Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Ultimate Figure Of The Year!

2020 was a year of firsts. Could the final one be that this is the first time that a Figure of the Year choice of mine sees its review while simultaneously receiving the prestigious honor? I do believe so. If you're unfamiliar with the process, a brief reminder includes that the Figure of the Year must be a figure that I've purchased. It is, after all, my personal choice. Everyone could, and should, have their own selection. Another factor is availability. If it's difficult to find and can't enter as many collectors hands as it should, why bother? The Mattel Harley Race is a great figure, but that alone would've disqualified it years ago. Third, and most simply, it has to be a great figure.

This is a figure I'd never imagined would have been made. Real life death is a subject often avoided in toys, and in a way this figure represents that most final and morbid concept. In other ways it's a remembrance of a man in his very final public appearance, capping off a momentous return to the company that made him a household name. Yes, my choice for 2020 Figure of the Year is Mattel WWE Legends Ultimate Warrior. 

I knew as soon as the figure was announced that it was going to be a favorite of mine. For starters, it's a bit of an odd inclusion as mentioned above. It depicts a wrestler outside of his active years which is something that I would love to become a small trend. Bruno Sammartino is known to a generation in his look as an older gentleman and elder statesman of professional wrestling. A similar figure would be momentous, but that's another story for another entry. There are also some unique accessories included as well as an almost photorealistic quality to the figure that makes it a no-brainer.

That being said, the choice was not an easy one. It was a year of great figures, many of which you saw reviewed on this site. Had this figure not been released or had it been disqualified for reasons about to be discussed, Superstar Billy Graham would've been the winner. It was another figure that many of us thought we would never see in the Mattel line, it was probably the best representation of the man to date, and it was a two-for-one figure seeing as you could either have it be '70s SBG or the '80s version.

What the figure had going against it was the bane of so many Mattel WWE figures: distribution. Let's all repeat after me: "Store exclusives are the downfall of the Mattel WWE line." Between a bungled online pre-sale, the precedence of previous store exclusive figures being a pain to locate, and the fact that this figure had a built-in popularity factor, things weren't looking good at first. Thankfully and amazingly it seems that everyone who wanted the figure got it. I, myself, needed a few to satisfy my needs and had no problem doing so. I even ended up leaving some on the pegs. The others in the set, Paul Orndorff, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and Eddy Guerrero were obtainable as well.

The packaging remains as it has since the Legends series was revived. It's a mix of the current design with the stylization of the original Mattel WWE Legends packaging from a decade ago. The figure is positioned perfectly, as if the Warrior is indeed giving his final speech on Monday Night Raw. Accessories included are the WWE microphone (with scratch logo as opposed to the "Network era" version), removable "Ultimate Warrior" mask, and cloth duster as well as an alternate set of hands. 

Does it get any better resemblance-wise? Wow. While a child may not understand that this is The Ultimate Warrior, any of us who remember the emotional WrestleMania XXX weekend would have no doubt. The suited body is reused, but who cares? It works perfectly fine. You wanted a re-sculpt? I think you may need to limit yourself to "Hot Toys" or one of those statue companies if that's the case. The mask fits snugly just as it should without any holes or additional support needed. The duster is thin, but if you ask me that only eases putting it on and taking it off. The detail on it is out of this world. You didn't realize that this is the Warrior? Check the back of the duster. There he is in all of his glory.

If by some chance you haven't found one, this is one you'll want to obtain soon. The Legends are only restocked so many times and I don't see this figure being remade at all. While we still have plenty of other Warrior figures coming along, they will all almost assuredly be from his active years. This, on the other hand, is The Ultimate Warrior who I met, stood in the presence of, and talked with about WrestleMania VI, Pittsburgh, and being a fan in general. It's a connection. It's a snapshot of a man's final hours. It's a masterpiece.

That wraps it up for 2020 on the blog. You may or may not have noticed that there have been weekly entries for the past several months. Between the influx of product released that I've wanted to review and the fact that I've felt that the world simply needed an escape with frivolous writing such as this, it just happened as a fun accident. I don't know if the trend back to weekly will be continuing into the new year, but you can bet that there will some great output in 2021 nonetheless. The Dream and P.S. are literally dancing in the streets and ready to join the blog, if you will... 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Wrestling MarketWatch: Merry Christmas!

