Friday, April 23, 2021

A New Warrior For A New Generation

You don't have to be a fan of a particular event to want to own merchandise derived from it. I have never been a fan of WrestleMania XII. I've never enjoyed the Iron Man match nor much on the under card. At the time I remember being shocked at how few matches were on the show. The Internet was abuzz that less matches would equal better quality. Wrong. But even though his match was a squash, it was great to see The Ultimate Warrior back in action with a fresh and updated look for "The New WWF Generation."

Mattel's latest WWE exclusive through Ringside Collectibles tackles this exact look. Jakks had included it in their Classic Superstars line, famously packaging some of the figures backward in order to show the detail of the duster. We once again get the duster here along with some other cool accessories which we'll discuss in a minute. I seriously wish that Ringside received all of the Mattel exclusives, especially those involving legends which are nearest and dearest to me. A couple of clicks and I'm guaranteed to own the figure at the price originally intended. I'll stop there.

The packaging here is similar to other recent Ringside exclusives such as WALTER and Bray Wyatt. It's a box without any true way to hang it. Some collectors are against this, others love it. I, personally, enjoy the way that the boxes look and were I to buy any extras for autograph purposes (sadly not an option with The Warrior) I'd be very excited to add them to the signed collection. The window of the box is in the shape of the Warrior's famous face paint. The extra hands are visible in the window but don't detract from the presentation. You know that they're there, but they aren't enough of a focal point that they look strange.

Something else that you may notice upon looking at the figure boxed is the WrestleMania XII logo behind The Warrior. Much to my surprise this is a tri-fold cardboard backdrop of the entrance from the 1996 event. Very unexpected and cool. Mattel did not need to include this, but they did. I applaud things like that, especially when they're a nod to wrestling history. If you follow our social media you saw just how cool the figure looks "taking off from the gate."

We've seen the tooling of much of this figure elsewhere before, but the head seems to be completely new. It's a great face with a very intense Warrior look. If it has been used before I don't remember it. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint on figures that include face paint. The blonder hair was definitely accurate for the era. The blues and oranges are particularly striking as far as the gear goes and The Warrior has his arm tattoo as he did in this era. We've only seen the tattoo once before on a Mattel figure and I can think of at least one more figure where, should the look be produced, it will pop up again.

The duster is a slightly more plastic-y material than the last few we've received. I guess it's actually a very thin vinyl. The colors come across well on it which is probably why the material was chosen. The wrist gauntlets are removable should you choose to do so as you're switching out the hands. Speaking of the latter, we get three different sets: fists, gripping hands and open hands. All are appropriate for The Ultimate Warrior but I'll always get a thrill posing him as he's pressing his hands to the Heavens. Very few wrestlers were more intense and simultaneously made millions believe in a completely off-the-wall character.

I think that you can tell that I really like this figure. The sad part is that it would have the potential to be the best version of The Ultimate Warrior produced by Mattel if they hadn't made so many other great ones. This may be a very event-specific attire, but it would fit into any collection or display. The Warrior is iconic no matter what he's decked out in. And as many as we've already received, I can think of so many more that have yet to be produced. If you know me, you know I'm thinking Dingo Warrior all day. We've sort of missed out on The Blade Runners at this point, but you never know what could happen in the future.

The initial shipment, though delayed, is arriving to collectors at press time. He's still available on back-order. While most Ringside Exclusives become desirable after a period, if you ask me this one is a slam dunk. I've said it before...get it now. And Always Believe.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Just When You Thought You'd Escaped Badstreet...

I don't brag on my collection a whole lot, but there are a few wrestlers who I truly feel that I have pretty impressive "sub-collections" centered around. Of course we're talking some of my all-time favorites such as Dusty Rhodes, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Harley Race, Bruno Sammartino, Jerry "The King Lawler" and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. But one that I sort of stumbled upon was the leader of The Fabulous Freebirds himself, Michael "P.S." Hayes. It's not that I wasn't a fan of Hayes, he just didn't rate up there on my personal list as some of the others that I've mentioned do. Now we all have yet another Michael Hayes item to add to the collection, his debut Mattel WWE figure.

