Thursday, September 28, 2023

Mattel Frustrations: Then. Now. Forever.

Well, it turned out to be a full month of figure reviews here on the blog. At least the variety was there which seems to be a trend in wrestling figure collecting as of late. There’s certainly a lot to choose from. If you can find what you want on the shelves, that is. What if the figure that you want is suddenly pulled from the shelves? You may even have it in your hands but when you take it up to pay, it rings up as “Recalled” and the friendly red shirted “team member” whisks it from your hands like the contraband that it apparently is. In early August this is what happened to many WWE collectors across the country in quite the “60th Anniversary” celebration. Let’s take a look at the culprit(s)…

Unexpectedly popping up on Target shelves in late July/early August was the Mattel WWE 60thAnniversary four-pack. Containing three WWE icons and one current Superstar (remember, to protect the brand WWE no longer allows the creation of icons), new releases of Hulk Hogan, Rocky Maivia, Stone Cole Steve Austin and Becky Lynch came packaged in a shiny and snazzy “60th Anniversary” box. Suddenly, before the first week of August was even completed, reports began to surface that collectors were being denied purchase of the set at Target registers and that it was being recalled. Whatever stock managed to sneak by Target’s point of sales without the alert instantly became the hottest thing in wrestling figures.

For what it’s worth, the panic didn’t last long. Word got out that WWE demanded a packaging change from 60th Anniversary to the company mantra of “Then. Now. Forever.” and that the set would soon be available once again, albeit corrected. While I haven’t heard of the repackaged set being available as of yet, it was up for pre-order through Target for a period of time. Some reports have even come about of the already released version even showing up in discount stores. Due to my want of two accessories in the set (sad, really) I was able to get one at Target just days before the recall started. Thanks to my incessant need for those two aforementioned accessories we have a set to crack open and look at today!

If you hadn’t guessed by now, the two accessories that I just had to have were the shirt and belt included with The Hulkster. Though the first WWE Championship design that Hogan held was released in both LJN form and more recently via The Coliseum Collection, until now it’s never before been done with the correct green strap in toy form. Aside from the belt, an early “American Made/Hulk-A-Mania” shirt is included as well. These are the kinds of accessories that, while you’d hope will be released again, very well could stay available solely in this set. Though the Coliseum Collection version designed to look like the LJN release of yesteryear is more than adequate, it’s nice finally having a color accurate version of the belt that Hogan, as well as The Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund, held in the early ‘80s. It’s also nice to have a shirt that predates the “Hulkamania” logo that we’re all so familiar with. It even resembles shirts that The Hulkster wore in the AWA days when he seemed on the cusp of dethroning Nick Bockwinkel for the title.

We’ve received a bevy of great Hulk figures from Mattel over the past few years but I think that this one tops my list as far as the “early years of Hulkamania” look goes. Used here is the Elite body type that was originally created for the early Mattel Hogan releases of a decade ago. It really captures his look well in a way that I feel the Ultimate Edition style just can’t. You also get two different heads to plunk on, but they’re really very similar aside from the mouth. I can hear this figure on appearances ranging from Tuesday Night Titans to The Tonight Show telling the world about how Hulkamania is running wild. Can’t you?

Next up we have Rocky Maivia in the outfit that he wore in his 1996 Survivor Series debut and shortly after. Ah, that poofy hair that’s been meme’d to death in modern times, though it still looks better than the “broccoli head” look that seems to be popular with youngsters today. The well-remembered green/blue strap entrance gear is also included. Many will remember first getting this outfit in toy form in one of the ubiquitous Jakks “Bone Crunching Action” four-packs over a quarter of a century ago. How time flies! I do believe that the sole previous Mattel release of this look was a Target exclusive as well. With the interchangeable hands we’re obviously seeing an upgrade here.

While I honestly wouldn’t have noticed had it not been pointed out, the Stone Cold Steve Austin figure included here is apparently from his WrestleMania “match” a few years ago with Kevin Owens. That makes having to buy it a bit easier for me as I am a fan of getting wrestlers in post-retirement looks. Otherwise, Austin is one that I’ll rarely buy anymore unless it’s part of a Build-A-Figure set or a very unique look such as “Stunning” Steve. The constant releases of Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker and others in the Jakks years simply burned me out on ever buying figures of them again, combined with the fact that I just don’t find their era to be rewatchable nor have I romanticized it as many others have. Regardless, it’s a perfectly acceptable figure here that certainly captures Austin’s look. If it is based on a more recent appearance it’s also a testament to Austin’s apparent lack of aging.

Last, but not least, we have The Man. And she’s seemingly dressing like a jilted bride, or something. It’s actually a very cool figure with the full cloth skirt, removable headpiece and a great facial scan, I just don’t watch enough (maybe a few big events on Peacock per year) to know the significance of the outfit. It makes sense to have Becky included here as surely she is very representative of the current era as well as the importance that’s been placed on women’s wrestling in the past several years. Rebecca Knox sure has come a long way, though, personally, I thought she was a heckuva lot cuter then. I’ll give her props for the Morticia Addams style we’re getting here, though…

If you break it down by cost, $20 per Elite figure is a great value with today’s prices as they are. If you’re buying it solely for one figure as I did, not so much. Still, that’s a personal decision. Accessories are important to a lot of us, myself included, and one of the most important to belt fans is, thus far, only available here. Also, past Target boxed sets have sold out rather quickly with little chance at clearance. I could no longer find the repackaged version of this one available on the Target app so if you’ve already locked one in you may be in luck. In any case it seems that Mattel will be making collecting their product a true chore…Then. Now. Forever.

No comments: