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Comprehensive 2013 Holiday Gift Guide for the Hardcore WWE Fan

David BixenspanFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2013

Comprehensive 2013 Holiday Gift Guide for the Hardcore WWE Fan

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    Santa Austin stuns Grinch McMahon
    Santa Austin stuns Grinch McMahonWWE.com

    Looking to find something to buy the wrestling fan in your life?

    Have a bunch of gift cards and don't know where to spend them?

    Just in the mood to buy a bunch of wrestling swag?

    Look no further!  Jonathan Snowden, Bleacher Report's lead combat sports writer, and I have put together our first annual pro wrestling shopping list.  Most of these items won't break the bank, and a few are outright bargains.  Got any suggestions?  Then post them in the comments.

    Without further ado, let's get started...

The History of WWE: 50 Years of Sports Entertainment

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    What: WWE's latest DVD set, built around the history of the company

    Where: Anywhere that carries new DVDs and Blu-Rays

    Why: For 50 years, various versions of the WWE have ruled professional wrestling, first in the Northeast, then in North America and finally worldwide.

    As Bruno Sammartino gave way to Bob Backlund, who yielded to Hulk Hogan and finally Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, one thing remained constant—a McMahon at the helm.

    This is the story of a family every bit as much as it is the institutional history of a megalith, a family that has overseen a massive shift in the wrestling industry, breaking free from the National Wrestling Alliance cartel, putting them out of business and finally taking wrestling to heights unimagined and unknown. 

    This collection is the story of that journey, a mesmerizing collage of behind-the-scenes video, classic photographs and compelling interviews with dozens of WWE superstars past and present. If you love wrestling—and if you're reading this you probably dothis is a must have. There's never been a WWE production quite like it.

    (Jonathan Snowden)

WWE Legends/Retro T-Shirts

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    WWE's Lou Albano shirt.
    WWE's Lou Albano shirt.WWEShop.com

    What: Reprints of a number of classic WWE T-shirts

    Where: WWEShop.com

    Why: While WWE has experimented with retro-themed T-shirts for a while now, the shirts were usually new designs, often built around wrestler photos.  The shirts available now, some of which can be seen in the WWE Shop plugs on Raw, are of a different animal: They're reprints of the most iconic shirts from the last three decades.

    There are some more recent designs available featuring DX, Edge and Christian, along with others, but the real jewels are the collection of designs from the mid-'80s through the Attitude Era.  A lot of the most memorable shirts are available for the first time in more than 20 years, including:

    • Roddy Piper's trademark "Hot Rod!" shirt (complete with red rings on the sleeves).
    • The white Andre the Giant shirt with his handprint on it.
    • "Captain" Lou Albano's caricature shirt (pictured above), which is my personal favorite and was immortalized on his action figures.
    • Probably the two best-selling shirts in wrestling history, the basic "NWO" and "Austin 3:16" shirts.

    I really hope these take off so WWE can release more.

Wrestling Gold: Special Edition

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    Wrestling Gold packaging
    Wrestling Gold packagingVCI Home Video

    What: It's a five-DVD set of classic matches with Jerry Lawler, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Bruno Sammartino, The Road Warriors, Rick Rude, Ted DiBiase, Terry Funk, Junkyard Dog and many others.  It also includes an alternate commentary track by Jim Cornette and Dave Meltzer giving a ton of historical information on the wrestlers and the matches themselves.

    Where: Amazon.com and other large vendors of DVDs

    Why: It's really good and really cheap, going for about $12 at Amazon, as it was over-produced in 2001.  In the '80s and '90s, a lot of budget VHS tapes, centering on the same basic selection of matches, were released and they served as a gateway drug into classic wrestling for a lot of people.  I hope that the budget price will entice some younger fans to check it out.

Replica WWE Championship Belt

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    What: Premium replica of the WWE Championship belt that was unveiled this year

    Where: WWEShop.com

    Why: You've all seen him at a wrestling show. You know who I mean. That one guy just a little too attached to his replica belt. He didn't pin Bruno in Madison Square Garden to earn the championship, but he wears it with pride like he did—and you can't help but respect that just a little bit.

    Of course, there are other uses for a replica belt as well.

    In my family we would challenge each other to games of Jeopardy! or Trivial Pursuit, with the winner walking away with big gold bragging rights. If you don't lean nerd, I'm sure there are plenty of other creative ways to reward winners with the only prize that really matters—the strap.

    (Jonathan Snowden)

Legends of Mid-South Wrestling

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    What: A recently released DVD and Blu-Ray set from WWE chronicling some of the greatest stars, matches and storylines from the legendary Louisiana-based territory

    Where: Anywhere that carries new DVDs and Blu-Rays

    Why: Mid-South Wrestling was awesome.  "Cowboy" Bill Watts was the promoter and preferred a distinct brand of hard-hitting wrestling and logical storytelling.

