By Ross Forman
Wade Boggs walked over to Hulk Hogan for a photo. Hogan spotted the Baseball Hall of Famer, stopped his autograph signing in the backstage area at the 29th annual Tristar Collectors Show in Houston earlier this year, stood up, put his arm around Boggs, and the two smiled. Boggs had the photo taken on his personal iPad.
Andy Pettitte was next to have his photo taken alongside Hogan.
Boggs then had his photo taken with longtime wrestling manager Jimmy Hart, a former member of the 1960s rock band The Gentrys and also a member of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame.
Boggs finally had his photo taken with Brooke Hogan, the daughter of Hulk and herself a TV/music/wrestling celebrity.
Boggs was all smiles, in awe of the pro wrestling legends.
The Hulkster, wearing a red and yellow T-shirt, signed hundreds of items in Houston, including photos, DVDs, replica championship belts and much, much more – his signature as legible and consistent throughout the two or three hours that he penned his name for the public and in private. Boggs, meanwhile, walked past an authentic replica, vintage-style WWE World Heavyweight Championship belt that Hogan had signed. Boggs, a longtime wrestling fan who has attended countless wrestling matches over the years, mostly in his native Tampa, was seemingly speechless looking at the belt.
It was Hogan’s inscriptions that caught Boggs’ eyes. Particularly, the irony.
Hogan wrote “12X Champ,” referencing his 12 stints as World Heavyweight Champion. He also wrote, “HOF ’05,” for his 2005 induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Boggs was amazed at the irony: he wore No. 12 during his Hall of Fame career and was a 12-time All-Star. Plus, Boggs was a five-time American League batting champion and also a 2005 inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Boggs was simply starry-eyed when he held the championship belt, and posing for more photos.
Boggs might have been the most high-profile wrestling fan at the Houston, but he joined literally hundreds of others who came out to see the two biggest names in pro wrestling history, Hogan and Ric Flair – appearing together on the final afternoon of the three-day show. Each not only signed hundreds of autographs, they also posed for countless photos. In fact, countless collectors forked over $173 to have their photo taken – and immediately printed, in case they wanted to get it autographed – with both Hogan and Flair.
“I had never (previously) worked with Hulk at a show, and he was terrific to work with. Super guy. Same for Ric Flair,” said Tristar Vice President Bobby Mintz during the show. “It was great seeing the report between Hogan and Flair. They have total respect for each other, which you could clearly see.”
Fans of all ages, of all ethnicities, of all demographics, men and women, boys and girls, old and young alike came to see Hogan and Flair, Flair and Hogan. Some recalled vintage Hogan matches, perhaps against Andre The Giant, “Macho Man” Randy Savage or “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. Some sported 1980s clothing with Hogan’s likeness, his popular sayings, or the retro World Wrestling Federation (WWF) logo.
Meanwhile, there were fans in Houston who cherished the Flair memories from his long run in World Championship Wrestling, his classic feuds with Dusty Rhodes, Sting and others. They bellowed “Woooooo,” in respect to the 16-time World Heavyweight Champion.
Hogan and Flair have a lengthy history with Houston-based Tristar Productions Inc. After all, Tristar began producing exclusively-licensed TNA Wrestling trading cards in 2008, and has released 12 different TNA trading card sets.
Hogan and Flair have starred in many of the TNA-Tristar sets.
“It was very exciting for Tristar to have the rights to produce trading cards of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair under our TNA Wrestling exclusive trading cards license,” said Tristar Vice President Mandy Fuerst, instrumental in every aspect of the TNA-Tristar sets. “These two are arguably the most legendary and famous names in pro wrestling history, and for Tristar to be involved in presenting them in cool, collectible ways via their trading cards was terrific.”
Hogan and Flair made their official debut in TNA cards from Tristar in 2010, one of the main reasons that the TNA 2010: The New Era set still ranks among the most popular, most sought-after among collectors. (There were two TNA promotional cards of Hogan, released by Tristar in 2009, though.)
Hogan, Flair and many other wrestlers are, naturally, a selling bonanza on eBay and other secondary markets. Just consider some of TNA-Tristar wrestling cards spotted on eBay:
- 2012 TNA Wrestling Reflexxions – Hogan, Flair, Sting and others; a six-autograph card, numbered 1-of-1 ($600).
- 2012 TNA Reflexxions dual autograph card of Hogan and Eric Bischoff, numbered 1-of-1 ($499.99).
- 2012 TNA Reflexxions – Hogan, Flair, Sting and others; a six-autograph card, numbered 1-of-1 ($450).
