Thursday, October 28, 2021

Bull Naka-naka-naka-nakano

Don't even lie to me. You've had that in your head for twenty-seven years just like I have. Thanks, Macho Man. You've also wanted this action figure for that amount of time or perhaps even longer if you're a longtime devotee of Japanese women's wrestling or joshi. Hasbro ignored female wrestlers (and basically anyone in the WWF at the time other than male wrestlers) and Bull has never been part of any domestic legends series. Although there were some toys released in Japan that didn't truly fit into any actual figure series, thanks to Chella Toys we finally have Bull Nakano as part of their "Wrestling Megastars" line.

You may recall my review of The Blue Meanie from this line earlier in the year. Each figure is a tribute to the aforementioned Hasbro WWF line and thus far has been much truer to that series than the Mattel WWE Retro figures were just a few years ago. As you can tell by a line featuring both The Meanie and The Bull, there are seemingly no rules as to who all can be included. Between Nick Aldis and Hayabusa already being produced and with such names as The Dynamite Kid, The bWo and British legends "Big Daddy" Shirley Crabtree and Giant Haystacks on the way, it's quite the mix.

One thing that I love about this line is the packaging. The card stock is on point with Hasbro and even without any semblance of a WWF/WWE logo in sight, it's still closer to the originals than anything Mattel did. This isn't a bash Mattel fest. There were some great figures in that line. They simply failed a lot more than they should have and it's both amazing and refreshing that these smaller companies are getting it right.

The thing that is very noticeable even while the figure is carded is that Bull is rather small. The official explanation is that the women wrestlers are smaller. It's not a deal breaker for me, but seeing as that Hasbro's were never really about scale, I'd have her preferred her to be a bit bigger. We'll see how this progresses as the line goes on as the second female figure has already been announced in the form of Luna Vachon. While Luna already has two figures, she's one that I would've gone absolutely bonkers for in the original Hasbro line. She deserved to be there with Bam Bam Bigelow and will finally take her rightful place.

Bull is designed in the image of the Hasbro "suplex mechanism" figures that included such names as Mr. Perfect, Crush and Adam Bomb. The Wrestling Megastars do not have the mechanisms, but as far as I'm concerned they aren't exactly missed, either. This was a feature designed to attract children to the line. While many of us are children who never grew up, I can honestly say that even back then I rarely utilized the "Real Wrestling Action." That's why we kids never had an issue integrating the non-moveable Galoob WCW figures right in with the WWF Hasbros.

The likeness is good and her gear is perfectly captured. I would say that the skin tone is a tad too dark, but she still looks good. The face is just the balance needed between realism and a slight cartoonish flare. This is something that has to be difficult to do, as many of the other Hasbro tribute lines just can't seem to capture it.

At the price point that they are sold at, these retro lines aren't for everyone. If you are a fan of the Hasbro line and wish to extend your collection, this is a great opportunity to do so. My advice is to do as I do and pick and choose which ones you want. That way you have the exact collection that appeals to you. There are names coming from Chella as well as the other companies making similar figures that I simply would never want in my collection, so why would I buy them? It should be noted that another Bull is also coming from Junk Shop Dog in their line continuing the Popy Japanese figures of the early '80s. I know I won't be able to resist that one, either, so expect her to show up here just as their excellent Bruiser Brody figure did.

The Bull is running wild!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Move Over "Bullseye," There's A New Dog At Target!

The two earliest wrestling names that I recall uttering (thanks to the magic of '80s Memorex cassette tapes) are King Kong Bundy and The Junkyard Dog. I still remember my family purchasing the LJN Stretch Wrestler JYD for a relative for Christmas 1987. As my mother was wrapping it, I asked if we could slide him out (the boxes were not taped) so that I could pull the chain. Pull it, I did! Knowing that relative, that figure is probably long gone (sadly even the Bundy and Hogan that I owned are, too) but Target is giving us all another chance to yank that silver chain and grab them cakes, too.

Target's exclusive WWE Legends Series 12 is another wave that's causing both excitement and frustration for collectors all over. I won't go into the distribution issues this time. I've done enough of that this year already. Plus, I have to say that I was personally pleasantly surprised as far as the chase figure in the wave goes. The lineup consists of Rowdy Roddy Piper, Kevin Nash, Billy Gunn and our man of the hour, The Junkyard Dog. The JYD also happens to be the chase figure for this set, with the version in blue tights said to be the chase as opposed to the more common red.

This is actually the first time that JYD has seen a figure release in blue. Both LJN and Jakks produced him in red while Jakks and Mattel have given us The Dog in his white design which is probably his most famous style. The blue is actually one of his lesser-used looks, so if we must have a chase it's the best version to set as such.

The pre-orders for the set were manic as usual. Those of us lucky enough to have folks in their lives with separate Target accounts can try for two, as the figures are limited to one per person. I would never try for more than two, I simply want a fair shot at receiving both versions. With this figure, as well as Brutus Beefcake in a previous series, I lucked out and did in fact receive one of each. For Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase and Greg Valentine I had to resort to reasonable secondary deals while the Jake "The Snake" Roberts chase seemed to be as abundant in stores as the regular version was. Once released the figures do occasionally pop-up with Target online giving another opportunity for the chase. If that doesn't work out for me it gives me a chance to hook friends up with the basic versions as generally even those are hit or miss in stores. It's a silver lining on the black cloud of poor distribution.

