The Then Now Forever release, essentially series two for the flagship release of Topps WWE cards, rounds out the year’s big four releases. It’s not just the base set that continues the same numbering as previous releases. There are also many tribute sets adding additional cards to earlier sets. These are usually exclusive to some store or type of pack.
The base set contains a mix of Smackdown, Raw, 205 Live, NXT, and Legends to round out the wrestlers featured. It features many debuting athletes, along with the flagship rookie card for Ronda Rousey. You also get the regular complement of parallels, to go along with insert subsets paying tribute to the 25th anniversary of Raw and Hall of Famer Rowdy Roddy Piper. Each box advertises two hits, including one autograph.
This is an interesting release this year. Archives normally comes out around late May, but as the summer started, there was talk about it being pushed back until August. That much isn’t particularly unusual. Releases get delayed frequently for any number of reasons. What is unusual, is what happened in August.
The cards hit retail in August, but hobby was nowhere to be seen. It
wasn’t really clear when hobby was coming, or why the delay, but hobby was eventually released on October 24th. There are a lot of rumors about why, but I’m curious to see what it does to the product. I feel like a lot of people had a chance to get their fill at retail long before hobby hit stores. It’s interesting to see how few of some autographs really hit the market from retail, though. It’s also apparent that some retail redemptions came back and were packed in live for hobby, which is a benefit, I guess.
Much like the growth in the WWE Women’s Division itself, the trading card release is also getting a higher profile. In years past, we’ve seen a retail release, but now we’re seeing a full hobby release.
The set itself doesn’t seem to have changed very much, though,
with a small roster set, as well as a Matches and Moments set featuring Raw, Smackdown Live, NXT, and the Mae Young Classic. We also see insert sets focusing on the Mixed Match Challenge, Power Couples, and the first women’s Royal Rumble. We’ve also come to expect the usual assortment of relics from a WWE release, including pieces of the mat from various events, t-shirt swatches, and manufactured relics of the Women’s championships over the years. Each box contains 24 packs with 7 cards per pack and advertises 2 hits per box, one of which is guaranteed to be an autograph.
Heritage High Numbers exists as essentially an update set for the regular Heritage release. It picks up where the first set ends, containing cards 501-725, of which the final 25 are SPs. The SPs are a much smaller portion of the set for High Numbers, so they are easier to complete.
This set has cards for some traded veterans, people left out of the first release, as well as hot rookies making their debut this year.
Once again, we have the return of short print variants with team color swaps, errors, traded, action, and others. There’s an extra wrinkle to those this year, which I think it long overdue. At least for this release, gone are the days of trying to read a tiny product code to be sure which variant you have. Instead, Topps includes a label below the card number telling you which variant you have. Hopefully this is a feature that sticks around in future releases.
Topps WWE Heritage follows a similar pattern to baseball, but it is not quite as constrained. While baseball follows year by year, 50 years in the past, baseball seems to skip around a little bit not. In recent years, we’ve seen 1985 style, leading to 1986 and 1987. This year, however, they skip 1988 and go right to 1989. They even add in a little surprise.
While it was in the middle of the junk wax era, the 1989 Topps design is still pretty popular for it’s clean layout. It really brings something to this release. The base contains 110 cards, plus an additional 9 updated roster cards, found only in retail. The original design for team leaders is including as an insert set consisting of tag teams and stables. We also see a small insert set for 2017 Rookies. Perhaps the best part is an insert set I didn’t expect. The set features legends on the Topps Big style from that period. It really adds something to the set, with a design that doesn’t feel as overused as a lot of the others.