Saturday, November 26, 2022

Hulk Hogan vs Terry Funk -- Tonight In The Coliseum Collection

Between exclusive playsets, Retro figures and plenty of non-WWE products, Mattel has found yet another way to get extra money out of us. Mattel Creations has become their own version of Hasbro Pulse and likely other company “exclusive” sites that aren’t on my radar. Their standard excuse for most items released this way is believable: these are products that retailers wouldn’t want to stock for various reasons. That’s actually not hard to understand after seeing the pathetic action figure sections of most brick and mortar retailers. Still, I think that today’s topic is a line that retailers just may have gotten behind. It’s entirely possible. Don’t kid yourselves, Mattel isn’t doing you any favors by having Mattel Creations at their disposal. If it isn’t making them money it will never be in your hands, it’s as simple as that.

Hitting porches most recently from Mattel Creations is the first entry in the Coliseum Collection. This series was obviously spawned from the positive reaction for the San Diego Comic Con “Ultimate” Sgt. Slaughter figure from 2021. The figures are in the “Ultimate” style based on d├ęcor from the beloved LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars line complete with packaging that bears resemblance to those well-remembered blue cards. The title comes from the text on the poster included with the first few series of figures. On those cards an artistic rendering of the figure was accompanied by “X-Wrestler TONIGHT At The Coliseum.” So while the thought of Coliseum Video is certainly there, that isn’t where it originated from.

Our first two wrestlers in the Coliseum Collection are Hulk Hogan and Terry Funk. I’ll admit that I wasn’t blown away by the choices at first, but it’s interesting that Mattel picked this concept at all for the fact that it’s very limited. How many LJN figures can be recreated with what Mattel has to work with? That being said, the company isn’t limiting itself as much as I initially thought. We’ll get to that at the end. The Hogan is based on the middle of three LJN Hogan releases with red trunks and white shirt. There was only one Funk in the LJN line and while there are liberties with this recreation, it’s close enough to bring those memories roaring back.

The packaging here is impressive to begin with. A brown box with the WWE block logo houses a more colorful box featuring art of The Hulkster and The Funker. Like the LJN-esque cards inside, the outer box was also done with the SDCC Slaughter. Inside are the two figures in poses reminiscent of the LJN counterparts. Additional accessories are housed in boxes at the base of each figure. The card backs slide out of the enclosing plastic and you are indeed able to place the figures back in rather seamlessly. They won't be "mint" again, however, as there are the usual plastic bands and ties which need cut to get the figures out in any sane way. It should be noted that Slaughter is shown on the back as part of the set, even though the "Coliseum Collection" name hadn't been coined for his release. Mattel seems to be indicating that he was the actual first in the series.

The inside of the box as well as the individual card back art depicts an audience just like the LJN designs did. "Crowd signs" are individualized for each wrestler and I must admit that I got a kick out of the choices for Funk. There's also a cool little bonus included in between the two carded figures. You get a third piece of cardboard with the Coliseum Collection logo and a blank space on one side with the classic "Mean Gene" baby blue interview backdrop on the back. This is obviously a little gift for action figure photographers, sort of like the cardboard crowd backdrop that Mattel gifted us with as part of The New Generation Arena. Posing a figure in front of the Coliseum Collection side would make it almost appear that a classic LJN poster went three-dimensional.

Each figure includes three heads total, several sets of hands, The Hulkster's championship belt, headband, soft goods shirt and cross necklace as well as The Funker's cowboy hat, poncho, chaps and branding iron. Many will want this set for the belt alone. This is the first time since the actual LJN days that the first WWF Championship won by The Hulkster has been recreated in figure form. I have a suspicion that we will see this belt re-released down the line as the coloring here is to resemble the LJN version rather than the green strap that it had in real life. This and several other championships either already in or coming to the Mattel line lead me to believe that the rights to "trophy belts" of the past have either been figured out. It's also possible that it's simply been decided that no one can lay claim to the classic, yet basic, piecemeal designs. The Funker's clothing has been redone from the original WWE Legends release of over a decade ago. It's much higher quality this time around and the branding iron even has a thicker portion of the handle to allow better gripping.

The figures themselves are high quality and worthy of inclusion in any collection. I've never felt that the "Ultimate" body type was all that special but it certainly does well here. I wasn't sure if Terry Funk necessarily needed the body type, but I can totally see his physique. Each head contains a different expression for each grappler. While we've seen the Hogan faces before, it's fun to have The Funker be able to display that classic array of emotions in the midst of battle. It's also fun that while the red Hogan trunks do indeed reflect the LJN figure, the look is actually more reminiscent of his AWA days.

Remember what I’d said about this line being limited? That was when I thought that it would be limited to figures who either would be completely different in looks from other Mattel releases (Hulk) or were released so far back (Funk) that it’s not really out of the question to do it again. With the second set unveiled I was proven wrong. Ravishing Rick Rude vs Jake “The Snake” Roberts features a figure of the latter that was just released in the Legends line a few years ago. Yes, this is an Ultimate, but again that's not enough to sell me on a re-release. Rude is also very close to a Basic figure done a few years ago. Will I bite for that set? Time will tell. Even still this line will not go on forever. The one line that Mattel cannot cross is licensing rights. A lot of the more interesting wrestlers that LJN produced are off-limits for them. Am I hoping for some new names to pop up? Yes, but the faith I’ve seen of collectors that this will actually happen has been mind-blowing. Some people just don’t learn. We’ve been shown time and time again that, while we’re occasionally thrown a nice bone, we’re going to see the same faces over and over again. While new versions of Piper and Savage (who has so many looks that he’s almost always a purchase) would be fine, I’m just not seeing too much fresh ground to be broken here. Obvious LJN choices like Paul Orndorff and Big John Studd have absolutely nowhere left to go. Without packing a mind-blowing name with them it’s not even worth a purchase for most.

No matter who comes next, this first installment is a winner. As of press time it's still available at Mattel Creations. I always enjoy when things are available for a good period of time enabling as many collectors to obtain them as possible. Or should I say, enabling collectors to "Bring Home All The Action..."

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