Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mattel Goes "Behind The Scenes" In WWE

Here on the blog it seems that we've kicked off 2016 with a full month of WWE toys, mostly from Mattel. Now we're capping it off with a playset. Many figure lines that I collected as a child had playsets. G.I. Joe had spectacular bases, Masters of the Universe had castles and grottos, and even The Real Ghostbusters had their legendary firehouse. Unfortunately, wrestling playsets were usually limited to rings. Despite kids dreaming of locker room sets, an interview area, or even a Piper's Pit, the non-ring areas were usually relegated to whatever makeshift playset that a child could conjure up.

Jakks and Toybiz were the first to create additional play areas for their respective WWF and WCW figure lines in the 1990's. Despite the TitanTronLive figures being a relative disappointment, the actual Tron playset was extremely popular and likely proved to manufacturers that non-ring playsets would indeed sell. Mattel has carried this idea into the next generation, with several entrance playsets being introduced. One such set even integrates tablets in order to play your favorite entrance videos.

It was another Mattel playset that recently caught my eye. This set is the WWE Behind The Scenes Brawl. Admittedly, I pay less attention in general to these playsets than the figures themselves, but all seems to indicate that this set was originally released in the middle of 2015. This set contains all you need to recreate the backstage interview area currently utilized on WWE programming. Included is the curtain backdrop with logo sign and "lighting," a mesh "screen" that opens like a double door, a mounted camera, free-standing lighting rigs, three opening barrels, and a microphone.

You may recognize some of these pieces. The curtain backdrop pieces were included with individual figures in a Toys "R" Us exclusive set several years ago. The one figure that I picked up in that set, Mark Henry, included the older logo sign as well as a flat screen monitor that could easily be used with this set. In that release, the curtain was black and not the maroon hue that we have here. The camera, sans the stand included here, has seen several releases including most recently with the J & J Security figures.

The set is quick and easy to assemble. Once the backdrop pieces are snapped together, everything else pretty much goes wherever you decide to place it. I picked this up as something that could be used as a nice display, but you're never too old to imagine some play possibilities. What if WWE launched a World Championship Wrestling-style studio show? Plop a ring down, set an announcer or two in front of the curtain, and have wrestlers roar through the mesh "entrance." It's 6:05 all over again!

Perhaps the most fitting figure for this set is coming very soon. Despite the prototype not having a microphone-holding hand, Renee Young's first figure will be a perfect companion to this set. As the most important and impactful interviewer in WWE since Mean Gene Okerlund, I'm looking forward to the Lunatic Fringe's number one fan taking her rightful place "Behind The Scenes" in the Mattel line. In the meantime, Mattel has given us Jim Ross, Michael Cole, and Jerry "The King" Lawler to conduct interviews, hopefully with more commentators to come. A Mattel Mauro Ranallo, anyone?

The set is fun, but not flawless. I could have done without the barrels, although I understand why they are included. Smash away, kids! I'd have preferred more equipment, or even some anvil cases. For a price of $35, some of the lights should really work. It couldn't have cost much to put some tiny Christmas lights above the curtain to give forth at least a small glow. That being said, the set is selling for above retail on the secondary market. It's popular even without special effects. Once Renee is released in a short while, I wouldn't be surprised if the playset becomes even more popular.

I like this set a lot. I'd have spent hours with such a set as a kid, just cutting promos. I made my own such backdrops back then, but an official item just makes it all the cooler. Kudos to Mattel for seeing the value in extending the fantasy.

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