Thursday, April 25, 2013
As if "hot" or "popular" characters needed any help flying off of the shelves, Mattel has a way of insuring that no one misses these figures by plastering the "First Time In The Line" burst right on the packaging. I've voiced my displeasure with this and other Mattel practices before, so there's no need to rehash that. This time we're here to take a look at some nice new figures of some very desirable characters.
If there's a single "hot" WWE figure at retail right now, it's undeniably Ryback. While not the first figure of the man himself, this is the first figure of the Ryback character. Labeled as Superstar #22 of the "basic" figures on the new smaller, more compact card backs, Ryback is slated to have three figures out in a short time. These will include an "Elite" figure as well as another basic as part of a "Battle Pack" with Jinder Mahal. Nothing like a pre-packaged squash match!
shown here on the blog a few weeks ago, is a better bet from this very same series. He's a much better wrestler, too, but that's another story for another time.
Continuing with "First Timer's" is one half of a popular tag team. Titus O'Neil is the "rookie" figure and the team is none other than The Prime Time Players. The PTP have been released in a "Battle Pack" complete with a stop sign accessory. As with most "Battle Pack" sets, there is one set with a "FTITL" figure or two and the other sets are common characters packaged together with an accessory.
This is the second figure of Darren Young, with the first being way back in his Nexus days complete with "tall hair." This re-release of Young as well as the Ryback figure shown above sets a fun and interesting precedence: all of the original Nexus members still with WWE have been re-released in non-Nexus attire at least once. This is, of course, with the exception of Michael Tarver who is no longer in the company and, unless he is re-signed, will not see any more figures. It's interesting to see how Young, Skip Sheffield, Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, and David Otunga have evolved since that angle a number of summers ago. Mattel certainly seems to have given Young a tan since his Nexus days.
For as popular as she was, Elizabeth has only seen two previous figures. LJN released her in the 1980's,
infamously with either a gold or purple skirt, in their WWF line and ToyBiz produced a WCW/nWo version in the 1990's in a two-pack with Randy Savage. The LJN effort is rather iconic and beloved while the ToyBiz figure, due to being rather small and barely resembling the lady, is all but forgotten. Thankfully the Mattel version is much more along the lines of the LJN.
I'm unsure why, but I was a bit surprised that this figure uses mostly the same parts as other females in the Mattel WWE line. Jakks did the exact same thing with their female figures, but I guess viewing the pre-production figure a few months ago simply made me think that Mattel had created a new sculpt for Elizabeth. The face and head sculpt is all new and could easily be used for future Elizabeth releases should they choose to produce more. With the trouble that Mattel likely had to go through in order to obtain the rights to the late beauty, it's not a big stretch of the imagination to think that there will be future releases of her. I would not mind seeing a "WWF debut" version of Elizabeth from her early days in the company. Unfortunately, many of her post-1990 outfits were rather boring and simply wouldn't translate well to an exciting action figure.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
For the past several years it seems that every independent wrestling promoter wants to "piggyback" on the success of WrestleMania. You can't put them at fault, as nowhere during the year will you find a bigger collection of wrestling fans in one metropolitan area. As scary as that may be to some, it can also mean big bucks. Still, with all that New York City has to offer, I'd venture to say that those promoters had more competition than ever before.
Many autograph and photo opportunities took place under the WrestleCon banner. Wrestlers from the past and present were booked into the convention, meeting many fans for the first time. While regular conventions draw a few fans from other countries, WrestleMania attracts hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the world. These fans seemed to take advantage of the opportunities presented and met dozens of stars that they have admired for years.
Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, and Jushin Liger are just a sampling of some of the major names that met with fans during the weekend. WWE even permitted William Regal to make a rare appearance due to the company pulling Bruno Sammartino from the event in order for "The Living Legend" to do media. As thrilling as of the above names are to meet, my money is still on stars like Butch Reed, Heidi Lee Morgan, Barry Horowitz, and Tony "T.L. Hopper" Anthony as far as the true highlights of the show. The above four are among names that simply do not do many appearances on the circuit and are always the ones that bring forth the true "wows" when reflecting upon the event.
