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Superstars unpackaged: 2016 Mattel action figure firsts
Along with championship victories and WrestleMania debuts, becoming an action figure ranks high among the milestones WWE Superstars hope to attain when they set out on their in-ring career. With the dawn of a New Era in sports-entertainment, 2016 saw multiple Superstars join Mattel mainstays like John Cena, Triple H and The Undertaker on toy shelves.
WWE.com spoke with several Superstars who received their “First Time in the Line” action figures in 2016, including exciting newcomers like Finn Bálor, Kevin Owens and Becky Lynch, to find out what the Superstars had to say about seeing their miniature selves for the first time.
Becky Lynch (Basic Series 62)
To say Becky Lynch’s debut action figure is “straight fire” would be an understatement. Donning The Irish Lass Kicker’s signature steampunk goggles, the action figure also sports a few unique features that caught the real-life Becky by surprise when she first laid eyes on it.
“I’ve got this snarl,” Lynch told WWE.com “They really got the snarl.”
Beyond those extraordinary details, the figure also served as validation for many of the former SmackDown Women’s Champion’s friends in Dublin, Ireland.
“Back home, a lot of my friends, they still don’t really know what I do, so when I put a picture of my action figure version of me on Facebook, they were all like, ‘Whoa, man! This is real!’” Becky said with a laugh. “That just gave me extra cool points. So now my friends think I’m cool.”
Finn Bálor (Basic Series 57)
Although collectors continue to clamor for Elite versions of Finn Bálor as his Demon King alter ego, the charismatic Irishman’s debut Mattel figure was far more down-to-earth, wearing plain black trunks and arm sleeves with two-toned red kick pads.
The former WWE Universal Champion caught his first glimpse of his inaugural Mattel incarnations at San Diego’s Comic-Con International back in 2015.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have some really creative fans that have made custom figures, but these are incredible,” Bálor told WWE.com.
With the variety of paint styles Bálor has worn — and likely many more to come — something tells us Mattel designers will be quite busy, especially once Bálor returns to action … and The Demon King emerges once again.
Lita (Elite Series 41)
Collectors can finally wage epic Mattel action figure battles between Trish Stratus and Lita with this Elite Series version of the 2014 WWE Hall of Famer.
Given Lita’s unique fashion sense, Mattel included two interchangeable tops with this highly detailed figure: One white, and one made of a neon yellow mesh that instantly brings her Team Xtreme days with The Hardy Boyz to mind.
Kevin Owens (Basic Series 58)
Kevin Owens isn’t an easy guy to impress, so when the host of “The Kevin Owens Show” met “The Kevin Owens Action Figure” — ultimately released as part of Mattel’s Basic Series 58 — the designers likely expected some harsh feedback. However, once The Prizefighter laid eyes on his figure debut, clad in his black-and-silver KO NXT T-shirt and boasting Owens’ trademark sneer, he was remarkably complimentary, down to the last detail.
“The details are so crazy. That’s me. That’s my nose, that’s my ears, that’s my eyes, that’s my hair. That’s pretty awesome,” Owens told WWE.com while admiring an early prototype of his debut Mattel action figure at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con International. “That’s my stomach, definitely.”
Bayley (Basic Series 58)
Boisterous chants of “Heyyy, we want some Bayley!” can be heard just about every time The Huggable One steps between the ropes, and Mattel has clearly heard the WWE Universe loud and clear with two distinct versions of the fan-favorite Superstar released in the past year.
“They couldn’t have picked better gear,” Bayley told WWE.com of her first figure. “The blue gear with the red dinosaur is special to me because that’s the first gear I wore in NXT.”
Her second 2016 toy offering, an Elite-styled figure released as part of the Toys R Us-exclusive WWE Network Spotlight series, features Bayley in her entrance gear from NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn last year, when she defeated Sasha Banks to become the NXT Women’s Champion.
“It’s just insane, because as a longtime WWE fan, I still have all of my action figures in storage,” Bayley said. “Now to have my own, and to see my nephews play with them, to see kids tweet me pictures with them and to see people are actually going out of their way searching all of these stores trying to find them. It’s really cool and humbling. Hopefully we’ve got some more going on next year!”
Will wacky, waving, inflatable, arm-flailing tube men be far behind?
Sasha Banks (Basic Series 58)
Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks have waged some incredible battles in the last year. Now, thanks to Mattel, those clashes can be waged by kids and collectors as well.
For Banks, seeing her figure for the first time this year was not only a validation of her NXT career, which is where she was competing at the time, but a full-circle moment going back to her childhood.
