Thursday, December 29, 2022

Figure(s) Of The Year 2022

I can’t really say that 2022 was a great year for anything, but we did receive some nice figures. Did we get everything that we wanted? No, but as Darren McGavin taught us, “That’s, that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s life.” I’ve done enough ranting about the negatives in the past several weeks, so let’s look at the good things. I really feel that this was more a year for improvements than actual new figures. Sure we had some thrown in here and there, but it was really twelve months of some really good new versions of old favorites. Perhaps, “Ultimate” versions? While I use that terminology, neither are part of Mattel’s “Ultimate Edition” line, though that is the company that produced them. Yes, I say “them,” as we have a tie this year. Say hello to your 2022 Figures of The Year: Mattel WWE Elite 96 Hulk Hogan and Elite Survivor Series Ultimate Warrior.

Although both of these legendary characters did in fact receive Ultimate Edition figures this year, for my money neither were quite as good as Elite offerings that we received late in the year. While the Ultimate body style often works well, sometimes the tried and true Elite sculpting and articulation is really all that you need. The choice of style and d├ęcor is always a factor as well, and each of these figures brought us a truly unique look that’s never been done before. One is so good that, minus a few of the accessories, it could be looked at as the quintessential version of the wrestler. Yes, we’ve seen countless versions of The Hulkster and The Warrior, but 2022 brought us two of the all-time best.

 

Hulk includes two accessories that he only briefly used back in 1988. The “war bonnet” helmet and license plate to go around his neck were used virtually only on house shows and in local promos advertising them. What’s nice is that The Hulkster’s standard bandana is also included. Throw that on and you absolutely have the post-Rock n’ Wrestling Hulk figure that we’ve all been waiting for. How many out there grew up on this Hulk look? Honestly, if I were running the game, I’d re-release this guy in 2023 minus the helmet and necklace, throw in a shirt, and plop him into a “Top Picks” series. He’s that iconic and a figure that really every collector should have.


The Ultimate Warrior is a bit more show specific as it’s the exact look from the 1990 Survivor Series. What’s nice about the design is that it’s show specific without LOOKING show specific. The Warrior wore many similar designs and colors in this era. While the WrestleMania VI look is iconic (and overdone as a figure), it’s really locked to that show. He never wore anything else quite like it at any other time. Of course the sky is the limit when it’s your figure. You do as you please. If you want the Mania VI Warrior press slamming Andre the Giant in your latest figure photography post, you do it! Hell, I may just do that after this blog entry. But it’s nice to have a more neutral look here and there. This figure brings that to us. It also utilizes a head sculpt that was only used once before. For a character with as many wild expressions as The Ultimate Warrior, we deserve a variety of faces.


Other runners-up? In my opinion several releases of Randy Savage, The Canadian Earthquake (some of you may have had him in late 2021, to me he’s a 2022 release) and even the “chase” Lex Luger in orange tights all fit the bill. Retro Jimmy Hart should also get a mention for the sheer awesomeness of finally having a Hasbro-styled manager figure. As for 2023, Mattel has already showcased several figures that in my book have FOTY written all over them and one outside company is about to give everyone a run for their money. You thought that the shady performances of “boutique” manufacturers killed the chances for one to make it as FOTY? Not by a long shot. I’m looking at you, PowerTown and Stan Hansen…

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Merry Christmas 2022!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s also nearing the END of the year, thank goodness. I’m not sorry to see this one go and I’m sure that many of you are in the same boat. So what do we want next year? Sticking with the theme of the blog, why not list The Five Figure Wishes For 2023?!? Well, they’re my figure wishes, anyway. Some have a shot at happening. Others are nothing more than a pipe dream. The reality is that anything is possible with everything that we’ve seen come to pass and fall into our hands over the past few years. Remember…

“I believe. I believe. It’s silly, but I believe.” – Susan Walker

*For figure collectors it looks like PowerTown is going to be taking up a lot of their head space in 2023. The possibilities are endless and what we’ve seen so far is promising. Figure collectors will finally be able to have Verne Gagne versus Lou Thesz in 2023? It’s truly unreal. I’m not the only collector who has been appreciating PowerTown not jumping the gun on announcements. We have other, less-than-professional outfits, announcing dozens and dozens of figures when they’ve barely shipped any product. It’s a disgrace, really. But PowerTown has kept me optimistic for the “boutique era” going into the next year. The one announcement made in addition to their main lineup was that they will also produce a line of Remco-branded figures to match the legendary AWA line. Seeing as that many involved in that line are now involved in PowerTown it was a no-brainer. My wish? Verne. Not young Verne, either. I want Verne just as he appeared in the ‘80s to fit perfectly with Nick, Greg, Stan and all the rest that Remco brought us decades ago.

