Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Bruno Sammartino/WWE Relationship Continues...With A Figure

The biggest wrestling news of the year 2013 for both myself and legions of other fans was Bruno Sammartino's return to WWE.  It was the one rekindled relationship between the big company and a former star that no one ever would've believed.  Forget the over-hyped, over-discussed, and overworked "Montreal Incident," the volatile feelings between Sammartino and the WWF/WWE had been boiling for over twenty five years.

It was quite the thrill for me that I was able to see so much of this reunion play out before my very eyes.  The stars somehow aligned and I was able to be present for Sammartino's Hall of Fame induction, return to WrestleMania, and Monday Night Raw debut.  Now, thanks to Mattel, we have a new figure of "The Living Legend" as a sort of icing on the cake.

The figure is part of Mattel's WWE Elite Series 25.  This is the first series to feature brand new packaging and hit various retail stores just in time for the holidays.  Just when I'd gotten used to the old design, Mattel decides to switch it up.  I really like the elegant look, with a pleasant regal blue chosen as the key color.  A large artists rendering of the wrestler is on the left side, while the figure itself is presented on the right.  Bruno is a bulky figure with a large accessory, so he utilizes all of the space inside of the window.  It will be interesting to see if this new packaging fares any better with the female figures than the last design did.  The smaller Diva figures tended to appear to be "floating" in the previous style.

Whether it was intentional or not, Mattel continues a trend that I have always appreciated since their initial Legends figure releases years ago.  The company chose a look for the figure that had not previously been done by other companies.  In this case, Bruno is given his "comb over" hair look from the 1970's.  This is perhaps the only look from Sammartino's active wrestling career that had yet to be turned into a figure.

The facial likeness is very good.  I'd hesitate to say that it's perfect, but it definitely captures the Bruno of the era.  The best Bruno figure likeness that we've gotten would be with his very first incarnation by LJN back in the 1980s.  That version was definitely aided by the size of the figure itself.  Generally, as long as Bruno's chin and nose are captured, a company will be well on their way to a great likeness of the champ.

The body is bulky, has plenty of points of articulation as the Elite figures are known for, and definitely works for Bruno despite using recycled parts.  The body hair paint app is good, but not as perfect as the Jakks version from their Classic Superstars line.  Blue trunks are chosen and are fitting, considering that is the color that Bruno is most remembered wearing.  The best part is that kneepads are not erroneously included as they were with the Jakks figure.

The accessories are fun, but do cause a blend of two "eras" of Bruno.  Included are the WWE Hall of Fame podium with microphone and a WWE Hall of Fame plaque.  I love that these accessories were produced and included in lieu of Bruno's classic championship belt which Mattel could not obtain permission to use.  Thinking about it long enough will make the combination of '70s Bruno and 2013 accessories somewhat strange, but once the figure is opened it really doesn't matter.  I'm always championing the effort of unique and screen-accurate accessories, so there's nothing to complain about here.

I do hope that the success of this figure causes Mattel to rethink their policies on Legends figures.  The Legends releases inside of Elite series are working, and I don't want to see them limited to upcoming Attitude Era characters like Rikishi and the New Age Outlaws.  At this point, Mattel collectors really only have two other figures that can be used or displayed accurately with Bruno, those being George Steele and Nikolai Volkoff.  I personally have no problem displaying this Bruno with figures from the Jakks Classic Superstars line, but if Mattel ever wants to grasp the title of "Greatest Wrestling Figure Line," they're going to have to bump up the production of Legends just a bit more.  The fans and collectors are out there.

We all knew coming into this what my final verdict would be: buy the figure!  It, sadly, could be the only Bruno Sammartino ever produced by Mattel.  It's already flying off of shelves and a new series will be appearing soon.  If Mattel could produce yet another Bruno, my pick would be from the modern era.  Although it would not come in its own packaging, I'm fully willing to meet Mattel halfway and accept it as a new entry into the "Build-A-Figure" series as most suited figures are.  2013 WWE Hall of Fame Bruno Sammartino.  Make it happen, Mattel.  We already have the accessories.  It's an easy way to make the Mattel Legends figures "legendary."

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