Friday, September 24, 2010

Jakks Returns To Yesteryear

No one can argue that Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line changed the wrestling memorabilia world forever. From turning fans who otherwise had never purchased a toy into collectors to bringing new autograph signing bookings to stars simply because they now had a "Classic," the impact of the line will be felt for years to come.

After the announcements that Mattel would be producing WWE figures and Jakks doing likewise for TNA, many collectors wondered just what would happen to the Classic Superstars. Sadly, due to a barrage of cancelled figures, the line went out with a whimper. The last series of figures was barely released beyond online retailers.

Spring forward to the present and both Mattel and Jakks are tackling the "Classic" genre in their own way. I've already reviewed several of the Mattel WWE Legends figures. Now, Jakks returns to the vintage ring with Legends of the Ring.

Included in the first series is Sting, Hulk Hogan, Jeff Jarrett, Kurt Angle, and Kevin Nash. Scott Steiner was scheduled to be the sixth figure, but did not make it past the prototype stage. Many are still hoping to see this figure produced down the line, as it would've made an excellent companion to the Classic Superstars Rick Steiner figure.

Each figure represents the star in attire from earlier in their career. While Hogan, Sting, and Jarrett are all from very early in their careers, Angle and Nash simply appear as they did just a few years ago in TNA.

It should be noted that aside from the Nash figure, there is no mention of TNA on the front of the packaging. Instead, the Sting and Jarrett figures feature the NWA logo and the Hogan and Angle figures feature the New Japan Pro Wrestling Logo. The inclusion of these logos mark the first time New Japan figures have been marketed in the United States on a mainstream level and only the second time that the NWA logo has appeared on action figure packaging. (To see the oft-forgotten first time, please refer to this earlier entry.)

Although there is plenty of TNA saturation on the back of the packaging, I enjoy the fact that the line is officially only "Legends of the Ring." It would've been a cool touch had the WWE Classic Superstars line had alternate logos such as WCW or ECW on their packaging.

The packaging design itself is attractive as well. I'm not entirely sure if it's the design of the figures, packaging, or price point ($11.99 each at Toys "R" Us), but I don't feel as if I'm paying for the packaging as I've felt with the Mattel Legends line at a whopping $14.99 each. While it may not be quite as regal as the Classic Superstars packaging, there aren't any annoying "star points" just waiting to be bent, either.

The only downside to the packaging is the use of real photos of the stars on the right side similar to several figures in the first Classic Superstars series. The photos used are current, therefore not matching four of the five figures in the line.

The figure designs speak for themselves. If you're familiar with the Classic Superstars or any of the Jakks "Ruthless Aggression" style figures for nearly the past decade, then there will be no surprises here.

I've been outspoken about how I feel the Mattel figures are rather slim and stiff. Wrestling is a larger than life business, therefore any merchandise should be representative of that. Jakks fills these need.

Without a doubt, the most popular figure from this line will be Sting. This is the first figure of the classic "surfer" Sting look in exactly ten years. This is also the only one announced thus far. Sting was a highly requested figure in the Classic Superstars line that was unable to be produced for a variety of reasons. The Stinger is here in all of his colorful pre-nWo glory.

Only produced once before in action figure form (in the early 1980s Popy line from Japan), Hulk Hogan in the outfit he wore in New Japan Pro Wrestling will most likely be the second most popular. Clad in a black robe, the only accessory in this series, the figure is one of the most striking representations of The Hulkster to come along in some time. Tan from head to boots, the incredible face sculpt is actually borrowed from Jakks Rocky action figure line from a few years ago. Considering that Hogan portrayed Thunderlips in Rocky III around the time he was appearing in Japan, the choice was a no-brainer.

The other three figures will have their individual fans but will not be as sought after as Sting and Hogan. While Nash sports the short-haired look from early in his TNA run, Angle is not very different from his final Jakks WWE figures.

Jeff Jarrett is arguably the most controversial figure of the line. While many have complained that the figure is plain and boring, I feel that it is a perfect representation from early in Jarrett's career. The figure would look great flanking either of the Jerry Lawler Classic Superstars figures for a taste of great vintage Memphis wrestling. I will add that I would not mind seeing as much of a "Double J" Jeff Jarrett figure that could be produced while still avoiding trouble with trademarks.

Longtime readers can easily predict my verdict here--I love these. While I'd love to see more varied characters, the line is off to a great start. The second series, slated for release late this year, includes Jeff Hardy, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Andre the Giant, Jim Cornette, and the very first figure of Terry Taylor. While Hardy, Joe, and Styles, clad in their early TNA attires, will be popular with new fans, Taylor and Cornette are the ones you'll most likely see reviewed in these pages first. The Rooster returns to the barnyard!

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Makeup...Skirts...You'd Think I Was Reviewing Barbie...

This "doll" doesn't drive a Ferrari.

Kamala. Kimala. The Ugandan Headhunter. The Ugandan Giant. Whichever variation you prefer, it makes no difference in the end. Kamala was, and still is, one of the most imposing gimmicks in the history of pro wrestling. How else could you describe a man well over 6 feet tall with a tribal mask, shield, spear, makeup, and who is also limber enough to jump in the air, nearly do a split, and touch his toes? A human cougar.

