Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Future of Figures Is Now

With the non-stop barrage of new WWE product from Mattel, last October was unofficially "Mattel Month" here on the blog. July looks to be a repeat of that, with several weeks of reviews covering stars of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We kick it off with a view of both today and tomorrow thanks to the new NXT line that is exclusive to Target. With four new Elite figures, six new Basic figures, and a ring, this line is even getting its own endcap display in most stores. We're focusing on the two Elite "debut" figures, who would be Austin Aries and No Way Jose.

This isn't the first dance for Aries as far as figures or the Mattel line. Aries had several Jakks figures in their TNA line and has already had a Mattel WWE Basic figure. No Way Jose is seeing his rookie action figure here.

The packaging for the NXT line is very unique. The Elite figures are packaged in window boxes designed to look like the "X" in NXT, complete with character-specific artwork behind the figure. There's a bit of "floating" here, but it can be easily forgiven seeing as that you want to see the aforementioned artwork. Although we're focusing on the Elite style here, I'm a big fan of the Basic NXT figure carding, too. It reminds me of a figure line out of the '80s with a lot of white used giving it a bright and fresh look. I'm sick of the dark and brooding style/colors that have dominated most everything in merchandising and pop culture since the mid-1990's. Can't we just be happy?

The line consists of more NXT alumni than current NXT roster talent. That said, just by looking at him you can understand why No Way Jose was chosen. He makes a great action figure and is very unique in presence. Need a retro comparison? The LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars line has Special Delivery Jones. The Mattel NXT line has No Way Jose. Jose's rubber shirt does limit his "entrance" poseability, but it still looks very good. So good in fact, that I won't complain about it being rubber. The facial expression is great and captures the "Fiesta!" attitude of the character.

Just as the happiness of Jose is evident in his figure, the smugness of Austin Aries comes through in his. "A Double" has a good facial likeness (the Jakks version may have been just a touch closer) and utilizes the smaller Elite body type that we've seen many time. The removable cape is a great addition and is a top reason to go for this Elite figure of Aries over the Basic. The figure actually has an old school feel when it's on, much in the vein of a '60s or '70s caped wrestling heel. Considering that I once saw Aries do a perfect Baron Von Raschke imitation at an Impact Wrestling house show, it's fitting.

For the first time in seven years, I encountered an issue with a Mattel figure right out of the packaging. The left arm of Aries was loose. At certain angles it will stay, but at about mid-range it simply falls. This is something that reminds me of the waning days of the Jakks WWE line, and not a trend that I look to see continue going forward. I've read some reports over the years of an arm breaking right of the packaging, but it always seemed to be fairly isolated incidents. With the amount of Mattel figures that I've purchased, some even second hand, this has yet to happen to me until now.

It's great to see NXT getting its own line, but I think that Mattel misjudged the popularity by making it a retailer exclusive. Judging by sales of NXT stars who have been inserted into the regular WWE lines, Mattel should have realized that collectors want these characters. Even the ring, which I did purchase as well, is a perfect centerpiece for the line.

In any case, don't hesitate to pick these figures up when you see them. While Aries will probably be a part of the Mattel line for some time to come, No Way Jose is still technically in "developmental." He could go on to be a star with dozens of figures or fizzle and see his only appearance here. At "retail exclusive prices," buying the complete set is certainly an investment, but the special packaging and unique character options is enough to ensure that most of the figures will not remain on shelves long. This is almost a "Best of the Independents" action figure line at retail.

The future does indeed appear to be now!

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