Thursday, September 10, 2020

War Games: The Playset Beyond

Sometimes adults just need their toys. No, this isn't that kind of blog entry. If you're 30 or above there's a good chance that you've been yearning for a War Games playset for many years. It's something that many of us fashioned ourselves in various manners, but there's something about an official release after so many years that's ever so satisfying. Is it exactly what we've wanted since the '80s? Maybe not, but it's a helluva lot of fun and there's no way I was going to let this release go by without it being immortalized here on the blog.

Several years ago War Games: The Match Beyond finally came to WWE as part of NXT. Though the company ended up changing a few things from the original concept in order to adapt to the current style of wrestling, it was still great to see the match return after so many years. As I've stated many times, I don't watch today's product in any sort of regularity, but as an admirer of MANY of the current crop of talent I will often seek out and view individual matches to keep tabs on my favorites. Thanks to WWE Network, this is very easy to do and far more enjoyable than sitting through current full shows. The NXT War Games matches are among those that I have gone back to watch and I will say that most of them have very much honored the legacy of the classic concept.

Enter the toy. When it was announced I first feared that it may be a tad too gimmicky. Many of the rings and playsets that Mattel has produced have focused on "breakaway" pieces and other special features designed to appeal to the children who will be playing with them. This doesn't always carry over to the adult collector who is, ahem, using these things for display. Regardless, I just had to pre-order one. Although the set has apparently hit shelves outside of the United States, domestically the item seems to be a Ringside Collectibles exclusive. Seeing as that the set qualifies for free shipping, it really isn't too bad of a deal.

The box contains two rings, two cages (with six sides instead of eight as this is War Games), as well as two ladders, a table, and a chair. Those unfamiliar with the NXT version of War Games may be asking where the roof is. It has been done away with in the modern incarnation of "The Match Beyond." While I scoffed at this at first, it does lend itself to the current style of pro wrestling. Does it in any way take the roof away from all of the classic War Games matches? No it does not. Case closed. The included accessories have also found their way into the recent War Games matches, which justifies their presence.

The rings are both fully black. This is something that I love as, though the NXT has been released like this previously, it's a departure from the plain white mats. They're the Mattel spring rings which I've grown to greatly enjoy over the years. The ropes are unlike any I've ever encountered in a toy ring over the past thirty-five years. They seem to be the same stretchy material as other ropes, just without the fabric feel. They look good and again are something different. We'll see how well they hold up over time. The rings also have two plates that cover the gap between them. They're easily removable and replaceable should you not need them for a certain match.

One thing that you may notice from the accompanying photos is that I do not apply all of the stickers. There are more ring apron labels as well as turnbuckle and mat stickers. WWE branded rings have rarely had a logo smack dab in the middle of the mat, so I simply leave it off. The turnbuckle stickers tend to peel and fall off. As I like to photograph my figures and thus present wrestling in all eras, I go by the old adage that "less is more." Sure, the cages may not have roofs, but that didn't stop me from creating a fantasy classic War Games event the minute that I assembled the set. In something that isn't as evident in the photos, foot pegs on all of the corner posts have been added to the Mattel ring post mold to aid anyone from Road Warrior Hawk to Ricochet in their aerial feats. 

As mentioned above there are a few "breakaway" pieces in the cages as well as the door that enable you to toss someone through the fencing. I don't know that it's particularly realistic, but it's something that anyone could have some fun with. I positioned the breakaway pieces towards the back, but these are also the pieces which fold down so that you can reach into the cage for play. On the downside of the design, there are gaps between the cages on the sides. Perhaps my love of this thing is blinding me, but the gaps simply don't even come into play when I'm taking the thing in as a whole.

The cages clip or even slide easily onto the rings. There's nothing stopping you from using the vintage styled rings that Mattel has done instead of the NXT rings. How about a WWF vs WCW War Games match? Mattel has even done an ECW ring that could be used or of course the other various pay-per-view and TV program themed rings. The possibilities are endless.

I've sort of jokingly told a few select friends that they're going to be invited over to play with this. As old as we all are, I'm not ruling it out. This set is a ball. It should be pointed out that Mattel has also recently released a "Wrekkin'" ring and cage as a Target exclusive. The box was designed to match the motif of the Legends series of figures in an effort to get you to buy everything together on that rare Target run where you run into all of it. The promotional material for the set actually implores you to purchase two of the rings to create War Games. It's certainly possible, but I still prefer the official War Games set. It's what so many of us have wanted for so many years.

Enough talk. Choose your teams. Let's play.

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