- 2012 TNA TENacious authentic autograph card of Hogan, 1-of-1 ($399.99).
- 2011 TNA Impact card with six autographs, including Hogan, Flair, Sting, Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner ($329.99).
- A graded (9 Mint) 1-of-1 dual Hogan-Flair card from 2011 had a $2,000 (or best offer) price tag, while a graded (8.5) quad-autograph card with Hogan, Flair, Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy was offered for $2,500 (or best offer).
Tristar’s TNA cards have, over the years, included some of the sport’s biggest and best names, including Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Jeff Hardy, plus such popular females as Christy Hemme and Mickie James.
Many of those same mat stars also have appeared at Tristrar shows over the years, as well as countless others, dating back to the 1990s, mostly from WCW. Kamala has appeared at a past Tristar show, as well as such wrestling icons as Diamond Dallas Page (DDP), Booker T., Jeff Jarrett, Kurt Angle, Ken Anderson, Angelina Love, Velvet Sky, Tara and others.
Hogan and Flair also have each appeared once at the Las Vegas stores since Tristar has been involved/owned three sports memorabilia stores along The Strip. Hogan signed for Tristar in Las Vegas in December 2013, while Flair was there in February 2013.
“Both Hogan and Flair are tremendous to work with and fans were thrilled to meet them during their store appearances,” Fuerst said. “Flair actually wore his robe in the Tristar Sports Memorabilia store mall, (located at the) Miracle Mile Shops before appearing in the store, and that really attracted attention. Some of the greatest, most excited fan reactions I’ve ever seen to athletes occurred during Hogan’s Vegas store appearances.”
Not surprisingly: Hogan is the biggest name, ever, in pro wrestling history.
“For as big of a star and as recognizable as he is, (Hogan) is absolutely amazing to fans,” said Jackie Johnson, 36, a Miami resident and longtime wrestling fan and autograph seeker. “I’ve been around him probably over 100 times and never once seen him mistreat a fan. The best.”
Johnson’s hunt for wrestling autographs dates back to 1985, when he snagged a signature from Ric Flair at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Flair signed a piece of paper and “it was a big deal to me,” Johnson said.
Flair is still Johnson’s all-time favorite wrestler.
“Ric was always great to me, although at times I know he could be difficult for others (seeking autographs). Just depends on the time and place, and the respect you show him,” Johnson said.
Flair has long had a policy against signing autographs at bars.
Johnson has attended close to 1,000 wrestling matches over the years and has even attended the WWE’s annual WrestleMania for 10 consecutive years.
Johnson has acquired thousands, perhaps 10,000 or more, wrestling autographs in person – including some truly memorable signatures from Bill Goldberg during his stint with WCW in the late-1990s.
Goldberg, in fact, brought Johnson backstage to sign all of his items in the wrestler’s personal locker room. WCW security officials told Johnson that he had to leave, but Goldberg chimed in that Johnson was his guest and that he would be staying.
Top 10 Most Popular Wrestling Autographs:
- Hulk Hogan
- Ric Flair
- “Macho Man” Randy Savage
- Ultimate Warrior
- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
- “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
- Bill Goldberg
- The Rock
- John Cena
Top 10 Most Accommodating Wrestlers For Autographs:
- Jeff Hardy
- Matt Hardy
- Kurt Angle
- Big Show
- “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
- Trish Stratus
- Kevin Nash
- Rey Mysterio, Jr.
- Diamond Dallas Page (DDP)
Top 10 Least Accommodating Wrestlers For Autographs:
- Brock Lesnar
- CM Punk
- Triple H
- Perry Saturn
- Dean Malenko
- Arn Anderson
- Crash Holly
- Bubba Ray Dudley
Top 10 Most Difficult Autographs to Obtain:
- Gorilla Monsoon
- Buddy Rogers
- Ray Stevens
- Dino Bravo
- Andre The Giant
- Bruiser Brody
- Mike Von Erich
- David Von Erich
- Gino Hernandez
- Big John Studd
Top 10 Best-looking Wrestler Autographs:
- Bret Hart
- Jeff Hardy
- “The King” Jerry Lawler
- Miss Elizabeth
- Mr, Kennedy
- Rey Mysterio, Jr.
- Trish Stratus
- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (full signature)
- Kurt Angle
Top 10 Worst-looking Wrestler Autographs:
- Vince McMahon
- The Great Khali
- Disco Inferno
- Rene Dupree
- Monty Brown
- Iron Sheik
- Chris Masters