Pro Wrestling

So last night was the debut of the “new” TNA, err Impact Wrestling and I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the changes, the things they did right and the things they did that were very wrong.

First let me preface this by saying I am a longtime TNA fan. Unlike most of the people who criticize the product, I’ve follwed TNA since day one. I ordered almost all of the early weekly pay-per-views and followed them from Fox Sports to Spike to Destination America to Pop. I’ve seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I actually believed for a time that Hulk Hogan was a good signing for the company (to be fair I lobbied for that about 5 years before it actually happened) and I’ve been in favor of some regime change.

Secondly, I’d like to say that TNA never gets a break. When Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels were putting on 5 star matches in TNA, the mainstream wrestling audience still crapped on everything. People will tell you now that they liked TNA back when it was “good” but the truth is even when TNA was consistently putting out the best wrestling product on television, they were disliked by whole groups of people. Wrestling needs a punching bag company and no matter how many times WWE puts Roman Reigns in the main event of Wrestlemania, has Randy Orton win the Royal Rumble or does an angle like Katie Vick, they will always get a pass. TNA became the new WCW from day one (insert your own joke there) because no matter what TNA did they became the punching bag of the wrestling community. TNA could literally put on the best match EVER in pro-wrestling and they’d still get slagged off for it.

That said, there has been some optimism and speculation how the new “reboot” would work. Dixie Carter has had a hand in TNA for the past decade and a half. In the beginning that wasn’t a bad thing, but eventually Carter did become a detriment to the company. Anthem bought her out and brought in a team on paper, that’s relatively good. Jeff Jarrett not only founded TNA, but has been exposed to more wrestling knowledge than few people on the planet. Dutch Mantell and Bruce Prichard have been around the block many times and in the case of Mantell, is one of the best minds in the business.

Along with them came some familiar faces in the production end and for the most part, I have to applaud Kevin Sullivan for his mostly excellent work on this reboot of Impact. The show looked new, sleek and clean, while still retaining a familiar feel. It was nice overall, though I thought some of the lower thirds weren’t as nice as they could have been.

Unfortunately, that was probably the highlight of the show. They did a nice video package talking up the history of the company and going on about how they “used” to be the place to be. The theme is to “Make Impact Wrestling Great (Again)” which is immediately a turn off. First, it’s an ignorant slogan even when Trump used it as it doesn’t really make sense but even if TNA was hoping to use the “trendy” factor, it sort of defeated the purpose when it’s connected to the world’s most unpopular politician. More than half the country absolutely LOATHE that saying, so it’s probably not a good idea to throw that albatross around your neck. The fact that they changed it to just “Make Impact Wrestling Great” is a nice attempt to distance yourself from Trump, but it’s sort of like putting a bandaid on a gunshot. They should have rebranded with an entirely new slogan.  Continue reading

hasbro wwf
This Classic Comic Ad comes from the days when Hasbro ruled the world of wrestling. Hasbro’s WWF line was in some ways a step backwards for wrestling toys and yet at the same time, it also represented a great step forward. With tons of intricate detail, cool accessories and one of the most colorful roster assortments of all time. Hasbro’s WWF line just about had it all and some awesome commercials featuring WWF superstars like Macho Man, Roddy Piper and the Ultimate Warrior didn’t hurt.

This advertisement is for Toys R Us, which was your go to place for Hasbro WWF. I recall once going into Toys R Us and they had a whole wall of WWF Hasbro figures. Just a ridiculously huge section, not unlike something you’d see in a commercial. These days Toys R Us still has a decent selection of Mattel’s WWE figures, but it’s just not the same. I can’t believe the old ring was only $12.99 either! I had to build myself a ring out of various junk around the house.

There’s a great assortment of figures here, with classics like the Big Bossman and Brutus Beefcake along with the staples like Andre, Hogan, Macho and the Warrior. I’m not entirely sure how Akeem got in there, but maybe someone was a fan of the Twin Towers. Those old caricature figures from Hasbro just had a lot of charm. Also fun to note that TRU is making sure you know they take credit cards, which is an absolutely antiquated idea these days.

Famed pro wrestling manager and legitimate mortician, William Moody, AKA Paul Bearer passed away today at the age of 58. Moody was most famous as Paul Bearer in the WWE, where he managed the Undertaker for over a decade to great success. He also managed Kane, Mankind and Vader among others in his time in WWE. Fans of World Class Championship Wrestling will remember him as Percy Pringle, who was a classic old school manager. He toured a lot of other territories as well, before working almost exclusively with the WWE for the remainder of his career.

No word yet on what caused his death, but while I typically avoid wrestling death mentions because of how often they happen, this one is a notable exception. The one and only time I dressed up for a wrestling event, was when I was a much, much younger man and I went as Paul Bearer. I wasn’t anything close to fat, so a pillow was needed to replicate Bearer’s girth, but it was an interesting experience. I could do a pretty good impression back then, shouting “OHHHHHHHHH YES!” and holding up a foam urn. My brother dressed as the Undertaker and the two of us had a lot of fun as well as taking plenty of photos with fans.

