Thursday, March 12, 2015

A "New School" Hope For "Old School" Figures

 Ever since Mattel took over the WWE toy license, collectors have been taken on a roller coaster ride regarding figures of past stars. At first, hopes seemed bright as Mattel would have been crazy to not capitalize on the success of Jakks Classic Superstars line. The company did put out three series of "old school" figures in their Legends line, but then decided to make future releases available through their online shop. When that did not work out as they had hoped, the legends were then relegated to occasional "Flashback" releases in their "Elite" series. I was not the only collector who gave up hope when this last change occurred.

For whatever reason, Mattel has seemingly gotten back into the swing of things regarding legends over the past few months. The "Flashback" Elite figures have increased in number, and even the "Basic" figure series are often peppered with a legend or two. I recently took a look at the return of the legend-based Defining Moments line and the incredible Hulk Hogan figure that recently hit shelves. Even the Wal Mart exclusive Superstar Entrances series now includes Rowdy Roddy Piper.

The most recent Elite series to hit stores as of press time includes one of the most popular stars of the 1980's, the Junkyard Dog. Although the figure greatly resembles the effort by Jakks a decade ago with the same white tights/blue and red stars design, it holds up on its own with fantastic detail and a slightly trimmer waste line. Perhaps this is the pre-WWF version of JYD. The chain is a lot longer than the one included with the Jakks version, and helps recreate images of the Dog where he seemingly had it wrapped all around his massive shoulders.

Also in that series is a Flashback figure of X-Pac. While the Attitude Era isn't necessarily nostalgic for me, I do appreciate this figure. The Jakks version was a disappointment, being way too tall and bulky. If Mattel does one thing right, it nails the smaller wrestlers down perfectly. The same could be said for the Flashback Rey Mysterio Jr. figure from the previous Elite series. Each of those figures included a "classic" belt as well, being the European and Cruiserweight championships respectively.

Perhaps my favorite recent "old school" inclusion by Mattel are their latest representations of two stars who are still popping up on WWE programming, the New Age Outlaws. I was actually not that big of a fan of Billy Gunn and the Road Dogg until their WWE returns a few years ago. Now I find myself rooting for the twosome in both their on-screen stints and their work behind the scenes, as Billy Gunn works as a trainer at the WWE Performance Center while Road Dogg is a WWE producer/road agent.

Although both received the "Elite Flashback" treatment last year, a modern
representation is now one of Mattel's latest "Battle Packs." I particularly like the Road Dogg from this set, complete with short hair and "New Age Outlaws" t-shirt. It was a treat to see the two regain the WWE Tag Team Championship last year live at an otherwise lackluster Royal Rumble. And yes, even though I was not always a fan of the "schticky" duo, I have been known to throw a crotch chop or two in their presence.

Even with all of those figures, Mattel has thrown us the greatest hope for future legends figures with their Target-exclusive WWE Hall of Fame line. The first series debuted earlier this year with Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Ultimate Warrior, Sgt. Slaughter, and Trish Stratus. It was recently revealed that those four will be joined by Hulk Hogan, Eddy Guerrero, Yokozuna, and Tito Santana. A Four Horsemen set including Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, and Barry Windham will also be released.

Does it get any better than that? It could, but we're a step in the right direction. As I've said time and time again, Jakks Classic Superstars line was the ultimate because it included superstars from all facets of the business. For every figure of Bret Hart and Dusty Rhodes, we got figures of men like Ron Bass and Danny Davis. It was a wide variety covering all levels of the business. Whether it be Mattel or a company such as Figures Toy Co. (who recently expressed interest in producing a new legends line), the "unsung" heroes of the business deserve their figures, too.

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