Superstars unpackaged: 2013's action figure firsts
Ask a WWE Superstar when they know they’ve “made it,” and three answers come up more than most: their first championship, their first appearance as a video game character and their very first action figure.
Ever since the earliest, most basic WWE figures hit shelves in the mid-1980s, Superstars have marveled at toymakers’ ability to transform their larger-than-life personas into miniature totems. That tradition continues to this date with Mattel’s current WWE line, featuring the most accurate and detailed recreations of your favorite ring warriors.
Join WWE.com as we look back on the Superstars and WWE Legends who received their debut Mattel action figures in 2013, and see what the Superstars themselves had to say about meeting their tiny counterparts in the flesh — or plastic — for the very first time.
As a former United States Champion and one of the strongest pound-for-pound Superstars on the roster, the cocky Antonio Cesaro isn’t exactly easy to impress. However, even The Swiss Superman was taken aback when he caught a glimpse of the first-ever Elite-style Antonio Cesaro action figure, which joined two Mattel Basic Cesaros in the action figure aisle in 2013.
“It’s got my trademark ‘Cesaro smirk,’” the Swiss “Real American” told WWE.com of the figure, part of Mattel’s Elite Series 23. “The first time I saw it was somebody on Twitter — that’s @AntonioCesaro by the way — sent a picture of me during an entrance, and I thought, ‘I don’t remember that.’ Then I realized it was my [Elite] action figure in front of a self-made WWE set. That’s how accurate these figures are nowadays.”
Kaitlyn began 2013 with a massive Divas Championship victory over Eve on the 20th anniversary of Raw, and went on to hold the butterfly-emblazoned prize for 153 days. Although she would ultimately lose her title to best friend AJ Lee, The Hybrid Diva has reason to celebrate as her chaotic year draws to a close: Toy stores everywhere are being invaded by tiny Kaitlyns as part of Mattel’s “Best of 2013” series.
“My two-tone hair was hard to capture, but you know what? They nailed it,” said Kaitlyn. “The figure’s really jacked which I like. She has great arms, and she’s got a great butt on her, too.”
It might be more accurate for Mattel to produce a Paul Heyman “traction figure” after the beatings he’s sustained at the hands of CM Punk in recent weeks, but the toymakers have actually given kids and toy collectors two opportunities to add the twisted ECW mastermind to their collections this year.
The mad scientist is not only available as a Toys “R” Us exclusive “Build-A-Figure,” but within a Battle Pack alongside “The Beast Incarnate,” Brock Lesnar. The two-pack includes a stretcher, which is oddly prophetic on Mattel’s part. Then again, it was probably easy to predict that — at some point in 2013 — someone would finally give Heyman the thrashing he’s had coming to him.
You can’t quite bring all of the drama of “Total Divas” to your toy collection without the first-ever Funkadactyl action figures, part of Mattel’s 24th series of Battle Packs.
The two-pack features Naomi & Cameron in some Planet Funk-worthy gear complete with silver boots. To truly bring the funk, the dancing duo comes with a disco ball.
“The figures are amazing and they look just like us, and my little cousins have been playing with them,” Naomi told WWE.com. “It’s also special to me because Cameron and I get to experience this together.”
Cameron added, “I never thought I’d have something so cool. It’s the bomb.com. What else can I say?”
After winning the WWE Championship in an astounding 48 seconds on May 17, 1963, Bruno Sammartino went on to become one of the most beloved WWE Superstars of all time, and his legend continues to grow to this day. Months after the indomitable strongman earned his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame, Sammartino received his inaugural Mattel action figure in WWE’s Elite Series 25 — a highly-detailed recreation of the Italian-born icon in his prime.
Complete with a muscled physique and painstaking attention to detail right down to the last chest hair, Mattel’s first-ever Bruno also includes a WWE Hall of Fame plaque and podium so WWE fans can properly “induct” the groundbreaking grappler into their collections.
