Thursday, April 7, 2016


It's been four years since Mattel WWE figure collectors began "building" their non-wrestling favorites. Maybe Michael Cole doesn't exactly fall into the category of "favorite," but he is still essential to completing the figural WWE Universe. Since then we've had Ricardo Rodriguez, Teddy Long, Paul Heyman, Booker T, John Laurinaitis, Corporate Kane, and Jim Ross. Now, we have the long awaited manager and WWE Hall of Famer, Paul Bearer.

The Build-A-Bearer figure has already had a storied shelf-life. The retailer of the first sets, Toys "R" Us, ultimately decided against continuing with the series, but not before releasing the Bearer figure outside of the United States. The figures collected to complete Bearer were Daniel Bryan, Damien Sandow, Kofi Kingston, and Dolph Ziggler. When WalMart decided to pick up the Build-A-Figure sets as their own exclusives, the lineup for the Bearer figure was changed. In a slightly better set, the U.S. received Neville, Rusev, Chris Jericho, and, fittingly, The Undertaker.

The Build-A-Figure lines have gone back and forth between "Basic" and "Elite" styles. This time (and for the foreseeable future) the figures are in the basic style. It comes down to being a difference of around seven dollars per figure. That certainly adds up. I have no problem with the releases continuing this way if it means saving around thirty bucks per set.

While I am happier with the lineup here than the initial Bearer set, I'm not exactly thrilled. The only figure of the four that my own collection could truly use was Neville. I had passed on the original Neville release in favor of future possibilities. Had this one not surfaced, I probably would have gone with the upcoming Elite version with his trademark cape. The Undertaker is fitting, but not necessarily exciting. I have always said that it would be nice if the four figures needed to build the fifth actually fit in with the Build-A-Figure, but this has yet to be the case. For example, Paul Bearer's four figures might have been The Undertaker, Kane, Mankind, and Vader.

Rusev at least has different tights, but his figure "career" is starting to resemble that of his League of Nations counterpart Alberto Del Rio. A strong start with an Elite figure and then endless pegwarmers. Rusev is a great wrestler, but there are only so many looks for his figures. Chris Jericho is one that many fans will want as it is based on his look from the late '90s with long hair, long tights, and facial hair. The Jericho figure is also the one that includes the Paul Bearer head and urn. Since the rest of the Build-A-Figure bodies are relatively the same, some collectors have been known to just "go for the head."

The Paul Bearer figure itself isn't the best of the Build-A-Figures that have been done, but it's nice. I'd heard complaints that it is too thin, but Bearer went through many different body sizes during his career. At the time that this figure represents, the manager was nowhere near his largest. The urn accessory can't really be held in his hand, although with some positioning it can be "clutched." A new hand sculpt to hold the thing might have been nice, but retooling isn't on the minds at Mattel when creating these particular releases. The facial likeness is very good, but falls a bit short of the Jakks Classic Superstars version.

With more and more managers entering the Mattel line, Paul Bearer was needed. There are plenty of Mattel "Flashback" figures that he fits right in with, including the monstrous four that I mentioned above. With the "Flashbacks" seeping into Mattel's regular lines now on a regular basis, I wouldn't be surprised to see another Bearer figure down the line. He could easily be redone in the ever-growing Hall of Fame line, or put into a Battle Pack with any of his various charges. Even a single basic style release would sell. As many of us were surprised to learn at the time of his untimely passing, Paul Bearer was indeed a major wrestling entry into pop culture. Produce a figure of him and it well sell, no questions asked.

The Build-A-Figure sets now live on with their new-found retailer. We already know that Mean Gene Okerlund will make his Mattel debut in the next round of four. The four figures? Cesaro, Seth Rollins, and "Flashbacks" of X-Pac and Triple H. The best part? "Gene Mean" is clad in a style that has not previously been done as a figure--his early WWF khaki pants/blue blazer look. In the words of the man himself, "You've gotta be kiddin' me!"

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