No, not that kind of cougar.

Dreamt up by Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett to be introduced into their Memphis wrestling promotion, Kamala went far and beyond what could have been a simple, one-dimensional gimmick.

Lawler. Hogan. Magnum. Undertaker. Andre. The Von Erichs. Kamala warred with them all and is still going strong on the indy circuit, and in the occasionally "big league" appearance, to this day.

It's not surprising that a wrestler with such a colorful character and amazing shelf life would still have new merchandise nearly thirty years after debuting.

In the second series of Mattel's WWE Legends line, Kamala receives the action figure treatment yet again. How does this rendition of the belly-slapping cannibal match up to previous incarnations?

Kamala has had four previous figures from the LJN WWF line, the Hasbro WWF line, the Figures Inc. Legends of Professional Wrestling line (not pictured), and the Jakks WWE Classic Superstar line. Each had positives and negatives with the new Mattel figure being no exception.

I've been somewhat critical of the new Mattel WWE figures, as I simply haven't warmed up to them yet as many have. Between the regular line and the Legends, they all seem to feel a bit thin to me. While this may be more realistic, a wrestling figure should always be a bit larger than life.

Starting with the positives, the facial likeness is second to none and easily the best a Kamala figure has ever seen. It matches perfectly to the drawing (copied directly from a widely seen WWF photo) featured on the card and is done in an expression we're all used to seeing from Kamala.

Another plus is the accessories. While no Kamala figure has yet had his spear, Mattel has included his tribal mask (previously only produced by Jakks) as well as his necklace and shield. Only the Hasbro Kamala figure previously included the necklace which was not removable in that version.

The accessories are spot on, and the shield is based off of Kamala's 1992-1993 WWF run. The WWF's prop department either created or purchased the shield originally for Tony Atlas' brief 1990-1991 run as Saba Simba. For anyone who was ever interested in creating a custom action figure of Saba Simba, this figure is a must have.

Another interesting feature regarding accessories is the skirt. While the skirt is cloth, it is actually attached to the figure between the torso and waist. This ensures children (or those hiding in their basement "arena") that Kamala's skirt will not come off in play, thus exposing his black underwear.

The height is perfect on the figure, however the weight could use some work. While the torso is thick, it simply isn't thick enough. There even seems to be a hint of abs present. Weight on the arms could use some work as well. Kamala's looking just a bit buff.

Posing these Mattel figures always seems a bit difficult. While Jakks often had joints that were a bit loose at times, the Mattel joints seem a bit stiff. The joint that truly bothers me, and seems to be becoming an industry standard, is the midsection joint of the torso. This joint was never a factor in my childhood toys and I will never see the point of it. I cannot see how it would help kids play with the figure nor even pose it.

Bottom line? It's a nice figure and one that's definitely worth picking up. It has issues (abs) but it also has the best facial likeness and accessories of any Kamala figure ever released.

The entire second series of Mattel WWE Legends also includes Terry Funk, Jimmy Snuka, Iron Sheik, Jake Roberts, and Rick Rude. If you enjoyed this review, drop me a line at any of the social networking links below, or on here, and I may do a similar one with another figure from the series.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WWE Cards Are "Topps" Again With Adult Collectors

Nothing like a punny title to start off an entry. It is based off of fact, however.

It's been almost a year since a true, serious, card set has been released for the WWE. With the current direction of the product, it's also completely understandable. Collectible dog tags, poker-style chips, and "Rumble Packs" largely looking like a card version of the WWE Kidz Magazine have dominated the store shelves. Kids who are enthralled with the ring wars of Cena, Orton, and The Miz, among others, have been buying these items up like hot cakes. Adult collectors, looking for everything that serious card collectors look for, haven't had much to look for.

That is, until now.

Within the past month, Topps WWE 2010 cards have hit stores. Featuring 110 cards in the basic set, 6 subsets, 2 autograph subsets, 2 swatch subsets, and 1 autograph/swatch subset, any enthusiasm lost in the other 2010 releases should quickly rebound.

Parallels, a current staple in card collecting, are included as well featuring different colored borders of the basic 110 cards. Blue parallel bordered cards are limited to a run of 2010 each, while gold borders are limited to just 50. Even rarer red bordered cards are limited to just 1.

The unique subsets combine superstars from all facets of WWE including past and present stars and divas. Sets titled "World Championship Material," "National Heroes," and "History of" mix stars such as The Undertaker, Nikolai Volkoff, and Chris Jericho among many others, providing glimpses into title reigns, home counties, and the careers of these stars.

Autograph and event-used item collectors should be equally appeased, as several combinations of each are seeded into the set. Both single and dual-signed cards are included, with the dual autographs featuring some stars known for teaming and others known for heated in-ring rivalries.

The swatch cards, featuring swatches of superstars attire, come in both the "Superstar Swatch" set and the "Superstar Super Swatch" set, the latter of which features an extra large swatch.