“I remember as a kid I would always ask my grandmother for any WWE action figure, and every Christmas she would not give me one!” Sasha said. “So it’s so crazy that I can now give my grandma one of my own action figures!”
Kalisto (Basic Series 60)
With his bright, colorful attire and intricate masks, Kalisto already looks like an action figure come to life. So Mattel designers were certainly well-equipped to translate the exciting former United States Champion to toy form as part of Basic Series 60.
“My nephews and my nieces can’t believe it’s me,” Kalisto told WWE.com. “They like to throw me around, thinking that I’m high-flying. And they’ve actually broken a couple of them.”
Fortunately, Kalisto has been able to keep at least a few of his action figures out of harm’s reach.
“[My first figure] is like a trophy for me,” said Kalisto, who proudly displays the miniature versions of himself in his home. “It’s a reminder that if I keep working hard, then things could happen.”
Renee Young (Basic Series 60)
As if being part of the cast of “Total Divas” and appearing in the WWE 2K video game series wasn’t shocking enough for WWE interviewer Renee Young, she became an action figure this year and was extremely flattered when she encountered her miniature self for the first time.
“Oh, baby! It actually blew my mind,” Young told WWE.com. “The action figure is a way more athletic version of me. I’m in shape, I work out, but I’m not jacked. And my action figure is jacked.”
Beyond her impressive build, the Mattel version of Renee is also a tangible way for her family to celebrate how far she’s come.
“For my mom to go into a Walmart or a Target and be able to pick me up as an action figure is really cool,” she said.
Braun Strowman (Basic Series 64)
Braun Strowman’s debut Mattel action figure stands out in just about any display — it towers over most of the figures released to date — and its sheer size is a testament to Mattel’s commitment to scale. Just stand him next to Mattel’s Kalisto or Sasha Banks and you’ll see what we mean.
“I think they did a phenomenal job on it,” The Monster Among Men told WWE.com. “It’s pretty close to life-sized spec at 1/12th of me.”
Size aside, it’s the figure’s faraway stare that unnerves us the most. If your other WWE figures wind up broken after you bring Mattel’s Strowman home, we might know why.
Umaga (Elite Series 40)
Joining many members of the Anoaʻi family action figures released by Mattel, including The Rock, Roman Reigns, The Usos and Rikishi, Umaga made a forceful debut in 2016 as part of the toymaker’s Elite collection.
Capturing The Samoan Bulldozer’s iconic full-body tattoo artwork, including the name of his native land displayed proudly across his stomach, the figure comes complete with a sarong, allowing collectors to recreate the juggernaut’s memorable entrances in their toy display. Mattel’s Umaga even boasts a taped-up right hand and an extended thumb to execute his dreaded, esophagus-crushing finishing maneuver, the Samoan Spike.
Apollo Crews (Basic Series 64)
Bearing a wide grin and gold-hued ring gear, Apollo Crews certainly stands out in the toy aisle. And, according to the man himself, the toy version of the uncannily agile powerhouse is even more muscular than the real deal.
“I just wish my abs look as good as they do on the action figure,” Crews said. “I think they made [my figure] look a little too good!
All joking aside, the toy is a definitely a career milestone for Crews.
“Just playing with action figures as a kid and then having my own now, it’s awesome,” he said. “I feel like a superhero now.”
Samoa Joe (Elite Series 43)
Samoa Joe has had action figures in the past, but one of the faces of WWE NXT couldn’t help but be amazed and even a bit humbled when he held his Mattel action figure in his giant mitts for the first time.
“We’re the small guy, we’re the underdog in the brand recognition fight,” Joe said. “But that there’s been so much demand from the WWE Universe to have NXT action figures, it’s an awesome thing and it’s great to be a part of that expansion.”
As for whether his action figure looks better than he does?
“Real-life Joe looks better by a long shot!” Joe said. “They can only create perfection once. And you can only have a nice tribute here and there. They do a decent job, but let’s face it, the kid’s always nicer in person.”
The Nasty Boys (Elite Series 42)
Your Mattel action figure collection was likely “nastycized” in 2016 thanks to those Elite Series versions of Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags. The smash-mouth and often revolting duo, packaged separately, included removable entrance jackets and shades, and featured all of the gritty details you’ve come to know and love — or perhaps loathe — about The Nasties.
Mattel’s been known to infuse their action figures with unusual odors when the occasion called for it —Masters of the Universe’s Stinkor and Moss Man, for example — but we’re actually glad they didn’t go that route with this putrid pair.
Enzo Amore & Big Cass (Battle Pack Series 40)
They might have dressed up as Woody and Buzz Lightyear for Halloween this past year, but Enzo Amore & Big Cass’ “Toy Story” actually began in the spring, when “The Realest Action Figures in the Toy Aisle” finally arrived.
