Thursday, March 31, 2016
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.
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.
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.
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!
Thursday, March 24, 2016
He's seemingly done it all. Member of "The Gentrys," Memphis wrestling icon, manager of champions, "Colonel," theme composer, wrestling's virtual ambassador, and even a cast member of WWE Legends House. At the age of 72, "The Mouth" shows no signs of slowing down. And despite being one of the most villainous managers in professional wrestling history, it's hard to find someone who has a bad word to say about Jimmy.
I always like to point out when I feel that a wrestler was "made" to be an action figure just by looking at them. Jimmy Hart fits that bill. From his endless closet of colorful jackets to his sunglasses and signature megaphone, Jimmy is a sight. I wouldn't call him "the greatest walking advertisement for birth control ever" as Gorilla Monsoon so often did, but his "loud" look (not to mention his loud mouth) has helped make him the legend that he is. Not only is Jimmy a legend, but he is also a WWE Hall of Famer.
It's the Target exclusive WWE Hall of Fame figure series that gained us our first "Mouth" in the line. Three figures make up this third series, with "Macho King" Randy Savage and "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase also available. Jimmy is the only debut figure this time around and will likely be the most popular of the three. The packaging has changed yet again to match up with the regular 2016 "Elite" style boxes. It still follows the familiar WWE Hall of Fame motif of royal blue and gold and won't clash with previous entries to the line.
Thanks to the removable sunglasses, I believe Mattel may take the title for "Best Jimmy Hart Facial Likeness." It's seriously spot-on, and I don't think that any other Jimmy's have been quite this good. Some may not like the open mouth on the figure, but isn't that what you want in a Jimmy Hart? It works for Jimmy screaming into the megaphone, cackling during a promo, or screaming for his life when a heroic wrestler got hold of him, waiting to get revenge.
He's the Dick Clark of wrestling. A unique gimmick that was born in Memphis, but made it big throughout the world. Since he looks virtually the same today and still pops up all over the WWE Universe, this is one Hall of Fame figure that fits in any style of collection anywhere. Similar to Trish Stratus in the first series (and Yokozuna to a lesser extent in the second), this will be the one that people are going for. With Mattel's recent penchant for re-releases and peppering Legends throughout their line, who knows if we'll see Jimmy again. Keep in mind that it is a manager figure, which could hamper the possibility. I know that I'd love to see Jimmy decked out in his superhero costume down the line!
Next week, Mattel brings us yet another Hall of Famer, but in a brand-new line. This Hall of Famer is new to the honor, being of the Class of 2016. Stay tuned, Hard Times are yet to come...
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Stan Hansen belongs in any and all wrestling Halls of Fame. The rugged Texan put fear into the hearts of fans the world over, but it's usually pointed out that his biggest fame came outside of the United States. He is arguably the most successful gaijin (foreigner in Japan) to ever set foot in a Japanese wrestling ring. Both in singles and tag team action, Hansen fascinated the Japanese wrestling fans in a way similar to Fred Blassie several decades earlier. He was the big, bad, American villain. While he certainly built a name here in the States, it is his legendary work overseas that cemented his legacy in the squared circle.
Then there are the stories of Hansen's bad sight. By his own admission, Hansen has very poor vision when not wearing his eyeglasses. This apparently lent itself to Hansen's realistic-looking style in the ring, as it is said that it wasn't unusual for punches and clotheslines from the big cowboy to make true contact. It was that style that caused the eye of Big Van Vader to pop from its socket during one particularly brutal New Japan Pro Wrestling bout.
Similar to his co-inductees in the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame The Fabulous Freebirds, it was a certain action figure that brings Stan Hansen to the minds of countless children of the 1980's. Hansen was a key part of the Remco AWA action figure line. The figure came in a "Greatest Grudge Matches" two-pack along with Jerry "Crusher" Blackwell. Thanks to Remco using their larger body style, Hansen is taller than many of the other figures. The facial likeness is spot on and, as is usual with the Remco line, the accessories are superb. Soft goods chaps and a vest were included with the figure, as was his trademark cowboy hat. I can still remember finding a second-hand Hansen figure, long before I knew who all made up the AWA line. The hair and mustache said it all--I was holding a Stan Hansen figure in my hand. I've since re-equipped it with original accessories, but the figure remains the same one in my collection.