Christmas time is here! Wrestling memorabilia and cheer! I'm sure that many of you have received many great wrestling-themed Christmas gifts over the years. Pictures of children receiving classic LJN WWF figures seem to be in abundance on Instagram. I remember Christmas 1987 all too well. Hulk Hogan and King Kong Bundy Stretch Wrestlers! And how about '92? That was the year that only good little children received the Hasbro Royal Rumble Mini Ring. After all, Santa knew that years later it could be sold to pay off debt. Not that I would.

But what about Christmas-themed wrestling items? Ornaments and the like. There are plenty out there from a variety of eras. On this Christmas Eve we're going to take a look at a handful of those items and their recent selling prices. Remember, the prices are for non-autographed examples even if the photos I've provided from my own collection show otherwise.

*We're going to bookend our menagerie of items with one man: Sgt. Slaughter. I don't know if the Sarge is the first wrestler that you think of at Christmas time, but seeing as he is one of the nicest men in the business I don't think that it's out of the question to do so. In recent years WWE has released a variety of gingerbread men ornaments decked out to look like WWE Superstars past and present. One of the cutest (yes, I used that word) is little Sarge, camouflage and all. He recently sold at auction for $10.

*World Championship Wrestling was no stranger to the Holiday game, either. In the "opener" picture above, you can see a rare Starrcade 1996 promotional stocking. Fitting for the event that was often close to Christmas! In 1991 WCW Magazine produced a Christmasy cover featuring two of your jolliest names: P.N. News and Missy Hyatt. Behind them is a Christmas tree filled with some great classic merchandise. Cover dated February 1992, the magazine has recently been selling for an average of $15. Ho Ho Ho, indeed!

*Despite the nonstop action of the "Ruthless Aggression" era, WWE still released plenty of Christmas items during that time. One of my favorites is a full sized snow globe featuring John Cena, The Undertaker and a slightly hard-to-identify Batista. If you can't picture that threesome standing outside in a Christmas brawl (another Miracle on 34th Street Fight?), then I don't think you're truly a wrestling fan. Even if some of these three don't quite qualify as three wise men (I'm looking at you, Big Dave), the trio in their wintry globe recently sold for $55.

*Later in the '90s WCW was on a roll popularity-wise and their merchandise hit an all-time peak. The company Trendmasters decided to dress up the stars of WCW and the nWo in Santa Claus-esque outfits and send them packing into stores and onto your Christmas tree. Even Bill Goldberg, who is Jewish, was Santa-ized. Well, after all, he did make the movie "Santa's Slay" years later. The ornaments, which also include "Hollywood" Hogan and Kevin Nash, have recently been selling for between $10 and $20. Who's next?

*As promised, Sgt. Slaughter is next, that's who. Going back to classic World Wrestling Federation items we have the December 1984/January 1985 issue of WWF Magazine. On this issue we have Sarge in a very impressively done artistic rendering offering Season's Greetings. It's actually nice enough to qualify for use on your Christmas card. Perhaps this WAS the WWF's Christmas card that year? Strictly speculation. The WWF actually had a few fun Christmas covers for both their magazine and programs. This one recently sold for $55. Just like the snow globe. A magic number? Hmmmm...

I hope you've enjoyed a look at all of these stocking stuffers. Who knows? Maybe whoever bought the items in the auctions quoted actually bought them for you! Next week we end the year with my choice for "Figure of the Year." Who is it? Look for hints all over our social media. In the meantime...

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Mattel Goes Hollywood

It's always fun to review a brand-spankin'-new figure at Christmas time. I believe both Mattel's Bruno Sammartino and "NWA" Dusty Rhodes figures fall into this category as far as their features on this blog. After all, what's more fun to receive for Christmas than a wrestling figure? Forget those new video game systems, diamond rings or even cars! No gift cards, Nut-of-the-Month club or even fruit cake will satisfy you. You want a rassler. Who better to follow in the footsteps of Bruno and Dusty than The Hulkster himself?

Initially Mattel said that we wouldn't see any of the new Hulk Hogan figures before 2021, but indeed we have. Last month saw the release of The Hulkster in the Masters of the WWE Universe line and here we have his return to the standard WWE line. But this isn't any ordinary figure. It's an "Ultimate Edition" figure. What does that mean? The prices are higher, the articulation is greater, and there may be a few more accessories and parts than your standard Elite. Oh yeah, and you get moveable toes. Sounds fun to me!

