Monday, October 5, 2015
I've been a pro wrestling fan for a very long time. I was always fond to the toys and played with the ones my cousin's house when I visited. I always got stuck playing with the B and C roster guys while he got to be Hulk Hogan or Jake 'the snake' Roberts. It was always a sort of one side ass kicking contest when I had to be Virgil or the Berzerker or (for God's sake) Texas Tornado. I never had any of my own till I was much older and the JAKKS toys WWF figures were the big thing. I've since sold off all my JAKKS figures (except for a few) and invested my money in improving my LJN, Remco and Hasbro wrestling figure collection. While I'm not a completest (well, except for the LJN figures because they display so well), I've only really grabbed what I've come across that I've liked. I'd like to give you the top 6 wrestling figures, in my opinion of course and in no particular order. Why top 6? I'm giving you more than 5, what do you want from me?
Vampiro Canadiense from CMLL wrestling
Oh glorious Canada! Land of snow, maple syrup, hockey, and dreadlocked goth wrestlers that know Spanish and hang out with ICP. Wait, what? This amateur pro wrestler turned amateur hockey star turned rock & roll drifter turned Mexican wrestling star turned Mexican soap opera star turned WCW wrestler turned goth rapper allegedly got his training from none other than Abdullah the Butcher, one of the most brutal pro wrestlers before "hardcore wrestling" was even a thing (also makes some damned mediocre BBQ, look it up). Anyways, with such a unique look you'd think companies would have been chomping at the bit trying to get a figure made of the Canadian Vampire, right? Well, not exactly.
Back in the early 90s, a toymaker made CMLL (Consejo Mudial de Lucha Libre) figures of all the top stars of the time. These were nice, sturdy, hard plastic figurines just shy of the official LJN WWF figure size that came on gray cards with lots of good graphics and live pictures from the actual events. The figure assortment included international greats like El Ultimo Dragon and many others. But the stand out figure was Vampiro. He was a very sought after figure for the time he was active in WCW and even after that while he was in ICP's wrestling association. Sadly, in 1992 I saw them at a discount store at the local mall for a little over a buck a piece and my mom gave me the choice of all 6 different CMLL figures or 3 Dick Tracy figures (they were slightly more expensive), I made a boner move and went for Dick Tracy figures.
I was never one to pay top price for a figure I was only mildly attracted to. I had the Toy Biz WCW figures (the ones with the very cool rooted dreads) but I still kind of wanted it. I recently picked up this figure while at a friend of mine's collectibles store in Downtown St Pete. I've talked about going into Planet Retro a lot but the store has some really awesome stuff that keeps you coming back over and over again. On the top of a bin full of loose LJN figures I found Vampiro in not exactly the best of condition. I got a very good deal on the figure (I bought a bunch of stuff at the same time so I'm not sure what the breakdown was and I don't really care), went home and washed him down in warm soapy water, used acetone to remove all the stray marks and strip the paint off of his hair and upper tights and touched the whole thing up in Vallejo paints. It's for my personal collection and if I do sell him down the road (the market has certainly cooled for demand of this figure so he'd have to die or start wrestling again for value to increase) I make no bones about letting someone know I've touched up the figure significantly.
Abdullah the Butcher from Remco's AWA line
Outside of the really awful one released about 10 years ago, this was the only figure ever made in his likeness. The detail wasn't the greatest but this is just about a 30 year old figure. Like I mentioned before, Abdullah the Butcher was the godfather of hardcore wrestling before it was a thing and I admire that watching some of his old matches from overseas. Also, it marked a change in Remco's basic figure design. A new torso was created to produce wrestlers a little more accurately who weren't as muscular as the rest. He's a cool figure and really the best one they've made so far.
The Giant from Toy Biz WCW series one
I always thought this was the best figure out of the first half dozen series Toy Biz produced. They stayed in the same vein as the Hasbro figures and unfortunately that worked against the figures most of the time. Action features got squeezed into every figure and rarely did they work as intended and most of them made the figure look ridiculously misshapen. The likenesses were hit and miss but some got it close enough. The Giant mixed that almost got it likenesses with silly action feature that actually worked well enough. The choke slam feature sometimes threw the opposing figure across the ring, which was good enough for me since it was the freakin' Giant.
The Great Khali from JAKKS WWF Ruthless Aggression line
Not a great wrestler but a great figure. Huge, imposing and a totally unique sculpt is what really attracts me. The face, captured in mid primordial scream, also is an attractive feature. Probably very much needed because with a closed mouth this guy looks like one of those Easter Island heads. While JAKKS was in business, they got as much mileage out of this sculpt because we all know toy companies try to avoid too many unique molds. The more unique bodies or accessories, the higher the price gets. Still one of my favorite releases from the JAKKS WWF line.