This is another "Collector's Edition" figure meaning that it's an exclusive and doesn't officially have a "home" in a series, but it does ship with Mattel's WWE Elite 83 wave. Despite working for WWE for over twenty-five years now, for various reasons I just didn't imagine we'd ever get a new figure of him. He's had three past releases (AWA, WCW and WWE, respectively) but I just didn't see another one coming along. Such as with their releases of Magnum T.A., JJ Dillon and Paul Ellering I was once again pleasantly surprised.

The packaging is your standard design of the last few years. I've noticed a variation although I don't know if it's an official "running" change or simply luck of the draw. The Badstreet t-shirt, which we'll discuss more in a bit, seems to be positioned either lower or higher. When it's lower it obscures the Badstreet USA logo that makes the shirt one of my favorite wrestling figure accessories of all-time. If you're a carded collector this is certainly something that you'll want to keep an eye out for.

We've got a good facial likeness going. It certainly captures the "wild-eyed southern boy" look of Hayes while simultaneously being suitable for a variety of situations both in and out of the ring. Despite many in-ring wars, Hayes is the Freebird best remembered for his mouth. He was certainly a talker and the included "pointed" fingers just drive this home. I'm sure these that hands being included was no mistake. The body is a tad slim for most eras of Hayes (more on that in a sec), but the chest hair detail and the shirt hide it when it needs to be hidden.

Some have voiced their issues over this being a "mash-up" of Hayes eras. The sunglasses and picture on the front of the package do indeed reflect more of a later WCW Michael P.S. Hayes. The tights and shirt are definitely mid-to-late '80s. The slim body is actually reminiscent of when the young Freebird was just starting out in the late '70s. My response? It's probably the only Mattel Hayes that you're getting AND in my opinion is tied for first place among all of his figures. There you have it. No crying about it on this blog.

Can we get to my favorite part now? The shirt. The ironic "Badstreet USA" t-shirt is finally in action figure form. Honestly, if I saw this figure on a deep, deep discount I would probably buy extras just to yank the shirts for other figures. Even more surprising to me than the fact that we have a Mattel Hayes figure is that we finally have this shirt in this size. It boggles my mind, to be honest. There have been licensing wars over the music in the past and I'm sure that Mattel had to go through some legal hoops for this logo. Why was this even on their radar? I'm honestly done asking. I'm going to enjoy it because I absolutely love it.

You don't need me to tell you to buy it. This figure reeks of the attitude of Michael P.S. Hayes and ranks among my favorite Mattel figures of all-time. I also consider it tied for first as far as Hayes figures go with the Galoob release which also screams "Michael Hayes" just by looking at it. Many collectors including myself had this Mattel release in late 2020 so sadly it can't be a Figure of the Year candidate, but I'll be damned if that bothers me. Grab your JYD and Von Erich Mattel figures and set the scene. Support it and maybe we'll get more Freebirds down the road.

Or down the block. You know which one.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Forgotten Dream

If you know me or if you've followed this blog for any length of time you know that if I had a gun to my head, Dusty Rhodes would be chosen as my favorite wrestler of all-time (out of a finally settled upon top ten). That's why, in addition to a love (though not a top ten feeling) for Michael P.S. Hayes, this and the review of his new figure released at the same time were split up into two. Both are long overdue.

Jakks and Mattle have both been amazing in getting Dusty Rhodes the wrestling figure respect that he deserves. Both companies have released multiple looks for The Dream, some of which were never expected. Today's focal point is certainly one of those, but a welcome one. When most fans think of Dusty's 1989-1991 "Common Man" run in the World Wrestling Federation they think of the yellow polka dots. Rightfully so, as for a good fifteen months that's basically all he wore. After the dancing and happiness were taken away from The Dream due to manager Sweet Sapphire selling out to The Million Dollar Man, Rhodes began getting a bit more serious. The dancing stopped. The polka dots turned dark red, including being utilized on a western-style poncho. Even two pieces of attire dating back to his days in Jim Crockett Promotions returned, those being his "American Dream" ring jacket and top hat.