While there were other Hulk Hogan figures done by Mattel, a "Hollywood" or nWo version was not yet produced before his departure from WWE in 2015. While I'd have chosen the famous "red and yellow" look for his return to the line regardless of what has already been produced, I'll go Hollywood! The packaging is a large window box which honestly displays more of the parts and accessories than the actual figure. While the packaging is designed to be impressive, I just can't see wanting to keep these in the package. The parts and accessories are useless just to look at. A friend of mine who collects solely for the purpose of autographs have shunned this line completely. For those of us who like to p...uhh..."pose," there are a ton of possibilities. 

In the box with Hulk you get three interchangeable heads (smiling, yelling and pouty), bandana, tearing nWo t-shirt, weight belt, "spray-painted" nWo "big gold" belt, black and white boa, weight belt, sunglasses, and a pair of fists. That is a lot of accessories and definitely more than you would get with a single Elite. I'm kind of surprised to not see another set of hands (pointing?) and the cross chain, but we're still getting a lot. The shirt is soft goods so it looks great and "tears" in the front. The belts are well-made as usual with Mattel and stay on. The boa we've seen plenty of, but never before in these colors. Finally, the bandana is removable and works on any of the heads. That is a must.

I wasn't sure how I initially felt about the facial likeness based upon photos that I'd seen. In person I'm more than satisfied. I won't say that it's dead-on like some other recent releases as if the person is standing there in front of me, but it's very good. There are some great details all around on the figure, but the boots really stick out to me as a highlight. The paint applications on everything are pretty good this time on both the figure and the accessories. With the recent trend towards non-"vac" belts with the authentic shine, I'm glad that they went traditional here even if it's a belt we've had before.

This is the first Mattel figure to feature the "butterfly" articulation on the shoulders. While it doesn't offer really all that much more movement, it doesn't bother me as it seems to other collectors. I've come a long way from when I hated the "torso joint." We all change and adapt in life and collecting is no different. You can really make some great poses with this figure and can hear Hulk spread his nWo venom just by looking at him. I really love gloved figures and being able to switch between the fists and clenching hands really helps when setting different scenes.

I'm sure that we will see more "Hollywood" Hogan figures down the line. He had many different designs during this time period which are all available to explore. It is also being reported that a "red and yellow" Hulkster is coming in the Ultimate Edition line. To grab this one, you will probably have to order it online. As we know that's now the easiest way to obtain any wrestling figure, although there have been reports of the Ultimate Edition line returning to Target stores nationwide.

Either way, The Hulkster is back, brother!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

"I Have Returned!"--Paul Ellering

Thirty-five years is a long time. I barely remember that many years ago. Although I remember a few things, I can't say that I remember the Remco AWA figure line that far back. If I did I'd remember the debut of "Precious" Paul Ellering as an action figure. Despite stints in the top wrestling promotions of the world, it's taken that amount of time for the legendary manager to see another figure. But two heads are better than one. Taking that into consideration, in a way we now have three individual looks of Mr. Ellering immortalized in plastic. Enter the latest Mattel WWE Build-A-Figure series.

Each year Mattel introduces several series of figures under the WrestleMania banner. There are usually Elites, Basics, and some multipacks. The packaging of these figures usually features the upcoming WrestleMania logo. Probably due to the uncertainty of the theming and just exactly how WrestleMania will go down in 2021, for the Mania-branded figures this year we get a variation on the classic logo of yesteryear. Similar to last year, the Elite offerings include a new "Build-A-Figure" designed to get you to "Collect 'em All." Who is it? You guessed it. Paul Ellering. But instead of just classic Road Warriors-era Ellering, we also get his more modern look which was originally slated to be released in the now-defunct NXT line. Works for me!

The four wrestlers needed this year to build the fifth figure are Goldberg, Edge, Shawn Michaels and Chyna in what is only her second Mattel appearance. Each figure includes a different piece to build Ellering, and Chyna also includes the "dummy" mascot of the Legion of Doom, the infamous Rocco. Unlike last year where an unnecessary set of extra hands came with one of the figures, for Ellering you will need to pick up all four figures to complete the Wall Street Journal-reading manager.

The packaging is in the same shape as other recent Elite releases, but the color scheme makes it a lot more appealing to me, as does the logo. The Ellering parts are well hidden in most cases, but you can still see them if you look close enough. I don't see them being an issue for carded collectors or those looking to get three of the four (only, sadly) signed. That "authentic" logo that's beginning to plague the regular Elite releases isn't here and the hologram is on the back. The "True FX" logo has made its way back down onto the bubble. Couldn't it have stayed away?

