Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mattel's Flashback To Build-A-Figure

When among the first official figure releases of 2018 include two series of legends and a new Build-A-Figure, you just know that it's going to be a good year. Eight new legends, one of which has not been released before in the Mattel line, one who has only had one release, and one who has never before been released under this particular name. That's not to mention a ninth figure who has only had one previous figure release in the course of a forty year career.

These two new sets, one Elite, one Basic, were released simultaneously and exclusively to Wal Mart. Collecting the Elite set of Mean Gene Okerlund, The Ultimate Warrior, Syxx, and Yokozuna yields you a SummerSlam 1989 interview set. The Basic set of Ravishing Rick Rude, Cowboy Bob Orton, "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, and Sgt. Slaughter allows you to build Howard Finkel. Even the packaging has a decidedly retro feel and includes a homage to the memorable baby blue interview backdrop from the mid-1980's. The Elite packaging features the new rectangle box design which was recently introduced and seems to make the figures themselves stand out that much more.

The "star" of the figures is Mean Gene, primarily as it is his Mattel debut. This figure was planned initially as a Build-A-Figure release that is said to have seen limited distribution overseas. Because of this, we actually get "two" designs of Okerlund that we've never before seen in figure form. In the package the figure is clad in his dark blue blazer with beige pants that Gene wore in the mid-1980's. Also included are separate arms and another blazer to create an AWA-styled Mean Gene clad in red. Well it's either representing his AWA days or the legendary announcer suddenly started working for CVS.

Seeing only his second figure ever is "The Fink." The legendary ring announcer is captured in his 1980's look and, thanks to the facial likeness, is light years better than the Jakks Classic Superstars version. The WWE's longest tenured employee comes complete with a classic styled microphone which is also included with Mean Gene. Cowboy Bob Orton, one of the Basic figures needed to complete Finkel, sees only his second release in the Mattel line complete with trademark hat and ubiquitous arm cast. It could have been interesting to see Orton released with a pink cowboy hat reflecting his days with Adrian Adonis, but ultimately pointless seeing as we likely won't be seeing a figure of "The Adorable One" any time soon.

Sean Waltman, a figure veteran under his 1-2-3 Kid and X-Pac gimmicks, also makes a debut of sorts here. For the first time Waltman is officially released as "Syxx," his nWo persona. Though Jakks released X-Pac in his nWo gear many years ago, it was representing his WWE-nWo run as X-Pac. The figure includes his personalized six-ball version of the classic nWo shirt. A slight change in design and name takes what could have been an unwelcome re-release and changes it into a surprisingly fresh figure.

Hasbro fans will appreciate three familiar color schemes returning with Yokozuna, Rude, and DiBiase. The Ultimate Warrior includes what may be the coolest accessory of both sets, that being a "breakable" scepter representing the one used by "Macho King" Randy Savage at the 1991 Royal Rumble. That particular foreign object infamously "caused" the Warrior's loss of the WWF Championship to Sgt. Slaughter. Speaking of Slaughter, this is the first Mattel figure to represent the patriot's brief Iraqi deserter days.

As with their release of Virgil which simultaneously mocked and celebrated his "convention icon" status, Mattel proves that their releases are beginning to include quite the sense of humor. The SummerSlam 89 interview set is the same one which, in an outtake accidentally broadcast on pay-per-view, suddenly fell apart enraging a foul-mouthed Mean Gene. There's even a hole provided which is cut out behind the sign enabling someone to cause the "accident" to happen over and over again. Now, if we could only get a Royal Rumble interview backdrop. Put that cigarette out!

I love these sets, Each figure is a quality repaint or in the case of Okerlund and Finkel, a great line debut. I would have preferred that the choices were completely connected to the late '80s-early '90s era, but I'm not complaining. This is a great way to bring characters such as Orton, who could see lower sales in a standard set, back into the fold. I wouldn't mind seeing names like Bruno Sammartino, Barry Windham, Terry Funk, and others included in future sets like these. It could be a veritable "legends house!"

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Roode Awakening

He's "glorious" and he's your new WWE United States Champion. Even with most TNA/Impact Wrestling standouts seemingly finding their way to WWE, did anyone predict that they would thrive as they have? The company has not always been extremely open to those who've made their name elsewhere. But thrive they have, and Bobby Roode has been no exception. Bursting onto the scene via NXT, Roode debuted with a spectacular theme song (said to have been considered for Shinsuke Nakamura) which evolved into a great, grand, and yes, glorious nickname. As with any superstar, the in-ring talent must match the showmanship. Thus far, Roode has proven to have both.

Many of us have been Bobby Roode fans since his days as part of Team Canada and Beer Money. The latter team often heard chatter that a WWE run could be in their future. Roode's partner in the team, "Cowboy" James Storm, did have a cup of coffee in NXT, but has yet to see the full WWE experience. It would be fun to see the two former partners collide in the major spotlight of WWE, especially with Roode's current persona.

The buzz surrounding Roode did not begin with NXT or SmackDown Live. I can still remember the atmosphere at the 2011 Bound For Glory fanfest. It was Roode's largest hyped run for the TNA Heavyweight Championship, challenging Kurt Angle. Though Roode would not take the title on that particular occasion, it was the point where many began to view him as a bonafide singles star. Roode did go on to be a two-time TNA Heavyweight Chanpion as well as the longest reigning to date.

