Sunday, January 31, 2021

A New Kind of "Elite" Figure

It's been a long time here on the blog since I've reviewed a non-WWE product that wasn't a one-off or something of that nature. The big guys finally have viable competition here in North America and slowly but surely that is trickling into merchandising as well. While I've been cautiously partaking in all of the new goods myself, I figure that the first set that I fully purchased would make a good starting point in what I'm sure will not be the last All Elite Wrestling figure appearance here on the blog.

Personally I don't watch the product. Like WWE the presentation simply isn't what I look for, but like with the talent employed by "the other guys," I greatly respect and admire them. That being said, I had a load of fun at one of the early tapings in 2019 and that even made its way into that very blog. The only televised product of recent years that has fully captured me was NWA Powerrr. That, sadly, seems to be dead in the water no matter what we're told. Get a similar format with much of the WWE and AEW talent? I'd be there. So if you're asking why I still purchase figures of modern talent despite not watching the programming, there you go.

There are remnants of the Jakks WWE team within Jazwares, the company producing the AEW line, thus the similarity in the packaging. In fact, the resemblance to the Classic Superstars packaging does not end aesthetically. The boxes are just as annoying to open. That being said, all of the AEW figures that I've opened have had one huge advantage over the Mattel WWE product: no annoying ties, bands etc. As much as Mattel will tell you otherwise, these are NOT needed. These figures and accessories seem to stay in place just fine AND are difficult to get out as is.

As much as I admire the modern talent as noted above, I haven't felt as motivated to get "one of everyone" with the AEW figures as I do with WWE. For Series 2 I either wanted each figure or an accessory, thus ordering the set was easier. The lineup includes Dustin Rhodes, "Hangman" Adam Page, MJF, The Lucha Bros (Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix), and Jon Moxley. 

Moxley is my least favorite of the bunch. The figure is inexplicably very tall. He's also just never been a character who's interested me. Add that to comments that he made during his WWE career about it being "weird" to be immortalized in an action figure just wraps it up for me as far as not caring about him. Still the figure serves a purpose as an easy way to get your hands on the AEW Championship belt. Coming in behind Moxley at the bottom of my list is MJF. He simply comes off like a poor man's version of The Miz. The figure does include a cool soft goods scarf and an AEW microphone. The latter has an oddly made thin handle and it's surprising that the figure did not come with an alternate "wrestling" hand for use when not holding rhe mic. Because the handle is so thin, no one else can really hold the mic.

The Lucha Bros are fun with Pentagon Jr. being the sleeper of the entire set, in my opinion. His outfit is perfectly done as are the details to the mask. An alternate hand is included when not using the "posed" hand. Rey Fenix is a solid figure, as well, but sort of suffers when next to his partner due to the Pentagon figure being so much more visually impressive. Lucha Bros vs Lucha House Party? A match made in lucha figure Heaven.

Topping my own list for this series are Dustin Rhodes and Adam Page. This is really only the second action figure in nearly thirty years to be marketed under the name "Dustin Rhodes." He's very tall, as Dustin is, though I'm not sure that he isn't a tad too tall here. The likeness is great and I have full confidence that once Jazwares branches out into legends figures that we will receive a proper "classic" figure of "The Natural." (Tony Schiavone, too, while I'm making requests) Page is the type of figure that will make me a fan of the wrestler because of how cool he is in plastic. The head pops off to easily remove the bandana and an alternate hand is again included here. Page is likely going to be one of the top AEW stars going forward and there is already another figure for him in the pipeline.

Overall, the AEW line is faring quite well. They're impossible to find in stores (even with Target beginning to stock the line) and sell out fast online as well. The company seems keen on pumping out as much product as possible, but seemingly due to folks at the top there is still a weird obsession on making "limited" figures which do nothing but upset collectors and kill toy lines in the long run. Also, while I've not had any issues yet, I do have concerns about how well the materials used will hold up. Occasionally one will feel a bit breakable while posing. Hopefully this and scale concerns can be addressed in the future.

As always, the way to go is ordering. With popular characters like Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy coming soon, it's the only way to go. The question now is, which wrestling figures are truly...Elite?

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Wrestling MarketWatch: Royal Rumble Revisited

Thirty participants. One ring. One winner. The legendary Royal Rumble. The brainchild of the late, great Pat Patterson is once again upon us. Even in the modern era where a lot of the charm of wrestling is gone, the Rumble still brings excitement and enjoyment to countless fans around the world. Three years ago this month we featured Rumble memorabilia in our recurring MarketWatch feature. In this entry we revisit those same five items. Have the prices soared their way to WrestleMania levels or have they plummeted lower than Brawl For All? It's time to find out. As always, prices are for unsigned examples unless otherwise indicated.

*Kicking it off is the program from the first Royal Rumble presented on pay-per-view in 1989. The first televised Rumble was one year earlier and aired on the USA Network. '89 featured the Rumble match itself, a (not very) Super Posedown between The Ultimate Warrior and Ravishing Rick Rude, a six-man tag, a WWF Women's Championship match, and a "King's Crown" match pitting Heenan Family members Haku and Harley Race against each other. It's a solid show even if the Rumble match itself sort of falls flat at one point. The program recently sold for $40 which is $5 more than in 2018.

*There have been several figures and toys with a Royal Rumble theme. In 2002 Jakks released a series of figures featuring stars and looks from that years event. It was a fun set including Ric Flair and Tazz among others. One of the highlights was referee Earl Hebner. Mattel could take a lesson with more referees in their line. The figures were in bright packaging echoing the colors of the 2002 Rumble. In 2018 the famous referee, with picture of twin brother Dave on the box, sold for $26. Recently the price dropped to $18.