The lineup is a bit surprising. Seeing as that Chyna has only had an online release in a two-pack, I'm rather surprised to see her debut in a line like this. It's a pleasant surprise, though, as this is the Chyna release that I personally wanted. Edge is a unique look that to my knowledge hasn't been done before. Shawn Michaels has been partially made in this look, but I don't recall the entrance gear being available before. Goldberg is Goldberg and we'll get to that in a bit. What ties the four together is that these are all looks that the star was seen in at a past WrestleMania. This isn't Ellering's WrestleMania VIII look, but he's the bonus.

Speaking of Ellering, let's tackle him first. The prototype showed the figure with an open coat. The latest word is that there will be a running change and that the original look will be available. It's sort of hard to see the torso in the packaging, so who knows how easy this will be to find if it comes to pass. I'm fine with the closed jacket. The heads here are amazing, though the modern one is mind blowing and in the category of "scary good" along with the Survivor Series Jeff Hardy figure from a few years ago. I had no issue getting the parts to stick, though a friend of mine had an issue with one arm as I did with JJ Dillon and Mean Gene. Rocco in toy form is an absolute kick. If you aren't over the hate by now, it's long beyond time for you to be. He easily ranks among my favorite Mattel accessories right alongside Mine and the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy. Sunglasses and a rolled newspaper would've been nice, but those can be replicated. Rocco is unique.

I have the least to say about Shawn Michaels and Chyna. The Heartbreak Kid is usually a character that I only get in sets like this, for example his Commissioner Build-A-Figure and his release with The Heartbreak Hotel set. His figures from this era never miss as far as looks. Mattel gets all the little nuances and details down pat. Even as someone who isn't his biggest fan, I do appreciate the figures. Chyna is just as I would've imagined. It burns me to say that this version is better than Jakks (which I'm proud to have personally autographed), but it's been nearly two decades since the latter release. Times change as do figure making techniques. 

Goldberg is a disappointment. I do believe that it was said that "Oldberg" (simply an easy way to describe the era of the figure, nothing more) wouldn't be done as an Elite again after his inclusion with the Raw ring, though no one could've predicted that he would have come back for yet another run or two. I happened to pick up that ring in a spectacular deal on Amazon awhile back, so I can provide a comparison. While the body is relatively the same, the scans literally look like two different people. The winner? The Raw ring figure by a mile. But if you passed on the ring, here you go. The blue WWE Universal championship which is included will be a draw.

My sleeper favorite here is none other than Edge. The wrestler himself has actually been mentioned very few times here on the blog, as he was never one of my favorites. I've enjoyed smatterings of him here and there, but I've definitely never been an "Edgehead." I've seen some criticisms of this figure, but it honestly blows me away. I think if Edge had worn this attire all of the time he may have been higher on my list. It makes him look like a tough guy. The beige bat (finally!) accessory greatly helps. It's also fun that this figure is a "sequel" of sorts to last years Build-A-Figure set, as the Mick Foley from that series was Edge's opponent in the match reflected with this figure.

Highest marks for this set across the board. While a few of the figures wouldn't have been my top choices, we have a look that I wanted (Chyna), a look that I wasn't aware I wanted until it was in my hand (Edge), and a Build-A-Figure of a character (and accessory) that I never imagined would see the light of day. The series should be hitting stores in early 2021, but you can order them in time for holiday gift-giving, even already at sale pricing if you're lucky.

Alright Mattel, let's get the rights to Hawk and Animal back and we're in business. What a rush!

Monday, December 7, 2020

The Wrestling Classic Figure Review--Mattel WWE Elite Pat Patterson

We've all had a lot of thought and reflection regarding Pat Patterson since his passing last week. In compiling last week's tribute here on the blog, it came to me that his figure was never reviewed here. This is the only Pat Patterson action figure to be released over the course of his entire career. While it did get a mention and photo in the 2019 "Figure of the Year" entry, the figure was not reviewed on its own. While I do remember one of the reasons why this was so, it's a dishonor to a fun figure and a man who certainly deserved the sort of immortalization that being made into an action figure provides.