It was also one of the first experiences I ever had speaking with a wrestling personality, as we cornered Bearer near ringside and asked him what was in the urn. He replied rather calmly, “coffee”, which apparently as later shoot interviews would reveal, was the truth. Bearer will no doubt get a WWE Hall of Fame induction in the years ahead, but it’s a shame he couldn’t get inducted while he was living. By all accounts he was a pretty awesome guy.

WWE Elite – Series 10
7 Inch Scale
By: Mattel

What’s up? What’s up? What’s up? R-Truth is what’s up. Ron “The Truth” Killings is one of the few WWE superstars that actually made his name in TNA Wrestling. I actually recall seeing R-Truth in Memphis doing his K-Krush gimmick before eventually he did a brief and ultimately doomed stint as K-Kwik in WWF. Ron Killings fashions himself a rapper, which hasn’t always worked well in the world of wrestling.

He soon joined TNA, where he developed his “Truth” persona and went on to have a great deal of success as both a heel and a face. He even won the NWA World Championship, one of the few African Americans in history to do so. Eventually WWE came calling again and despite their best efforts, Killings, now dubbed R-Truth, got over huge, In fact I’d say there was a point where he was the second or third most over man on the entire roster. Of course, he was subsequently de-pushed and he’s back to being a midcard act now, but a couple years ago it looked like R-Truth was going to be WWE Champion.

The packaging is the standard Elite style with a double sided window box. This is one of the last packages that looked like this, as it changed in Elite Series 12. Truth was recently re-releases with slightly different attire and deco, in the newer cards.

The back of the package has the faux autograph and talks about his rapping stuff. No big surprise there. This figure actually came out as R-Truth was just turning heel, but it reflects his face persona. Back when he was trying to appeal to all the little Jimmys in the crowd.

This was the second Elite R-Truth figure from Mattel (and he’s since had another) and represents one of those mind boggling choices in a lot of ways. When this figure was slated for production, R-Truth was treading water and was essentially, a nobody. So why did he have two Elites? Who knows. It worked out for Mattel though, as R-Truth’s career took off like a rocket right around the time this figure hit, making it one of the harder to find figures in Series 10.

On the surface this looks a lot like the previous Elite R-Truth. He’s got a shirt, pants and he’s really dark. R-Truth is really dark in real life though. Seriously, the guy is so black that even the night thinks he’s dark.

But underneath is a new body mold. The previous figures had used the “Triple H/Batista” body mold which made R-Truth look way too pumped. R-Truth is muscular, but not THAT muscular. This is a great fit for him.

The head sculpt is also quite good, with no goofy grins or anything. Usually Mattel puts a really dopey head sculpt on the Elite figures, so that you have to buy a Basic figure to swap with. The nice thing here is that they included paint work for all of R-Truth’s piercings and such. It’s a nice job all around.

There’s a ton of detail work all over him with paint apps on his belt, his wrists, his pants and other places. It’s all sharp and clean and it’s not all tampos either. Although he has a fair share of them as well. He also has a nice little sculpted on necklace that could possibly be removed by removing his head, as well as fabric wrist bands that can be removed.

R-Truth has the usual Elite articulation. The complete breakdown is a ball neck, swivel-hinged shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel-hinged wrists, ab crunch, ball hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel boot tops, hinged ankles, and ankle rockers.

This will satisfy even the most annoying Little Jimmy. The legs work well enough that you can his axe kick.

The figure retains a great use of balance and can be posed easily and freely. There’s just no denying that the WWE Elites are Mattel’s best toys on the market right now. Those rocker ankles for example, really help them to stand while posing.

Elite figures have mixed results when it comes to accessories. They’re supposed to come with stuff, but sometimes the crap they come with isn’t all that interesting.

Truth comes with a microphone and a t-shirt. He also has the aforementioned necklace and wrist bands, though I consider that more of a key part of the figure, akin to a kneepad though. Since they’re removable, I guess they are technically accessories to some folks.

The microphone is essential for Truth, because without it, he couldn’t spread his paranoia. Later versions of this figure come with his bullet proof vest. That is a bit missed here.

The shirt looks great from the front, but a little clunky in the back. That’s okay though, I suppose. I prefer the fabric shirts to the plastic ones. Thankfully the Truth is so black that he doesn’t have to worry about any of the fabric ink getting onto his skin cause you wouldn’t be able to notice it anyway! The shirt is fastened with velcro in the back.

If you can get this guy for $15.99 or on sale, he’s a pretty darn good value these days. I think the price has since went up on Elites though. These figures are good, but not worth too much more than that. As they hover closer to the $20 range, you may be a bit more choosey on who you select. I’ve always found R-Truth to be pretty entertaining, especially his heel runs, so I’m glad to have him in the collection.

Score Recap:
Packaging – 8
Sculpting – 8
Paint – 8
Articulation – 8
Accessories – Microphone, Shirt
Value – 8
Overall – 8 out of 10

Another Mattel WWE Elite that comes away with a pretty good score. I have no real complaints about R-Truth. If he’d come with a couple more accessories, like a chair and maybe his vest, I’d have no problems pushing this guy up to a 9 or so. As is, he’s really one of the better WWE Elite figures out there. No goofy head sculpt, good posing, accurate outfit and body. It’s a great small version of the real like R-Truth.

