For better or worse, Mattel loves to celebrate their own milestones. Many of you will recall when they celebrated their 100th “Basic” WWE figure series several years ago. Now the company is making a celebration out of the 100th Elite series. Like with virtually any action figure producer since such toys became an entity, it’s been an up and down relationship between the company and collectors. They’ve produced their share of figures that have made collectors very happy. They’ve also made decisions that have left most of us scratching our heads. What it boils down to is that they’re producing a product so that we will buy it. No matter the rhetoric and ever-growing P.R., no company is doing this out of the goodness of their heart or for the love of the collector. Nonetheless, we try to stay on the happy side of collecting around here, so let's celebrate two, or three, of the good results of the long Mattel-WWE partnership.
Speaking of those two figures, let’s take a look at them! The 100th Elite set includes John Cena, Rey Mysterio, Becky Lynch, The Rock, Stunning Steve Austin and Andre the Giant. It’s the latter two that we’ll be discussing today. All of the figures include championship belts designed to be a bit different than what we’ve seen before. As you can already tell from the photos, the “chase” of the series is Andre, thus why there will be three figures in this review. Although I could see myself picking up the others in the set should they ever see a deep discount, the only ones that warranted an initial purchase from me were Austin and both the regular and chase Andre.
The packaging, while the same as it’s been in shape, is jazzed up a bit. Silver foil has been added in places, the overall style is black, silver and gray and artwork has been added to the back. Even the backer cards inside the packaging have character-specific artwork. Again, Mattel enjoys celebrating their milestones. With how cheap and flimsy the cardboard has been across the board lately in the Mattel packaging, is it really worth the extra design effort? Speaking of the lesser quality packaging in recent years, it seems harder and harder to get truly good conditioned boxes.
Starting with the Giant, this is a version that it absolutely shocks me it’s taken this long to get. I could honestly have even seen LJN doing this Andre decades ago had they gotten around to it. It’s Andre in his suit, casual clothes, whatever you want to call it. He wore this and similar outfits in so many iconic moments such as the Piper’s Pit heel turn on Hulk Hogan, choking The Hulkster out center ring, press conferences, contract signings and even non-wrestling media appearances. In my mind it’s just as iconic as the black strap. In addition to some extra hands, Andre includes The Hulkster’s chain and cross as well as, for the first time, the “giant-sized” belt that, in storyline, was made for when Andre defeated Hogan at WrestleMania III. In early renders it seemed that we would be getting a broken chain to represent when Andre tore it from Hulk’s neck, but we ended up getting the same recycled full version. The belt is stunning and Mattel did go all out with what appears to my eyes to be two-toned plating.
The Andre head is reused and is perfectly fine, but I’m still not sure why they’ve never again used the maskless Andre head that was released with The Giant Machine figure. To me this is still the best Andre likeness ever done in a figure yet Mattel doesn’t want to seem to use it. They also don’t seem to want to use the giant “paw” hands released with a few Andre figures and even one of the last figures of The Big Show. These are absolutely perfect “giant” hands yet have remained unused for years now.
While the regular version of Andre is in the suit most closely resembling that which he wore on the infamous aforementioned Piper’s Pit segment (“I am here for one reason…”), the chase features an almost neon color reminiscent of his appearance on the Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n Wrestling cartoon. Both versions, despite the better part choices that they could’ve recycled here, are home runs.
Stunning Steve Austin was a choice for me almost solely for the accessory. While I’m obviously going to buy most any early WCW figure release, I don’t know that I would have necessarily rushed on this one were it not for the inclusion of the NWA/WCW World Television Championship belt. This is the red strap version that is most associated with Tully Blanchard, Dusty Rhodes and Mike Rotunda among many others. The classic red strap had actually gone to black once Austin had it, but this is one Mattel mistake that I’m grateful for. It’s lacking detail, of course, as one would expect. There are no NWA letters (nor even WCW as a placeholder) and the network logos are obviously gone. Still, this is the closest that we’ll ever get in an official release. The soft goods robe is nice, too, and could probably be used for someone else if needed as it isn’t far off from a generic robe in its initial design.
The figure itself is good enough, but I’m not blown away by it. The “True FX” facial detailing seems a bit off, but that could just be on mine. It looks better in person than it does in the photography. This is pretty much the last key figure for The Dangerous Alliance and will look great paired with the upcoming Paul E. Dangerously release. We still need a more modern release for Bobby Eaton, a short-haired Rick Rude in WCW era tights as well as Madusa. Speaking of that legendary lady, why not a “Ducey” release in the Legends series? I can even think of easy chase options. With all of her involvement in WWE promotions and anniversaries it feels like her license would still be available, but who's to say?
If you’re not concerned about missing out on the Television Title, I believe that Austin and most of these will be “waitable” aside from Andre. The Giant has always had a unique desirability among figure fans and with one this special I predict that it will not be different. A long awaited design coupled with a much desired accessory in the belt? The chase is already commanding high prices and was from the beginning with certain online retailers who need not be mentioned.
100 series is quite a milestone, but a lot like my recent 1,000th post on my wrestling figure photography social media account (Instagram: @The_Figure_Arena), I don't see things like that as really being accomplishments. Just as anyone can make 1,000 Instagram posts, any company can churn out 100 series of action figures. It's the fans and collectors who made it what it is. As much as Mattel is patting themselves on the back, I turn around and salute you and I and our wallets. We made it what it is and will continue to do so. Never lose sight of that.