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Posts Tagged ‘Bret Hart’

Legends of the fall: Mattel’s Rockers to arrive in November…but only online

July 28th, 2011 No comments

Rock on(line): Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty...not coming to a store near you. (Those mullets...so lifelike.)

A little more than 12 months ago, Mattel made a Supefly splash with old-school fans at the 2010 Comic-Con with the arrivals of their long-awaited Legends line, including prototypes of a nearly flawless Rockers set of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty (whose Jakks set immediately sold out years back) as well as Ricky Steamboat and Kevin and Kerry Von Erich (whom Jakks was never able to sign).

My fascination with action figures started with the Six-Million Dollar Man (which I documented here) and peaked with Kenner’s “Star Wars” line. The best birthday memory of my life (except for my 20th, but that’s a wonderfully sordid story for another time) was receiving the entire line of George Lucas figures complete with a Star Wares cake on my 7th birthday on April 30, 1978. Make no mistake–my sister played with Barbie Dolls; I played with action figures.

Though when I was a teen in the late ’80s, I initially scoffed at the “Midnight Rockers,” (their pre-WWF name), as being rip-offs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (who in turn were “inspired by the Fabs in the eyes of Memphis fans), Michaels and Jannetty earned my respect with their classic bloody brawls with Doug Sommers and a lean, mean Buddy Rose over the AWA tag straps on ESPN. As PWI and Bill Apter declared, “From Imitators to Innovators!” The duo were also tremendous heels in Memphis–getting heat with the fans and boys alike with their arrogance and prima-donna attitudes. (And why not, with heat heel manager Mark Golleen in their corner?)

Unfortunately, Mattel decided to release three less-than-inspiring sets of tag-teams for its initial Legends two-packs at a price of mark $30, about $5 too high: The Bushwackers (Sheepherders), Roddy Piper (with a bad facial scan) and Bob Orton Jr., and the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. The sets warmed Toys R Us shelves for months until they eventually were sold as part of buy-one-get free deals.

Entrance Greats, which featured some perfect likenesses of Piper, HBK, Rey Mysterio, The Million Dollar Man and The Undertaker, were eventually eliminated by Mattel as a cost-cutting measure. (The EG line featured stands that played barely audible snippets of each wrestler’s entrance music–a cute concept but again too costly most collectors at around $22.99. Meanwhile, sales of its regular Legends line underperformed, in part because of the economy and also because of some questionable choices (Rick “the Model” Martel, Hillbilly Jim, Jimmy Snuka in tights and boots, and an outdated, 1980-era-attired Sgt. Slaughter). I applaud Mattel for giving us longtime marks quality figures of stars/attires we thought we’d never see produced, but I have to question if they really thought Dusty Rhodes in polka dots from his ridiculous WWF run in the late ’80s was going to be must-get.

In hindsight, Mattel probably should have debuted with the big guns early: The Rock, Bret Hart and Randy Savage, although all of those eventually hit retail or are scheduled too. Personally, I loved the Road Warriors in their NWA attire that was part of Legends Series 1, but Mattel probably would have sold more had Hawk and Animal appeared in their red ’90s-era Legion of Doom garb. Mattel also dragged their feet on title belts, with the exception of its oversized collector straps that looked more a chest plate like the North American title Bill Watts had made in the mid-80s for Magnum. Eventually, Mattel delivered with exceptionally well done, painted title belts (unlike Jakks), including one included with a brilliant Mr. Perfect figure that’s absolutely…well…y’know.

World-class quality figures: Mattel's Kerry Von Erich in his NWA/WWF glory.

This year at Comic-Con, Mattel announced that while the Legends line wasn’t canceled, it was moving exclusively to www.mattycollector.com, with the Rockers available to order in November, followed by Andre the Giant in January. Taking no chances, the site also has a poll in which the fans can decide the following five Legends figures of 2012, which choices including Magnum TA, Barry Windham, Miss Elizabeth and Arn Anderson. Instead, “Flashback” superstars like Papa Shango and Kane in his debut attire will be incorporated into the Elite line, with the majority of these figures likely to be based on stars of the ’90s. Personally, if anything, I hope this allows for the occasional niche figure in the Legends line, as I’d love to have a Nick Bockwinkel w/turkey-platter-sized AWA World title (the so-called “inmate” belt).

O Canada. O Canada!: Hart's "doll" is sure to be a hit, man. (Just don't pick your nose with the flag a la HBK or you're sure to catch heat.)

It’s a shame as the last line to hit stores (probably around September/October) include some of Mattel’s best work, including the Ultimate Warrior, Eddie Guerrero and the aforementioned Von Erichs. In another questionable claw, er, call, Kerry gets two figures: one from his 1985 peak and another when he was a shell of his former self as the Texas Tornado in the WWF.

In some good news for old-school fans, the high-end Defining Moments line will likely include one Legends/Flashback star per set, including an excellent ’97-era Bret “the Hitman” Hart figure, complete with Canadian flag and the Former Fed’s Winged-Eagle championship belt. (It’s pricey, but you can pre-order the Hart figure by clicking here.) Bret Hart was on hand at Comic-Con, trying to be enthusiastic as possible about his “new doll.” Doll? Action figure, please. We are grown men after all–though, admittedly, my wife often takes a look at my ever-expanding collection and shakes her head in dismay.