When The Shield debuted at Survivor Series 2012, WWE.com editors were confident that the trio would go on to do amazing (and horrifying) things in the squared circle. We also knew that they’d make for some cool action figures, and Mattel was more than happy to oblige one year later.
With Dean Ambrose available as part of Mattel’s Basic Series 33 and his cohorts Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns debuting in Mattel’s 24th series of Battle Packs, collectors can now unleash The Hounds of Justice on their WWE collections.
Just how uncanny are the figures’ likenesses? Well, they somehow managed to unnerve The Shield’s wildcard, Ambrose.
“I stared at [my figure] for a couple of minutes, and then I put it down and said ‘I’m just going to pretend that this is a thing that doesn’t exist,’ because it weirds me out,” the United States Champion told WWE.com. “It’s strange to see stuff like that.”
Miss Elizabeth debuted as an unarticulated figure in 1987, but “The First Lady of Wrestling” didn’t get the proper toy treatment until early 2013, when Mattel’s Elite Series 19 began hitting the shelves. Finally, toy collectors could pay tribute to WWE’s first Diva and a true trailblazer for women in sports-entertainment.
Clad in one of her signature white gowns, this mini Miss Elizabeth classes up any collection, and finally gives our “Macho Man” Randy Savage action figures someone to lift up onto his shoulders in WrestleMania IV-esque celebration.
His fellow Prime Time Player got the action figure treatment way back in 2011 as a member of The Nexus, but Titus O’Neil would wait an additional two years to grace toy shelves as part of Mattel’s Battle Pack Series 21.
When speaking of the figure — which comes packed with Young mid- “Millions of Dollars” dance — O’Neil complimented Mattel’s designers for not only recreating The Prime Time Players’ “blinged-out” ring gear, but the former Florida Gator’s chiseled appearance.
“The figure is very muscular, very handsome and very bald,” O’Neil said with a laugh. “I grew up playing with action figures from Marvel superheroes to WWE Superstars, so to now be placed in that same category is an honor.”
“Move over Barbie, because, I’m sorry, Rosa Mendes is a lot cuter.”
Rosa Mendes wasn’t modest when she described her first-ever action figure to WWE.com, but since when has the fiery Latina been known to mince words? Eight years after beginning her WWE journey, Rosa made her action figure debut in 2013 as part of Mattel’s Basic Series 31 — a moment that more than lived up to her expectations.
“When I got the news, I was jumping up and down and totally freaking out,” Rosa said, “Mattel captured everything, from my curves to my tattoo.”
As 2012 drew to a close, the hulking Ryback was on an unrivaled hot streak, having catapulted himself into the WWE Championship scene less than a year after his WWE debut. Collectors were understandably hungry for action figure representations of The Human Wrecking Ball, and Mattel finally sated that voracious hunger with a selection of Ryback action figures in 2013, including an ultra-articulated version in Elite Series 21.
The first Elite Ryback replicates the juggernaut’s rippling physique, detailed singlet and thousand-yard stare, ready to leave WWE action figures Shell Shocked in its wake. It also comes complete with dumbbells, so it can embarrass other toys in the weight room as well as the ring.
Jan. 9, 2012, is probably a night Curt Hawkins would like to forget. Live on Raw, the self-professed “Prince of Queens” was set to face “The Funkasaurus” Brodus Clay, a then-unknown Superstar whose fun-loving personality belied his hard-hitting offense in the ring. Hawkins faced a crushing loss that Monday night, and probably thought the horrors of that evening were over … that was, until Mattel released Clay with the first Mattel Curt Hawkins in its 20th series of Battle Packs.
“Kids need a guy for Brodus Clay to beat up when he debuts in their collection, so I’m obviously the perfect guy for that,” Hawkins said jokingly. “That’s how I assume I’d be in every kid’s personal WWE.”
Despite that wince-inducing memory, Hawkins beams with pride when talking about his first Mattel action figure, which features details that left The Party Starter “blown away.”
