and come back down to Earth but the hype of this debut will live forever and if Panini isn’t purchased by Fanatics and Topps takes over the license again, every collector will be dying to ride the Prizm wave once more. WWE’s decision to sign an exclusive deal with Fanatics could lead to WWE trading cards once again gathering dust on retail shelves all over the country. Here’s hoping, UGH … I can’t believe I am about to say this … I hope Fanatics purchases Panini America. There. I said it. I feel so disgusting. I need a shower.

Father Time is Undefeated

One thing about the hobby that is inevitable is the amount of greed that runs rampant once a beloved athlete or celebrity dies. Within minutes of the news breaking, seemingly dozens if not hundreds of collectors start listing certified autographs on the secondary market for exorbitant prices. This is a calculated move used to take advantage of long time fans/collectors and those hit with nostalgia looking to buy something of that now deceased personality. Unfortunately, most times these tactics work perfectly and there is no more perfect of an example than the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and what happened to his card prices for the following 12 months.

A term like beloved is probably not one you’d use to describe Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea. For decades now, wrestlers have spoken out about how selfish and self-serving Hogan was in the wrestling industry. His reputation had hit new lows even before his now infamous racist rant and sex tape hit the mainstream media. All this was happening just as Hogan was dealing with perhaps the nastiest divorce imaginable and after his son, Nick, was involved in a reckless driving accident that left his best friend brain dead. The world was piling on Hulk Hogan just as his health took a turn for the worst. Since 2009, Hogan has endured 17 surgeries, including having spinal fusion and a fake hip installed.

It’s been over a decade since Hogan’s world turned upside down and while the WWE has forgiven him for his sins, it appears most fans have not. In 2021, you either love Hulk Hogan or you absolutely hate his guts and nothing will change that. Collectors, however, are a more forgiving bunch and have welcomed their childhood icon back with open arms. Now, with Hogan pushing 70, there are new reports that his health is in serious danger and it comes from none other than fellow legend, Ric Flair. Hogan even posted a photo recently showing off his weight loss, which he claims to be at his high school weight. The life of a steroid user is not long, just ask Macho Man Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior.

I will say this, the wrestling card market has exploded in the past few years, specifically thanks to lifetime WWE jobbers, Matt Cardona and Brian Myers, two wrestlers who host a toy figure podcast which has now heavily ventured into wrestling trading cards. Forgotten wrestling sets that once sold for pennies on the dollar have soared in prices and certified autographs, especially those hard-signed, have hit all-time highs. For example, I once turned down and offer to buy a 2006 Topps Allen & Ginter Hogan autograph in 2009 for $250 because that price seemed outrageous. Today, there are no recent sales and just one copy is available with an asking price of $1,500.

Hogan’s first official autograph issue from 1998 Topps WCW/NWO has completely dried up. Wrestling collectors have finally realized how important this set was, perhaps 23 years too late. If you can track down a Hogan, be prepared to pay anywhere between $800-$1,000 and you better hope to find a certified, graded copy because all this new attention has attracted the attention of scammers pushing forgeries and making a killing. For those looking for a Hogan autograph who aren’t willing to pay a rent payment’s worth, look into Tristar, Leaf and Upper Deck, as all three manufacturers have produced Hulk Hogan autographs. The only catch is that most of them feature sticker autographs.

If you were a daily reader of The Baseball Card Blog, known as Wax Heaven back in 2008, you wouldn’t be faced with this problem. Hell, if I had just taken my own advice thirteen years ago, I would have purchased the entire set myself and used the profits I could have made in 2021 to finance a brand-new home for my family. Hey, hindsight is 20/20, especially when it comes to trading cards. My point is that if you are still a Hulkamaniac at heart and want to add a Hogan autographed trading card to your collection, the time to act is now because from the news that is making the rounds and even the man’s own Instagram posts and cryptic tweets, time is quickly running out.

CM Punk (and Pacific’s) Triumphant Return

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve never quite understood the fascination with CM Punk.

CM Punk was a charismatic wrestling personality and a great storyteller in the ring but by the time he rose to stardom, my lifelong obsession with the squared circle was nearing the end. I watched him instead as the co-host of a short-lived TV show covering WWE programming and saw him on more than one occasion get physically destroyed in the world of MMA. Oh, and of course I followed him on Twitter, where he occasionally had some interesting takes on WWE. I was certain by 2021 that the hype was over and we’d never see Punk wrestle again but his return, this time for All Elite Wrestling, absolutely shook the wrestling world. CM Punk’s comeback happened to come right on the heels of Upper Deck, at the Nation Sports Cards Convention, announcing that it was now the official card company of All Elite Wrestling. Upper Deck even managed to release a timely Topps Now-style CM Punk card to commemorate his unexpected/expected return.