    WWE bought the promotion's video library from the Watts family this year and promptly released this DVD set, which features a chronological look at some of the best stuff to come out of the territory in the '80s.

    At lot of the wrestlers here should be familiar, but many of them are closer to their athletic prime than they were as national stars and are wrestling a more hard-nosed style.

    Case in point: "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan.  Jim Duggan in Mid-South was a wild brawler with an intelligent interview style, completely different from the buffoonish Jim Duggan you know from WWE and WCW.  After watching this DVD, you'll be convinced that that Duggan is one of the greatest wrestlers of the '80s.

    Among of the best and most notable matches on the set are:

    • Andre the Giant, Dusty Rhodes and Junkyard Dog vs. Ernie Ladd and the Wild Samoans in an all-star dream match voted on by viewers of Mid-South's TV show.
    • Jim Duggan vs. Ted DiBiase in a coal miner's glove on a pole loser leaves town tuxedo match inside a steel cage.  Don't worry: It's actually awesome and there's a reason for every single gimmick.
    • Junkyard Dog vs. Butch Reed in a "Ghetto Street Fight" that's possibly the greatest match of JYD's career.
    • The Midnight Express vs. The Rock 'n' Roll Express at the beginning of their legendary feud.
    • Shawn Michaels and Rick Steiner as rookies
    • Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. The Snowman (w/ Muhammad Ali in his corner)
    • Rick Flair vs. Ted DiBiase in a bloodbath of a NWA World Heavyweight Title match. It's their only match together that exists on videotape.
    • Some of the best big-man matches you'll ever see involving Terry Gordy, Steve "Dr. Death" Williams, One Man Gang and Big Bubba Rogers (Big Bossman) fighting over the UWF Heavyweight Championship.

    As always, the Blu-Ray includes a slew of exclusive matches and other segments.  In addition, for matches that did not air on TV at the time, Jim Ross provided new commentary where he did an impressive job acting as if he was calling it live.

Rags, Paper and Pins: The Merchandising of Memphis Wrestling

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    Cover of "Rags, Paper and Pins"
    Cover of "Rags, Paper and Pins"JimCornette.com

    What: Jim Cornette is joined by Memphis wrestling historian Mark James to chronicle how the Memphis territory was way ahead of the curve in merchandising its stars.  It includes full reprints of every issue of the Championship Wrestling magazine that Cornette published for the promotion.

    Where: JimCornette.com and Amazon.com

    Why: The first of what Cornette and James hope will be a series of books on Memphis wrestling, it's a great introduction to the territory and what made it unique.  There are a ton of great photos and program excerpts, in addition to full magazine issues, and it's worth it just for that stuff before you even bother to read the 2013 text by Cornette and James.

    Memphis was the first territory to capitalize on selling merchandise in any substantial way.  Everyone had programs, but in Memphis, they eventually added photos, T-shirts, singles of songs recorded by Memphis stars, buttons and more, years before Vince McMahon changed how business was done in WWE.

    It sounds like a ridiculously niche book, but it's written much more broadly than you'd expect, and it's packed with content.

Best PPV Matches of 2013

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    Cover of the DVD set
    Cover of the DVD setWWE

    What: WWE's annual release, which is exactly what it says on the tin

    Where: Anywhere that carries new DVDs and Blu-Rays

    Why: Wrestling fans can never decide whether they love or hate the WWE's creative direction du jour. Things change so quickly that both are often true—on the same night.

    One thing is for certain, though; the action in the ring hasn't been this good in ages. If you haven't been following the shows religiously this year, this collection is the perfect sampler platter. From amazing comebacks, like Goldust's return to action alongside his brother against The Shield, to career defining moments, like Daniel Bryan's short-lived SummerSlam triumph over John Cena, it's a diverse collection highlighting all the key matches and angles of the year.

    (Jonathan Snowden)

The Hardcore Truth: The Bob Holly Story

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    "Hardcore Truth" cover
    "Hardcore Truth" coverECW Press

    What: Bob "Hardcore" Holly's autobiography, one of the best wrestling memoirs in recent years

    Where: Any online book store and some chain book stores

    Why: It didn't get a lot of fanfare going in, but The Hardcore Truth is excellent.  Holly is a very no B.S. kind of guy and comes off a hell of a lot more likable than most fans expected.  Since he lasted 15 years in WWE, he has a lot of stories, and his clear lack of concern about burning bridges gives off an air of credibility that many wrestlers' books lack.

    Aside from Chris Jericho's books, there still aren't many books written by those who can give first-hand accounts of modern WWE, so one that's as good and as apolitical as Holly's really stands out.