That later look is what Mattel has brought us in their latest Dusty Rhodes offering. Straight off of the promo photo for his "Dream Team" at the 1990 Survivor Series we have The Dream with the aforementioned poncho and hat. It's part of Mattel's Elite 83 series and, thankfully, isn't any kind of store exclusive. Although Dusty is the only legend in the set, the Mattel debut of Michael Hayes is shipped in some of the cases as a "Collector's Editon." We know what that means.

This is Dusty's second release since the era of extra hands began. In addition to the hat and poncho we get three sets of hands total, including open hands reminiscent of when The Dream was about to break out into a charismatic strut to mock his opponents. The bird talon from the hat is removable and for some bizarre reason was shown worn around his neck in early Mattel promo shots. Way to know your source material, boys. The poncho looks a helluva lot better out of the package than it does in the box thanks to the useless bands holding it in. It looked bad in the promo shots, too. Again, who is doing these shots? I'm available, folks.

The body is the same as we've seen on every Mattel Dusty. Why change it? It works. The "splotch" is here as are his signature Austin Hall cowboy boots. A red elbow pad is included. I'm sure this could be switched out on the last Dusty release to give that one a freshening up, if one was so inclined. The face is the sculpt/scan that was included on the Dusty Rhodes figure that came packed with the WCW ring. At one time that was my favorite Mattel WWE figure and it still stands tall. It's a great likeness and works on multiple eras of The Dream.

I would have to say that this is the most niche of the Dusty Rhodes figures we've had from any company. He did not wear this look long, yet it's very much made to be an action figure. I'd advise you to pick this one up early as there will probably not be another in this style. You know how that goes. There are still various other Dusty looks to explore. Although Jakks did a great '70's Dusty figure (my favorite Jakks version of The American Dream), I'd like to see what Mattel could pull off in a similar style. With their penchant for including entrance gear, Dusty's "cactus" robe that made many magazine covers of the era would be superb. "Bullrope Match" Dusty (think Jakks final Dusty release packed with Cody's rookie figure) and entrance jacket Dusty would be my other two top choices.

I've had this figure for quite awhile but I do not believe it's actually hit stores yet. If it has, heed my words above and grab it if you want it. Next time, we take yet another walk down Badstreet...


Monday, March 15, 2021

Wrestling MarketWatch: WWF Hall of Fame 2021

Along with the Royal Rumble match, the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony is probably the last piece of fresh programming from the company that I truly enjoy. At this point even WrestleMania has completely lost my interest. For reasons that are no mystery to a single person on the planet, 2020 did not see a WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. While details are still sketchy, it appears that the 2020 class will finally get inducted alongside the class of 2021. Whether the class will be merged as one or if each will go down in history separately has yet to be seen. 

For 2020 we have the nWo (Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Syxx), John Bradshaw Layfield, Jushin Thunder Liger, "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith, The Bella Twins and Batista. As of press time the sole 2021 inductee to be announced is Molly Holly. In this edition of MarketWatch we're going to look at the recent selling prices of memorabilia from several of these names. As always prices quoted are for non-autographed items.

*Starting with our first 2021 inductee announced we visit the sole action figure of Molly Holly. It's always been an underrated figure and is still a highlight of the Jakks "TitanTron Live" style. Molly is one of the best female grapplers of the past two decades and is more than deserving of her Hall of Fame induction. The support shown by fans as well as her peers has been something to see. This is not the first time that this figure has been here on the blog in a MarkerWatch feature. Around three and a half years ago the figure was selling for $20. Still undervalued, it's recently been selling for an average of $15. Whether or not her Hall of Fame induction will yield her a second figure has yet to be seen.

*Always controversial, John Bradshaw Layfield was one of those superstars who was able to reinvent himself several times during his career. The "JBL" character, WWE's answer to J.R. Ewing, was without a doubt his best incarnation. At WrestleMania 21 back in 2005, JBL made a grand entrance with money falling from the sky. Those "JBL Bills" were scooped up and have landed in the collections of many fans worldwide. One example recently sold for $18.