The Pat Patterson figure was one of the first released as part of Mattel's "Collector's Edition" program. This is where a figure is randomly packed in cases of a full Elite Series, but isn't really considered as being part of that series. Some are exclusive to Wal Mart, others to Target, and some have even shown up at both retailers. Thankfully over the past year Ringside Collectibles has been able to stock many of these and have them shipped to collectors at the same time as the rest of the corresponding Elite set. Despite availability getting a bit better, it's a shame that it has to be happen at all. If it's such a great thing, make an alternate version of some character we've seen dozens of times. Don't punish the longtime collectors who want as many "new faces" as they can get.

The aforementioned "Collector's Edition" designation is indeed why this figure has not been reviewed here before. It wasn't too long after its release that secondary market prices went down on the figure thus enabling us average joe collectors to add this legend to our collections. You'll note that the packaging does indicate the figure being part of this program. It's also worth pointing out that this "retro" review once again displays the style of Mattel Elite packaging that I enjoyed so much. The simply rectangular design lasted for a couple of years but is much missed. It showcased the figure better than any packaging that Mattel has done in their years with the license.

Some fans were put off that, upon first glance, "Corporate Stooge" Pat Patterson is the figure that we received. This is the look that I'm sure Mattel felt would sell best, but when you can't find the figure to begin with why does that matter? A simple removal of the pants and the very cool "First Intercontinental Champion" t-shirt reveals Patterson in his full wrestling gear, knee pads and all. The head sculpt is actually sort of somewhere in between younger and older Pat. An alternate head, much more reminiscent of the "stooge" era, was originally planned but ultimately not included. I really feel that Mattel tried their best to satisfy everyone with this figure. A few months later, fellow "stooge" Jerry Brisco was released the same way, though the hair having gray temples sort of ruled out imagining that figure as a younger version. It should be noted that while their Patterson was never released, Jakks did provide us a great younger Jerry Brisco in the fabled Classic Superstars line along with legendary brother Jack.

Aside from the removable clothing and alternate hands, a riot gear helmet is included with Pat and Jerry alike. This is also from the Attitude Era and I don't think I've ever put the helmets on either my Patterson or Brisco figures. If they had truly wanted to show off the versatility of the figure, one of Pat's ring jackets from the '70s would've been ideal. Sadly, a Patterson-era Intercontinental Championship belt is still off the table. There is a lot of confusion over the rights to the designs of those belts from that era. Those belts were made in trophy shops from already existing parts. Even if records were kept as to where they were made, would there truly be a case over "rights?" I feel it's more a case of "just in case someone ever does step forward, we're steering clear" instead of someone actually being able to claim those rights, but what do I know?

The prices on this figure, even in the days following Patterson's death, have stayed relatively affordable. I doubt that we'll see another Patterson or Brisco in the line, so if you want these two bona fide legends in your Mattel mix, these are the ones to grab. Both would honestly make great custom fodder for other wrestlers of the era, should that be your scene. Echoing last week's blog entry, I will again say that I'm glad that Pat was able to see his figure released. It's a true honor for anyone and I do feel that Pat was one of the lesser celebrated stars who deserved far more kudos for his endless contributions to the business.

I leave you with three instructions: Buy the figure. Open the figure. Go banana!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Pat Patterson: He Did It His Way

We've lost another legendary professional wrestler. We've lost a pioneering athlete. We've lost the creator of the Royal Rumble. We've lost the mind behind some of the greatest wrestling matches and stories ever played out. We've lost a man who always seemed to enjoy life. Pat Patterson has passed away.

This one hurt. 79 years is a long time for a wrestler to live, as sad as that statement is. Still, perhaps because of how well Patterson seemed to be able to detach himself from the wrestling life when he needed to, I expected that he would be around a lot longer. One of the most touching things from Legends House was not the big "reveal" that we all knew anyway. Instead it was to see how Patterson illustrated that as much as he loved the wrestling business, he knew when to pull back. He knew when to decompress and go back to being "Pierre Clermont," his given name. This was further explored in his autobiography released several years ago.

When discussing Mr. Patterson's death, a friend of mine recounted a story that I honestly didn't remember. He stated that when Patterson entered the room on the first occasion on which I had a chance to meet him, I led everyone in that room in a standing ovation. While I don't remember that exactly, I do believe it. I, like many others, had a great respect for the man. He thrived in so many facets of the business that we all love. Talk about someone responsible for great moments in our lives. How much joy have you gotten from the Royal Rumbles over the years? How about so many of those classic WrestleMania main events? And for those of you who were there for the classic Patterson-Ray Stevens tag team years, I envy you.