The card below, which was only available for a few days, did big numbers as you can imagine and brought some much needed attention to Upper Deck. Punk’s first AEW card should come as no big surprise, however, considering Upper Deck’s strong relationship with CM Punk. Punk has appeared on multiple Upper Deck products over the years from hockey sets all the way to Goodwin Champions. Looking at the card below, to me, there’s nothing special about it but it’s always good to see Upper Deck in the spotlight again after the disastrous decade they have had to face since losing the MLB, NBA, and NFL licenses. It’s fair to say, Upper Deck’s glory years are in the rear view mirror. Just how many years/months CM Punk’s return to wrestling lasts is also up in the air but at age 42, he could easily perform for another decade if he’s inspired and paid accordingly. With Punk, nothing is certain.

So after seeing Upper Deck’s first Punk AEW card I started wondering about Punk’s rookie. I assumed, wrongly so, that it came from those mid-2000 Topps wrestling sets that where everywhere but to my surprise it came from Pacific Trading Cards! Thanks to Punk’s long-awaited return, the hottest card in the hobby for at least one weekend, came from Pacific. Talk about a blast from the past. The craziest part of all this is that in 2004, Pacific was on its very last legs after losing the MLB license (and all others) due to sheer stupidity. This means that at the time of Punk’s Pacific rookie card release, Pacific was looked at by collectors in the same way we look at Upper Deck today. Pacific in 2004 was a shell of their former self on the verge of bankruptcy and shuttering down due to one controversy after another. The only real difference between Upper Deck and Pacific is that Upper Deck, thanks to investors, was able to continue producing trading card sets long after their demise in major sports while Pacific struggled until finally ending all business operations.

As for Upper Deck’s upcoming AEW set, I’m still a wait-and-see guy. I asked one of their employees what their chances are of getting Punk signatures in the set, even as redemptions. I was told it’s unlikely due to the timing “but never say never when it comes to Upper Deck or CM Punk”. I for one hope they can find a way to make it happen, not for collectors … there’s enough CM Punk autographs out there. I want this set to be a huge success for Upper Deck as a company. Now that baseball is locked up for an eternity by Fanatics, it seems all Upper Deck can fall back on is their unlicensed sports cards, the Marvel properties, and this now very hot AEW product. The last thing I want to see is Upper Deck go the way of Pacific Trading Cards. As a collector of 30+ years, I’m tired of seeing the companies I grew up on closing down for good. I’ve lived through Fleer, Donruss, and Pinnacle’s demise, I don’t think I could handle Upper Deck’s extinction. No sir, not after making it THIS LONG without baseball.

Someone NOT Named John or Roman Won the 2018 Royal Rumble

I have a tradition of taking advantage of WWE’s network trial. It’s not that I don’t want to stick around past their 30-day free trial but usually I am left with such a bad taste in my mouth that I end up canceling the network within a day or two of the whatever big event steals my interes. This year, I fell for the Royal Rumble hype and the constant buzz about a Daniel Bryan return, which now seems absolutely ridiculous. SPOILERS: It didn’t happen.

This year we did had some nice surprises including the return of Hurricane Helms as a joke entry into the Rumble and the shocking return of Rey Mysterio. Unlike Helms, Mysterio put on a great show and looked to be in excellent shape despite a lifetime of abuse on his body. I am not sure where WWE will go with him but I for one hope he sticks around. His performance was one of a kind and unlike Golddust, Rey can still GO.

The night, however, belonged to Shinsuke Nakamura, a 37 year-old legend which WWE had nothing to do with. This was not a home-grown talent. What’s crazy is that with this victory under his belt, he has chosen to fight A.J Styles, another middle-aged star who is best known for his work with TNA Impact Wrestling. This means we could possibly see a Wrestlemania headlined by two stars who made their names outside of the WWE.

This is shocking on many levels. For one, it is believed, with lots of proven examples, that Vince McMahon hates pushing guys who made their names outside of the WWE and has in the past treated legends from other companies who came to work for him embarrassingly bad. Second, Nakamura’s hype had all but died after several months of lackluster performances on Smackdown. Guess he was saving everything for the Rumble because the final moments against Roman Reigns and John Cena were extremely well performed despite having been in the match for much longer than the other two, highly-decorated WWE veterans.

As expected, Shinsuke has a quite a few trading cards under his belt from his time in WWE as well as other companies. He also has several certified autograph issues from 2016 through 2018 so you have plenty to choose from. The wrestling trading card market is nothing next to baseball cards but due to the short lifespan of a lot of these guys due to their rough lifestyle in and out of the ring, it’s always good to keep these on your list of must-have cards if you’re a fan.

If I had to pick my favorite, it would have to be the one you see below due to Topps’ tribute to 1987 Topps, the low serial number, and of course the nice, on-card autograph which was a rare thing coming from Topps WWE products from 2006-2009 while I was picking up several event-worn and autos from their products. Thankfully, it appears Topps has made a strong effort to having more on-card autos for their WWE line.