Monday, March 7, 2011

Lucha Libre Crosses The Border!

Over the years many different backers have tried to introduce different styles of wrestling to the sports-entertainment loving American public. From Wrestling Society X to New Japan Pro Wrestling USA, most of these ventures have fizzled out before they ever truly had a shot to take off.

MTV2's Lucha Libre USA is the latest entity to try and captivate American audiences. One advantage that this promotion has is its very own action figure line by Playmates Toys.

Playmates is no stranger to the wrestling market. In 1997, the company was awarded a WWF license to produce figures and toys that weren't the same scale as the Jakks Pacific line. Sadly, only a few products were ever produced after a promising and still-remembered initial offering. Large sized statue-style figures of Sid and The Undertaker as well as Stretch Wrestlers and mini-figures were among the Playmates WWF line.

In 2011, Playmates has returned to wrestling. The "Lucha Libre Masked Warriors" line includes basic figures of six of the television shows top stars. While some names such as Charly Malice are new to American audiences, others such as Marco Corleone (Mark Jindrak) and Sydistiko (TNA's Puma) have previous American exposure. Lizmark Jr., Tineblas Jr., and Super Nova round out the first series. A six-sided ring and deluxe figures of Tineblas Jr. and Super Nova (including child-sized masks) are also available.

The packaging for the line is somewhat of a departure from other wrestling figure package designs. To be honest, the style is very reminiscent of packaging from cartoon character action figure lines of the early '90s. It is also bilingual, which is no big surprise considering the source material.

A sign on the packaging touts the 30 points of articulation on each figure. This is indeed true and something that Playmates pulls off very well. Even the dreaded "mid-torso joint" simply doesn't bother me much here. Another plus is that I did not encounter loose joints right out of the package. Any collector can tell you of a figure or six from the past ten years that came with loose joints right from the factory. I'm not sure why this is so, but it is a problem that has plagued multiple manufacturers. Playmates seems to have avoided this thus far.

The detail on these figures, especially when compared to the picture right on the card, is dead-on. While one could argue that masks are easier to capture than faces in figure-form, the detail of the masks and expressions underneath chalk up another victory for Playmates.

Like most wrestling figure lines in history, the scale of the figures is somewhere between the other two big lines on the market today. Neither the Sydistiko or Lizmark Jr. figures reviewed here would look bad next to current WWE or TNA offerings.

Each figure is given an accessory and Sydistiko has very nice pants made from real material. The deluxe versions of Tineblas Jr. and Super Nova have removable entrance gear.

I don't like making controversial statements, but these truly may be the best bang for your buck in the wrestling figure aisle right now. Opening these guys up, I feel like I'm getting something for my money. These are solid figures the way I remember figures feeling years ago. The inclusion of an accessory, no matter how relevant to the character, is always a bonus especially when thinking of the children that these are intended for. My recommendation? Buy these up. While the ring looks rather small and the deluxe figures are somewhat pricey, I would highly recommend the basic six figures. These are well-manufactured, just plain cool looking figures that would spice up any collection.

Despite the absence of new product for last months Toy Fair, Playmates could be on their way to establishing a great new third brand for wrestling figure collectors. If not, I'm willing to enjoy what they've already given us.

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