In addition to being involved in all corners of the wrestling business, he was also a master at both the serious and more comedic sides of the squared circle itself. While he could battle it out with the best of them in blood and guts battles such as his famous "Alley Fight" with Sgt. Slaughter, he also knew how to find the humor in it all. The names "Brisco and Patterson" would bring a smile to the face of almost anyone who was watching wrestling during "The Attitude Era."

Patterson released his aforementioned autobiography after a career of magazine and program covers, photos, and even trading cards. His heyday as a wrestler came just a bit before the big merchandising boom, but in one of the greatest moves that the company has made, Mattel finally released the first Pat Patterson action figure in 2019. Clad in attire reminiscent of his days as a "stooge" of Mr. McMahon, underneath was the classic Pat Patterson wrestling gear. I'm glad that the legend was able to see himself immortalized in plastic. It was a long time coming.

One of the best moments of Legends House is when Pat gets to croon his favorite karaoke tune, "My Way." We all had heard of Patterson's love for the song but it had never been documented. Thanks to the show we now have it captured for eternity. Thanks to you, Mr. Patterson, some of our own "ways" were all the brighter thanks to the entertainment you created. You will not be forgotten.

Pat Patterson


Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Hulkster Returns To Mattel...By Way Of Eternia

I had several favorite action figure lines as a child. G.I. Joe, Star Wars, and Masters of the Universe. The latter, like many children, I referred to simply as "He-Man." I had quite a collection, but a little over a decade ago, in the interests of space and my wrestling collection, I sold the classic characters off to collectors who could give them the attention that they deserved. Because of this, I wasn't sure that I wanted to dive in when Mattel announced a figure line combining MOTU and WWE. While it's something a lot of us dreamed of decades ago, I didn't want it to make me regret my decision of years earlier. Combined with the fact that the line is a Wal Mart exclusive, a store that I rarely get to these days, my decision not to collect was cemented.

On a rare trip to the retailer this past summer, I found the "Masters of the WWE Universe" version of "Macho Man" Randy Savage. I was sold. And while I haven't really been able to collect much of the line since, when pre-orders for the "Rattlesnake Mountain Ring" became available I had to pull the trigger. No, I don't have much interest in "The Rattlesnake" himself. Between the overload of Stone Cold Steve Austin figures already and my general lack of nostalgia for the Attitude Era, I really didn't feel the need for another in this form. But for what ended up being Hulk Hogan's return to the Mattel line in this most unique situation? Sold.

There was already a ring in the line based on Castle Grayskull. This one greatly resembles Snake Mountain, the menacing purple lair of Skeletor. I received the original Snake Mountain playset for my birthday in 1987. I can't say that I had the same excitement here, but a few of the elements are a great throwback to that legendary toy. The snakes on the ring posts represent the large snake that swung from the top of Snake Mountain. The "ring steps" here are reminiscent of the treacherous bridge that connected the two sides. The purple rock base of the ring looks like the general foundation. For whatever reason the ringposts on mine don't "snap" into the base. I don't want to push them further and risk snapping them in permanently. I am wondering if this was done on purpose seeing as how hard this thing would be to store with the snakes always jutting out.

The ring comes needing assembly and this is where two issues arose. The first is that the turnpost snakes are not removable. They should be. The inability to remove them limits play value. As the ropes come tied tightly around one of the posts, you initially have to stretch one all the way around one of the snakes. As these are the plastic/vinyl ropes used in the War Games playset, there's a great feel that this rope will break as it's stretched over the snake. Can you imagine the rope breaking right out of the box? I don't normally apply mat stickers, but seeing as that this is a complete fantasy ring, I did it. It should also be noted that there is no "spring bounce" to the mat like most Mattel "basic" rings.

My true reason for buying this was, of course, Hulk Hogan. Seeing as that the first hints of the "Ultimate Edition" Hollywood Hogan figure shipping were just beginning to hit as of press time, this is indeed the first Mattel-produced Hulk Hogan figure to be released in five years. With many of these Masters of the WWE Universe figures, the fantasy gear and weapons can be removed to reveal an almost Remco AWA-like wrestling figure underneath. This is 100% true for Hogan. It's a nice looking version of The Hulkster. Stone Cold is a good basic version of The Rattlesnake also, though there is a "scaly" design on his tights that obviously wasn't ever there.

