Blast From the packs: 2020 WWE Topps Finest

I wasn’t a pro wrestling fan as a little kid, but at some point in 1997 (I was 15ish), I was at my friend Casey’s house playing the newly released Nintendo 64 game WCW vs. nWo: World Tour. That was and is an absolutely amazing wrestling game to play with friends. We had so much fun tossing each other around the ring, into the guardrails around the ring, hitting each other with chairs and stop signs and trashcans, etc., and we really didn’t know that much about pro wrestling at that point.

Of course, the WCW roster at that point was loaded with aging WWF/E legends such as Hulk Hogan (now playing a bad guy) and Macho Man Randy Savage (still playing a crazy guy), so we knew who some of the guys in the game were, but not all of them. At a break in the play session, we went out to the kitchen to make some hot dogs and watch some TV, and it just so happened to be a Monday night, and WCW Monday Nitro was on. So was WWE’s Monday Night Raw, but since we were playing the WCW game, we stuck with Nitro. And we were hooked.

We quickly became big fans of pro wrestling in general, even sometimes watching the WWE shows (though we still preferred WCW, at least in the beginning). This love and appreciation of pro wrestling waxed and waned for both of us through the years, but it’s safe to say pro wrestling has been a through-line in our years of friendship even to the current day.

Neither of us really watch wrestling much at all anymore. Casey quit watching WWE a couple of years ago when they started doing a transparently gross and greedy bit of business with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (and of course it didn’t help that the shows at that point were getting boring and stale). I haven’t watched WWE since at least that point myself, though I have dabbled in some All Elite Wrestling, some New Japan Pro Wrestling, and even a dash of Impact Wrestling in the form of clips online.

But I still follow WWE a little, reading about the outcomes of pay-per-view events and title changes, keeping track of new signings or veterans who decide to leave for greener pastures. I can still tell you at least a little something about most of the people on the current WWE rosters, which is a big part of why, as I was browsing eBay for some non-sports cards to buy a few weeks ago, I thought: Hey, I’m gonna buy some WWE trading cards.

So I got a little blaster box of 2020 Topps Finest with women’s wrestling GOAT Asuka/KANA on the cover (Bayley also appears on another side of the box, along with Drew McIntyre and *cough cough* Randy Orton *cough*) for about $30 shipped. I was drawn to these cards for the design, but also because these modern wrestling sets (and yes, there are a few) all include the modern bells and whistles, including super short print parallels, autographs and even relic cards. I have some old-school cardboardy WWE cards by Topps from back in the day, but they’re mostly pretty forgettable and relegated to bookmark duty at this point: This set is a proper step into modern collecting with a wrestling twist. Did I have the fun I was hoping to have opening these few packs?

In a word: Yeah. Not quite WCW vs. nWo World Tour with a friend fun, but still, I had quite a bit of fun for the money. Let’s get into the official Andrew Taylor Recommends rating rubric and find out how much fun (as a reminder, four categories rated out of 5, averaged evenly for a final score).

Design: 3 of 5 – I teetered and tottered on whether to give this set a 3 or a 4. On the one hand, it’s a clean, attractive, modern design that seems to translate well across the subsets and inserts that I’ve seen. On the other hand, it’s a bit boring and monochromatic, and it’s exactly the same as the 2020 Finest baseball set design (that isn’t by any means uncommon; card makers usually keep a fairly standard design across their different sport offerings in the same set. I guess I just thought it might be a bit different given that it’s wrestling and not a sport, per se). Overall, it’s a strong three. Not exactly memorable, but solid.

In order of appearance in the above slideshow:
1. Cover girl Asuka on her base card. Even the base cards, though, are super shiny and holographic, refracting rainbows of light all over the place. These cards are so shiny that my hand’s reflection appears in some of these pictures as I attempted to photograph them.
2. The base card back, with a good amount of flavor text about each wrestler.
3. The two X-Fractor special inserts I received, as promised by the outside of the box. They came in their own separate foil wrapper. Note the design is unchanged, except now the background is a holographic checkerboard instead of a smooth mirror-like surface.
4. Two “Rookie” cards, denoting a wrestler’s first appearance in a Topps set. Note also the color of the wrestler’s name (red, blue, or gold) on each card denotes which of the WWE brands they appear on (Raw, Smackdown, or NXT, respectively).
5. I also unwrapped two insert cards from the six packs in the box: A blue parallel (1 in 34 packs, numbered to 150) of Raw rookie Riddick Moss (a real Vince McMahon-style musclehead if ever there was one), and a Finest Debut card of top star Seth Rollins, from back when he debuted as part of the then-shadowy stable The Shield.

Card feel: 4 of 5 – These cards are almost too shiny, really. They’re kind of hard for me to handle comfortably because I’m constantly worried about getting fingerprints on the ridiculously shiny surfaces. These really do keep the classic Topps Finest shininess tradition alive. That said, these are solid, well-cut, attractive cards from top to bottom, back to front. Just exercise caution if you have naturally greasy fingers.

Photography: 3 of 5 – Nothing really to write home about with the photography, which is solid enough overall. The thing about this kind of design is, when you cut out the background of the shot, the picture of the subject had better be good enough to stand on its own. There are some cards, like the Finn Balor and Big E base cards that I pulled, that have kind of awkward action shots where the wrestler is performing a move on someone else and it’s just strange enough to make me go “huh, that shot for the front of the card?”

Not the worst pictures, I just wouldn’t have gone with a side headlock for a card front. The Big E body slam is meh, too.

But most of the photos are fine, you know? I had said in a previous post that hockey is a difficult sport to photograph well, and I’d say the same about pro wrestling. The photographers are on the floor, shooting up at the ring through the ropes, and depending on where the action is taking place, you might be stuck looking at someone’s back for a while, or having to hustle around the ring to see what you can get. I can’t imagine it’s easy to get great action shots, and many of these cards wisely opt for pictures of the wrestlers posing during their entrances or in victory after a match. For more evidence of what I’m talking about, next time you see a magazine stand, pick up any given pro wrestling magazine, including the official WWE ones, and enjoy some of the weird-ass action shots they choose for publication on a regular basis.

Fun factor: 3.14 out of 5 – As a reminder, for this rating I give each pack a rating on a 0-5 scale where 0 is “this is a terrible pack of cards, I wish I could seal it back up and send it back” and 5 is “these cards are fantastic, where are my sleeves and toploaders?” and then average them. This rating is pretty solid, on the higher side of what I generally have rated boxes in the past. There was one pack I rated 2, but the rest were 3s or 4s. I was glad to get a few favorites (Asuka, Big E, Xavier Woods, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Tyler Breeze, Kairi Sane, Toni Storm, Elias, Naomi, Bayley), but even the ones I wasn’t as familiar with were cool to look at and read about.

Overall: 3.29 out of 5 – This box provided more fun and satisfaction than I was expecting from pro wrestling cards. I recognized and even liked the vast majority of the wrestlers on the cards I unwrapped (though I still maintain tag teams that are primarily known as tag teams should be together on a single card, because it’s kind of a bummer just to get one and not the other, like with my Akam of Authors of Pain X-Fractor).

I would recommend these cards to any pro wrestling fan for sure, and I think for the price ($20 in stores, or around $30 shipped from an online seller), a blaster box is a great bang-for-buck purchase. This set came out in November of 2020, so I’ll keep an eye out for the 2021 sets later this year and consider buying another one to add to my wrestling card collection.

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