Anyone who had an action figure made under the WWF, WCW, ECW, and TNA banners has obviously had an extensive and storied career. Raven was the first (and thus far only) wrestler to achieve this, but just looking at the man himself will tell you he's no stranger to the wilder side of pro wrestling.
From the birth of the Raven character in mid-90's ECW, fans immediately took to the character and rightfully so. Although there were fans of Scott Levy's previous characters such as Johnny Polo and Scotty Flamingo, it was Raven that provided some of the industry's most memorable and controversial moments of the 1990's.
Some would argue that a watered down version of Raven is all that fans got to see in WCW, WWF, and TNA. The fact of the matter is that Raven's exploits are still among the most talked about WCW moments in a sometimes creatively challenged period for the company.
Raven is successful because fans believe in the character. Even with all of the shoot interviews and behind-the-scenes DVDs that Levy has participated in, a fan could attend a wrestling event featuring Raven tomorrow and immediately be brought back into "The Flock." Raven has an "it" factor that many will not find throughout their careers. This is also why Raven is a favorite among the wrestling convention scene.
At a recent appearance I had the opportunity to obtain a production sample of the newest Raven figure directly from the man himself. This was my first chance to see the figure in person and although many figures have been produced of the character, I believe that this Raven soars above the rest.
I was finally able to obtain a regular version to open and review. Despite a strong initial showing of their Legends of the Ring line, Jakks opted to change their release format to including one Legends of the Ring figure per regular TNA "Deluxe" figure series. It should be noted from the beginning that the Legends figure in each series is NOT a "Deluxe" style figure but rather a "Ruthless Aggression" style figure just like the legendary Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line.
With that being said, longtime readers will realize that I was thrilled with this figure from the start. Although it is a "Legends" figure, this Raven is based on a more recent look. With dreadlocks, eye paint, and full arm tattoos, I don't think that there will be any complaints as far as detailing. I would venture to guess that the face is actually a scan rather than a sculpt and there are no complaints as far as likeness either.
The first thing noticeable when seeing this figure is the leather jacket. Although past Raven figures have had leather jackets, they have always been molded on. This jacket is easily removable and doing so reveals the aforementioned tattoos.
Height is something that both the Toybiz and now Jakks TNA lines have struggled with. For Jakks, the problem is partially that some figures are done in the "Deluxe" style and others in the "Ruthless Aggression" style as mentioned above. Production problems or laziness aside, it's caused some weird products such as Amazing Red being as tall as any other male figure in the line.
To be honest, I believe that most collectors will be buying this figure to integrate into their Classic Superstars collection. It fits right in and, although the look isn't quite ECW, will fit right in with the Classic Superstars Taz and Sabu figures.
I recommend purchasing any "Ruthless Aggression" style figure as it is what so many collectors prefer. Jakks had the perfect balance of articulation and realism with this style of action figure and largely abandoned it in favor of the "Deluxe" style which are far too jointed and gimmicky. Many of Mattel's WWE line are the same way. All I ask for the companies to remember is the magic provided to children by LJN, Remco, Galoob, and Hasbro with their less articulated and far more imaginative figure lines. Times may change, but there is a reason that those figures are so coveted by collectors today. In twenty years how well will "Deluxe" and "Elite" monstrosities be remembered?
At least we can enjoy figures like this Raven. With the very odd distribution of the Jakks TNA line in 2011, it's safest to grab the ones that you like while you can. The next series (slated to include the very first figure of Terry Taylor as the Legends of the Ring addition) has been repeatedly pushed back and will not likely see collectors hands until 2012 at the earliest.
Quote the Raven...