The figures are fun with their accessories on, as well. Austin's "snakes" that attach to his arms have moving jaws and remind of the classic MOTU character Rattlor. Hogan has attire that isn't far off from his wresting gear. His ax reminds me of He-Man's from all those years ago. His helmet may be the closest that we ever get to a figure of The Hulkster wearing his infamous "War Bonnet" briefly used in 1988. Why couldn't a fist have been added to the front to complete the look? The equipment is all easily removable for anyone who just wants the figures as wrestlers.

While the first Masters of the WWE Universe ring came with characters who were also released on their own, there's no evidence so far that this will happen here. Perhaps a "Hollywood" version of Hogan seeing as that a black and white Randy Savage is being done. I could honestly see many of the rings showing up for sale when collectors buy the set solely for the figures. I, myself, wish it were a more customizable design. The ring can be used with the regular Mattel WWE line. In the age of "cinematic" matches, is it a stretch that some of the more hellacious wrestlers could brawl here? Perhaps a "Snake Pit" match overseen by a rather demonic figure himself, Jake "The Snake" Roberts? Lots of ideas.

All in all, my goal here was to get a figure representing a blend of He-Man and Hulk Hogan that we all knew would be fantastic. The inconvenience of collecting the line doesn't guarantee that I'll purchase any more,but how amazing is it that "The Mega Powers" can explode in Eternia now, too?

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Wrestling Classic Figure Review--Mattel WWE American Made Hulk Hogan

Hulkamaniacs worldwide got some great news in 2020: Hulk Hogan is back in the WWE figure universe. As of press time two Mattel figures are known to be on the way with more sure to be in the pipeline. Even Funko has already brought The Hulkster back to their widely popular Pop vinyl figure line. In thinking about the varieties of Hogan sure to be in the planning stages, there's one design that I'm fairly sure won't be returning. This version of Hulk already saw the light of day as an exclusive five years ago. Seeing as that I passed it up then, I decided to go for it now and see if it really did live up to the hype.

Hogan's availability window for Mattel was relatively brief when you consider the length of time that the line has gone on. Many classic and modern styles were left unreleased. It was roughly a year ago when my review of the Create-A-WWE-Superstar Hulk Hogan figure finally hit the blog. That figure is probably the closest we'll ever see Hogan in his guise of "Mr. America" in plastic form. Today's featured figure also deviates from Hogan's iconic red and yellow. It's the Ringside Collectibles "American Made" Hulk Hogan donning the patriotic blue and white.

The packaging is a colorful variation on that era's Elite box. A later era Hogan photo was artistically recreated to feature this figure's gear. The window is nice and wide with the figure posed to fill it. You'll note the lack of extra hands and heads floating about. For better or for worse this just wasn't part of Mattel's strategy then. It certainly appeals more to the carded/boxed collector that way. This could be an indicator that the older figure remain more desirable for those who don't open and/or prefer to collect signed. The Ringside Exclusive logo is obtrusive, but it no longer bothers me as much now that the company has proven to be the easiest way to obtain the Mattel WWE product.

The figure itself is a repaint of the Defining Moments Hogan released around the same time. It doesn't include the championship belt that was included there and the removable headband is a different style. For some reason this figure appears a bit more bowlegged than that one, and I'm not entirely sure why. It doesn't detract from the figure, however, and I think it may have been done to convey a sense of action which completely reflects The Hulkster.

Some may take issue with the "tear away" shirt as the cut in the front is unavoidable. It really boils down to whether Hogan, legendary for tearing his t-shirt, is able to do so in plastic form or not. I'm fine with it. I like the smaller headband included with this release. It being removable is a step-up from various other Hogan figures released before and after this one and should always be an included feature. He never wrestled a full match with the thing on. It is also the same headband which he wore on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1985. This is about the third release for the cross necklace which was also a big part of the Hogan character back then. It's rather easily taken off and put back on and looks to be just the right size.

With all of the Hogan looks yet to be made, I just can't see Mattel revisiting this look. The blue trunks have been done before in figure form, but I'm not sure they've been done better than right here. Unless you find someone who doesn't know what they have, you are going to pay more for this figure than it originally sold for five years ago. I will say that prices for it have gone done significantly since the announcement of Hogan's return to the line. I only regret not picking it up sooner.

