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