That isn't to say that the store was completely devoid of bargains. In the previous entry I showed my own personal favorite item, the WrestleMania pullback taxicab toy. At only $10 it was a unique and inexpensive collectible that looks great as a paperweight for your WrestleMania tickets or just to recall memories of the weekend. Much of the apparel offered at $35 and up has already starting appearing at reduced prices through WWE's online shop. If you ever wanted that WrestleMania ballcap or beanie bear, there hasn't been a better time to stock up.
The WrestleMania side features a profile on each match from the event
(including the cut 8-person tag team match) as well as new "capsule" profiles on each of the previous twenty-eight WrestleMania events. Also featured is a photo of nearly each and every person currently under contract with WWE. This includes all of the NXT stars, many making their first appearance on official WWE merchandise. Next to each photo is a space where, in theory, you could obtain an autograph.
So now that the 29th edition of WrestleMania is over, surely the marketing must be as well. Wrong! I'm sure that in the coming months there will be a Toys "R" Us exclusive figure series commemorating the stars, moments, and ring gear from WrestleMania XXIX complete with the NY/NJ logo right on the package. Will I be all over them? You bet! Anything that reminds me of "The MetLife Miracle" and the weekend that was has a home in my collection.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
WrestleMania. Everyone knows what it is. Beginning in 1985, it has become a brand name that redefined wrestling events. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Toronto, Las Vegas, and Boston have all hosted it. Hundreds of thousands of fans have attended it. Thousands of fans that never before included yours truly. That has finally changed, with an unexpected, personal, "WrestleMania Moment" to boot, but we'll get to that later.
For a myriad of reasons, I hemmed and hawed about attending WrestleMania XXIX despite it being the closest to my area that it has been in awhile. When a friend took it upon himself to buy some relatively inexpensive (for WrestleMania) tickets, I just couldn't pass it up. Had I said no, I may very well have given up on wrestling forever once Bruno Sammartino was announced for the WWE Hall of Fame. While 'Mania would be an experience, there was no way that I could be absent for "The Living Legend" being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
With these spectacles and other "piggyback" events taking place, the NY/NJ area was packed with wrestling fans from around the globe. TNA and independent companies like Shimmer promoted shows to capitalize on the "mania" in the area. Even Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and other legendary stars were brought in for meet and greets.
Open to all for hour after hour all weekend, the WWE Superstore was an impressive and expensive merchandising mecca for all WWE Universe members to trek to, not just the 80,000 that attended WrestleMania. Exclusive t-shirts featuring the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Class members? Check. A WWE Championship replica belt signed by The Rock priced at just over $2,000? Check. Overpriced Mattel figures? Check. The WWE Universe ate it up, especially when WWE talent would attend for appearances. My personal pick? The WrestleMania taxicab pullback toy. Simple, inexpensive ($10), and just the kind of item that collectors will be marveling over years from now.
WrestleMania XXIX itself has already become one of the most debated and controversial editions of the show. The more recent four hour WrestleMania's have been loaded with skits, "musical" performances, and other "entertainment" filler. Aside from a P. Diddy performance that was perfectly placed for a restroom break, this WrestleMania was exactly what many fans look for from the event: wrestling on the grandest scale.
Fans who watched on pay-per-view have said that the crowd seemed dead or disinterested. That really could not have been further from the case. Astute fans will realize that the event was held in the open-air MetLife Stadium. It has been noted many times that crowd reaction is often hampered under these conditions. The only time I can remember a rather silent crowd would be in the first half of the match pitting Triple H against Brock Lesnar. This had the unfortunate task of following the match which received the most audience reaction (and rightfully so) of the night, The Undertaker versus CM Punk.
For someone who isn't always enamored with the current WWE product or the current state of wrestling in general, I will say that it was an incredible experience that I will never forget. While it was definitely not the greatest wrestling event that I have ever witnessed live, I doubt that I will ever attended a greater spectacle. From the spectacular staging to the lighting, music, pyrotechnics and general aura, I will never forget the feeling. Just watching the pre-show on YouTube upon my return home brought the feeling flooding back. I can only imagine how great it will be to relive WrestleMania XXIX on Blu-Ray.