*Speaking of PowerTown, let’s talk about their main lineup. The first six were solid and we have heard whispers here and there of others who are eligible for production. A twosome that I personally spoke with about the matter has been at the top of my “I need their figures!” list for years. Of course I’m talking about The Glamour Girls, Judy Martin & Leilani Kai. As you’ve read here in the blog before, the legendary female team are truly pumped that they’ll finally have official figures. I know that myself and many other collectors would like to see them represented at any point in their careers, but I’m thinking that figures from The Glamour Girls era would sell best. Glamour is what we want.

*The gold outfits of The Glamour Girls greatly resembled the shimmer of a character who came along a few years later, the one and only Goldust. We’ve seen countless figures of Dustin Rhodes in the Goldust attire as well as similar costumes. Sadly, only one figure of Dustin Rhodes himself was ever produced. It’s way beyond time to modernize “The Natural” in figure form. Currently signed to AEW, Dustin is seemingly a no-brainer for their AEW Luminaries line which, thus far, has been kind of disappointing. I still haven’t found the urge to pick up Chris Jericho cosplaying as Susan “Tex” Green and where is a young Tony Schiavone? There are also rumblings that the line is headed for failure, though it may just be fan speculation. Dustin could definitely begin to make things right…

*Speaking of making things right, how wronged has Adrian Adonis been over the years? One figure in thirty five years? For a man at his level of talent it’s a disgrace. His family has begun making a presence on social media and keeping his name alive. I hope that this translates into some figures. Again, I would choose PowerTown. Most collectors want both “biker” Adrian from earlier in his career and the classic “Adorable” Adrian from the latter. Mattel, which has become vomit-inducing in their pandering to the blithering idiots who are “offended” by anything, wouldn’t make The Adorable One even if they had the rights. Let’s go with PowerTown. This is a man who hasn’t gotten his due. Keen fans and collectors will note that we’re actually getting an accessory in Series 1 that also involves Adonis. Maybe in the inevitable PowerTown Series 1 review I’ll give the answer…

*One guy who’s gotten plenty of figures yet always needs more in my book is, you guessed it, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Was there any doubt? Yes, we’ve been getting a new Dusty figure for the past several years now, but there’s a lot more room to explore. Now that Cody is back with WWE I feel that The Dream’s legacy will stay there, too. How about a later years Dusty like the one that Jakks gave us? “Hard Times” Dusty? That seems to be up Mattel’s alley as far as recreating classic moments. How about a new retro figure? Seeing as that the Hasbro figure is one of the more famous in the line, it seems as if Mattel would want to get in on that fame. None may match up to The Art of Jason Wulf custom figure shown here (complete with splotch!), but I’m sure something suitable could be done.

In all seriousness, wrestling figures and memorabilia mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. They’re a pleasant diversion to the daily trials and tribulations that we all face throughout the year. My true holiday wish for the new year is health and happiness for my friends, family and all of you.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Chasing Dynamite

I’m not going to get into all of the controversy surrounding this figure and its manufacturer. The troubles (and supposed rebirth) of Chella Toys are well documented elsewhere. I will get into a personal issue that I have with something involving today’s reviewed item, but that’s a bit different. I will say that although it’s unfair to lump all of the smaller wrestling figure producers into this (PowerTown has yet to release any product and we haven’t even entered the original shipping period given and Junk Shop Dog consistently knocks it out of the park on all levels), the bloom is off the rose when it comes to the “boutique” lines. Missed production dates, product not living up to promise and, in some cases, even radio silence have become the standard across the board. It isn’t a good thing. For these lines to sustain and go as deep as many of wish that they would, alienating the consumer that keeps them alive in the first place is the last road to travel. Again, you all know what I’m talking about. Personally, I’m largely done letting many of these small time folks hold my money for an unspeakable amount of time. Oh, I won’t get it unless I pre-order? I guess your product isn’t in my collection, then. It’s that simple. Again, PowerTown and Junk Shop Dog should be left out of this. They have yet to do anything wrong with their original offerings and they aren’t listing dozens of “upcoming” names when they’ve shipped little to nothing else.