Due to his TNA stardom, Roode also saw a nice chunk of merchandise during his long tenure with the company. Action figures representing his time with both Team Canada and Beer Money were produced as were trading cards, t-shirts, promotional photos, and other assorted items. Roode even made one of the last covers of "The Wrestler" magazine in a great shot including the TNA Heavyweight Championship belt over his shoulder.

Roode has already debuted in the Mattel NXT figure line which is exclusive to Target. The "Basic" version will be followed by an "Elite" in a subsequent NXT-Target release. That figure will include the new NXT Championship. I've always envisioned a "Glorious" Defining Moments figure release for Roode, complete with robe. There is definitely still room and time for it to happen.

At age 40, Roode has little to prove in professional wrestling yet he has so much more to do. He fits into WWE so well, yet carries on the feeling of being an outsider, similar to Rob Van Dam when he first arrived in the company. It's another unique situation brought about by WWE allowing non-homegrown talents to thrive.

It's a glorious thing...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Wrestling MarketWatch: Royal Rumble

As "WrestleMania season" kicks off and the storylines go into high gear for WWE, so goes the Royal Rumble. Arguably still the most exciting match in the company due its unpredictability, 2018's edition will actually feature two versions of the famous match, one for the men and one for the women. It will be interesting to see if this concept stays as that of the whole match has, or if it is a one-off deal like the 40-man Rumble of a few years ago. In any case, the Rumble is full of history and, as we like to point here on the blog, memorabilia. This MarketWatch entry will display some of those items and their recent auction sale prices. As always, prices are for unsigned items unless noted.

*Although you can dial up any Royal Rumble on the WWE Network, there was a time when visiting events past was not so easy. In 2007 fans were treated to the beautiful Royal Rumble Anthology DVD boxed set. Handsomely packaged, the set featured every Rumble up to that point as well as collectible "film cell" cards and more. The square box full of Rumbles may be outdated, but it still featured many of the best examples of the event. Holding its own, the set recently sold for $100.

*The first Rumble event to hit pay-per-view was in 1989. This star studded Rumble featured Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Ted DiBiase, Demolition, The Twin Towers, Big John Studd, and many more. The event also included a "King's Crown" match pitting Haku against Harley Race, and Judy Martin even challenged Rockin' Robin for the WWF Women's Championship. The show did yield a program which previewed much of the action that evening. The program recently fetched $35.

*Even in a Rumble, some order needs to be kept. Jakks knew this, and thus included Earl Hebner in their WWF Royal Rumble figure line back in 2002. The set still holds value today. Interestingly, Earl's twin brother Dave is shown on the packaging. This figure recently sold for $26.

*The most famous Royal Rumble figures were produced by Hasbro in a much smaller form. Infamously, the Hasbro Royal Rumble ring saw limited distribution in 1992. Because of that, it has long been in demand with collectors. With the rabid interest in Hasbro's WWF product in recent years, the value has only sustained or grown. The ring recently sold for $350.

*Do you remember being bored by the Rumble? Sure there have been some that were not as great as others, but I can't say that I've ever been bored by one. Pamela Anderson can! The buxom '90s star appeared to be bored to tears at ringside throughout the match where the likes of Shawn Michaels, Davey Boy Smith, and even Dick Murdoch did battle. The program from the event has always been scarce, but it recently sold for $100.

It's wild, it's unpredictable, and so are the going prices of its collectibles! The Royal Rumble has it all, which is why it remains a favorite to most any wrestling fan. It's time to Rummmmmmble...

Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Year, New Retro

There's no better way to kick off the blog in 2018 than with a line that was a major highlight of 2017. Mattel's WWE Retro action figures have pleased both modern and nostalgic collectors alike. As most already know, these figures are based upon the legendary Hasbro WWF figure line. With a mix of current and past names, the first two series were a major hit. With Series 3 hitting stores late last year, the line saw a few changes.

Series 3 brings Goldberg, AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose to the line. Four figures is two down from the six in both previous series. Each figure is now packaged with a display stand featuring their individual logos emblazoned. While the original Hasbro line was designed to utilize "peg" stands, nothing ever developed from it. The stands are packaged right where the "Real Wrestling Action" of each figure should be advertised. This change takes away from the overall nostalgia, introducing a concept that was not present originally.

The boarder color on the cardbacks has changed from the first two series, which does jive with the Hasbro style. On the other hand, the inclusion of an ad for WWE Mayhem, an app game, is worse than the addition of the stands. The ad completely cramps the superstar photo on the cardback which was a Hasbro staple. For those of us who enjoy having figures signed, this is extra disappointing. Save the gaming ads for the standard figure lines, not a niche one aimed primarily at collectors.

As for the figures themselves, it is also a mixed bag. Glaringly, Goldberg is missing gloves. Has "The Man" ever wrestled without gloves? Certainly not in his WWE return on which the figure is based. The Goldberg "action" should also be switched with that given to Ambrose. Dean is hardly the slamming type, even if Renee would beg to differ. Goldberg should match many of the other "power" figures in this style.

The highlight of the series is unquestionably AJ Styles. Tied (with Series 2 Kane) for my personal best figure of 2017, one of the greatest of this generation translates well into being a "Hasbro." And just as was the case in the original line when the figure "action" matched the real life signature move of the star, one of the best "Real Wrestling Action" moves from Hasbro returns once again as "The Phenomenal Forearm."

While Series 3 wasn't quite as disappointing as I'd predicted, it isn't perfect. More colorful characters are still needed. How about the first female in the Hasbro style? More legends would be welcome as well, as is always the opinion on this blog. In both cases, how about a "Woooooooo!"?