*One of the nicest looking DVD sets that WWE has put out was that of the Royal Rumble. Including the events from 1988 to 2007, the master set was later sold individually in collections of four. With the larger outer box and some collectible extras, the big one is still the one to have. It may require some real estate on your shelf, but you'll be thankful the next time that you suddenly can't stream WWE Network. In 2018 the set was selling for $100. Despite the rise in streaming, the set has appreciated with it recently selling on average of $120.

*The arena-only WWF programs are among the rarest. Several Royal Rumble publications can be included in this group including 1995. The oversized program is bright, bold, and has a Floridian theme just as the event itself did. Even though the Rumble match had a surprise appearance from the legendary Dick Murdoch, it's still one of my least favorites from the first ten years of the Rumble. Either more copies have surfaced or the demand has just simply gone down as selling prices have dropped from $100 to $40.

*A holy grail for many collectors is the Hasbro Royal Rumble Mini Ring. It's been featured here on the blog many times as I've been a proud owner since Christmas 1992. A Royal Rumble ring scaled for the standard Hasbro WWF line would've been a blast, but this is what we received. Including Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, Sgt. Slaughter, Big Boss Man, and Jake Roberts, some of the best mini figures were only available here. Thankfully for collectors it does appear often. Just as in 2018 it sells for on average of $350.

It will certainly be a different event this year, but the Rumble MUST go on...I declare!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Return To Piper's Pit

Every so often you have to splurge on something that you normally wouldn't. "Frivolous" is my middle name, but there are some purchases that, after 35 years of collecting, I just see as normal. Others, like what we're about to look at here, are out of the ordinary. They're things that strike my eye and, while I know that the money could be put to more productive uses, I just can't pass them up. It was also a chance to return to Piper's Pit.

Although it doesn't seem to have been advertised with much fanfare, WWE opened a new branch of their online store at some point in 2020 with WWE Legends Shop. From their perspective it is the only place to purchase merchandise of your favorite (contracted) Superstars from the past. All the usual suspects are represented with a smattering of surprises, though the bulk of the merchandise surrounds the bigger stars. You and I both know that there is a huge untapped market for underrepresented legends, but WWE is just never going to see it that way. That being said, an item finally popped up to pique my interest and open my wallet.

There have been several "Collector's Boxes" released thus far. The ones that I know of have featured Macho Man Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, Eddy Guerrero, The Undertaker and Paul Bearer, and Bray Wyatt. Each have contained a variety of novelties such as shirts and other commemorative items, but the one piece that has gotten some talk swirling around each box is a "mini PVC figure." These figures are unabashedly based on the other small figures from several subscription-based wrestling boxes that are currently on the market, most notably Micro Brawlers and Pint Size All Stars. These, in turn, are an indirect rip-off of Funko Mystery Minis. They can deny it, but it's true.

While I had passed on the other boxes thus far, the latest featuring Rowdy Roddy Piper intrigued me. Not only was Hot Rod one of my top five favorite wrestlers of all-time, but there were several cool items included. Even with the high price tag (over $60 after shipping), I decided that it was time to pay the Piper.

WWE recognizes that the box itself is a draw (we'll get to that) and therefore packages it in a separate shipping box which anyone ordering should greatly appreciate. Inside we see individually bagged (and hologrammed) items celebrating Hot Rod including a t-shirt, an art print, sunglasses, a coconut cup, a drawstring bag containing a metal belt buckle, a pin, the PVC figure, and cardboard cutouts. The latter are to pose inside of the box, as when positioned upright it is actually a very close replica of the original Piper's Pit set. It is so close in fact that many figure collectors are purchasing the box for use with Mattel or Jakks figures. It's that good.

The shirt is in the look of the classic "Hot Rod" tee with the logo replaced with the 1989/1990 studio shot of Piper and a selection of classic quotes from the man himself. The art print is nice but probably the least favorite of mine among the items as I don't generally go for those. The belt buckle and bag are cool, too, and will at least look nice on display, as will the sunglasses. I really like the coconut cup even if the sticker was applied a bit crooked. This is the item that actually makes me a bit sad as I could easily have seen myself taking it to an appearance for use in a photo op and to be signed.

Many of you are waiting to hear about the Micro Braw...I mean...PVC mini figure. It's a great looking figure and, like the pin, really bring back memories of Piper's look in the Rock 'n Wrestling cartoon. In fact, especially with the pin, I'm sure that's the look that they were going for. It should be noted that the figure is just ever so slightly bigger than the other crate company-produced wrestling mini figures. I'm sure he'd fit right in with them, but there is a size difference that I must mention. I have not seen any of the other WWE produced figures in person to say if they're all that way.

Overall, I really feel as if I've gotten what I paid for. You can easily piece everything out to justify the cost. Would many prefer that you could buy the mini fig separately? Of course, but it's not going to happen, at least at this point. WWE seems to be proudly limiting these boxes to 750 each. If you're like me, you pick and choose. If a Dusty Rhodes box is done in the future, I'm there. For others I would have to justify it based on the other items. Here there was definitely enough for me to warrant a purchase. The one time that I purchased one of the non-WWE branded boxes, I did not feel as if I got my money's worth at all and had a lot of trouble selling the items off. I will also say that I've had zero good customer service experiences with either of those companies. Meanwhile, WWE Legends Shop kept me posted at every turn. You all know that I'm no WWE shill. I simply give credit where it's due and damn those who have gone in the other direction.

Remember, you do not throw rocks at a man holding a machine gun.