*Some may say that The Bella Twins are undeserving of a Hall of Fame entry. The WWE Hall of Fame is full of inductees that you may or may not agree with. I will say that the duo has brought many extra eyes to the business, both male and female. Even my girlfriend is a fan of the twins thanks to their "Total Bellas" program. From figures to teddy bears, the twins have also had their fair share of memorabilia. It's a proven fact that authentic autograph cards of female wrestlers sell for a bit more on the secondary market than the male wrestler cards. Perhaps there are a lot of "lonely hearts" collecting? Nonetheless, Brie Bella's Topps WWE Heritage 2016 authentic autograph card recently sold for $28.

*One of my favorite inductees this year is Jushin Thunder Liger. The puroresu star who retired in 2020 has always been fascinating to his legions of fans, myself included. He recently received several modern wrestling figures thanks to a company called Storm Collectibles. You can see the first of those by clicking Liger's "label" at the bottom of this entry which will lead to a review of that figure from last year. That being said his older figures from Japan, while less poseable, are still in high demand. This New Japan Pro Wrestling figure recently sold for $51.

*Shortly after the creation of the New World Order, those in charge at WCW realized that the nWo was the more popular brand. This led to their logo being slapped on nearly every piece of merchandise that passed through the Atlanta-based wrestling company. Did you own a Bash Brick? It's a somewhat hard foam brick that you can "safely" bash your friends (or enemies) with. It really doesn't have much of a connection to wrestling other then the logos, but who's counting? One recently sold for $25.

There are always at least a few speeches to watch out for at the Hall of Fame ceremony. Who those will be and just how the ceremony itself will take place are still mysteries. I can tell you that Batista's will be a great pee break for me, even if I'm not watching live.

Sorry, Big Dave.

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Evil Million Dollar Corporation Strikes Again! No, I don't mean Mattel...

The never ending battle between collectors and Mattel strikes again. I've heard countless fellow collectors declare that it's starting to simply not be worth it anymore. Frustrations over distribution and store exclusives are at an all-time high. Whether it be friends that I run into in person or those across the miles, we're all fed up. Collecting should be fun, not something to cost time and happiness. It's really getting tiresome. Nonetheless, this particular pre-order went smoothly (though from the looks of things it did not for others) thus here we are with three of the four latest Mattel WWE Legends.

In this go-round we've got "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, Tatanka and Nikolai Volkoff. The set is rounded out with a late-1995 version of The Undertaker, however I passed on the figure as I do with many characters who are produced time and time again. Interestingly, you could almost call this "The Million Dollar Corporation" wave as even The Undertaker had loose ties to the group. None of them exactly look as they did in the Corporation era, but it's a fun coincidence that I'm sure was completely lost on the manufacturer.

First up is The Million Dollar Man himself. Unfortunately the figure itself is a billon dollar disappointment. First off, it seems rather short. I come in at 6 foot. I've met DiBiase many times and he's taller me. We're not seeing accurate height here. The design on the suit seems out of whack and looks badly printed on. Accessories included are an extra "laughing" head, a briefcase, the Million Dollar Championship, and extra hands. The hands seem rather pointless as both sets included are gripping. How about pointing hands? DiBiase often pointed in promos while making a statement. The briefcase isn't out of place but it isn't exactly associated with him, either. Both heads are recycled from previous releases. The "smug" head looks fine, but the laughing head makes him look like a turtle with how it fits on this neck. Last but not least is that awful Mattel version of the Million Dollar Belt. It's looked cheap, weak and not even worth a million pennies since it saw its first release a decade ago. We couldn't have gotten an update? Why did they drape it over his shoulder in the packaging? Because it only fits around the waist if you nearly tear it. If you want a good suited version of DiBiase from Mattel seek out either the figure from the Howard Finkel Build-A-Figure set or the Entrance Greats release.

Next up we have the evil Soviet Nikolai Volkoff. Hold up! This is a first time release for Nikolai as he is NOT evil at all here! Indeed we have the first figure ever released of Volkoff to represent his 1990 turn to the favor of the American people. An American flag is included on his tights, jacket and hat. In all honesty this is one of my favorite Volkoff figures ever done. The face is perfect and is a huge improvement over his previous Mattel release, though I know which photo they designed the latter from as well. This facial expression is just more iconic. Also better this time around is his leg movement which was very stiff in his two-pack release. My only complaint here is that the color used on his boots and tights is a tad too dark. I'll let it slide.