Clutching my ticket while making the trek towards MetLife Stadium, I had a feeling that the Hall of Fame ceremony the night before was the highlight of the weekend for me. I was at peace with that feeling. After being frisked, poked, and prodded by security at the gate, we made our way to the ticket takers to be scanned. If you weren't aware, tickets haven't been "torn" in many years. Once you're scanned and hear the "beep," you get the full ticket to keep and cherish. Our tickets did not beep. Instead, an "X" appeared on the scanning device.
Encountering a situation such as this before at a WWE event, I did not panic. In that instance, a camera had been placed where two of our four seats were located. This time, the ticket scanner told us that our tickets had to be exchanged due to obstructed sight. We were directed to a tent where they would be exchanged for us. This tent actually did not exist. After waiting in a long line where the "tent" was supposed to be and being tossed around through various security checks and gates by clueless employees and "supervisors," we finally joined another long line in front of a tiny kiosk simply labeled "guest services." After about another half hour of waiting, two employees took our tickets and seemed to mull over a seating chart while deciding where we would be placed. The anticipation, mixed with the anger of being tossed from gate to gate by clueless workers, was about to pay off.
Escalators and corridors to our destination were seemingly endless. Passing hundreds of screaming, singing, excited WWE Universe members was getting old. I just wanted to see where we were. At last, our group stopped. In front of us were glass doors and to the left was a staircase that apparently led to the parking lot. Where were we to go? That's when two suited gentlemen, with those all-important ticket scanners, opened the glass doors.
It may as well have been the gates to Heaven at that point. We had club seating for WrestleMania? For $96 a piece? As we trailed behind a father and his young son who was proudly proclaiming "It's WrestleMania!", I couldn't help but note out loud that, at that moment, I felt like I was his age again. The young fan's father nodded in agreement and said, "I think we all do!"
When we hit the glass doors to lead us from the amazing club area (with special concession areas and restrooms) into the stadium, we remembered that these new tickets said "Row 1." Since we were not at all familiar with MetLife Stadium, we were still unsure as to exactly what this meant. When we finally reached our four seats, it became perfectly clear...
An amazing central view of WrestleMania XXIX. With Vince McMahon's Statue of Liberty staring us in the face, we were treated to a full view of the ring, stage, screens, and 80,000 fans. Even the tent which held production was right below us. We have since come to realize that for fans who were able to purchase these tickets, several hundred dollars had to be parted with. For many surrounding us, however, it seems like that "COMP" mark may have come into play. A woman behind us discussing her support of women's liberation during Undertaker-Punk? A man behind and to the right of me proclaiming that he "used to watch this stuff." and that he remembered Koko B. Ware? Members of the "Universe" these weren't, but that didn't bother us in the least.
"Obstructed view" was the original reason given for the exchange. After scanning the stadium, the most we could figure out was that a spotlight was placed on or in front of our original section. But why did "The MetLife Miracle" take place at all? Why were we so lucky? Prayers? Karma? A horseshoe? None of that. Not even close. Thanks to events from earlier in the weekend, bird poop was our best guess.
God bless that pigeon, for he was the true WrestleMania VIP in our books.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
For "WrestleMania Season," Wal Mart stores have devoted a section of their DVD/Blu-Ray section to WWE product. The display is topped with newly packaged DVDs of WrestleMania's 1 thru 15. The many issues with those re-releases have been chronicled elsewhere, but the true gems in the promotion are positioned below. The crown jewel? "CM Punk--Best In The World." A two-disc Blu-Ray that was just released last year for only $13? Who could pass it up?
Of course a plethora of matches are included as well, beginning with a match from OVW and ending in the middle of last year. Perhaps the only gripe I have with the release is here. At least a couple of matches from Punk's early days should be included here. Clips are shown through the documentary, and I'm sure many fans who've never seen them would be thrilled.
$13? You can't go wrong. For $13 it's worth it for the 2011 Money In The Bank Punk-Cena main event in high definition alone. Heck, at full price you really couldn't go wrong here. This is the best WWE release in a long, long time. The brutal honestly that WWE allowed in the documentary cements that.
@JWsWrestlingMem? Even better, "Like" our Facebook Fanpage for a live look at so much of the excitement that will be going on in the New York/New Jersey area this weekend! Whether you're joining us in The Big Apple or watching from your living room, enjoy WrestleMania XXIX!