In the "new world" of wrestling, most chatter is still on WWE and its up and coming rival AEW. There's also my favorite of the bunch, NWA (usually called NWA Powerrr due to the title of their show) as well as holdovers from past decades like Impact, Ring of Honor, and Major League Wrestling. But one company that has a chance to be a major player in the future, and in many ways already is, has been around since 1972. That company? New Japan Pro Wrestling.
NJPW has made major strides in the United States market in the past several years with its program on AXS television as well as the enduring popularity of "strong style." How far this can go is set to be tested with New Japan opening offices here in America. It has also been announced that a line of New Japan action figures will debut in the U.S. next year. While we have seen the logo on figure releases here in the States and a full line in Japan, this is the first figure line of the company to be readily offered to U.S. collectors.
While Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay are among those announced for the first offering, one name notably missing who instantly translates into an action figure by appearance alone is Tama Tonga. Fear not fans of this founding member of The Bullet Club, Tonga actually already has two figures. Several years old already, Tonga debuted as part of Figures Toy Company's Rising Stars of Wrestling line which included several New Japan stars who struck their own figure deals with the company. There are both painted face and non-painted versions. Here we go with the much more exciting painted version.
Several years ago Figures Toy Company decided to re-enter the wrestling figure game with three separate lines: Ring of Honor, Legends of Professional Wrestling, and Rising Stars of Wrestling. While exciting names were announced, many making their figure debuts, it was soon discovered that quality control on these was less than stellar. Figures were arriving to consumers with loose or broken limbs and the quality seemed brittle as best. The Blue Meanie figure was reviewed on this very blog with somewhat of a bad taste in this author's mouth after the figure arrived with its head popped off in the packaging.
To their credit, Figures Toy Company responded to the concerns voiced both here and elsewhere on the Internet. They promised that the quality would rise with future shipments. While that did not help those of us who purchased the already-shipped items, it did improve the odds of the company getting another chance.
With Tama Tonga, I would have to say that the improvements are there with room for more. The loose limbs and popped heads aren't here, but this figure still does not feel as well made as the Jakks product on which the design is based, at least not the early Jakks figures which were fairly sturdy. The look of the figure, as with many of these Figures Toy Company figures, is superb. From the facial sculpt to the detail on the attire and vest, it is a great looking figure. These figures fit perfectly with the Jakks WWE "Ruthless Aggression" style figures, and Tonga looks great posed with figures of his father, King Haku.
The packaging on these is also unique with the resealable "clamshell" packages that Figures Toy Company also uses for their retro superhero and TV lines based upon the classic Mego figure molds of the 1970's. Drawings of the stars are used in lieu of photos, probably to avoid any copyright issues. I don't particularly care for the way many of these figures are twist-tied into the plastic trays within the bubble. It makes many of the figures look as if they're in some sort of bondage. That, coupled with the fact that heads and other parts have been found disassembled in the packaging, keeps me from getting any of these autographed. It should also be noted that despite Tonga being a major star for New Japan, the companies logo does not appear here as this is not an NJPW release.
It's hard to give a green light to actively pursue these figures due to the quality issues coupled with price point. It's difficult to find them under $30 per figure. On the other hand, the company is bringing us names like Meanie, Francine, Vince Russo, PCO, and others who've never had a figure and likely won't ever again. Will Tonga even appear in the upcoming New Japan line? Status unknown, but if you're concerned about owning him at all you may want to pick one of these offerings up while the price point is at the aforementioned $30. As unpredictable as wrestling is, the demand for its stars is as equally enigmatic.