But you’re here for the toys and not the drama. If you are here for drama, as mentioned above, I’ll rant a bit. Nonetheless, those of us who pre-ordered long ago finally have the “Uncensored Collection” Dynamite Kid in hand. This series, by Chella Toys or whatever they’re going to go by in the future, was designed to fill in some gaps in the Mattel WWE line. In fact, even way back when only renders were shown the figures looked remarkably like Mattel WWE Elite product. Dynamite and Sabu were the first announced and it didn’t hit my radar if any other future names were thrown out there. As mentioned, the pre-order wait time was long due to various issues, but Mr. Billington has finally shipped.

The packaging is nice and simple. There really isn’t anything keeping you from placing it completely back into the box. I don’t recall removing any tape or ties or anything of the sort. The box is glossy with a nice plastic window (remember those?) and holds up to anything from the big guys. In fact, the lack of ties and plastic bands makes me like it a lot better than the stuff from the big guys. The window showcases the figure nicely and, although extra hands are included, you don't have to see them "floating" in there.

Is this a Mattel? It obviously isn’t, but boy does it look like it is. That’s what we were promised and what we’re receiving. There have been some questions if legalities will come into play from Mattel, but certain those issues were sorted out seeing as that this is a licensed product. I would think so, anyway. The plastic feels a tad different than your standard Mattel. I wouldn’t call it cheaper or any less quality. I’ve had some flimsy Mattel figures in my hand over the years and this doesn’t feel like them. There’s a bit of a larger gap in the right leg joint on mine, but nothing to be upset about. The facial likeness isn’t perfect, but it’s there. Would Mattel have given you any better? As with all facial scans/sculpts, who is to say? After all of these years collecting we should all have come to expect by now that getting likenesses down pat will never be a perfect science. This guy should really fit right in with the Davey Boy Smith Elite released last year.

He should. But mine does not. I mean, it’s right there…aside from the fact that mine has blue on the tights. For certain, the additional blue on the front is a definite look for The British Bulldogs. We all remember the blue. But the Mattel Davey doesn’t have the blue. I ordered this figure, as did many others, with the belief that it would fill the gap when Mattel was only able to produce one half of The British Bulldogs. Since opening it I’ve actually learned, through other collectors that I received a chase. The white is the more common variant. A chase? On an expensive figure that you have to order? That isn’t in stores that you can “hunt?” Mattel did it with their SDCC Sgt. Slaughter, but that was just the packaging. A boutique figure designed to have a SPECIFIC needed look has a chase? Excuse me?

Sure, I should be happy that I received a chase. I’m not losing any sleep over it. If your life is so good in today’s world that you can get upset over wrestling figures being an incorrect color, please direct me on how to live your lifestyle. That being said, this figure was made to match the other. There’s no reason to have a “chase” if you can’t “chase” it. If someone wants the “chase” do they have to keep ordering figures until they get it? The “chase” concept already works terribly in a brick and mortar store based product. Now we’re extending it to boutique lines? This should have been offered as a separate variant to buy on its own if it just had to be made. Am I returning it? After all of the time it took to receive it? No. But it only helps my personal policy of greatly limiting pre-orders with these smaller outfits. Now if they chose to send me a spare head to pop onto a Davey it would certainly go a long way with me, but that’s just a pipe dream. I’m stuck with the figure not matching as it was specifically designed to do and that’s that.

At the end of my reviews I usually recommend whether or not you need the product in question for your collection. If you want a chance at a Dynamite to match your Davey I guess you may want to try. But at boutique prices who has the money to take a gamble like that? I certainly don’t and I am a bit perturbed that the choice was made for me. When Target does similar it’s a quick trip to the store for a return and another order to try again. This isn’t Mattel nor is it Target. Caveat emptor.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Wonder Of Das Wunderkind

You did the dance. Don’t lie. I know during WCW Saturday Night, Worldwide or Monday Nitro you were moving right along with Das Wunderkind. Alex Wright was a fun wrestler. Young, energetic and maybe ten years too late. The world was already pretty cynical in the mid ‘90s (don’t even get me started about how bad it is now) and Das Wunderkind wasn’t getting the fan support that he deserved, although he certainly had his fair share. I always like to brag that, since he returned to Germany after WCW was sold, my parents are just about the only people that I know who met Alex. It was a chance encounter. They just happened to be shopping in a grocery store when Alex Wright was doing an appearance in the video section. Iggle Video for you nostalgic Pittsburghers out there. Sadly, I was out of town, but they did get me a personalized promotional photo.