We already know that we're finally getting Hollywood Hogan in the Mattel line, but how about "workout gear" Hulk that was shown as a prototype years ago? That's probably my personal choice for an alternate Hogan look. Seeing as that he wore a similar look to one of the WrestleMania III press conferences, I can think of no more unique a two-pack than that figure along with a street clothes Andre the Giant. I also think it's inevitable that we'll see an official release of "The Mega Powers" down the line, but how about a look that's never before been done. Possibly finally as some sort of exclusive? Two words:

War Bonnet. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Back To The '90s With The King

The new releases keep coming. I used to hate to do back-to-back entries of simply new figure reviews, but why not? Mattel has truly been pumping out the product and nothing going on in the world this year has seemingly caused much of an impact on it. I foresee the month of December being loaded with new product reviews, which as always will focus on the legends. Does it get more legendary than our star for this entry? The King is certainly near the top of the list, no matter what.

Jerry Lawler makes his fourth total appearance in the Mattel WWE line in the Elite 82 series. While there are other very worthy figures in the set, most notably the Elite debut of Keith Lee, for this series I decided just to review "The King." After all, no one wants a Rob Gronkowski review. Regardless, this is the second Elite series to bear the new packaging gimmick of the "Certified Authentic" seal. I'm still unsure as to what we're certifying, but I noticed this time around that the colors are a vast improvement over the packaging revisions of a year ago. The red is much more understated which is somewhat pleasing to my eye. I have nothing against the color red, I just have never gravitated toward it as far as wrestling figure packaging. 

Also pleasing is that for once a "legend" or "flashback" figure is actually part of the series rather than a "Collector's Edition" meant to spur a "fun" chase for the toy. Well, no five dollar profit for the Cheeto-fingered neckbeard scalper this time, The King is part of the regular lineup along with Alexa Bliss, John Morrison, Finn Balor, and the aforementioned Lee and Gronkowski. Maybe this could be a trend? Maybe we could get a 50/50 ratio of legends to current stars? We can bargain, Mattel. As if you care. Again, it's not that I don't like a lot of the current stars, but with lines like "Top Picks" around to re-release figures that no one wants like Seth Rollins, that should leave plenty of room for the all-time greats.

For a legend who's had as many assorted colorful looks as The King has, most of those styles have remained unrepresented in the figure world. This latest figure features a look that's absolutely never been done before. It's a design that easily takes you back to the days when Jerry Lawler showing up on WWF television was absolutely shocking. For years The King of Memphis denounced the company and all it stood for, yet here he was. It appeared that Hell had frozen over until around six months later when Jim Cornette appeared on Monday Night Raw and things really got crazy as far as what we thought we knew about pro wrestling, but we're getting off-topic. The matter at hand is that we finally have Jerry Lawler as he appeared when he was simultaneously a heel commentator nationwide and a local hero in Memphis. The magazines had a ball with that one.

While the body is the same as previous Elite Lawler figures, everything else is new. We've got a newly sculpted crown and a beautiful soft-goods cape. Honestly, this cape shows the fine effort that does go into the design and production of a lot of these figures. As much grief as myself and other collectors give Mattel for their often asinine practices, figures like this one, Superstar Billy Graham, WALTER, and other releases this year more than make up for it. A lot of companies would not have paid the elbow pad the attention that it deserved by including the regal detail on it, but there it is.

The facial likeness is new as well and is the first of Lawler to be done in the "True FX" style. While it does look good from multiple angles, there is something just a tad off when looking at the figure dead in the eyes. The look they were going for was Lawler's "unimpressed" expression that he shot so many times both in the ring and in promos, but it came off as looking somewhat tired. Still, it should be noted that all four Mattel Jerry Lawler figures have had different head sculpts. There's really something to be said about that and just as with the design on the costume it's much appreciated.

In another year this would be a top Figure of the Year candidate. With so many other options I'm not sure that it quite makes the cut, but it is still a great figure that any fan of Lawler or the classics absolutely needs. The King seems to pop up in the Mattel line every few years just like Dusty Rhodes. Both men also have a plethora of looks to choose from. But can you easily find any of their past figures now? Exactly. Grab it when you see it or order it when you have the chance, which is always a great rule of thumb when it comes to the Mattel WWE line. There isn't time to dawdle.

The next entry hits on Turkey Day! It's an American made topic for a real American holiday. Ironically, it's an item that I dawdled on for years but finally decided to go for. After you check in with us on your favorite gut-busting holiday, you may decide to take the plunge as well, brother.