Then again, Bret was around the WWF in the mid-’80s, when Vince McMahon routinely referred to them as dolls, even attempting to sway the Midnight Express to jump from hot feuds, less travel, and big money in Jim Crockett Promotions so he could make “dolls” in their likenesses. Incidentally, I wonder if Bret is aware that CM Punk raids his wardrobe? I mean, this cap/black shirt/jorts/fanny pack combo look is great, but….)

The Defining Moments line, aimed at older collectors or those younger fans with disposable income, has been amazing, including spot-on Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior figures from WrestleMania VII and an outstanding Rock figure, complete with Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection jacket from one of the highest-righted skits in RAW history.

Mattel also done a great job of delivering online limited-number exclusives at Ringside Collectibles, including a bald, mask-wearing CM Punk w/removable hood. I expect more will be on the way, instead of producing these at mass retail. Reportedly, the Randy “Macho King” Savage figure, which I posted pictures of earlier, will be available this fall through Ringside Collectibles as a limited-edition production.

Check out at the poll at mattycollector.com. And vote Miss Elizabeth–Macho Man looks lonely on my shelf and Sensational Sherri is currently paired with HBK. (Though, admittedly, that will never last. Hmmm…maybe I do need to grow up and stop being such a mark. Nah–never happen.)

The devil’s no longer in the details: Vince McMahon’s fading genius evident Monday night

June 24th, 2010 3 comments

Another angle bombs: If a car explosion can't stop Mr. McMahon, who can? Not these greenhorns.

By most accounts, what distinguished Vince McMahon as a booking genius in the ’80s and ’90s was his amazing attention to detail and ability to carefully book an angle as far as a year in advance, carefully planning with the likes of Pat Patterson and J.J. Dillon to execute his vision to perfection. Unlike the bookers for his hapless competition, McMahon’s booking didn’t suffer because of nepotism or centering angles around himself because he had no relatives who were wrestlers and his performing was limited to announcing. (I think we all know how that nepotism deal eventually made a sharp turn for the worse.)

When he became an in-ring performer in the late ’90s, Mr. McMahon quickly evolved into one of the most intriguing characters in recent memory; he went on to become one of the best heels ever. But what used to be fascinating–seeing the former lead announcer, the voice of the WWF in the ’80s and early ’90s, reveal his true self as the ruthless owner–has turned into a nuisance. Mr. McMahon is just another sad old-timer who doesn’t realize his time in the spotlight is done.

After an intriguing start, his long-awaited showdown with Bret Hart earlier this year fizzled after the shoot-like feel of the program turned into just another wrestling angle when the Hitman supposedly crushed his ankle in the parking lot during RAW. Their WrestleMania “match” itself was an ill-timed, illogical, horribly booked abomination that McMahon should have had the instincts to call an audible on at the mid-point. After the bout, he vowed that the Mr. McMahon character had come full circle (since it really spawned from the Montreal Screwjob) and would no longer appear on WWE TV. But he just couldn’t help himself.

After a few sporadic appearances on RAW last month, he injected himself (much like a lethal dose of NWO poison), into the NXT angle Monday night. That part doesn’t bother me. What’s annoying is that Mr. McMahon is back as the same old character, no lessons learned, no change of heart…just the same snide, twisted, arrogant bastard…just the kind of image you want to portray as the owner of the company and as the husband of a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Besides, that character is stale and has run its course. For Gotch’s sake, let Mr. McMahon die.

The only way McMahon’s appearance would have worked Monday is if he had been outraged over the former NXTers from the start, perhaps coming to Bret’s defense and ending that on-air relationship on a positive note. (I’ve already detailed how the NXT’s Hart attack was ridiculous and similar to the angle that ruined the buildup to Hitman/McMahon match at WrestleMania.) The chairman of the board should have been furious that these rookies had the gall to bring his flagship show to a halt and assault his employees, including the face of his company (and major revenue generator), John Cena. He should maintained Hart’s order that they were all fired.

Such a verbal assault would have helped the angle regain its edge and danger. Instead, they did another Vince Russo-type swerve, where it appeared McMahon was aligned with the NXT guys before they slowly (and I mean slowly) turned on him and left him for dead. On that note, on Monday’s RAW, they had Sheamus seemingly give up the WWE title in babyface fashion before quickly regaining his heel form and mocking the crowd; Chris Jericho seemingly helped Evan Bourne (who’s really shining of late) to his feet in a sign of good sportsmanship before tossing him back to the mat; and finally, the NXT gang (they really need a name for this group…perhaps they’ll go with “Nexus” so they can keep the N armbands) delivers their apologies before crashing the main event again. Back in the day, wrestlers would often watch each other’s matches so they wouldn’t go out and do the same thing. RAW has become way too predictable and repetitive–the result of too many “creative” hands in the mix. It would have been so much more effective and logical if McMahon had come back in babyface mode, calling for the rookies’ heads, who then suddenly appear and beat him half to death. (Wouldn’t outrage be the logical McMahon reaction if outsiders had attacked two of his sports entertainers and ruined a RAW broadcast?) The only way the crippled chairman could then get revenge is for his WWE Superstars to teach these punks a lesson in the ring…i.e., he’s forced to offer them contracts and does so begrudingly.

