Thursday, June 15, 2017

Is "The Artist's" First Mattel Figure A Masterpiece?

Traditionally, WWE is not a place where foreign stars thrive. There have been exceptions, but either the WWE audience does not gel with stars from outside of America or the company itself doesn't do a good job of playing to their strengths. Regardless, it's a trend that many current fans are hoping to see end. Why? They want to see Shinsuke Nakamura go to the top. They want to see the star who tore up rings in New Japan Pro Wrestling do the same in WWE. With what is arguably WWE's deepest roster in history, can "The Artist" do just that?

Nakamura has certainly arrived to a lot of hype, both to NXT and the main WWE roster. His first action figure is no exception. Usually reserved for legends, Nakamura's first Mattel figure is part of the "Defining Moments" line, highlighting a specific moment in time out of a long career. This figure celebrates Nakamura's arrival in NXT, which was anticipated by many fans worldwide. It happened at NXT TakeOver: Dallas during the weekend of WrestleMania 32 where Nakamura defeated NXT favorite Sami Zayn.

The packaging for these Defining Moments figures stands out and causes a rise of about $5 for what otherwise would be a Mattel Elite figure. The packaging makes a great difference if you're keeping the figure inside, but otherwise it is just a $5 upcharge for those looking to open it up. It is nice to get a look at all sides of the figure before it's opened and, aside from only one example that springs to mind (Defining Moments John Cena), the figures do not float in the packaging.

The Nakamura figure includes two entrance vests, which are both relatively easy to remove and replace. With sleeveless outfits like these, the rubber/vinyl used is more than welcome. It's with sleeved jackets and shirts where soft goods should always be used. When figures cannot be posed because of attire, it suddenly turns from "action figure" to "statue," but that rant isn't valid here. The figure also includes a removable arm band on the left arm. It comes loose when fiddling with the vests, but otherwise stays put.

For some reason, the pants make the figure seem heavier than the rather slender Nakamura should be, but I'm not complaining. I don't recall seeing the torso pieces used before, and they may very be unique to this figure. You can certainly do some of Nakamura's crazier moves, but his much-touted physical gestures are limited. I could see another figure with specially sculpted hand gestures coming down the line. The facial likeness and hairstyle are dead on.

Any fan of Nakamura will be happy with this figure. There is already a basic figure on the market, as well, but thus far this is the only one in the "Elite" style. That will undoubtedly change. If the extra $5 for the "Defining Moments" version bothers you, I'm sure that you will have another shot down the line. I could see a version with the NXT Championship being a possibility.

How will Shinsuke Nakamura fare on the main WWE roster? His popularity should serve him well, but I would predict that age, the language barrier, and the company's track record with foreign stars will keep him from being the number one guy. He can be a shining star as an upper-midcarder, and there's nothing wrong with that despite what some current fans would have you believe. Not everyone has to be the top guy. In wrestling, it's the illusion that everyone WANTS to be the top guy that matters. Some make it, some don't, but with wrestling it's the constant struggles that truly matter. I have a feeling that many WWE superstars with have their hands full trying to ascend past "The Artist" on their way to the top.

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