I’m a sucker for nostalgia, so when ICW NHB (No Holds Barred) announced their latest set of trading cards was an homage to 1990 Donruss, the infamous red-bordered junk wax baseball card set, I immediately pre-ordered a pack. Granted, I’m not too familiar with ICW NHB, though I do know some of the talent, and I’ve never ordered a set of cards from ICW NHB, but the look of this new set was enough to convert me into a paying customer. 

According to WrestlingTradingCards.com, ICW NHB has amassed a rather impressive checklist of wrestling trading cards over the past few years. Most of their smaller sets are released in conjunction with an ICW NHB event, but they’ve now released three full Elite series of cards, which can be seen as their annual, flagship set.

While the first series of ICW NHB cards isn’t in the style of another set of trading cards I could identify (please correct me if I’m wrong), series two was designed in the iconic style of 1987 Topps baseball, another junk wax classic, with its wood grain border. Choosing 1990 Donruss baseball as the inspiration for ICW NHB series three makes for an interesting choice, because it’s such a notorious set for baseball card collectors of a certain age, but I have to say it’s a perfect pairing for this set of deathmatch wrestling cards, with its blood red border, black and white speckles, orange card backs, and names in bright white cursive script.

ICW NHB trading cards ad

The ad for this set was concise, stating that for $30, each pack includes one “20 Card Set plus 1 Chase Card,” and at the time of sale, a full checklist hadn’t been released, but off the promo image alone, showcasing cards of Hoodfoot, Kasey Kirk, and John Wayne Murdoch, I pre-ordered a pack.       

My pack arrived a few weeks after pre-orders went live, so kudos to ICW NHB for their production timeline, but it came packaged in just a team bag (a small, clear, plastic bag, for those not in the know). There was no branded box or wrapper like most indie wrestling sets, which probably helped reduce the cost and increased the speed of production.   

On the downside, when I removed the set of cards from the shipping envelope, there was less of a mystery to what was inside. I immediately saw the card on the back, card number one of the set, Abdullah Kobayashi, and the first card on top was my chase card, which stood out from the rest of the set because unlike the other red bordered cards in the pack, this card had a blue border, a fun nod to the 1990 Donruss Baseball’s Best set. My chase card was a Rated Rookie of a child named Blake Murdoch. I don’t know who Murdoch is, but he’s shown on the card displaying a wad of cash, and the back of the card is pretty funny, with Murdoch posed in front of a raging fire, the photo credited to his mom.

Blake Murdoch ICW NHB card

The rest of the set was pretty much what I expected. I knew about half the wrestlers included, but my ignorance of the ICW roster is not a knock on the set. After the chase card, there was Detroit’s own Tommy Vendetta, who was card #19 in the set, so the cards were packed in reverse numerical order. A few cards later was Matt Tremont, with a pretty disgusting wound on his head. Then there was Kasey Kirk, looking very cool while she flipped the bird in a “I Love to Make Boys Cry” t-shirt. Next was John Wayne Murdoch (Blake’s dad?), bearded face splattered with drying blood. Then there was the card of Hoodfoot, a great looking shot, with a bloody face and championship belt over his shoulder. A couple cards later was another Detroit favorite, former Red Wings enforcer turned pro wrestler/promoter and cannabis enthusiast Darren McCarty. And card number two in the set was Akira, who’s also currently featured in MLW.  

Kasey Kirk ICW NHB card

There’s some great, active deathmatch wrestlers in this set, and in addition to the design, the photography (credited to Mateo, Tony Knox, Earl Gardner, Some Mark, Chris Grasso, Somer G, Brandi G, Kerri, and Blake Murdoch’s mom) is a strong point, but this is a no frills, almost old school set of wrestling cards. The cards have a matte finish, reminiscent of wax packs of cards. There’s no gloss or chrome. I half expected to find a stick of bubble gum inside, although I don’t think I would’ve tried to chew that gum. 

There’s been some light criticism that the advertisement of a “20 Card Set plus 1 Chase Card” is slightly inaccurate, because what you get in the pack is a set of 19 base cards, and one additional chase card (20 cards total, not 21), but I believe it’s a small discrepancy, and more than likely a miscommunication in the advertisement, not an intentional mislead.   

For someone like myself who isn’t familiar with ICW NHB, and hasn’t purchased any previous ICW sets, this was a fun, good looking pack of cards to open, and the 1990 Donruss homage was a great choice of design, because it was nostalgic, but hasn’t been overdone, and matched well with all the blood in the set. I look forward to future ICW NHB wrestling card releases, and I should probably check out ICW NHB the next time they come to Detroit.

ICW NHB Detroit ad

The ICW NHB series 3 trading card set is available now, while supplies last.