You can get with this or you can get with that, but you better get with this cause this is where it’s at… What’s up?!

WWE Basic Survivor Series Heritage
Big Show
7 Inch Scale
By: Mattel

I’ve already written at length about the Big Show, so I’ll spare you a recap. Instead I’ll point out that Mattel started doing something rather clever with their WWE basics line by offering up “Heritage” series in which they can offer up classic versions of wrestlers they already have signed to contracts.

It’s a really novel idea, although Mattel hasn’t really used this to the best of their ability. Some of the figures they have made aren’t of characters that old. Sometimes it seems like a waste. Especially if it’s going to yet another John Cena figure. This Survivor Series Heritage Big Show is an interesting choice as well. While he does look significantly different than the most recent Big Show, I’m not sure if this is what I’d consider a classic Big Show.

If I had been Mattel, I would have made a Big Show from earlier in his WWE career, back when he was feuding with Austin. On a side note, that should have been an awesome feud. It’s a shame the WWE weren’t willing to do more with Big Show back then. Regardless, he’s a classic throwback basic figure.

The packaging here is pretty bland if I’m to be honest. It does feature a nice shot of the Big Show from the era on it. The light blue tones are decent and do help it stand out from the other more current offerings on the shelf, but it’s not a visually stunning or eye catching package.

The back of the package shows off the other figures in the series and has a bigger classic picture of the Big Show, along with a facsimile of an autograph.

This is not the first Big Show to use this body sculpt, but it actually hasn’t been on shelves in some time. The very first Big Show figure from Mattel had this body, but subsequent ones used the “two strap” singlet mold that Show changed to shortly after Mattel took over the license. In a way that makes this figure feel a bit fresher, even though it is a reuse.

Of course the draw here is the classic head. This is from 2005, which really doesn’t seem like that long ago, but I guess it is. It seems like Big Show has been bald forever, but back in ’05 he still had a fair amount of hair. He was also rocking a bit of an Amish guy beard, which this figure reflects.

The face sculpt is nice and pretty fitting for the era and match this is supposed to be. Although he is missing some wrist tape and an elbow pad. I could skip the wrist tape as Big Show rarely wore that even if he did at Survivor Series, but the elbow pad would have been nice.

Show has all his tattoos and believe it or not, since more skin is exposed, he has more tattoo applications than his most recent Elite figure.

He even has his original tattoo, which was the first one I ever recall seeing on him, even back in the WCW Giant days. It’s a TKE or Tau Kappa Epsilon tattoo. Nice attention to detail from Mattel.

Big Show has a lot of tattoos. It’s also interesting that they gave him all his tats, but didn’t give him chest hair. It’s kind of odd who gets chest hair paint applications and who doesn’t.

The detail on these things is superb. I was checking this tattoo out up close. It’s this cool image of a cat lady with a big tiger. Big Show must like tigers or something. I bet he eats them.

The tattoos have slightly less color than the Elite version, but I can’t actually see color missing. It just looks more faded.

I actually think the faded ones look a bit more realistic, as in real life his tattoos look lighter than the Elite figure probably has them. Another nice thing is that these figures are scaled the same as the Elites. Unlike Jakks who had two different scales for their better articulated figures. This means you can mix and match with all the figures and not have any scale issues.

Basic figures emulate the old WWE Jakks Ruthless Aggression style of articulation. They do have an additional ankle swivel, but it’s not much to make you notice that much of a difference.

The range of motion in the arms is the exact same as it was in the Elite figure. The head does seem to have less motion, but that’s due to the head sculpt, not the body style. You don’t have the chest articulation from the Elite.

Nor do you have the ball jointed legs, thigh swivels, double jointed knees or the rocker ankles. It’s pretty basic articulation, but given that Big Show is no acrobat, he doesn’t feel as stiff as some of the other offerings in the Basic lineup.

You get nothing.

It sucks when you’re paying $10 (and up to $12 in some locations!) for a figure that doesn’t come with a single accessory. Mattel has been very stingy with the accessories.

These are some of the cheaper figures on the market these days, but that still doesn’t mean their value is great. Some folks prefer the “Basic” style and others prefer the “Elites”. I’m definitely in the latter camp, but the nice thing is that both types of figures are scaled with one another so you can mix and match if you’re a kid or if they don’t offer your favorite superstar in a particular style. The lack of accessories and weaker articulation make this an okay buy, but not a great value.

Score Recap:
Packaging – 7
Sculpting – 8
Paint – 8
Articulation – 6
Accessories – N/A
Value – 7
Overall – 6.5 out of 10

“Okay, who has to go to the bathroom, raise your hand?”

This is a pretty neat figure, but he’s mostly just a new head sculpt and some good tattoo tampos. As such I can’t give him a super high rating, especially when he is missing a few attention to detail elements like an elbow pad. It’s nice to have a Big Show figure with some hair, though.

“WEELLLLL… It’s a Gaggle of Big Shows!”