Thursday, September 11, 2014

Business Is About To Pick Up...At Toys "R" Us

Mattel's "Build-A-Figure" program has been one of my favorite aspects of their WWE line for the past two and a half years.  It's enabled collectors to obtain figures of non-wrestlers that Mattel (often foolishly) feels will not sell packed on their own.  Michael Cole, Ricardo Rodriguez, John Laurinaitis, Teddy Long, Paul Heyman, and commentator/General Manager Booker T are all figures that have seen their debut this way.  In short, a series of four previously released figures (with new attire and accessories) are sold exclusively through Toys "R" Us.  Each of the figures represents the way that the wrestler appeared at a specific pay-per-view event.  The figures also each include separate pieces of the "Build-A-Figure," thus a collector must buy all four of the wrestlers to complete the fifth.

The latest "Build-A-Figure" is none other than "Good 'ol J.R." himself, Jim Ross.  The four figures required to build J.R. are "Elite" versions of CM Punk, Curtis Axel, Randy Orton, and Alberto Del Rio.  Although I've long wished that the figures in these sets were new characters, I've also outlined why they aren't.  It would be against Mattel's better interests to place a never before released character, who sell well all by themselves, in a "gimmick" series where buying all four figures is required regardless.  That being said, it would be nice to see some new faces among the BAF bunch.  This is the third appearances for both Punk and Del Rio in the BAF program.  While I'm fairly positive that we won't see anymore of those two in future sets, it might be fun to see some Divas or tag team members show up.

Although Ross is one of the stronger "fifth figures," this is one of the weaker sets of wrestlers.  Aside from a tweak of the tights or facial hair, every Orton figure is nearly the same.  Punk has a different head/facial design than the last time that he popped up in BAF, but his accessories, a megaphone and "fan" signs, aren't that exciting.  A cloth shirt or hoodie would have worked much better here.  Del Rio might be the best of the bunch with the World Heavyweight Championship and a black monogrammed scarf.  This is Curtis Axel's only "Elite" figure so far, but it comes across as rather bland.  The white-strapped Intercontinental Championship that he is packaged with has already made an appearance in the BAF line.  I would've rather seen Ryback in one of his many colorful singlets in place of Orton, especially.

Ross himself is a very nice figure, and one of the best figures to be collected as a BAF yet.  The pieces are very hidden within the packaging, possibly to avoid another "Al Snow scandal" from 1999.  As the story goes, a busybody mother happened upon an Al Snow figure while shopping in a Wal-Mart.  Snow came packaged with "Head," his female mannequin head sidekick, and the woman mistook it for a disembodied woman's head.  She created a stir that caused an unnecessary recall on the figure.  Going back to Ross, this figure not only has a head, but a trademark black resistol hat to go with it.  The facial likeness is perfect, and while I would have preferred a completely up-to-date J.R. with goatee, I have no complaints.  His "OU" lapel pin honoring J.R.'s beloved Sooners from The University of Oklahoma is even here as a great added detail.  There is an upcoming "announcer" Jerry Lawler figure coming soon that will make a perfect compliment to Ross. 

While you can never be certain, this is likely to be the only Mattel figure of Ross for some time.  The figures required to build Ross aren't the best we've seen, but if you want the fifth you absolutely have to purchase them all.  As of now, it seems that Axel is short packed.  This also happened with the Bret Hart figure from the first BAF set that featured Michael Cole.  Whether or not this will be rectified in the future is anyone's guess.  These figures are usually the "bread and butter" of the WWE holiday buying seasons at Toys "R" Us.  Closer to that time, cases of the BAF sets are often stacked to the ceiling.  An upcoming BAF series featuring "Basic" figures and a "fifth figure" of Paul Bearer has already hit overseas.  These two sets could very well be in the Christmas season WWE toy strategy for "The World's Biggest Toy Store" this year.

In any event, if you want J.R. in your Mattel WWE Universe, the time to pick up these figures is now.  Despite what is announced at press conferences and on WWE broadcasts, I doubt anyone truly buys Michael Cole as "The Voice of WWE."  After being off of WWE telecasts regularly for years and officially out of the company for a few months, Ross is still thought of when a WWE call comes to mind.  J.R. seems to be happy in his current ventures where he is once again successful, but even the biggest WrestleMania moments seem just a tad less important with the voices that WWE currently forces on their Universe.

Boomer Sooner!

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