The History of Legends of Wrestling

While the history of Champions of the Galaxy Wrestling Game dates back to 1986 (and is still going strong), Legends of Wrestling made its debut much later. Here is a short history of the beginnings of Legends of Wrestling:

July, 1998 – Filsinger Games releases playing cards for real-life professional wrestlers for the first time. The first is for wrestling legend, Greg “the hammer” Valentine. Another is for Mike Fortune, Hitman for Hire. The Valentine card is part of the Legends of Wrestling Box Set. The Legends cards are compatible with (and in fact are based on) the Champions of the Galaxy system.

March, 2001 – Filsinger Games announces the release of Legends of Wrestling playing cards for King Kong Bundy. One version of his playing card is personally signed and autographed by King Kong Bundy (and still available at the online store). Other related playing cards, such as an Avalanche card, are officially released in the summer. The news story is featured at internet news sites and wrestling magazines. Creator Tom Filsinger is interviewed online by Jason Patterson for the Pro Wrestling Stimulator Enthusiast and says about future Legends of Wrestling signings, “I’ll have plenty of surprises in store.”

Ads promoting Legends of Wrestling appeared in wrestling magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated in the summer of 2001.

August, 2001 – Filsinger Games announces the release of a Legends of Wrestling card in tribute to professional wrestler, Johnny Valentine. Valentine had passed away earlier in the year. Legends of Wrestling playing cards are sold online and through newsletter and magazine ads.

November, 2001 – The Legends of Wrestling Card Game continues to grow as Filsinger Games celebrates the official release of playing cards for Virgil and other wrestlers at the Mid-Ohio Comic Con in Columbus, Ohio.

March, 2002 – Several more Legends of Wrestling cards are released and sold online (including the Iron Sheik) and through the official Filsinger Games newsletter called GWF Promoter. Advertisements appear in wrestling magazines publicizing the Legends of Wrestling Card Game.

April, 2002 – At a major Legends of Wrestling promotion at the Pittsburgh ComiCon, Filsinger Games officially releases playing cards for Ted DiBiase and Nikolai Volkoff. DiBiase and Volkoff are guests at the event and partake in the action by “wrestling” with their playing cards! The event draws attention at internet news sites and wrestling magazines. Filsinger Games also appears at the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Schenectady to promote the Legends of Wrestling Card Game.

July, 2002 – Filsinger Games officially releases Legends of Wrestling playing cards for Frank Gotch and Johnny Valentine at GalactiCon 2002 in Jamestown, New York.

December, 2002 – Tom Filsinger appears on several radio talk shows to discuss the Legends Box Set. Enthusiasm for the Legends of Wrestling Card Game continues to grow as the number of cards scheduled for release increases.

February, 2003 – Filsinger Games releases the Legends of Wrestling Box Set, which brings together most of the Legends cards released so far plus new ones in one package!

Professional Wrestling and the Legends of Wrestling Card Game: What They Mean to Me

by Tom Filsinger

The Legends of Wrestling card game has been a labor of love for me. From its conception (it could be argued that the game was conceived over 25 years ago, but that’s another story) it’s been clear to me that Legends could not have been created without the incredible support of many people.

The Legends of Wrestling card game is a tribute to the fascinating history of professional wrestling. My love for professional wrestling began when I watched the NWF (Cleveland area federation owned by Pedro Martinez, I believe) and Detroit wrestling (owned by the original Sheik) in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I was first exposed to wrestling through the eyes of my grandparents, Greek immigrants who thought it was all totally real. That’s the best way to be introduced to wrestling just the same way as it’s the best way to be introduced to Santa Claus—as a totally real proposition. Only then, when you learn it’s not “real,” can you truly appreciate the depth of the fantasy. My interest in professional wrestling has continued throughout my adult life, though it’s clearly had ebbs and flows (right now is an ebb).

