CM Punk, AJ Lee and Sin Cara invade Ringside Fest 2012 in New York City

CM Punk, AJ Lee and Sin Cara invade Ringside Fest 2012 in New York City

They say the lights are bright on Broadway. But when WWE Champion CM Punk, AJ Lee and Sin Cara invaded the world-famous Carolines on Broadway comedy club for the 2012 edition of Ringside Fest, the lights had never shone brighter in the heart of New York City. ( VIEW PHOTOS)

Each year, WWE Universe members convene in midtown Manhattan — long considered the Mecca of WWE — for Ringside Collectibles’ squared-circle celebration, giving WWE Universe members a chance to mingle with their favorite Superstars and get an early sneak peek at Mattel’s upcoming WWE action figures.

Sin Cara fans from around the five boroughs and beyond lined up around W. 49th St. to meet The International Sensation. Some members of the WWE Universe dressed just like their high-flying idol, and some even brought merchandise from Sin Cara's days as Mistico, when he became a lucha libre phenomenon. The fan favorite seemed to be having a blast greeting his legions of supporters, as did AJ Lee who appeared alongside Sin Cara. ( MORE SIN CARA)

“It’s so bizarre because not long ago I was a little girl that would dress like the Divas on TV because I would look up to them so much,” AJ told, reminiscing on her transition from WWE Universe member to WWE Diva to Raw General Manager. “At Ringside Fest, there were little girls with cut-up custom AJ T-shirts, little skulls on their clothes and Converse. It just blows my mind and is the cutest thing ever. That’s why I got into this, so it’s weird to see it all happening.”

The enthusiastic fans got creative with what they asked the spunky Diva to autograph. “I got to sign a Chuck [Taylor sneaker],” AJ proudly admitted. “So that's near and dear to my heart. I'm waiting for that Converse endorsement deal any day now.”

A toy collector herself, AJ is anxiously looking forward to her first Mattel action figure, due to hit shelves in early 2013.

“It’s what I’ve wanted my whole life,” Lee said with a grin. “I’ve had people make action figures of me, and it’s so amazing to see. But to have a real one that no one had to customize, and she’s wearing my outfit, has my Chuck Taylors on and looks like me, it’s so amazing. I think it’s one of every Superstar or Diva’s goals: be an action figure, be in the video game and win a title. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to mark a lot off my checklist.” ( MORE AJ LEE)

Surprisingly, members of the WWE Universe came out in droves to meet WWE Champion CM Punk despite The Straight Edge Superstar’s atrocious behavior over the last several weeks. When approaching Punk for his signature, New Jersey native Jules Cornelious proceeded with appropriate caution.

“I made sure I gave him a dap on the hand and kept my mouth shut,” Cornelious said with a laugh, leaving the “pipe bombs” to the WWE Champion. “I didn’t want to say anything that was going to offend him.”

Another WWE Universe member who wouldn’t dream of disrespecting Punk at Ringside Fest was Max Lawson, 12, from Long Island.

“I completely respect Punk,” Lawson told moments after meeting The Second City Saint. “Punk deserves respect. He’s the WWE Champion.” ( MORE CM PUNK)

Michelle Michelson is a Chicago native, much like the polarizing titleholder, but now lives in Brooklyn. “[Punk]’s amazing,” the 25-year-old Kings County resident said of her fellow Chicagoan. “I think he deserves the utmost respect for the fact that he's had the WWE Championship for a year now.”

Michelson added, “I love that all the little kids come out with their titles. It's really awesome to see that,” she said. “They're so excited.”

CM Punk, AJ Lee and Sin Cara invade Ringside Fest 2012 in New York City

In addition to meeting their favorite Superstars, Ringside Fest attendees got an up-close and personal look at Mattel’s upcoming WWE wares, including never-before-seen action figures of CM Punk’s Hell in a Cell opponent, the monstrous Ryback.

“We really wanted to show some Ryback figures, because he’s red-hot right now,” said Mattel toy designer Bill Miekina, who was excited to show off the wrecking machine’s first-ever Mattel figure as well as a second version that will appear in a Battle Pack alongside Jinder Mahal. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about Ryback.”

Also on display for the first time at Ringside Fest was an upcoming wave of Walmart-exclusive Basic action figures decked out in authentic WWE T-shirts. Unlike the removable T-shirts that have long been a part of Mattel’s highly detailed Elite series, these threads are sculpted onto the figures themselves.

“People kept asking for them,” said Miekina of the demand for shirted Basics figures. “We’ve always wanted every Basic figure to represent how Superstars look in the ring, but when Walmart approached us about doing store exclusives, [this concept] came up and we thought it would be kind of cool.”

The wave includes John Cena in his green “Salute to Cenation” tee, CM Punk in his “In Punk We Trust” and accurate shirted representations of Triple H, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and R-Truth. Additionally, the set includes a special Randy Orton figure that is only available when a WWE Live Event is in town.

Miekina, who is himself a longtime member of the WWE Universe, was proud of the buzz generated by Ringside Fest figure debuts of Mattel’s Honky Tonk Man, an Elite Brock Lesnar and an upcoming Elite version of Christian decked out in his “Attitude Era” attire. Needless to say, this miniature, flamboyant version of Captain Charisma’s poses last a whole lot longer than five seconds.

Another action figure that had collectors talking was the Mattel debut of current United States Champion Antonio Cesaro, which includes painted-on chest hair. Sin Cara also had a new figure on display decked out in white and gold, which Miekina hailed as a striking color combination.

When thinking back on the painstaking process of matching Cesaro’s unique torso tresses, Miekina couldn’t help but wince.

“It took an uncomfortably long time to get the shape and the placement just right,” Miekina said with a grimace.

“Ringside Fest started because we wanted a way to bring our online business to fans,” Ringside Collectibles President Jonathan Piontkowski told “We want to promote the newest Mattel product and present an event for fans to interact with us face to face.”

For all the hot toys on display, it was the brand-new “Stone Cold” Steve Austin Elite figure that caused the most buzz. Available exclusively on, “It's an amazing figure,” Piontkowski proclaimed.

“It's unbelievable,” Piontkowski continued. “It comes with the Smoking Skull Championship and ‘Attitude Era’ WWE Championship. You get both titles in one package. I think it’s the best ‘Stone Cold’ ever made.” ( VIEW PHOTOS)

A new Elite Series 18 featuring The Funkasaurus was also a hit with collectors. “The new Brodus Clay with the fedora, jacket, necklace and pants has been unbelievable popular,” Piontkowski said. “It’s one of the best looking Mattel figures out right now.”

Adding to the excitement was the fact that this year’s Ringside Fest was held in the shadow of WrestleMania 29, taking the New York/New Jersey area by storm next April at MetLife Stadium in the nearby Meadowlands.

“This year’s the biggest,” Piontkowski heralded of Ringside Fest 2012. “I couldn't have asked for anything better.”

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