Doink the Clown from Hasbro's WWF line
Take a line full of squat, burly looking men and add a clown with real rooted hair. Marketing brilliance indeed. This figure was sought after upon it's release and didn't cool off for several years. Now, I've bought numerous collections in the past and I never see this figure loose. The ones I find online loose don't have particularly good paint jobs due to being played with rough. I don't have many of the Hasbro WWF figures, if I had to guess it would be less than a dozen and I've used most for customs, but I do have a Doink in fairly good condition. I think I'd more than likely shit myself if a muscle-bound clown the likes of this came running at me. I don't scare easy but damn if that face isn't terrifying.
George "the Animal" Steele from JAKKS Classic Superstars
JAKKS WWF classic superstars line brought the fans an amazing amount of awesome figures over it's 20+ series releases. Everything from nWo Hogan, Brutus Beefcake, Shockmaster and even Kona Krush (but no "Macho Man" Randy Savage, sigh!) but one of the most memorable releases was George "the Animal" Steele. He wasn't much different than the rest of the series; great attention to detail and a really good likeness....is that HAIR? Yes, they glued "real" hair to his chest. George, outside of Prince Albert, was probably the hairiest wrestler to ever step in a ring. JAKKS gave us that extra added realism by furnishing a fuzzy figure for the fans.
Slick from LJN WWF wrestling superstars
An 8 inch rubber pimp (in)action figure. He was literally the watered down version of Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch. The removable hat was a nice touch.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
I've already admitted to being a 80s and 90s wrestling nerd, I loved the outlandish characters and entertaining stories. I also admitted to being a huge dork when it comes to the classic monsters so when I heard rumblings of a movie from a few years ago that mixed those two elements together I thought, "Sounds pretty groovy, I'm down for it." Luckily my curiosity was quenched with my subscription to NetFlix and it was showtime....Monster Brawl.
(Monsters plus wrestling? What could go wrong?)
Monster Brawl starts off looking like something just this side of a junior college film project. The shots are a little more revealing than they should be and the close ups are not clean, think SyFy channel movies from 2 years ago or more. The concept is a supernatural wrestling promotion that pits legendary monsters against each other for the bragging rights of heavy weight champion of whatever the fuck they made up. Surprisingly the star power isn't too shabby with Dave Foley, Art Hindle and Lance Hendrickson (well, in voice only but they must have paid him well for his Mortal Kombat-esque commentary). There's also a handful of wrestlers in the movie like Kevin Nash, Robert Maillet, Jimmy Hart and Herb Dean (OK, he's MMA famous but still) but I don't officially commit to calling them star acting power. According to IMDB the budget was a conservative 200K in Canadian dollars so it looks like they really spent every penny on discount Halloween props and Red Bull energy drinks.
(This is what I got the displeasure of seeing.)
The premise is 8 classic monsters face off in a battle to the death to establish who is the number one biggest badass in the supernatural world. And they do so in a wrestling ring, ala' WWF style. I'm fond of Asylum Entertainment's movies (like Sharktopus or Ghost Shark or Sharknado) but this sounds like the crap I would come up with as a little kid playing with my action figures when I decided I was bored using Macho Man to fight Hulk Hogan. The explanation isn't rushed, it's partially missing. For lack of better terms, Dave Foley trips through the exposition like a one legged man playing hopscotch in a mine field. I don't think it was his fault though, he probably couldn't do much with what script there was if it wasn't fully ad-lib to begin with.
(Once you see the amateur effects, you can't unsee the zippers and cosmetics.)
Each monster gets a rather rushed backstory and the "fights" are really slow moving. This is a premise that would have done better turned into a webisode series. The only redeeming part of any of the fights is Lance Hendrickson's commentary during the fights as an unseen entity. Think the voice in Mortal Kombat that would laugh or say "superb" or "excellent". Many of the monsters have special powers they never really explained, they mention the powers just moments before the character uses it. Did you know the Cyclops has an energy beam he shoots from his eye? Well neither did I until seconds before he blew away some hideous hag cleverly named Witch Bitch.
(I expected so much just based on the concept and these promotional posters.)
And then there's the monsters. Cyclops, Frankenstein, Zombie Man, Witch Bitch, Swamp Gut, Werewolf, Lady Vampire and the Mummy. All of those monsters I was moderately OK with until they mentioned Swamp Gut. What's a Swamp Gut? Well, take the Sasquatch and mix in Creature from the Black Lagoon and Swamp Thing. Then crap it out and look at the abomination that's been born. Needless to say I think it's a weak character that could have been easily replaced with another pseudo knock off monster. And I'm not sure who's costume was worse, Swamp Gut or Cyclops. Both characters you can see parts of the guy in the costume under the bad special effects make-up. Like I said, the movie spent the budget at a Spirit Halloween store on November 1st.
(What I was hoping for versus what I got.)
If you have 89 minutes to waste and a few beers to kill, I suggest either watching this movie or maybe doing something to better yourself. Click the link below to see a list of worthwhile movies that also last 89 minutes or less. The top one is Zombieland, which is an enjoyable Halloween-y film if that's your style.