Also up for grabs are "Superstar Signature Swatch" cards, which seem to be included via redemption card insertion. Included in this set is "The Game" himself, Triple H, who has not been included in an autograph subset in many years.

For those of you like me, it's the basic cards which are the most fun to collect. Simple, basic, shots of all of your favorites. While the WWE Legends cards, the final 32 cards in the basic set, includes an amazing array of the best of WWE's past, it's the inclusion of the original 8 NXT Rookies that had me truly pleased. Great studio shots cropped with the NXT logo and a yellow sidebar make these cards a fun extra.

For those collectors who like to get the cards signed themselves, photo-wise this is a great set. One drawback is the high gloss on all cards aside from the "ToppsTown" subset. While the gloss has become somewhat of an industry standard, it was nice to have the four WWE Heritage sets for ease of autograph purposes.

All in the all, the set is beautiful and well produced. New ideas for subsets are always welcome, and many show up here. With the parallels, autographs, and swatches, there's truly something for everyone.

Each pack contains 7 cards. I have yet to open a pack that did not include at least a blue parallel card. Blaster Boxes, 10 packs and an additional relic card featuring a piece of the mat from the 2010 Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, are available at most retailers. Hobby boxes featuring 24 packs are available at many card shops. The hobby box that I opened included one swatch card and one autograph card.

Special thanks to Chris Holmes!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Louisville Slugger Brings Back 25 Years of Rackets, Riots, & Rocket Launchers

Controversy comes in all walks of life. In sports and entertainment, controversy is often manufactured in order to provide publicity for whatever it is that's being sold. In wrestling, the ultimate blur of fantasy and reality, one man can always be counted on to bring 100% true controversy to the table. That man is the one and only Jim Cornette.

While that 11-letter "c" word has described Jim throughout his career, it's the managing prowess of "The Louisville Slugger" that originally burnt the name Cornette into the conscious of wrestling fans the world over.

Although he managed such stars as Sherri Martel, Adrian Street, Yokozuna, and Owen Hart throughout his career, Cornette will be forever linked to Dennis Condrey, Bobby Eaton, and Stan Lane--The Midnight Express.

Between their innovation, hard work, and obvious love of their craft, Cornette and the Express should automatically dominate any wrestling fan's thoughts of 1980's tag team wrestling.

In late 2008, Cornette and The Midnight Express celebrated their 25th anniversary as a unit. In addition to still making various appearances at events up and down the east coast with the Express, Cornette decided to compile a magazine highlighting the unit's incredible run. The magazine idea eventually morphed into The Midnight Express & Jim Cornette 25th Anniversary Scrapbook.

First offered online and at any fanfest or convention appearance that Jim made, the book was highly anticipated by fans from the moment that it was announced. While this can't be said about most books, the anticipation was far exceeded by simply thumbing through the 230-page softcover publication.

At this past August's NWA Fanfest, I finally picked up my copy of the book from Jim and his wife Stacey (Ohio Valley Wrestling's Synn) at their booth. Among authentic ring-worn items, rare programs, and even cancelled Smoky Mountain Wrestling paychecks, the book is still by far the centerpiece of Cornette's offerings.

The book combines the idea of a traditional scrapbook, a record book, and inside stories that you could only get from the man who lived it all.

The bulk of the book is set in a nearly complete record of every Midnight Express match from 1983 to their last national run in 1990. I should probably use the word "move" instead of "match," as even personal appearances, downtime, and vacations are documented thanks to Cornette's own records. Stories ranging from short anecdotes to full blown sagas are interspersed into this timeline, placing you into both the time period and mindsets of Cornette, Condrey, Eaton, and Lane.

Both personal and public photos are heavily featured throughout. Magazine covers? Check. House show and tv taping shots? Check. Rare backstage pictures? Check. Program sheets, newspaper ads, tournament brackets, and hate mail? Check.

What truly makes the book essential to any wrestling scholar's library is that the book is in itself a history of 1980's Jim Crockett Promotions and early WCW. Due to the Express' 7 year run in the NWA, their high level placement in that era of the business, and Cornette's impeccable documentation and memories, the book should almost be called "The Midnight Express, Jim Cornette, & 1980s NWA Scrapbook."

Remember controversy? That thing that Cornette always seems to be connected with? There's some of that in here, too. Political battles, lawsuits, and death threats are just some of the stories included, all told in Jim's unmatched storytelling style.

To my knowledge, a more complete capsule has not been written about any star or entity in the wrestling business. In fact, there's only one question about Cornette that will remain with you after reading: Why has he not written his own personal career book?

Well...maybe two questions. Does Cornette create the controversy or does it simply follow the tennis racket wherever it goes? You decide.

To get your own autographed copy of the book and many other great items, you can check out both and

Have You Seen This Child?

Were the creators of "Master of Disguise" plastic egg machine toys going for the "Long Lost Son of Jimmy Wang Yang" look when they designed this? As seen outside of a Toys "R" Us, no less!

A real entry coming soon...