Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hard Times Abound For WWE In 2016

No, the title of this post does not refer to the seemingly-endless series of injuries plaguing WWE. These "hard times" are the kind that you might run into if you ever took a trip down to Cobb County, Georgia. Perhaps you didn't read the signs or respect the law and order? Regardless, I think that you'll hearken back to one of the greatest characters in WWE history, The Big Boss Man. At 6'7 and over 300 pounds, the Boss Man had the audience in the palm of his hand no matter which "side" he was currently on. It didn't hurt that he is also undoubtedly one of the most underrated stars in wrestling history. For a man his size, he could do it all.

I passed up on the first Big Boss Man figure to hit the Mattel WWE line several years ago. It was released at a time when I wasn't quite sold on the Mattel product and I was really only collecting "new" characters. The figure has since skyrocketed in demand (and secondary market value). Now many collectors, including myself, are getting a second chance thanks to a brand new series exclusive to Toys "R" Us. It's the "WWE Network Spotlight" series. Essentially, the line will likely be an all-"Flashback" series similar to the Target exclusive WWE Hall of Fame set. Thus far a 1990's Hunter Hearst Helmsley is also in the series, with a Shawn Michaels to follow.

The figure itself looks to be a direct re-release of the first Mattel Boss Man, sans the ball and chain. The figure still includes sunglasses, handcuffs, and the trademark nightstick. The back of the packaging says that the look of the Boss Man is supposed to represent his Saturday Night's Main Event appearance on May 27, 1989. This was, of course, the night where the prison guard famously suplexed Hulk Hogan from the corner of the steel cage. In actuality, the figure could represent the Boss Man throughout his initial WWF run. He appears a bit hefty (he was bigger in his first two years with the company), but the Boss Man was always "big."

Most figures of Ray "Big Boss Man" Traylor have captured a good likeness and this one is no different. Something about the stance of this figure really seems to scream "Hard Times." I hear his famous theme song just looking at it. The only issue I have is that in the lot that I encountered, all seemed to have paint issues on the uniform. The one that I ultimately chose only had a line on his strap that can easily be fixed, but others had issues with the yellow stripe down the leg. For collectors who keep every figure carded, this can be a killer.

Like all Elite figures, there are many points of articulation enabling top poseability. For someone like the Boss Man, this is essential. Part of his greatness was being one of the most agile "big man" wrestlers to ever grace the squared circle. Sure, he could pound you into submission with a Southern-style beating, but he could also move around with the best of them. His bumping was second-to-none as well. Check out his beatdown at WrestleMania VI from Ted DiBiase or his elimination from the 1992 Royal Rumble for great examples of this.

The Big Boss Man is one of the very few of my favorites from childhood that I didn't have the chance to meet. By all accounts, he was a heckuva guy. My friend David Isley often tells stories of Mr. Traylor from their days working the Jim Crockett Promotions shows at TBS Studios. Terri Runnels, an "Attitude-Era" travel companion of the Boss Man, has also publicly shared her memories. At the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, I hope to hear even more about the legendary gentle giant of the ring.

This is a fun figure. As much as I love the new packaging, it looks even better posed. It's the kind of figure that anyone would want on their shelf. I'd even go as far as to call it a conversation piece. Put this on your desk at work and watch the amazement come flowing in. "I LOVED the Big Boss Man!" After all, he is one of the best remembered and beloved stars of the era. Couple him with the Mattel Akeem figure from a few years ago and the tag team of the Twin Towers is back. All we need is The Slickster...

Since we've done WrestleMania stories just about every year since the inception of the blog, I decided to give it a break this year. Over the past several weeks we've looked at several new Hall of Fame inductees and, in what is becoming an annual deal, I have my thoughts on the big event itself at my other blog, Josh Culture. Whether you're in Dallas this weekend or following the fun on WWE Network, enjoy the spectacle that is WrestleMania!

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