“My favorite part about its likeness is the little bit of ‘gingerness’ in my beard, which is different from the hair on my head and the rest of my facial hair,” Hawkins explains. “That’s never been done before.”
The Honky Tonk Man
He’s been “Cool, Cocky & Bad” since the days of disco, and he’s been an action figure for nearly as long. But it’s Mattel’s Elite Series 21 version of WWE’s most prolific Intercontinental Champion that really gets our hips swinging. Yes, that’s as awkward as it sounds.
Regardless of our embarrassing dancing abilities, it’s hard not to have fun in the WWE.com offices — or any office — with a miniature Mattel Honky Tonk Man on your desk, perfect for waging Intercontinental Title Matches on top of the printer or smashing his included plastic guitar over your Heath Slater figure’s head.
He might be one-half of the fun-loving “Tons of Funk” these days, but there was a time not long ago when Tensai was one of the most feared Superstars on the roster. The tattooed tyrant utterly incapacitated his foes, giving the WWE Universe little indication that he would one day abandon his ruthless ways to become one of the most beloved Superstars on the roster.
Capturing the behemoth in his pre-“Sweet T” days, Mattel released a Basic version of Tensai in 2013 before adding him to their Elite assortment in Series 22.
“Mattel did an amazing job, but I think I’m a little leaner than the figure came out,” Tensai joked. “In real life, my abs are a little bit more defined. Despite that, I love showing it to people and saying, ‘this is me!’”
There have been numerous Trish Stratus action figures released over the years, but none have boasted the eye-popping realism of Mattel’s version of the beloved Diva, which was released as part of its Elite Series 24.
Trish, an action figure collector herself, worked closely with Mattel designers in nailing down her exact look, from her makeup to Survivor Series 2005 ring gear, to ensure maximum “Stratusfaction” for WWE toy collectors.
The figure also comes complete with WWE’s now-retired Women’s Championship, a title the 2013 WWE Hall of Famer held a whopping seven times. With its 27 points of articulation, perhaps this tiny Trish could give your less-limber toys some yoga tips.
In 2013, WWE collectors could finally complete their Raw announce teams with the first Mattel JBL action figure, released as a “Flashback” figure in the toymakers’ Elite Series 23.
The plastic plaything — which features the self-proclaimed “Wrestling God’s” look from WrestleMania 21 — not only allows fans to stage elaborate episodes of “The JBL & Cole Show,” but also recreate The Longhorn Loudmouth’s Show of Shows clash with John Cena for the WWE Title.
“Mattel and I have given a gift to the world,” the Superstar-turned-broadcaster told WWE.com. “Mattel was obviously working with a wonderful subject in me, and they did a wonderful job of making it as good-looking as I am in person.”
WWE Universe members finally have a “Lady Diesel” to protect their AJ Lee toys from the rest of the Divas Locker room thanks to Mattel’s Basic Series 33, which includes Tamina Snuka’s first-ever action figure.
For Tamina, seeing her debut toy — intimidating even in plastic form — rekindled childhood memories of her father, WWE Hall of Famer “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka.
“I remember the first time I saw my dad’s action figure, and when I saw mine, it took me back to that time. In that moment, I felt so blessed,” said Tamina. “I never dreamt this would have happened.”
“The Intellectual Savior of the Masses” Damien Sandow graced store pegs twice in 2013, first as a Basic figure and then as part of Mattel’s Elite Series 22, complete with the former “Mr. Money in the Bank’s” signature robe and a microphone with which to lecture the plastic peons in any toy collection.
“I was actually quite surprised by how Mattel captured all of my features because, let’s face it, my physical features — from the symmetry of my face to my granite-like jaw — only come along once in a lifetime,” said Sandow of his two 2013 action figures, which he calls a “Duet of Decency.”
When asked if he played with action figures as a child, the sharp-minded Superstar was quick to turn up his nose.
“I actually read books growing up,” he said with a sneer.
Which is your favorite? Comment below and tell Mattel which action figures you want to see in 2014.