With this version of JYD we get his classic collar and chain as well as King Harley Race's crown. Initially I thought that the former accessory was longer than the one from the first JYD Mattel release from years ago. It isn't, though the links used are different. To me, the latter accessory just serves to anger collectors a bit. For one thing the company already re-used it with the RetroFest King Duggan figure. After all, it was his crown, too. However with the confirmation that Race is no longer signed for further figures to be made coupled with the frustrations and anger over the controversial release of his sole entry in the line, I don't think that we really need to revisit his accessories. Yes, JYD famously "stole" and put the crown on at WrestleMania III, but a much better accessory would've been a re-creation of that classic baby blue JYD t-shirt. Not to split hairs, but he was also wearing the white tights at Mania when he put the crown on. Well, at least it fits the figure snugly.

The only brand new part of the figure is the head. I'm not sure that it's better than the initial Mattel release, but it does have a totally different facial expression. It may have been fun to have bushier hair with this one. If they want to revisit JYD again down the line, it might not be a bad idea to re-release the white tights version with a thicker body. The Dog infamously bulked up as his years in the World Wrestling Federation moved along. Honestly, the legs could be a tad thicker too, though that's a common complaint with many figures in the Mattel line. 

Looking back on how big of a star The Junkyard Dog was and of course associating that with how much money he drew, in my opinion he would be the perfect candidate for a figure in the "Ultimate Edition" line. With Target having an upcoming separate line of Ultimate Edition Legends, why not add The Dog? Include the aforementioned shirt, a stockier body and multiple heads representing his various hairstyles. It would fly off of the shelves just like this figure is going to.

That being said, this is of course another one that you should grab immediately should you desire it. It isn't a Figure of the Year candidate, but it's damned cool. Both versions are a ton of fun and since there's never been a blue tights version released before, the chase is worth going out of your way for. As usual around this time of year, the figure reviews here on the blog will be coming in just a bit faster, including one reviewing a certain FOTY candidate, so keep an eye on all of the socials. You can also check out a shot of all three Mattel Elite JYD's on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, so follow the blog everywhere while you're at it!

And yes, I pulled both chains.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Will You Stop? -- Remembering Gorilla

This past week marked twenty-two years since the passing of Robert Marella, better known to millions as Gorilla Monsoon. Though I may have still been publishing my newsletter back in 1999, I generally stuck to wrestling merchandise. This blog was a decade away from being created. That being said, I never had the chance to properly convey my feelings on the life and death of one of my favorite wrestling personalities of all-time. While many wrestling deaths have happened since, many with men and women passing at a younger age than Mr. Monsoon, none have hit me harder.

While my parents grew up with Gorilla the wrestler, I grew up with Gorilla the announcer. One of the voices of the World Wrestling Federation. Almost the voice of reason in the crazy, wacky world of the WWF. While Mean Gene was the pitchman who hyped you up, Gorilla reassured you. When he told you that the world was watching WrestleMania IV, you believed it. When he said that the "SRO" signs went up early for a particular event, why would you even doubt him? He was an honest voice in a world that was built upon blurring reality. And while sometimes he would stretch the truth just a bit ("This match would be a main event in any arena in the world."), he always came back around.

You might even say that Gorilla was the king of the soft sell. Of course his words were meant to get you to come to the next event or purchase that upcoming pay-per-view, but were you ever annoyed or offended by the pitch like when suffering through the announcers of today? Highly unlikely! Another key was light-hearted banter. While it seemingly has no place in today's world, just tune into one of the classic WWF MSG or Boston Garden shows where Gorilla is teamed with Lord Alfred Hayes, Ken Resnick or even Hillbilly Jim. It wasn't all about cramming every second of airtime with the latest Twitter trend. Instead Gorilla and crew would comment on the location, a fan or two, even the food at the arena. It was fun, almost the kind of commentary that you'd hear between pitches on a baseball broadcast. The kind of fun that's been missing from wrestling longer than Mr. Monsoon has been.

And of course, Gorilla had two legendary foils in the broadcast booth, those being Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Jesse "The Body" Ventura. While Gorilla and Bobby are absolutely classic, especially on Prime Time Wrestling and the 1992 Royal Rumble, I actually preferred the Monsoon-Ventura team. Though they did do some regular television broadcasts early on, it got to the point that they were saved for special occasions. The mixture of banter and comradery between the two had a quality that, in my opinion, has never quite been duplicated. I'm also not ashamed to say that after over thirty years of repeat viewings, I've memorized nearly every line of their ten pay-per-view broadcast team-ups. I'm sure that I'm not the only one.

Sadly, most Gorilla Monsoon merchandise was released posthumously. A glaring omission from the LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars line, three Gorilla Monsoon action figures have since been produced and are rightfully sought-after. There have been some cool trading cards released, but perhaps no t-shirt that I've worn in my entire life has yielded me more comments than one produced by WWE around five years ago. You guessed it. A bright blue tee featuring a stylized portrait of Gorilla in all of his jovial, affable glory. Even Mean Gene himself took note of me wearing it once before his passing. It was truly a happening.

With the way that the industry has changed it's hard to imagine that Mr. Monsoon would have much if anything to do with the wrestling of today. It would have been nice to have seen him reunite and make appearances with other legends at conventions and other events, but I have a feeling that more family time would have been most important of all to him. He was a real guy. A real man. We're just lucky that, through professional wrestling, the world got to know him. Forget just knowing him. We loved him.

Robert Marella

"Gorilla Monsoon"