Saturday, July 30, 2022

Just When You Thought The Legends Line Lost Its Way…

I may be in the minority, but I wasn’t too thrilled when D-X found their way into the Mattel WWE Legends line. Certainly they made their impact on the business in that era, but they just aren’t my cup of tea. There was a time when I was frantically pre-ordering every figure in this series that was announced, but that has dwindled in recent waves. With the announcements at San Diego Comic Con my love and utter amazement for the line is coming back. Paul E. Dangerously and The Samoan Swat Team? With variants as The Headshrinkers? Are you kidding me? The Dingo Warrior? Even WCW AJ Styles brought me the tingles. Deep dives are what we all love and Mattel is once again truly bringing Legends to the table. I will say that my most recent purchases may not be that deep and one is even slightly out of my preferred wheelhouse, but they’re FUN. And, I’ll go as far as to say that one is the definitive version of this particular legend. 

Mattel WWE Legends 15, exclusive to Target of course, consists of Lex Luger, Stacy Keibler, X-Pac and Kane. While I’m a fan of the latter two I just don’t need any more figures of either at the moment and I obviously would’ve preferred others in those two slots. Luger and Keibler are a different story. I’ll get into my enjoyment of the Luger figure in a bit, but Stacy might be considered an odd one for me. While she’s definitely not what most think of as a wrestling legend, she certainly made her mark on the business. Aside from always seeming like a sweetheart of a person, Stacy certainly had the look and charisma to leave a lasting impression. While she didn’t exactly change the business, I’d consider her a minor draw and was definitely a big part of the huge WWF/WWE Divas marketing push of two decades ago. 

One thing I will address early on is how easy it has become to collect these Legends waves, even the so-called chase figures. Ever since last years debacle of Brutus Beefcake and Diamond Dallas Page never making it to brick and mortar Target stores, the availability of all of these figures has taken a complete turn. It’s a wonderful thing. I’ve never been one to champion making anything out of reach for any collector. No one will deny that there is a certain thrill in having something that was limited, but I can’t think of a single figure in history that I would choose that status over it being readily available for everyone. Ultimately toys are meant to be played with. Every child, and adult, who wants these figures should have them. It’s just the way that it is. 

Kicking it off with Stacy Keibler who, due to the aforementioned “deep dives” recently taken by Mattel, I’m actually surprised isn’t labeled “Miss Hancock” on the package since that’s really the gimmick that this figure represents. The bio on the back does indeed mention the name, however, and I’d argue that her WCW run was a tad more memorable than her WWE days even if she had more exposure (no pun intended) in the latter. With Stacy you get two heads (alternate hair), her eyeglasses, alternate hands and Miss Hancock’s ubiquitous clip board. This figure actually gives me visions of what could be if Terri Runnels were signed to a WWE figure deal. After what we’ve gotten and what’s upcoming, I truly feel we’d see Alexandra York in figure form. But going back to Stacy, I do believe that this is only her fourth figure in history. I can only recall three previously made (by Jakks) and I did in fact purchase them all. The “wrestling gear” Stacy was pretty coveted at one point and Jakks always seemed to do a good job with her. For their first venture down Keibler Lane, Mattel is continuing that legacy. 

Flexy Lexy brings a whole different discussion to the table. I truly feel that this is the definitive Lex Luger figure to date. When I say that I’m thinking more of the chase version here, but aside from the color of the trunks they’re both the same. Being an ‘80s fan, the chase clad in orange is my preference. Both include alternate heads, alternate hands and a soft goods nWo shirt. While the shirt doesn’t really work with the orange version, throw it on another figure. It doesn’t ever hurt to have extra shirts, especially soft goods ones worn by many different stars. The previous Mattel Lugers have been good but very era-specific. The best was the “Bash at the Beach” version from a three pack with Sting and Randy Savage. That Luger had the Sting face paint. The Narcissist was a solid figure but comes from a very short incarnation of Luger. The “All-American” version was good but honestly should be redone and with the current “New Generation” kick that Mattel is on, such an undertaking wouldn’t surprise me at all. The only “generic” Luger figure was a basic and really reflected the late ‘90s more than anything, though it could be fudged. 

This chase Luger really gives us the earlier Lex we’ve been needing. The interchangeable heads add to it greatly as Lex was known to wear a ponytail even in the ’80s. Throw any of the NWA/WCW belts that Mattel has fast been releasing and you’ve really got a great looking figure. Would I have chosen blue or green as opposed to orange? I don’t think that I would have. While I’d welcome any color of trunks for a future release, I’m always a fan for bright colored figures since it’s something that’s seriously lacking in the present day. For my money this is…The Total Package. 

I had to do it. 

