Five of My Favorite Christmas Gifts

With Christmas getting ever so closer, let’s take a break from everyday life to remember some of our favorite old Christmas gifts. I’m listing five of mine here for you to check out, but please, drop some of your favorites in the comments at the bottom!

Castle Grayskull

I’ve got a feeling I got this in 1984 since it probably wouldn’t have been like my old man to buy it in 1983 when my fandom was just blossoming for all things He-Man.  He generally liked to wait until he was sure I was really into something before dropping a lot of dough on it.  But what kid out there who was lucky enough to get this for Christmas wouldn’t enjoy it?  I know I flipped for it.  I’ve got an old polaroid of me just after opening it, and I’m crying.  They had to be tears of joy.  But this was the highlight of my Christmas that year, and countless battles were fought around, in, and for Castle Grayskull in the following months and years. 

Cobra Terrordrome

You’ll remember that I rambled on in-depth on the Terror Drome back when I described my mega haul of Christmas toys from 1986, so I won’t add much here, except to say that this was the largest piece I had in my assortment of G.I. Joe toys.  With G.I. Joe being both my favorite toy and cartoon at the time, it was a huge deal for me to get such an important piece of the toy puzzle with this thing.  I absolutely loved this thing and used it for so much of my G.I. Joe play.  It was also very handy when it came to having wrestling matches with my figures too.  Forget War Games, I was having Terror Drome matches.  The REAL most dangerous match in the world. 

G.I. Joe Tomahawk

Also from Christmas morning of 1986, the Tomahawk would also go on to see a ton of playtime in all of my G.I. Joe battles.  The Joe side of the battle had plenty of vehicles, and with the exception of the Whale Hovercraft, this was my favorite one.  I never owned the hovercraft myself, so this was the best thing I owned on that side of the fence. 

Super NES Super Set

I was a Nintendo guy.  I had friends who were Sega guys, but this old boy was firmly in the Nintendo camp.  I played Nintendo daily, so when this thing came out, it was all I could think about asking for in the 1991 Christmas season.  It was touch and go on whether I would actually get one or not.  My brother kept telling me that I wasn’t getting one because my Dad’s line of thinking was that I already had a Nintendo, so why would I need a new one?  But it turned out that was just a ruse, because on Christmas morning, there it was under the tree.  Of course, it went on to see hundreds or thousands of hours of playtime, and it still ranks as my favorite video game system of all time. 

DC Comics Silver Age Classics Box Set

I got this set in 1992…right at the beginning of my comic fandom zenith.  I was soaking up whatever comics I could find like a sponge, so my Mom thought I would like this set.  It featured old stories, so it would have to be worth something she thought.  Well, in monetary value, she was wrong.  But in pure enjoyment, she couldn’t have been more right.  I was over the top with excitement at the fact that I could now read some of the most important stories in the history of the DC Universe.  It was a twelve-issue set and featured reprints of the issues that featured the first appearances of the JLA, Flash, Green Lantern, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Swamp Thing.  It also featured the first team-up of Green Lantern and Green Arrow, as well as the first appearance of the “new look” Batman.  Who knew you could put such a price on happiness? 

Well, there’s some of my favorites Christmas presents from through the years.  Be sure to share some of yours in the comments. 

1985 VHS Recording of Halloween Cartoons

This presentation may be the one I’m most excited about in the history of Retro Ramblings. What we’ve got here is a rip of a home-recorded VHS tape that features probably the two greatest Halloween cartoons of all time. It was recorded in 1985 and features the debut airing of Garfield’s Halloween Adventure. Not only that, but it has It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown right behind it. And if that wasn’t enough, it still has all of the original 1985 commercials intact as well. Everything is complete as presented by CBS as a special presentation that week in 1985! So settle in for this one and try to remember what it felt like all those years ago to view this magical night of television.

Old Masters of the Universe Ads

Friday Five is a quick list of five things with a common theme, and instead of doing a big write-up, I’m doing it in pictures (or videos) with just a couple of sentences to give context to the picks. You can play along by adding some of your own in the comments.


The early days of the Masters of the Universe brand were fascinating. I’ve covered a couple of the early ads here and here, and in this Friday Five post, we’re going to take a look at five more.


I’m not sure exactly when this ad is from, but it’s either from 1981 or very early 1982, as the quip at the bottom of the scroll says more figures will be coming later in 1982. And the fact that it only features characters from the original wave of figures, solidifies that thought.

The Beast Man interpretation is pretty cool in this one. I’m sure it would have been difficult to convey this look onto a plastic action figure, but that would have been a great-looking figure. It would have also been good if this interpretation was what we had gotten in the animated series as well. It would have been pretty hard to portray him as a goof like they did if the character looked like this.

Here’s another one from the early days, and it’s a sale ad from a newspaper. Again, only some figures from the original wave are featured. It’s interesting that it’s Beast Man and Stratos featured in the ad and no He-Man and Skeletor. But even though they are featured prominently, the ad seems geared more toward promoting Castle Grayskull instead of the figures.

While that $21.47 price tag after rebates sounds appealing, if you adjust it for inflations, it works out to be $65.92 in 2022 dollars. That’s right in the range I would think it should be. The figure’s price of $3.88 translates to $11.91. At that kind of price point, I’m surprised I ended up with as many figures as I did as a kid.

This ad is from 1982 and from a newspaper as well. Besides advertising several cool toys, this ad promotes the ability to meet He-Man and Skeletor in person at the local department store.

Those in-person meeting opportunities still fascinate me. They certainly weren’t going to happen in my neck of the woods. I’ve seen just a few pictures online, and don’t believe I’ve come across any stories from anyone who actually went to one. If you ever got to go to one, by all means, please share your story in the comment section.

This is a beautiful ad right here. It’s an ad from some kind of trade magazine trying to entice store owners to carry the product. Using Star Wars figures in the background is a nice move as they try to show that those toys are the past, and He-Man is the future. It details how popular the line was the year before, selling over five million figures, and promising more new figures to come. Towards the end, it mentions the opportunities for in-store experiences like we saw in the previous ad. I’m sure with the powerful imagery featured, and those statistics on sales numbers from the year before, this ad convinced a few more stores to get on board.

And finally, we come to an ad from late in the brand’s heyday. This is an ad for the Masters of the Universe magazine, which was a quarterly magazine that was only available through subscription. It features three actual issues in this ad, and if you want to see what this magazine was all about, check out the Time Capsule feature here on Retro Ramblings to browse through the entire issue pictured on the far right.

When it came to magazines like these, I always drooled over them. They were available featuring brands like MOTU, G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, Barbie, and more. The closest I ever got to that was a subscription to LEGO’s Brick Kicks magazine in the late ’80s. I was disappointed by it, but I believe I would have found this magazine fully worth the time since I was a bit younger and it would have been geared more towards my age.


If old Masters of Universe stuff is your thing, then don’t leave the sight without checking out the full scan of the 1986 Masters of the Universe Toy Catalog.

Five of My Favorite Old Hot Wheels Cars

Friday Five is a quick list of five things with a common theme, and instead of doing a big write-up, I’m doing it in pictures (or videos) with just a couple of sentences to give context to the picks. You can play along by adding some of your own in the comments.


I spent a lot of time when I was younger playing with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. Just like with any other toy line, you always have a favorite few that you gravitate to. I was no different when it came to Hot Wheels. I had a ton of them, but there were a few that I would call my favorites. So for this Friday FIve, I’m sharing five of my favorites with you.

Fire Eater Fire Truck

My Dad was a fireman and the Fire Eater looked identical to one of the trucks at the local station where he served. Even though I had most of the Code Red fire trucks produced by Matchbox (which I covered here), the Fire Eater was still my go-to for imaginary fire fighting. That’s a big statement for me since I was such a big fan of the TV show. I had almost every fire truck that was available on store shelves back then, but this one was always the lead truck in the garage. It’s a beautiful representation of a fire truck, except for the blue light. But to be honest, the blue light and the blue accents in the back of the truck are part of what makes it such a great-looking Hot Wheel.

Dixie Challenger

You know by now that The Dukes of Hazzard was my favorite TV show when I was young. I had a lot of merchandise based on the show, but for a while, I lacked a 1:64 scale General Lee to play with. That’s where the Dixie Challenger came in. Up until the point I got my first true General Lee to play with, this filled the role pretty well. It kinda looked like the General Lee, and had a fast enough look that there were never any problems imagining it could outrun whatever police cars were in my collection. Once I got my General Lee, the Dixie Challenger was relegated to being the car driven by Bo & Luke’s cousins, Coy & Vance. I still can’t believe I subjected such a beautiful car to that kind of fate.

Cat Bulldozer

When I wasn’t fighting imaginary fires or running from Roscoe and Enos, I was playing in the dirt with construction vehicles. Well, not dirt. Coal dust actually. Which is a really fine black powder that gets into every possible crevice and can create a huge mess. But it was also the best substance on earth for playing with toys like these. I had a whole fleet of construction-type cars. I had regular dozers, cement mixers, scrapers, front-end loaders, and more. But this Cat Bulldozer seemed special because it had actual treads, and those two extra wheels to extend the tread just seemed so cool. It moved a lot of coal dust in its day for sure.

Rambling Wrecker

One of the earlier Hot Wheels cars I can remember being fascinated by was this Rambling Wrecker..or as I used to call it…Larry’s tow truck. I mean it’s emblazoned right there on the side of the thing. As a kid, what else would you call it? This was a must-have for someone like me who “wrecked” a lot of cars. I took the whole “wrecked car” thing farther than a lot of kids did though, as I would take some of the older cars I had gotten as hand-me-downs from my brother that I didn’t like very much and beat the snot out of them with hammers. That gave them that realistic feel. Of course, this was before Hot Wheels came out with their “Crack-Ups” line (which I covered here) and did the job for me in a much better manner than I ever could. And I would be failing you all if I did not include the fact that this Rambling Wrecker made a great stand-in for Cooter’s tow truck when playing with the Dixie Challenger as the General Lee.

Fun Fact: The original version of this tow truck had a phone number printed on the side of it. One of the folks at Mattel used their own phone number and ended up getting so many calls at their home they had to change their number.

Masters of the Universe Snake Mountain Challenge Car

So this beautiful work of art came included in the Masters of the Universe Snake Mountain Challenge playset that came out in ’85 or ’86. It was the car with which you attempted to run the course and escape Snake Mountain. I got the playset for Christmas in 1986, and as I’ve detailed before, my brother, my dad, and I spent a significant portion of the afternoon attempting the challenge. Beyond those fond memories though, they couldn’t have done a better job making this car seem like it came from Eternia…if Eternia actually had cars. But the look of it with its color scheme and all, makes it seem like it would have a home among the many various vehicles that inhabited Eternia. Maybe if it had treads instead of tires.


More toy nostalgia…

Holiday Inn Holidomes

As you may remember, for most of my life, my dad traveled for his business. In the summer when I was out of school, there was nothing I liked more than to go with him on his trips every week. While I really enjoyed the road trip itself, most of the time it was the hotels and motels that I got the most enjoyment from.

We didn’t have cable at home, so staying somewhere that did was awesome. Being able to watch AWA Wrestling on ESPN, or catch an episode of The Brady Bunch on TBS which was a TV show that I never knew existed until I saw it on cable in a hotel room. Then there was the fact that dinner most nights while traveling was pizza ordered from Dominos, which we also didn’t have in our area. We stayed in every hotel imaginable. From Best Westerns to Motel 6’s, to mom-and-pop roadside dives, my favorite place to stay was Holiday Inns which had a Holidome.

The Holidomes were like mini amusement parks within the hotel. They all varied somewhat from each other, but some of the common features they had were things like swimming pools, hot tubs, putting greens, air hockey tables, and arcade games. A kid like me could find plenty to do in a Holidome.

The Holidome kind of came in existance in the late 60s’ or early 70’s as some of the Holiday Inn chain owners in the north searched for a solution to their swimming pool problem. That problem being that were were pretty useless nine months out of the year in colder climates. At one Holiday Inn location in North Dakota, the owner built a dome over his pool so it could be enjoyed year round. It didn’t take long for other owners to do the same, and from there it wasn’t long before those owners started adding other little attractions inside the dome to go along with the pool.

Holiday Inn itself took notice and branded these add-ons as Holidomes, and started building them big enough to not only house pools and games, but large spaces that could be rented out for buisness conferences, reunions, and whatever else required a space big enough for a large gathering of people.

After becoming a success in the north, the idea was adopted in other parts of the country too, and became quite poplular in Florida. I guess families going on vacation to Florida could book a stay at a Holidome, and if the weather outside was crap, they could still turn the kids loose in the Holidome for all kinds of fun instead.

I can remember staying at several Holidomes around the country when I was traveling with dad, but one sticks out in particular. I can’t remember the city or town we were in, but I do remember that it was in Pennsylvania. After a dinner that was most likely Domino’s pizza, I headed to the main area of the Holidome for some play time. I can’t recall everything this particular one had to offer, but I certainly remember the pool.

I didn’t know how to swim, so whenever I got into a pool I made sure to stay at the shallow end. There were no diving boards and the like for me. Nope, I pretty much just waded around in waist deep water for the most part. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I fell into the pool on this night. I can remember falling in and flailing away, and then I remember waking up with my brother crouched over me by the side of the pool and he was dripping wet. I had taken water into my lungs I guess and blacked out. He had pulled me out of the pool and pumped the water from my chest just like you see on TV shows and movies.

That event pretty scarred me for life when it comes to water, and I still haven’t learned to swim. From that point on, I never had the desire to go underwater. Hell, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the desire to go under on that night either. But I don’t hold any of this against the Holidome. I loved those places too much to hold a grudge.

Holidomes started going out of style in the late ’80s, and by the early ’90s almost all of them had seen their better days. So when I started traveling for a living in the 2000’s, even though there are still a few scattered around, there were none to be found on my travels. But if there had been, I would have surely stayed at them. ANd it would have been a great time too. Eating DOminos pizza for dinner, and then hitting the Holidome for air hockey, video games, and putting greens.

Here is a home video taken in 1991 of a Holidome in Sharonville OH

Old Junk Foods I Missed Out On

I’ve spent a lot of time and web space talking about all of the old junk foods that I loved through the years, but rarely do I ever stop to talk about the ones that got away. The junk foods that I just totally missed out on, but look so darn good that I know I would have been a fan of them. So let me quit wasting our time, and get on with it so you can see the goods.


Slush Puppie Bubble Gum

All through the ’80s, Slush Puppies were one of my absolute favorite treats. There was a convenience store in town that had a Slush Puppie machine, and for a while, it seemed like I got one at least once a week. Slush Puppies always had a full, vibrant flavor, and I wonder if that translated to this gum. I also wonder how long the flavor lasted. Was it like normal bubble gum and had some life to it or was it like Fruit Stripe and the flavor would disappear rather quickly? I do like the fact that the gum pieces were in the shape of a dog’s paw. That’s a nice touch.

Fruit & Creme Twinkies

How in the hell I missed out on this treat I’ll never know. Twinkies have always been one of my go-to snacks throughout the years. Even today I eat the regular ones on occasion and always pick up the new or limited edition flavors to try. So having a Twinkie that not only featured the traditional cream center but also added a fruit flavor swirled with it would have been something that certainly caught my eye. All I can think of was that these weren’t readily available in my area. Judging by the expiration date on the coupon these were out in the late ’80s, and according to The Retroist, they made a brief return in 2011. I missed them both times, and apparently haven’t been living my best life.

Long John Silver’s Peg Legs

Let’s take a break from sweets for a moment to focus on something savory. Growing up, my family ate more than our fair share of Long John Silvers. It was almost routine that we would end up there for dinner on Sunday afternoons because my dad was such a big fan of their fish. I always got their chicken planks, but never once did I get to try these chicken peg legs. Different from the boneless tenders, these were whole chicken legs that were coated with Long John Silver’s famous batter and fried. So what you ended up with wasn’t a traditional fried chicken leg like you would get at Kentucky Fried Chicken with its secret blend of eleven herbs and spices, but a batter-dipped chicken leg that I can only imagine tasted like heaven on the bone.

Keebler Mini Middles Cookies

Not only did I miss out on getting to try these, but I also didn’t even know they once existed until I started the post. Actually, I hadn’t even conceived of this post until I ran across some images for these things. I was well aware of the existence of the full-size Magic Middle cookies and loved those things to death. I’ll go into detail about original Magic Middles cookies at some point in the future, but right now let’s just focus on these Mini Middles.

So I guess these were just bite-sized versions of regular Magic Middles, and somehow that sounds even better than the version I’m familiar with. I can imagine opening the box and popping these things in my mouth by the handful. If they truly featured the same soft chocolatey goodness in the middle of them as their larger cousins, I know they would have been awesome.

WWF Superstars Ice Cream Bars

Being a huge wrestling fan growing up, I used to see the commercials for these things all the time and just drool over them. My problem was that they were never available anywhere around me. The local convenience stores didn’t have them, the local grocery stores didn’t carry them, and the lone ice cream truck that would come around didn’t have them either.

I was stuck in the position of wanting them badly, but just never getting to experience one. That’s true still to this day as well. But I’d love to try one as the ice cream itself looks spectacular. The vanilla ice cream with the chocolate coating on the back, and the cookie on the front with actual WWF Superstars emblazed on them would have just made my day back then. I love where I live, but sometimes I curse it as being out in the sticks had its drawbacks when it came to stuff like this.


So once again here on Retro Ramblings I’ve talked about food. This time though I didn’t get to fondly remember the great taste of some exciting treat, but rather, lament the fact that there were good-looking snacks out there in the world that I never got to try. If you’re into old junk food like I am, check out all of the treats I’ve covered by hitting the Junk Food tag, and if you want to see more things I had to do without in my childhood, check out the posts Toys I Never Had and More Toys I Never Had.

And by all means, if you remember any of this stuff and got to try it, leave a comment and tell me what some of these goodies were like!

Re-Watching SummerSlam ’98

Being a big fan of old-school wrestling, I sometimes go back in time and old wrestling shows via the WWE Network on Peacock. Over the holiday weekend, nostalgia got the better of me and I decided to go back and re-watch what I remember being a great summer-themed show, WWE’s SummerSlam ’98.

In 1998, the then WWF was in the middle of its Attitude Era, and the storylines and action leaned more towards the controversial than it had in previous years. As an example, it was just two short months prior to this event that The Undertaker threw Mankind off the top of the Hell in a Cell cage in a scene that is still held up as a symbol of the Attitude Era.

I have to admit, I was guilty of enjoying trashy, crash-style television at the time including Jerry Springer, the WWF, and other offerings. I watched Monday Night Raw religiously every week and caught every PPV event the WWF offered, so I was pumped heading into this event. SummerSlam is one of the traditional big four events of the year, so extra emphasis was put on this show.

Most of the hype for SummerSlam ’98 was centered on the rivalry between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Undertaker, and with the World Heavyweight Championship being on the line in the main event, the hype was off the charts. They even produced a pretty swank video package set to AC/DC’s Highway to Hell to hype it even more:

Just because they put a lot of effort into hyping the main event didn’t mean they ignored the rest of the card. Vince McMahon, Vince Russo, and the rest of the gang put together a solid card from top-to-bottom with plenty of intrigue throughout:

  • WWF World Title: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker
  • WWF Intercontinental Title Ladder Match: The Rock vs. Triple H
  • WWF Tag-Team Title Falls Count Anywhere Match: Mankind & Kane vs. The New Age Outlaws
  • Lion’s Den Match: Ken Shamrock vs. Owen Hart
  • Mixed Tag Team Match: Sable & Edge vs. Marc Mero & Jackie
  • Hair vs. Hair Match: X-Pac vs. “Double J” Jeff Jarrett
  • 4-on-3 Tag Match: Kaientai vs. The Oddities
  • WWF European Title Match: D-Lo Brown vs. Val Venis

I don’t intend to run down every match detail by detail, nor do I intend to give you the winner in every match either. If I did all of that, it wouldn’t leave you much incentive to go check it out for yourself. Instead, what I intend to do is kind of review it through a few lists I came up with while watching. So without further ado, here we go.

The Five Best Matches From SummerSlam ’98

In my own personal opinion of course.

  1. The Rock vs. Triple H Intercontinental Title Ladder Match – it featured plenty of drama, high-risk moves with the ladder, and a satisfying ending to not only the match itself, but the storyline that had been running for months involving Degeneration X feuding with the Nation of Domination.
  2. D-Lo Brown vs. Val Venis European Title Match – Even though this was the show opening match and it wasn’t designed to take the spotlight from other, higher profile matches on the card, it did. The chemistry was incredible and the two performers put on a clinic in how to get a crowd pumped up for the rest of the action they will be seeing.
  3. Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker WWF World Title Match – This was the main event, and it certainly had a big-fight feel to it, but the action felt a little underwhelming in comparison to the first two matches I mentioned.
  4. X-Pac vs. Double J Hair vs. Hair Match – Both of these men have been excellent performers since they first got in the business, and with several years to perfect their craft under their belts, they came out and gave an electrifying performance filled with great back and forth action.
  5. Ken Shamrock vs. Owen Hart Lion’s Den Match – In what was a brutal mix of pro wrestling and UFC, the Lion’s Den match was pretty great seeing Owen and Shamrock going hold for hold and shot for shot.

My Five Favorite Performances From SummerSlam ’98

  1. Owen Hart – getting to see a true master of his craft lead a less experienced opponent through a cool match concept was a treat.
  2. Mankind – From his interview at the beginning of the show bemoaning his destroyed hearse, to his promo with Vince McMahon later on, the the performance he gave taking a beating from the New Age Outlaws, Mankind turned in a fine night.
  3. Val Venis – Val was still a relative newcomer, but he had his gimmick down to a science, and he and D-Lo pulled out a heck of a match to open the show.
  4. X-Pac – Like I said earlier, X-Pac had been perfecting his craft for years up to this point, and he put his many talents on display in his match on this show. Even watching it twenty-fours years after it happened, it still felt fresher than anything I’ve seen in modern wrestling in a long time.
  5. Mark Henry – in the early stages of his “sexual chocolate” gimmick, watching him try to put the moves on Chyna was just flat out entertaining.

My Five Favorite Spots of the Night

  1. The Undertaker driving Austin through a table on the floor by deliverying a leg drop frm the top rope of the ring.
  2. The Rock giving an early People’s Elbow to Triple H while Triple H was on a ladder.
  3. Triple H attempting a move from the top of the ladder only to be caught with a Rock Bottom.
  4. Edge’s dive over the top rope onto Marc Mero on the floor.
  5. Jeff Jarret using an atomic drop to crotch X-Pac on the post on the floor.

The Ten Most 1998 Things About SummerSlam ’98

  • The Rock’s sideburns.
  • The Insane Clown Posse being involved.
  • Val Venis and his aggressive porn star gimmick.
  • X-Pac using the terms “biotch” and “suck it” during his pre-match promo.
  • The mass of Austin 3:16 and DX shirts in the crowd.
  • The quote, “My name’s not Elmo, but you can tickle me any time”.
  • Both of the New Age Outlaws wearing Southpark shirts in their match.
  • Jim Ross having to apologize for saying “son of a bitch” on the air.
  • The announcers talking about the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. FYI, McGwire led on this date 55-54.
  • Jim Dotson and his hat.

Other Thoughts I Had While Watching SummerSlam ’98

  • D-Lo claiming to be from a different home town in Europe every week while European Champion was a great touch.
  • The referee in the opening bout was one tough son of a gun for taking Val Venis’ moneyshot finisher.
  • I could have done without seeing Kurrgan dancing.
  • The Godwins going from hillbillys to Dixie Mafia-esque tough guys called Southern Justice was one of the better make overs of the year.
  • The fiery gates of hell entrance way was a great setup.
  • The New York City buses being wrapped with ads for this SummerSlam in the week leading up to the show was great.
  • The hair clippers for the hair vs. hair match didn’t work. I don’t believe the clippers have ever worked in any hair vs. hair match ever.
  • Howard Finkle doing the crotch chop was not needed.
  • Seeing Edge make his pay-per-view debut and realizing he is main eventing shows today is surreal.
  • The “Marvelous” Marc Mero gimmick wouldn’t get over in today’s world.
  • Jackie was so far ahead of her time as a female wrestler.
  • The Lion’s Den match concept needs to be brought back. Maybe bill it as “Pit Fighting”.
  • The greatness of Owen Hart was not fully appreciated by the masses until it was too late. We lost him just nine months after this show.
  • Ken Shamrock being billed as a former “UFC Superfight” champion feels so out of place in today’s world.
  • I wonder how they Kane in that dumpster?
  • The ladder match made both The Rock and Triple H bonafied wrestling superstars for good from that point on.
  • Steve Austin and The Undertaker didn’t have great chemistry in their first high-profile match together. That would change.

So that’s it. I re-watched SummerSlam ’98 and thoroughly enjoyed it. You should go check it out on Peacock if you’re a fan of old school wrestling. Now I just have to decide what my next old school wrestling rewatch should be.

Five of My Favorite Moments in Royal Rumble History

With wrestling being a big part of my childhood, I watched all of it I could. Most weeks, all we had available to consume were the weekly programs offered by the WWF, the NWA, and various other territories depending on where you were located. But in the late ’80s, wrestling on pay-per-view became a thing, so all of a sudden, there were special events at different times of the year to add to the mix of the regular weekly shows.

Pay-per-view made the already heated real-life rivalry between the WWF and the NWA even hotter, as both companies were scheduling events to run on pay-per-view, and their competitor was counter-programming with special events on free television. The WWF started this trend by offering up a new concept called The Royal Rumble that aired free on the USA Network, opposite the NWA’s Bunkhouse Stampede pay-per-view event. Little did we know as fans that this new concept would catch on in such a big way, and turn into a yearly special event that continues to this day.

Through the years, many memorable things have taken place during the annual Royal Rumble match, and here are five of the more memorable ones from my memories.


The First Royal Rumble in 1988

Back in late 1987 when the first Royal Rumble was announced as being broadcast on the USA Network, I was pumped.  I had gotten to go to a friend’s house to watch Starrcade ’87 but had yet to be allowed to order a wrestling pay-per-view.  So when I found out this event was going to be free and I would get to watch it, I was bouncing off the walls.

The first Royal Rumble didn’t disappoint either.  One of my favorites at the time, Ricky Steamboat, had a match with Rick Rude, and there was the contract signing between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant for their rematch at the upcoming Wrestlemania IV.  But the big draw was their new concept in battle royals, the Royal Rumble itself.  Just the concept was enough to get me to watch the show without all the other matches.

This first one was probably the hardest to peg who was going to win.  Once they added the stipulation that the winner would get a title shot made it pretty easy to guess who was going to win each year.  But this one lacked all the real big stars and was made up of mid-card guys, making it really hard to figure out.  “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan came out on top, and I had a hell of a time watching my first “big event” live. 


Ric Flair wins the WWF Title in 1992

Growing up a staunch NWA and WCW fan, Ric Flair was my champion.  Not only that, he was my hero.  While a lot of other kids worshiped Hulk Hogan, I sat at the foot of the mountain while Flair and the Four Horsemen preached on the mountain top.  So when he made the jump to the WWF in 1991, I was rooting hard for the day when he and Hogan would square off for the WWF World title. 

Since that didn’t happen on a big stage, the 1992 Royal Rumble was the next best thing.  The title had been held up after Flair had interfered in a title match between The Undertaker and Hogan, and the winner of the Rumble would be declared the new champion.  I knew going into this one that Flair had a legitimate shot at coming out on top.  When he came out as the #3 entrant, for some reason, it cemented it in my mind.

Flair was always known as “the 60-minute” man, and here he had a chance to prove it.  It was so much fun watching him run into a lot of his past rivals and friends in the course of the match.  Guys like Roddy Piper, Kerry Von Erich, The Barbarian, and others just made the whole thing that much sweeter.  In the end, Flair outlasted everyone else in the match to capture his first WWF Title and validated my faith in the man.  When it was over, he cut a heck of a promo too. 


Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior’s Teaser in 1990

Back in this era, it was super rare to see two babyfaces or two heels lock up in a wrestling ring.  Throw on top of that the fact that Hogan and the Warrior were the two biggest babyface stars in the company, and I really didn’t see this one coming. 

Late in the match, each man was busy throwing out the competition until there was no one left.  When they finally came to this realization, the staredown commenced.  After a few seconds of immense crowd reaction, the two went to battle.  It ended up a stalemate as they collided with clotheslines at the same time and the battle was over.  But it whetted the appetite of everyone watching for their eventual main event showdown at Wrestlemania VI. 


Diesel’s Run in 1994

Up until 1994, we had seen some impressive performances in the Rumble, but most of them were related to how long someone could stay in the match.  In 1994, Diesel came along and set a new record for eliminations, and in the process, set a new standard for dominance.

Diesel entered the Rumble and not only cleared the ring of everyone in it but also immediately eliminated the next several competitors shortly after they entered the ring.  The performance propelled him to superstardom and left a mark on the history of the Rumble. From that point on, fans no longer only talked about who won the match and who lasted the longest, they also talked about who had the best run of eliminations.


Bret Hart and Lex Luger declared Co-Winners in 1994

In a move that has been panned by wrestling fans for over 25 years now, the 1994 Royal Rumble had co-winners for the first time.  The match came down to the Bret Hart and Lex Luger at the end…two babyfaces, and during a tussle on the ropes, both men went over the top and hit the floor at the same time, setting off a dispute.  Several referees, hand raisings, and presidential decisions later, the decision stood, and both men wound up earning a shot at the WWF title at Wrestlemania X.

I thought it was a novice approach and a fun idea to have co-winners.  I’ve been in the minority on that opinion for a long time now, but I don’t care.  It helped add to the unpredictable nature of the Royal Rumble that continues to this day.

 

Old Dukes of Hazzard Merchandise

The Dukes of Hazzard was one of my absolute favorite shows growing up and still is today. But back then as a kid, when you had a favorite anything, you tended to want a lot of the tie-in merchandise that went along with it. Such was the case with me and The Dukes of Hazzard. I ended up having quite a bit of merchandise that was tied to the show, but if I tried to highlight them all here you’d never get through the whole thing, so let’s just look at five of them today.

Dukes of Hazzard Power Cycle

My cousin Tim and I lived next to each other, on top of a big hill, and we loved to spend our summer days cruising down that hill on our Big Wheels, and usually wore one out every year, meaning that we each needed a new at Christmas time.
One Christmas, we both received Dukes of Hazzard Power Cycles.  Those things looked so cool, and we both swore that they went faster than any other we’d ever had.  With all the cool decals, the streamers on the handles, and the yellow power hand brake, those things were beautiful.

I’m not sure if they lasted through that first summer season or not (doubt it), but I’m sure when they finally broke down we were sad to see them go.  Our days of him being Bo and me being Luke are great memories though.

Dukes of Hazzard Wrist Racers

Wrist Racers were such cool toys, and they were made for several different properties. But the only ones I ever remember having were these Dukes of Hazzard ones. They featured a small (smaller than Hotwheels) General Lee car or Hazzard County police car that would wind up so you could let it go and it would take off.  You wound up the car and attached it to its “wrist” base, which you wore around like a watch, and left it there until you were ready to set it off on its journey.  On the front of the base, was a pull-out ramp that made it possible to lower your arm to the floor, and have the ramp ON the floor so when you launched the car it didn’t wreck once it left your wrist.  One push of a button released the wound-up car and it would zoom across the floor doing stunts along the way. It was a great tie-in because one of the big appeals to the show were the car chases, and you could kind of duplicate that at home with these wrist racers.

Dukes of Hazzard Mego Figures and General Lee

Being a huge fan of G.I. Joe and having a lot of those figures, coupled with my love of Dukes of Hazzard made owning these things a foregone conclusion.  I had both Bo and Luke, and the General Lee pictured above.  When a job was just a little too tough for the Joes to handle, they called in the special forces….the Duke cousins!

You may think it’s preposterous, but I can distinctly remember a time that G.I. Joe was raiding the Cobra Terrordrome, but the tide of battle was against them.  It was Christmas Day 1986, and Cobra was launching their deadly Firebat from the center of their base to turn the tide of battle against the Joes, but Bo & Luke in the General Lee jumped off a cliff and knocked the Firebat out of the air during its launch to save the day!

Dukes of Hazzard Etch-a-Sketch Action Pack

Etch-a-Sketch was such a brilliant toy and was a huge hit amongst my friends and me.  As much fun as it was trying to create a masterpiece work of art, you could ramp up the fun even more by adding a “fun screen” over the Etch-a-Sketch itself.  There were basic packs of the fun screens that featured sports games and other non-branded fun. And then there were the ones that tied into other properties like The Smurfs, Looney Tunes, and our subject today, The Dukes of Hazzard.

In the Dukes pack were a couple of maze-like games, a connect-the-dots puzzle, and other assorted fun. I never owned this particular action pack, but the set resided at my grandmother’s house and was there for any and all grandkids to use. So on a lot of trips there, I always made sure to take my Etch-a-Sketch along with me to spend a little quality time playing with the Dukes set.

Dukes of Hazzard Cassette Tape

My Dad had originally picked up this cassette and I would listen to it with him when he let me travel with him. When I got my first Walkman knockoff, this bad boy had a new home.  I kept it in that tape player forever and would just listen to this thing on loop.  I wore the cassette out in short order somehow, and my Dad ended up buying me another copy.

It had the iconic theme song on it and a host of other really good songs if you’re into country music. This piece of tie-in merchandise was really spot on since music had a featured role in the show on numerous occasions.

And just so you can check it out, here’s the album on Spotify:

So that’s five old pieces of Dukes of Hazzard merch I enjoyed years ago. But truth be told, I’m still not too old to enjoy them now, and would do so if given the chance.

Five of My Favorite Matchbox Toys

Growing up in the ’80s and early ’90s, Hot Wheels, and Matchbox cars were a big part of my playtime.  Both lines produced a lot of really fun cars and playsets, and in this edition of Retro Ramblings, I’m sharing a few of my favorite toys from the Matchbox side of things through the years.  


Matchbox Super Spin Car Wash

After a long day of play in the dirt and mud of the hills around our house, a good car wash was just what the cars and trucks needed.  This car wash was kind of automatic…as in you had to get the car in the wash and then turn a crank and it would go all the way through.  It featured real water jets, a foam roller “scrub” brush, and a spin dry feature.  The perfect play set for getting all of your cars clean before packing them away for another day.

Watch the commercial for the Matchbox Super Spin Car Wash HERE

Days of Thunder Cars from Hardees

In 1990, Jerry Bruckheimer’s Days of Thunder movie starring Tom Cruise hit theaters to a great reaction, and merchandise based on the movie started to flow.  One of the better pieces of merchandise to come along were the replica cars from Hardees based on the stock cars from the movie.  The five main cars featured in the movie were in the set, which allowed us younger viewers of the film to recreate all the action at home.

Matchbox Cars Based on the Code Red Television Show

In 1981, CBS debuted the little-remembered Code Red TV Show.  It featured Lorne Green as the Father of a firefighting family in Los Angeles and the Chief of one of the many stations in the city.  The show only lasted one season, but Matchbox produced a series of cars featuring the iconic vehicles from the show.  There were two fire trucks, the Chief’s car, motorcycle, fireboat, helicopter, ambulance, and police car.  As a kid whose Dad was a fireman, this set was one of my absolute favorite toys to play with in the ’80s.

Matchbox Connectables

One of the cooler concepts that came along in the 80’s toy landscape were these Connectables cars from Matchbox.  Each car was in at least two pieces and connected in the middle.  This allowed you to interchange parts of different vehicles to create all new cars and trucks to play with.  There were also packs of other car parts available so you could even extend the new cars into total monstrosities if you wanted to!  You could make a big rig limo or a drag car with tank treads!  With these cars, you could take your imagination and play to a whole other level.

Check out the commercial for Matchbox Connectables here.

Matchbox Trains

Matchbox released a series of train cars in the early ’80s to go along with all of their already awesome car collection. There were various engines in different colors, along with box cars, passenger cars, flat cars, and cabooses.  The really fun aspect of this series was you could hook any of the cars to any of the other cars, meaning you could make many different configurations with varying train cars.  They weren’t exactly in scale with the rest of the line, as they were each about the size of one of their normal cars.  I used to love these things!  My brother and I would hook all of ours together and make an imaginary track all through the house.  We could get hours and hours of fun out of these trains.

So what about you?  Did you have any of these awesome Matchbox toys?  Did I leave out your favorite Matchbox toy?  Tell me in the comments!

How I Remember Christmas

Like I’m sure it was for most kids, December 25th has always been one of those benchmark dates on the calendar. Alongside my birthday, and the last day of school, it has always been a measuring point for the year. And for good reason, as I’m sure I’m not alone in enjoying the gift-giving, gift-getting, food, and fellowship that the magical holiday brings. So in this special edition of Retro Ramblings, I want to share some of the things I think of when I think about Christmas.


For me, the highlight has always been about the time I get to spend with family. Especially my Dad. All through my years of growing up, my Dad traveled. He would be gone for roughly 300 out of the 365 days of a year. But his work always slowed down in December and he had a lot of time at home that lined up so well with our Christmas break from school. And while he himself never got overly excited about Christmas, he did so many little things to make it special for me. Things that most would not think are overly special but so special to me, that I’ve tried to do the exact same things for my daughters every year now.

There is so much nostalgia built into the holiday season for me. So many different things about the holiday that trigger vibrant memories of some of the happiest times of my life. So here in this article, I want to share with you a lot of the little things that I enjoy during the Christmas season, their origins in the past, and some of the strong memories associated with them.

(In no particular order)

MY COUSIN TIM COMING OVER ON CHRISTMAS MORNING TO SEE WHAT I HAD GOTTEN

Every year around mid-morning, my cousin and his parents would stop by to see what Santa had brought, and to show off some new toy he had gotten as well. He and I would play with whatever new things we had while the parents sat and talked, drank coffee, and just enjoyed each other’s company. The fireplace would have a nice crackling fire in it while some low Christmas music played in the background. It was just a wonderful setting for enjoying the mid part of the day.

In recent years, my daughters had the pleasure of being visited every Christmas morning by their great grandparents, who would come see what they had gotten for Christmas and join us for a simple breakfast of orange cinnamon rolls and ham…..just like we always enjoyed on those Christmas mornings so long ago.

THE TOWN CHRISTMAS PARADE

One of my favorite days of the year…seeing the vehicles decorated for Christmas, seeing Santa Claus riding into town high atop a town fire truck, and then following him to the local grocery store to get a treat bag. That bag usually consisted of an apple, an orange, a few pieces of strawberry candy, and a full-size candy bar. The whole town would usually show up for the parade and treats, even though that number was roughly only about 600 people. It was a day that I can think back on and not really remember anyone being anything but happy.

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Christmas Specials as Presented in Old TV Guides

Am I alone in missing the good old days of TV Guide? Not only for the listings that helped you know what to watch when but for the ads for new episodes or specials peppered throughout its pages. With that kind of thought in mind, in this edition of Retro Ramblings, I’d like to present a collection of old ads TV Guide featured for Christmas specials from through the years. I’m even going to limit my commentary and just let you enjoy all the nostalgic goodness. Here we go!


1979
1981
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