Sporting their NXT gear, these Certified G’s were must-haves for collectors — especially since they were released right around the time they debuted on Raw. As high above the ground as Big Cass is (he’s 7-foot-tall, if you haven’t already heard), seeing his Mattel figure for the first time brought him right down to earth.
“It’s a dream that I’ve had — that a lot of people have had — since I was a kid,” Big Cass told WWE.com. “I never could have imagined that one day I would be an action figure, but here we are talking about it.”
IRS (Elite Series 40)
The first Mattel action figure of the notorious Irwin R. Schyster hit retailers early this year at an all-too appropriate time: tax season.
The former World Tag Team Champion comes complete with removable glasses — so he can easily spot any financial discrepancies during an audit — signature bright-red suspenders and a briefcase accessory to keep the rest of your action figures in line when it’s time for them to file their returns.
The Vaudevillains (Battle Pack Series 41)
Plastic action figures weren’t exactly a hot commodity during the golden age of vaudeville, but that didn’t stop throwback aficionados Simon Gotch & Aiden English from being floored by Mattel’s debut Vaudevillains Battle Pack, released earlier this year. Donning signature gear and meticulously managed facial hair, the figures are clearly the manliest toys ever created … at least according to Gotch & English.
“Can you ever truly grasp the true manliness of the Vaudevillains?” English asked. “If anybody could, Mattel did the best that anyone ever could.”
Gotch added, “I believe they actually couldn’t ship them with other action figures because they were so manly, it made it impossible to carry other figures with them.”
The Dudley Boyz (Battle Pack Series 41)
The Dudley Boyz have had their fair share of action figures in the past (remember that crazy ECW line in the late 1990s?), but they hadn’t gotten the proper Mattel treatment until their Series 41 Battle Pack.
Commemorating Bubba Ray & D-Von’s monumental return to WWE in the summer of 2015, this two-pack features the decorated veterans in their gray camouflage ring gear and the most appropriate accessory possible for the table-smashing tandem.
Magnum TA (Elite Lost Legends Series)
Iconic NWA wrestler Magnum TA waged epic battles with WWE Hall of Famers like Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard during his brief but memorable career, but “America’s Heartthrob” never actually performed in WWE. Nevertheless, Mattel saw fit to finally immortalize the two-time United States Champion as a WWE action figure for the very first time in 2016.
Complete with an entrance vest and detailed red-and-white ring boots, the figure’s most striking feature is its true-to-life mustache, which nails the signature look of this quintessential 1980s competitor.
The Shockmaster (San Diego Comic-Con 2016 Exclusive)
There are plenty of elite WCW competitors on hardcore collectors’ wish lists, and it’s unlikely The Shockmaster ranked high on any of them. That didn’t stop Mattel from releasing the helmeted blunder as an action figure in 2016, available exclusively at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Complete with a familiar, sparkly helmet — and boy does it sparkle — the figure also comes with the character’s sleeveless robe, paired inexplicably with blue jeans and gray boots.
The figure is incredibly detailed, but Mattel definitely went the extra mile with the packaging, boxing The Shockmaster mid-tumble, backward and upside-down in an impressive recreation of his disastrous debut.
Jimmy Hart (Target-exclusive WWE Hall of Fame Elite Collection)
Watch enough episodes of Prime Time Wrestling on WWE Network and you’re bound to run into “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, whose managerial résumé includes successful stints with the likes of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, The Nasty Boys, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, The Honky Tonk Man and The Hart Foundation.
Hart was so good at being an outspoken mouthpiece to WWE’s most dynamic Superstars that he was part of WWE’s first action figure line, LJN’s Wrestling Superstars, allowing kids of the 1980s to include Hart and his signature megaphone in their living room floor matchups.
Mattel’s debut version of “The Mouth of the South” is a far cry from that hard rubber first figure — the megaphone is mercifully removable — and his heart-covered jacket is appropriately loud. Moreover, the figure’s head sculpt actually depicts Hart mid-shout, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, baby!
Bobby Heenan & Big John Studd (Target-exclusive WWE Hall of Fame Elite Collection)
Target’s exclusive Heenan Family boxed set not only brought us new versions of Mr. Perfect and Andre the Giant, but the debut Mattel action figures of Big John Studd and legendary manager and color commentator Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
Studd’s debut figure is impressively and appropriately bulky, but it’s the Heenan figure in its stylish white tuxedo — complete with gold cummerbund — that drew in collectors scouring the toys aisles in Target stores. Now, if only there was a costumed Heenan variant of The Weasel to pit against our Ultimate Warrior action figures …