Instead, some mystery general manager (Michael Cole?) gives the greenies contracts at the beginning of Monday’s broadcast. OK…then why are they attacking McMahon at the end of the show? Given the heinous nature of their initial attack, why is Vince acting chummy and laughing in the moments before their attack? They have clearly stated their problem was with WWE management…but the new GM has awarded them contracts and reinstated Wade Barrett’s PPV title shot…so what’s the point of attacking Vince? Too many plot holes for my liking.

As Dutch Mantell told me about his booking days, “See, that’s what I always tried to do when I was booking. I’d do something, and then I’d go back and take the holes out. I would do that because a man sittin’ there who works a 9-to-5 job or whatever, is gonna see this angle and he’s gonna go back and think about it…dissect it. And the same with a movie. Ever watch a movie and you go back and think, ‘Oh, that doesn’t make sense ‘cause this happened.’? That’s because the writer or director didn’t take the holes out. So, if you take the holes out, now you’ve gotta a viable scenario that should make you money. And that’s the key word: should.”

Little details like that rarely slipped through the cracks when Vince McMahon the booker was at the top of his game. Too bad Mr. McMahon the performer has clouded his vision.

Bret Hart gets a leg up on Vince McMahon

March 16th, 2010 2 comments

Capping off the long, painful swerve that everyone but Vince McMahon apparently saw coming, Bret Hart revelaed on RAW last night that he staged a freak car accident, with help from the RAW cameramen and production team employed by the Chairman of the Board. It’s really a shame the Hart/McMahon program took this turn, which was fascinating initially because of its inherent realistic nature playing off the bitter feelings of both men that have been simmering for 13 years. Tricking heels into a match has been a staple of the business for years, and if executed correctly, can build the fans’ anticipation for when the bad guy finally receives his comeuppance. I’ve seen it used with mixed results in Memphis over the years. Often, in many Southern promotions, the local heel or manager would be tricked into signing a contract to wrestle a bear. (Dutch Mantell sheds some light on this inhumane practice in his entertaining book.)  Perhaps the most memorable such scenario was the ruse Jerry Lawler and Lance Russell pulled on Bill Dundee in November 1985 to goad the Superstar into one more Southern title defense before NWA champion Ric Flair returned to Memphis to face the region’s titlist–this was incredibly hokey, even by Memphis standards. (Apparently, some fans were fooled, as several mothers in Memphis flooded the WMC-TV studio switchboard complaining of the example Lawler had just set for the little Kingers.)

 

Bad casting: No way Hart should have touched McMahon until WrestleMania.

I like the idea of Mr. McMahon being afraid of Hart, showing a contrast to the bravado that he’s routinely displayed heading into high-profile matches over the years with Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. It’s just the execution that was flawed here. Given the Hart family’s personal tragedies over the years, it would have been far more believable had Bret claimed to have experienced a gym accident or developed lingering complications from his stroke that would cause him to rescind his challenge to McMahon. Fans have largely been programmed to tune out backstage antics and accidents as “part of the show,” which hurt the effectiveness of the injury angle. The reveal last night was OK, though McMahon agreeing so passively to Stu’s induction into the HOF as part of the contract terms was too quickly glossed over my taste. I was also surprised that Hart physically assaulted McMahon, belting him with the cast twice before exiting to the cheers of the fans. However, I loved the smirk on Hart’s face when McMahon swiveled around to find the cast on and crutch on the desk, and the Hitman was strong on the mic after.

However, a better scenario might have been for one of McMahon’s henchmen from last week, (e.g., Jack Swagger), to hit the ring after the “cast-off” reveal only to be subdued by the

An Attitude Era Gone By: The Rattlesnake slithers back into the picture with the Chairman and the Hitman.

Hitman, who would proceed to ensnare the All-American American in the Sharpshooter as Vince scooted away in horror as the camera faded out. Again, it’s all bout whetting the fans’ appetite to see Hart get his hands on Vince , so the less actual physical interaction between the two until WrestleMania the better. Plus, it would remind older fans and help educate new ones of just had badass a finisher Bart Hart has in his repertoire.  

It was pretty damn cool to see Steve Austin, Hart and McMahon in the same ring again. Stone Cold was amazing on the mic all night and illustrated just how little charisma the majority of current WWE stars have in comparison. The fans’ reaction to Austin was remarkable–almost like they were starving for a character of his personality. Funny how guys like Austin (and Shawn Michaels in 2003) physically look amazing when returning to WWE after years of a more stable lifestyle off the road, as the Rattlesnake looked lean and mean. Austin did a nice job of putting over his bouts with the Hitman over as some of the best mathes of his career, incuding the character-defining moment at WrestleMania XIII.

File under Bret Hart, Vince McMahon and Steve Austin.