Friday, 15 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review - WWE Elite Earthquake & The British Bulldog*

A wild bulldog appeared!

It’s an all Hasbro finale to the reviewpalooza as the joys of eBay and Christmas money have bestowed upon me two recent WWE Elite figures I’ve been after since I found out they existed but have had absolutely no bloody luck finding in stores! Hasbro began producing their WWF line (officially called Official WWF Superstars apparently) in 1990 and did so up until 1994 when a bunch of very public sex and steroid scandals had the toy company pull out, that may not sound like a long time but they released 11 waves and over 90 figures. Hasbro WWF was a key toyline during my formative years, even though I didn’t follow American Professional Wrestling with the same zeal as some kids I wanted every WWF figure and enjoyed the shit out of the ones I received; which included today’s subjects Earthquake and the British Bulldog which I had from the year they were both released (1992) and still have today, so now you know why I was telling you about a toyline from 1990.

Even though Mattel’s WWF output is needlessly confusing these two figures’ releases aren’t – they’re both from WWE Elite, Earthquake is from series 35 and the British Bulldog is from series 39 and sold out everywhere in the UK. Not a surprise as the Bulldog was always insanely popular in the UK where he was undoubtedly seen as ‘our boy’, I manged to find an eBay seller who knocking out a pile of 7 for roughly retail price which was a bit of luck. 

Earthquake was played by Canadian John Tenta, who was also a professional sumo wrestler, and made his debut by… sitting on Dino Bravo1, in fact ‘sitting on things’ became pretty much his defining thing, this toy for instance ties into the time he sat on a snake – by far the thing Earthquake and Tenta will always be remembered for. Otherwise Earthquake was known for feuding with Hulk Hogan and Jake the Snake (after the aforementioned snake sitting incident, it was his snake), though of course by ‘feuding’ with Hogan we mean ‘getting beaten a lot by Hogan’, by the time he got himself a Hasbro figure and turned up on my radar he was part of the Natural Disasters with Typhoon (played by John Ottoman, alias Tugboat and The Shockmaster), after getting injured by Yokozuna and Crush and having to pull out of a match with Owen Hart at the 1994 Royal Rumble Tenta went to WCW to be mishandled before coming back to the WWF as Golga, a mask wearing mentally subnormal man in a mask who was obsessed with Cartman (yes, that Cartman)2. Sadly Tenta died of cancer in 2006. I’ve honestly only ever seen a smattering of Earthquake matches, mostly his stuff with Hogan and Jake the Snake, but I had his toy (I assume I had this because mum went in asked a man in a toy shop which wrestlers she should buy and he said ‘that man fights Hulk Hogan’) and he got a lot of use as, well, cannon fodder, Earthquake was one of those figures who the wrestlers sent out first to face the Ninja Turtles or Biker Mice from Mars and soften 'em up a bit, this lowly position may not sound like something to inspire love and nostalgia but it meant he got a lot of play time, he may have always got his arse kicked but it spent more time in my sweaty little hands than, say, Hulk Hogan who only came out when it was time to clear house… dear god I just described both men’s real life careers. 

ANYway, review: Mattel need to invest in some fat arms, I seem to remember this was an issue in a previous review, or maybe just my own internal review of the recent Andre the Giant figure, but it’s a problem that I’ve thought about before and it really sticks out, Mattel have been cool and given us some great ‘fat’ pieces (and nearly all of them are seemingly on this figure) and the more muscular arms really don’t line up, nor fit, with them, they need some chunky biceps with some low muscle definition and they need ‘em yesterday. That’s really my sole complaint about this figure, oh no, wait, his head has fucking zero range because of his hair, so that and the arm thing, which while more of a complaint about the buck than Earthquake himself, it’s still a complaint about the pieces that make up this figure specifically so I THINK I’m ok to moan about it, whatever, it’s too late now. This is my first experience with the ‘fat’ pieces, especially those legs – I think they’re fantastic, though they inevitably mean that if bent there’s a bit of a gap but that’s mostly unavoidable and thanks to the double joints at the knees you can space things out to minimalize the problem. All his paint is fantastic including his detailed singlet which is all nice and sharp and swanky – except, y’know, the articulation completely ruins the look of it the second you use the waist swivel but then that’s going to happen (I don’t really know why he needs waist swivel, he doesn’t have a waist). The ab crunch isn’t so intrusive, though Mattel decided to continue the singlet design up and under the upper torso piece so if you tilt him all the way back (so his back is arched) you get two ‘waves’ (the one over his left tit), odd. Well odd and unnecessary because few people are going to pose him doing anything other than sitting. Likeness is pretty good, what I’m dubbing the ‘Mattel WWF Standard’, which is it looks good enough for you to go ