Updated: Sep 12
If you want to build the world’s best collection of one of the most obscure wrestlers from the “Attitude Era”, you’re going to have to dig deep.
A couple years ago, I was having a conversation with Tony Vela from WrestlingTradingCards.com and Zhan Mourning from the Wrestling with Cards podcast. I was having trouble finding my lane in the world of wrestling cards. I don’t really watch the new content from WWE or AEW, so the new products from Topps, Panini, and Upper Deck didn’t appeal to me from a PC perspective. I told them my wrestling sweet spot was from the mid-80s to the attitude era in the late 90s.
They told me to try picking one of my favorite wrestlers from that era and just start working on a player collection.
Ding, ding, ding!
Why didn’t I think of that?
For years I’ve encouraged people to find an aspect of collecting they are passionate about. Whether that was a particular player, a set, an era, it doesn’t matter as long as it means something to you. For some reason, I was having trouble taking my own advice when it came to wrestling cards.
Well, finally I decided who I was going to focus on.
Norman Smiley, the “Master of Submission Moves”, the creator of “The Big Wiggle” and the eventual WCW hardcore champion.
He never got much widespread popularity, but he was a favorite of my friends and I as we watched the Monday night wars during my college years. Sometimes he’d win, sometimes he’d lose, but we never got tired of cheering him on.
I did a quick search on TCDB.com and saw that he only had about 60-70 cards. They were split over a few years and consisted of a mix of base cards, parallels, and autographs. It seemed like I’d be able to get some variety, be challenged, but at the same time, not go broke. Since he wasn’t one of the superstars, his prices were pretty affordable.
So with that, the decision was made and my Norman Smiley PC was born. I started my search on COMC. There were probably a dozen or more cards I snagged on there to kick things off. Most them were base cards and parallels, but there were a few autos on the site which were priced super cheap. I even found a printing plate 1/1 for like $20!
Next was eBay. The vast majority of his cards were released by Topps from 2016 to 2017, and since I was starting this collection four or five years later, sellers were ready to move on from his stuff. I made offers on several more low serial numbered autographs and parallels and got them for what I felt like were great prices. These “easy” finds got me to about 35-40 unique cards.
Now what. Where am I going to find the others?
Step 1: Set up eBay saved searches.
There were a few pretty hard to find items. His first card was from a 1993 Topps CMLL release which is super scarce. He also had a card which was inserted as a panel in a UK version of the WCW magazine in 2000. He had a few cards in a WCW Wizards of the Coast trading card game, and some versions of that set are hard to find as well.
I set up eBay searches for all those products so I could hopefully get notified as soon as one of them got posted. This actually led to a couple additional finds in the following months.
Step 2: Start digging anywhere and everywhere
By my count, 23 of the 68 Smiley cards are 1/1s. I figured I needed to do more than just rely on eBay to find these missing cards. So I started digging. I put out the word on Twitter and Instagram that I was looking. I started Googling, I searched the Net54 and Blowout Forums to track down any leads I could find.
That work eventually started to pay off. I found a collector in Australia that had the WCW magazine card. I got a lead on a WCW auto from Twitter, and then I got a huge break from scouring old posts on the Blowout Forum.
I found a post from someone who opened a case of 2017 Topps WWE and hit a 1/1 Smiley. Even though it had been almost 6 years since the post, I sent him a DM to see if by chance he still had it.
He did not…..but……he told me who he sold it to and he thought the guy might still have it!
So armed with the buyers name and home town (at least his home town six years ago) I searched Facebook. I found someone matching the description and sent them a message asking if they were the right guy.
Turns out it was! Not only did he still have that 1/1, but he had 4 other 1/1s and an /10 that I still needed. Even better, he was willing to bundle them up and sell them to me!
At this point I have been able to obtain 49 of the 68 different Norman Smiley cards in existence, including 7 1/1s. There are still 16 more 1/1s out there along with just three others that I need to get them all.
If you know of anyone with some Smiley 1/1s, a Topps CMLL “Black Magic” card, or some other serial numbered Smileys, send them my way!
Each additional card that gets uncovered at this point is going to be a major accomplishment. I know of one guy out there who has one of the printing plate “rainbows”. So if he ever decides to move on from it, hopefully I’ll be able to obtain those four 1/1s. And there is another collector with a full set of the CMLL cards, but he isn’t looking to break it up just to sell me the Smiley. Other than that, I don’t know where any of the other remaining cards are at.
Do I have the premier Smiley collection? I don’t know, but I do know I’ve had a ton of fun building my collection so far!
It’s taken research. I’ve had to dig. I’ve had to build relationships and a network of contacts in the wrestling card community, and I’m thankful to Tony and Zhan for the inspiration!
Now excuse me, eBay just let me know another card of “The Big Wiggle” got posted!