In a personal aside it does make me a bit sad that Nikolai didn't live to see and autograph this one. If you didn't have the chance to meet the burly brawler, I can only say that you missed out on a really down to earth guy. He was one of a few old wrestlers who upon meeting was like visiting with an old uncle. Always a few stories, a joke or two and a nice experience overall. Nikolai is also one who, sadly, I honestly feel would not make it in the business today at no fault of his own. He's not the type of wrestler that the flippy-dippy fans could ever appreciate. He stood out as a character and a true menace without having to have a single fancy move, yet every fan from the '70s thru the early '90s remembers him. 

Finally we have "Native American" Tatanka in his debut attire. If you look closely at the famous "Undertake 'Em All" ad from 1993 you'll notice that the Hasbro figure was initially slated to have this design as the symbol from the side of the tights made it onto the prototype even as the trunks were painted as the final product ended up. All these years later and here we are. Just like with Nikolai, I'm a huge fan of Tatanka. Criminally underrated, a great character and immensely fun to watch in the ring. If he had come along a few years earlier when the business itself was in better shape I can't even imagine the heights that he would've reached. Just as with his first Mattel release included are his tribal necklace and tomahawk. One big improvement over that first figure are the inclusion of open hands allowing either chops or some great poses of Tatanka looking to the sky. I'm very much looking forward to getting this one autographed.

Lumping DiBiase in with The Undertaker who didn't impress me enough to even pre-order, in my opinion it's a 50/50 wave. Volkoff and Tatanka in never-before-released attire are amazing. I would actually call this the definitive version of Volkoff, even if his heyday was as a villain. The face is just scary real and, although he only began wearing it in 1990, he wore the gear for the rest of his life until his unexpected death in 2018. I would still like to see '70s Volkoff and '06 Tatanka, but I'm not holding my breath. Jakks did a great job with the latter, but to me that run was so much fun (albeit short) that I would like to see a Mattel take on it...though it would probably end up as a store exclusive that no one ever sees anyway.

It's hard to say at this point just how difficult these will be to find. Like the first two Target-exclusive Legends waves, the retailer has seemingly gone to great lengths to screw up the pre-order process. That, coupled with Mattel's legendary piss-poor distribution, makes it a wonder that anyone is supporting them at this point. That being said most of the last wave of Legends are available to order on Target's website as of press-time. Jake Roberts is now missing but was available just days ago, likely selling out due to collectors making one last grasp at the (terrible) chase version. Speaking of stupid chase versions, DiBiase in silver is the one this time around. It goes with Mattel's Virgil, but with how horrible the figure is you may want to skip it altogether.

Your winners? Tatanka and Nikolai Volkoff!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Huss! Bruiser Brody Returns to Japan...in a way.

In the past I've compiled several entries on wrestlers who have never had action figures. What you are about to read is not about a figureless wrestler, but it does involve a growing trend which may very well ensure that nearly every superstar who deserves an action figure ultimately gets one. Independently produced toys and action figures are becoming more and more prominent. Some are mere takeoffs on existing lines. Others are attempts at continuations on popular toy lines of the past. Taking quality and rights issues into consideration, there's often a fine line between collectible or high-quality custom when it comes to these items. Ultimately it's up to the collector as to whether or not these items are "acceptable" and something that they want to own. I, myself, have come across two such items that I have added to my collection and thus have appeared on this blog. The first was back in 2019 when Exotic Adrian Street had a figure of himself created and produced. This time it's the beginning of a new line.

For the name that he was and as popular as he remains today over thirty years after his death, Bruiser Brody is relatively underrepresented as far as action figures go. Aside from a stateside inclusion in Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line coupled with a few brief appearances in Japanese wrestling figure lines, collectors were somewhat limited as to how they could add Brody to their toy shelves. Thanks to a creator out of Australia known as Junk Shop Dog, we now have the man known outside of wrestling as Frank Goodish in a style that he probably should've been part of in the first place.