I feel that the Mattel Legends are finally getting back on track as far as what us true old school fans really want. I commented to my friend that, after the great things we saw at SDCC, perhaps Mattel is taking note of what the smaller, “boutique” companies are appeasing us with. Whether or not they’re even paying attention to that is anyone’s guess, but some great new names and “deep dives” (sick of that phrase yet?) do have me wondering. At press time both Lex and Stacy are available to order through Target. Again, the newly found availability of these legends is tremendous. I feel that I run into the chase versions as much as I do the regular and both myself and my friend received one of each with our initial pre-orders. I feel like I’ve said it in virtually every figure review as of late, but it’s a great time to be a collector, especially of the legends we adore.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

The Very First Action Figure Of Dino Bravo

One of the more popular topics on the blog over the years has been the discussion of wrestling stars from the past who have never received an action figure. With the blog running over thirteen years now, many of those “problems” have been remedied. The latest also happens to be one of the most requested. Despite having a career that spanned over twenty years and being with the World Wrestling Federation during parts of their two most legendary figure lines, Dino Bravo was a poster child for wrestlers who were never immortalized in plastic. His controversial and macabre death could well have played a part as it seemed that his family had no issue with Dino joining the ranks of the figure world. Now, like so many other once figure-less wrestlers, Bravo is benefitting from the “boutique manufacturer” era of wrestling figures and can finally be added to collections. 

From Zombie Sailor Toys “Wrestling's Heels & Faces” line comes “The Canadian Strongman” Dino Bravo. Another offering in the style of the beloved Hasbro WWF collection, the line is a mix of legends and indy talent. Bravo joins Earl Hebner and Sabu as the other legends in the first wave. The company is promising many more names to come including another star who previously did not have any figure releases, Paul Roma. The first wave did suffer from delays and finally started arriving to collectors around thirteen months after the initial pre-order. 

As the figures are to reflect the Hasbro WWF line, so does the card back. Artistic renderings seem to be the name of the game as far as the pictures on the retro card backs from any manufacturer. It’s likely due to licensing issues regarding the original photos. Thus far "Wrestling's Heels & Faces" may have the best styled card back in the world of retro figures. The card itself is as sturdy as an original Hasbro and is correctly sized. The font is exact thus making the file card look great. The facsimile signature is there just as it should be. One thing that always bothered me when looking at carded Hasbro-style customs was the lack of a true facsimile signature. The customizers would go to all of the trouble of perfecting the rest of the package and then…type the name on in some sort of brush script font. So far all of these smaller outfits making these licensed retro figures have taken the time and done it right. It isn’t hard to do if even I did it in the banner of my blog many years ago. 

My one qualm with the card backs is the pushing of designer Ron Rudat all over them. It’s nice that he designed the original Hasbro WWF line and is involved with these as well, but it simply isn’t a selling point for anyone beyond a very small handful. I don’t care who designed the thing as long as it fits in where it should. To be honest there are plenty of retro style figures out now that were not designed by the man and those items fit just fine with the classic Hasbro collection. All sources indicate that he isn’t really much of a wrestling fan and is much more proud of his work on the legendary G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line. The design blueprint on the back of the card can also be done away with. It’s just unnecessary and if getting rid of all of it brings cost down, let’s have it. 

How about the figure itself? The major need is for a retro styled figure to look like it fits with the original Hasbro line. The likeness is just the right balance between realistic and Hasbro cartoonish. The pose, while not exactly one that looks like a re-used Hasbro sculpt, does pass as being from back then. The shine on the figure is just about right, too. Aside from the Mattel WWE Retro figures, none of these new kids on the block have “Real Wrestling Action” and that’s perfectly fine. The paint apps here are vibrant just as a Hasbro should be. What really sells me on Dino is his look from the side and back. Burly Bravo had massive shoulders than almost made him appear hunched at times. You know it's something that Hasbro likely would've picked up on and it's right here, too. The side view of Bravo's likeness is unmistakable here, also.

All in all, this is an absolutely high quality figure. It’s the first licensed figure of Dino Bravo. Of course you’re going to want it. It being this nice and fitting in perfectly where he belongs in the Hasbro world is icing on the cake. This particular figure is sold out but it hopefully sets a nice precedence in what we’ll see going forward in this line. If taking the “designer name” off of these things reduces cost, again, I’m all for it. A couple of bucks can make all the difference for me buying just one to open or buying two and keeping one carded for signing purposes (obviously not an issue with this figure).  I probably would’ve purchased an additional Sabu and Hebner for just that reason had the cost been a bit less. 

It would be nice to see someone market a licensed Bravo in the current scale, as well. I also wouldn’t mind seeing a dark haired Bravo figure at some point, but not in the retro style. It’s good to see these long-deserving men finally get their recognition and it's always nice to see properly licensed merchandise where the stars or their families get some extra earnings. The retro style seems to be key right now, likely due to the ease of producing them, but with so much great product out there I don't foresee anyone complaining.