The Legends of Wrestling card game is for ALL wrestling fans who have fond memories of the glory of the sport. Regardless of which federation you followed closely, whether it was the NWA, AWA, WWF, WCW or one of many others, most of the names in the game will resonate with you. While wrestlers like Bobo Brazil and Johnny Valentine hark back to my youth, they are also legends who transcended regional territories and are a part of wrestling’s great legacy. And what wrestling fan hasn’t heard of Gorgeous George, Buddy Rogers, Harley Race, the Road Warriors, Giant Baba, and many others included in the Legends Box Set?

In my secret identity, as several people know, I’m an Associate Professor of Psychology at Jamestown Community College. What’s a psychology professor doing creating wrestling games? Go figure.

One class I teach is Social Psychology, which is the study of the effects of groups on individuals. Naturally I can’t help but analyze the phenomenon of professional wrestling. I don’t pretend to have any great insights, but I can at least share some thoughts.

The power of professional wrestling is that if you let it, professional wrestling will engulf you in a world of drama and wonder. It’s a world built upon a foundation of controlled violence which plays out our own inner fears and conflicts. It’s a world where wrestlers rant the way we’d like to rant, punish bad guys the way we’d like to punish the rotten bums, preen and strut the way we’d like to preen and strut, and flaunt authority the way we’d like to blow off our boss at work! It’s a violent dream world that reduces our own mixed up real-life problems into action-based caricature.

And does it have to make sense in the process? Of course not! As a result, in professional wrestling people really do bounce back when they’re thrown into the ropes, instead of holding on for dear life. And wrestlers do miraculously recover and wrestle again tomorrow night after they’ve been repeatedly smashed headfirst into a steel post. And, of course, wrestling organizations really are helpless to use instant replay and the like to prevent all kinds of chaos and over-the-top cheating by wrestlers and managers.

Once the inner rules are accepted, a magical transformation takes place. Professional wrestling becomes an addicting pleasure! It allows people to explore a full range of primal emotions, from anger and hate to hope and retribution.

And despite all its violent intensity, professional wrestling is also one of the most humorous forms of theater ever developed and usually (at it’s best) unintentionally. Teetering on the edge of reality and carney, there are always at least two levels of humor that can be appreciated, one deadpan (for the true believer) and the other irony (the wink and the nod). And there’s nothing more entertaining in wrestling than two announcers where one is the true believer (Gorilla Monsoon) and the other gives us the wink and nod (Jesse Ventura). Because the wink is what we need in order to feel good about ourselves for enjoying the fiction as if it was reality. Any less and we would feel like fools.

Wrestling’s big mistake today is that it looks behind the curtain far too often. Instead of playing “kayfabe” wrestlers talk openly about how they fake their moves and developed their “characters.” Shows like Tough Enough expose the industry as entirely fake except (as if this will cushion the blow) “wrestlers really do get hurt,” thereby still making it “real” in some ways. Reassuring to some perhaps, but not to people like me.

There is an irrestible urge in all of us to be an insider. The “pulling away of the curtain” leads to an inevitable rush of excitement of learning about the inner workings of the sport (I’ll admit I was curious how the Sheik threw fire and how he “worked out” his matches with his opponents). But this is the beginning of the end—the opening of the dreaded Pandora’s Box (why can’t people learn from these classic fables?).

Learning more about the behind-the-scenes world of professional wrestling makes us want to learn even more. And each step takes us closer and closer (gasp) to the real-life world of politics and egos that we were trying to escape in the first place! But it gets worse. The end of the road, unfortunately, is cynicism (read: ECW and “reality” WWE), perhaps the only “grown up” way to preserve (or justify) our continued interest in wrestling. I don’t know, but it seems like we’ve put the figure-four on wrestling magic and the sport is tapping out.

That magic depends, in part, on a fierce protectiveness that it IS real, a protectiveness that was an unspoken code for the classic old-time wrestlers. They must have known on some level that once the curtain is drawn too far and the little man is exposed more and more, the smoke and thunder of the wizard become weaker and weaker. And in the end the wizard becomes a parody, his power drained by constant attention to his tricks. And so wrestling today has reached a precipice—unable to turn back and yet unable to go forward in any convincing direction.