Hansen did a great job inducting Antonio Inoki into the WWE Hall of Fame back in 2010. The next year we were treated to the story of Hansen's career in his autobiography titled "The Last Outlaw." Now it's time for one more look at Japan's favorite cowboy...and America's most under appreciated brawler.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
After his untimely death in 2009, most of us were fairly certain that the last Umaga figure had been produced. WWE will acknowledge deaths, but those with a stigma tend to be brushed away. Umaga's young passing was definitely one of the latter. The Samoan Bulldozer had some memorable moments in the company, but ignoring him didn't prove to be difficult. He was not around in a necessarily "Golden Age" for the company, so "erasing" him was not needed nor necessary. In the last twelve months or so, mentions of the agile big man began popping up. The feelings have definitely lightened as is proof with his debut in the Mattel figure line.
Both Umaga and Zayn have unique accessories which are a focal point just by looking at the packaging. Umaga comes with his trademark sarong. The wrap is molded in the same rubber/vinyl that Mattel is known for. While the material restricts poses when used for shirts and coats, the use is perfectly fine here. Zayn's figure includes the very first figure-sized release of the NXT Championship belt. I'm not exactly certain as to why, but the design looks a Helluva lot better in figure form than the full-size version.
The Elite tooling style works well for both of these stars known for agility. Umaga's joints are a bit tighter than I would have liked, but anyone looking to pose moves shouldn't have much of a problem. The figure does have issues standing however. It seems to take a bit of patience and maneuvering of the legs and ankles to get Umaga to stand, but eventually he will.
These are two that you will want to grab on sight. I'm not sure that I'd have added Sami to my collection had the belt not been included. The Basic was good enough for me and we'll see many more releases of him down the line. The NXT belt should also see more releases, but who knows when. I could imagine an Elite release of Kevin Owens down the pike possibly including both the Intercontinental and NXT Championships. Umaga is less likely to see additional releases, though I can imagine one that would please Mattel. A release of Umaga early in the run of the character would require much less paint as he had far fewer tattoos. The unique tooling of the head, hair, and sarong could then also be reused. Look at me, just giving away money-saving ideas!
Hey Mattel, any room for a consultant?
Thursday, March 3, 2016
To be honest, the Freebirds have a place in any wresting Hall of Fame. They were revolutionary. They drew money wherever they went. They turned the Dallas territory completely around and made World Class Championship Wrestling the titan that it was in the 1980's. While Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, and Cyndi Lauper were the mainstream-covered "Rock n Wrestling Connection," the Freebirds made up its Southern rock cousin.
The Fabulous Freebirds had an element of realism that's missing today. As is frequently pointed out with Stone Cold Steve Austin and other personalities that made it big, what you saw in the ring was just an extension of the real persona. Hayes, Gordy, and Roberts really were a rough and tough group of rebels. There was no suspension of disbelief necessary when the 'Birds talked of clearing barrooms and downing more than their share of Jack Daniels. Hayes was the brash leader. Gordy the enforcing muscle. Roberts the grizzled older brother. It worked.
But while on the subject of merchandise from 'down Badstreet, you can't leave out the infamous Michael P.S. Hayes "Off The Streets" album. The record has starred on this blog several times before and the "glamour shot" of the album and its components seems to be one of the most frequently "borrowed" pictures. It just seems to turn up everywhere! Whether or not it's the "centerfold" of Hayes that's included with the album that causes all the excitement is anyone's guess, but it's an awesome item regardless. Wrestling's original rockers with an album and their own anthem. It doesn't get much better than that.
And what about that WWE Hall of Fame? It ain't no "Home Sweet Home," it's a "Home Sweet Misery!"