In 1981 a Japanese company called Popy produced what is considered to be the first line of wrestling action figures. The figures were soft vinyl "sofubi" figures and the lineup largely consisted of gaijin (foreign to Japan) wrestlers who had made their name in Japan. Highly sought after today, Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Harley Race and The Funk Brothers are just a few of the names who made up that initial wave. As big as he was in the country, Bruiser Brody was not part of that group. Until now.

Junk Shop Dog has revived the line, not only replicating the style of the figures themselves but the look of the packaging as well. The figure and other merchandise (available at junkshopdog.com) is officially approved by the Goodish family. This should be important to any collector grappling with the aforementioned dilemma of whether items like this are "official" or not. This one absolutely is.

This isn't a figure that you're going to be doing spectacular wrestling poses with, as none of the Popy figures are. That makes it no less visually stunning. Brody fits right in with all of the originals, right down to the scarring on his forehead. Because of the vinyl used, it's also a very pleasant figure to hold in your hand. The materials are obviously very sturdy and the back has production markings just as any mass produced figure would.

Another nice feature is that the packaging is the absolute definition of what would be deemed "collector friendly." Want to remove the figure? Just slide the backer card out and remove the plastic tray. Feeling like hanging it on your wall? He's perfectly replaceable with nothing whatsoever to destroy. No matter carded or loose, you can have the best of both worlds on this one. Speaking of the cardback, it is printed with high-quality photos of Brody and looks nearly identical to the Popy packaging of yore.

I first learned of Junk Shop Dog and this figure on Instagram, though they seem to have a presence on most social media platforms. I can personally attest that they are very easy to work with as far as obtaining one for yourself, payment, shipping, etc. In addition Tom Billington's daughter has already announced that Dynamite Kid will be the second figure in this revived line. You can count me in for one of those as well. And for those of you who are interested in the monetary side of collecting in an interest for the future, many of these independently produced figures have already risen in secondary market value. Considering the names and the retro styling, I can only predict similar results here.

Huss!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Hacksaw. Natural. Man of Doom.

The first big wrestling legend passing of 2021 was the man known as Butch Reed. About a week before his passing, news broke that the wrestler-turned-rodeo star had suffered two massive heart attacks that left him in rough shape. Always known as a tough guy, fans hoped that he would pull through this most deadly opponent.

Everyone has a different version of Butch Reed that they prefer. In territories such as Mid-South and Florida, "Hacksaw" Butch Reed starred variously as a heel or a babyface. His feuds with Junkyard Dog and that "other" Hacksaw are legendary and very well-remembered. He came to the WWF as "The Natural," an obvious play on the looks of Hulk Hogan. It was indeed a great look but for various rumored reasons the run didn't last as long or go as far as it probably had the potential to. Appearances at WrestleMania III, in the main event at the inaugural Survivor Series and in the fabled WrestleMania IV Championship Tournament are definite highlights.

Still, others remember Butch Reed as one of the Doom boys. The "Team of Doom," as Gary Michael Cappetta famously announced them, were a top team in the early days of WCW once the promotion was slowly shedding its NWA connection. Along with Ron Simmons and managed by either Woman or Teddy Long, the team gelled perfectly and could produce top quality matches with virtually any opponents.

Following the on-screen break-up of the team, Reed floated in and out of the business but sadly made no more real impact on it. Being a fan of Reed no matter where or when he showed up, I still fondly remember his surprise return on the star-studded Clash of the Champions XX program. For those who feel that WCW couldn't make an event feel special, do yourself a favor and pull that one up on WWE Network. It's simply a fun show.

It was the run as one half of Doom that produced Reed's only action figure appearance, however there was a Bend-Em produced on the same look. Various trading cards and program cover appearances abound, but I do feel that Reed has always been underrepresented in the merchandising arena. It actually shocked me when putting in the "labels" for this entry that this is the first time that Reed has ever appeared on this blog in its nearly twelve year existence.

I often speak of superstars who I feel were a true "wrestler's wrestler." Butch Reed qualifies in every aspect. Godspeed, Hacksaw.


"Hacksaw" Butch Reed

1954-2021