The Wrestling Observer Newsletter

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    Wrestling Observer Newsletters
    Wrestling Observer NewslettersHollywood Nation

    What: Pro wrestling's best and longest-running insider news source, it's available in a print subscription or a premium website that also includes archival issues and podcasts.

    Where: WrestlingObserver.com

    Why: There's no shortage of internet wrestling gossip sites, each one sketchier than the last. It's really hard, in a business built on lies, to determine which howling, anonymous voices in the wind are worth listening to. There's a fine line between fiction and truth—and wrestlers aren't always capable of walking it.

    Those concerns, worries about being worked or fed bad intel, disappear when you read things written by Dave Meltzer. His Wrestling Observer Newsletter has been the sport's bible for 30 years and is still going strong, bringing interested fans behind-the-scenes of a very closed business. 

    The Observer is the original dirt sheet. And, 30 years into the game, Meltzer is still simply the best.

    (Jonathan Snowden)

Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs

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    What: A history of pro wrestling in Montreal by historians Pat Laprade and Bertrand Hebert (also available in French)

    Where: Any online book store and some chain book stores

    Why: One of the best and most comprehensive wrestling history books, it's a definitive look at one of pro wrestling's most important cities.  No, not just because of the Montreal Screwjob, although it's covered in-depth.  Montreal is so hot for wrestling that:

    • In the early '70s, there was a Monday Night Wars-esque promotional war in the city where both companies were doing strong business.
    • The Montreal promotion was the only one the WWF co-promoted with (in lieu of trying to take over the market on their own) during its expansion across North America in the mid-'80s.
    • It was the WWF's best city in North America during the down period for American wrestling from 1993 to 1995.

    That's just scratching the surface.  It's up there with New York, Toronto, Tokyo and St. Louis as one of the premier cities for pro wrestling, and this is the definitive history of it all, with substantial ink given to all of the key players and events over the course of several decades.  It's one of the very best books you can buy to learn about wrestling history.

Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE Shows

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    What: The American affiliate of Japan's second-largest wrestling promotion, featuring a style heavy on high-flying and crazy moves

    Where: DGUSA.tv for DVDs or WWNLive.com for internet pay-per-view and video on demand

    Why: Looking for crazy cruiserweight wrestling and frustrated that you can't get it from WWE while the X Division is an afterthought for TNA?  Look no further.

    The American affiliate of a Japanese promotion started by students of former WWE and WCW star Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Gate USA is most definitely a different style from what you can see on TV nowadays.

    While they're kind of the same promotion, the shows are divided up into Dragon Gate USA shows and EVOLVE shows.  Dragon Gate USA shows feature Japanese talent, while EVOLVE shows feature the American wrestlers in between the Dragon Gate USA weekends.  It's not necessarily my cup of tea, but I know a lot of people are looking for something flashier and more spectacular than WWE, and this fits the bill.

The Three Count: My Life in Stripes as a WWE Referee

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    "Three Count" cover
    "Three Count" coverECW Press

    What: A book by long time (1987-2009) WWE referee Jimmy Korderas about how he acheived his dream of working in pro wrestling

    Where: Any online book store and some chain book stores

    Why: Part autobiography, part road story collection, it's a very entertaining book from one of the nicest guys in the wrestling business, and it has a self-awareness that a lot of wrestling books lack.  Fans looking for dirt will be disappointed, but Korderas' journey (and the related topics like what a pro wrestling referee actually does) is a very positive one and he's great at telling the road stories.

    The part of the book that's probably gotten the most publicity, however, is his account of Owen Hart's death, as Korderas was in the ring when Hart fell, and he came disturbingly close to getting killed in the process.  It's a very affecting read that's dramatically different from the rest of the book, albeit not in a bad way.

One of Many WWE DVD Sets That Have Had Price Cuts

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    What: A whole lot of older DVD sets released by WWE, including individual wrestler-themed sets, major pay-per-view events and more

    Where: FYE retail stores and sites with larger DVD selections, such as Amazon.com

    Why: It's pretty simple.  WWE has released a lot of quality DVD sets in the last decade or so.  Many of the older ones have had their suggested retail price cut to $6.95, meaning you can easily find some of them for less.  This includes a lot of their very best releases, like the Ric Flair sets, Randy Savage set, the first Bret Hart set and so on.  Enjoy!

WWE Christmas Tree Ornaments

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    Mark Henry gingerbread man ornament
    Mark Henry gingerbread man ornamentWWEShop.com

    What: WWE Christmas tree ornaments patterned after snowmen, gingerbread men and rocking horses

    Where: WWEShop.com

    Why: They're adorable.  Look at gingerbread man Mark Henry!  Doesn't he just make you want to get your wig split?

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