While Alex Wright has yet to debut on the wrestling convention scene (there are always rumblings that someone will fly him over), he has returned to the action figure world. Many will remember his debut figure in the Original San Francisco Toymakers WCW line. While a great looking figure, due to the pose and immobility of the style there just wasn’t much that you could do with it. Still, it was a cool figure as were many in that line that was largely a throwback to both Galoob WCW and LJN WWF figures. Das Wunderkind is finally poseable thanks to his inclusion in the Legends of Professional Wrestling line from Figures Toy Company or FTC.

These figures all come packaged in plastic clamshells. While you can certainly place the figure back into the clamshell which snaps shut, you do have to remove the Figures Toy Company branded zip tie and the ubiquitous wire ties holding the figure to the tray. What I like is that upon opening you get a nice, clean card back perfect for saving. No plastic or tears here as nothing is attached to the card back, it simply fits inside the clamshell. The packaging for these has remained largely unchanged since the debut of the line, but the roster on the back continues to grow. While not shown on the Alex Wright card back, some figures have shipped where Dennis Condrey, Bobby Eaton, Stan Lane, Tom Prichard and Brad Armstrong are all on display. It sounds like we’re about to feel some true Smoky Mountain “madness” in the near future. Two incarnations of The Midnight Express AND the first Jim Cornette-led Heavenly Bodies? Along with the plethora of Corny figure options already available from FTC, it’s looking to be a good time for SMW collectors.

But back to WCW and the young prodigy of the mid ‘90s. The Legends of Professional Wrestling figures are designed based on the Jakks “Ruthless Aggression” style introduced for their WWE figures in the early ‘00s. Just like the latter, the LOPW figures are largely compatible with any other standard wrestling figure line of today, so Alex will fit in with other WCW characters out there. Most of the LOPW figures include some sort of accessory and Alex has what could undoubtedly be considered his signature one: his leather jacket. When you get down to it, the jacket is the surprising star here. FTC could’ve left it blank, but instead we get this awesome glittery design on the back. It almost makes me want to display this figure backward. Dancing, of course.

The facial likeness is very good and will bring to mind the wide smiles of everyone’s favorite German babyface, not to mention the distinct hairstyle. How could he have ever gotten rid of that million dollar hair? Oh, Berlyn. After that gimmick he just never brought it back. This facial sculpt would actually look perfect on a retro styled figure, too. Customizers take note! Alex is clad in red, however he did change it up now and then. FTC frequently releases variations of their figures so I wouldn’t be surprised to see another Alex Wright figure in a different color down the line. And speaking of when Das Wunderkind turned sour, why NOT a Berlyn figure at long last? Considering the era in which that character existed, I can only imagine high demand for that one.

A solid figure for a fun character and a wrestler who never got his true merchandising due. You want one? You got it. Head over to Figures Toy Company using our link and help the blog out in the process. Before you checkout don’t forget to apply our very own code of JWS_WRESTLING_MEMORABILIA to take 10% off of your order! It’s a win-win for all of us! While you’re there you can also pick up a set of the snazzy classic blue mats that you see outside the ring here. That’s not cardboard like some offer, those are foam mats that connect. Buy them once and you’ll never go back to photographing with the cheap stuff.

There are a ton of wrestling figure options and FTC should not be overlooked. In addition to Alex Wright you’ve got names like Francine, Scott Norton, The Sandman, Vince Russo, Chris Candido, The Blue Meanie, New Jack and many other Legends of Professional Wrestling available! There are also tons of independent stars in their Rising Stars of Pro Wrestling line not to mention rings, cages and any accessory you may need to fill your “figure arena!” Get to it, because the competition for “best wrestling figure photography” is getting stiffer every day!