Brett Hart once wrote in his wrestling column, “Pro wrestling can’t go back to being seen as real but at least it should do its part to try.

Luckily, there’s none of this nonsense in the Legends of Wrestling game. We gleefully return to the days when wrestlers “stayed in character” (as it’s referred to today) and refused to violate the inner workings of the sport. In fact, Legends is a tribute to those men and women who safeguarded a fantasy we always knew was a fantasy anyway. In the Legends handbook we clearly state that the Destroyer is from “parts unknown” even though I am quite aware that Dick Beyer lives near Buffalo, New York, only a hop, skip, and a jump from where I live in Jamestown. But as far as the Legends game is concerned there is no Dick Beyer, only the Destroyer, an enigmatic masked man from parts unknown.

And no, this denial doesn’t mean we still believe in Santa Claus. It just means we still allow our imaginations to take flight, not restricted by the all-too-real world around us. In a way, isn’t that the greatest tribute the Legends game can give to the illustrious history of the sport?

I’m pleased to say that with Legends of Wrestling you’ll be able to have back the world of professional wrestling that you loved. You can set up blood feuds, say between Buddy Rogers and Jimmy Snuka, and imagine the feud played out in its violent glory in cage matches at venues like Boston Garden or Madison Square Garden, unhampered by the premise that Buddy Rogers is going off to a “shoot” internet interview after the matches where instead of telling listeners how much he hates Jimmy Snuka (which is what we want to hear) telling how much he enjoys “working” with Snuka, how he doesn’t mind “jobbing” to him every now and then, how he’ll be turning “face” or “heel” in the script next week…how painfully unreal the whole thing is.

Thankfully, when you play the Legends game and roll the dice, you won’t know what’s going to happen. Rogers might win a classic back and forth match with a piledriver or Snuka might stun Rogers with his SUPERFLY LEAP after the opening bell! Maybe the match will end as a double disqualification…or a count out. Anything is possible! You’ll be the main promoter scheduling the matches, but you’ll also be a wildly interested spectator. Isn’t that what wrestling is all about?

Legends of Wrestling is about the magic of wrestling and no less. Feel free to enjoy it on any level you like, but it was created with the above in mind.
Here’s to the Legends and to the loyal fans who preserve the dream that is professional wrestling. Legends of Wrestling is dedicated to you!

Special thanks for helping make the Legends of Wrestling card game a reality goes to:

Karl Lauer, Vice-President of the Cauliflower Alley Club, who took a lot of time to give me phone numbers of wrestling legends to contact.

Dr. Mike Lano, who supplied most of the photos for the game box and handbook as well as supplying some contact information as well.

Georgiann Makropolous also took the time to give me phone numbers as well as helping to publicize the game.

Percival A. Friend did us a good turn by helping us with a key legends signing.

Les Thatcher spent a lot of time with me on the phone talking about potential contacts.

Bobbette Bundy went well beyond giving us information about Gorgeous George and Cherie Dupre (her mother). She also supplied us with superb Gorgeous George collectibles! Thanks, Bobbette.

Tony Vellano, the brains behind the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Schenectady, New York, graciously put Champions of the Galaxy on display at the Hall. We will be shipping him our Legends of Wrestling game when it is released.

Chad Olson and Tim Dalton did a superb job of helping write the Legends playing cards. They’re historical knowledge of wrestling was crucial to the integrity of the game.
Thanks also to Stu Lowry for writing the initial draft of the Legends Handbook.

Tom Burke and Scott Teal provided historical information that influenced the look of the handbook.

J. Michael Kenyon provided some plugs and some exposure in the Cauliflower Alley Club newsletters.

Thanks also to all the wrestlers and their families. It was a pleasure meeting such wonderful people.

Finally, there’s all the great fans of Champions of the Galaxy wrestling game. The support of this incredible fan base is the foundation of all our successes…and growth.

Keep watching this list, it’ll grow! The amount of support we’ve received has been incredible. I’m very thankful for all those people who’ve helped us pay tribute to the history of professional wrestling through our Legends card game.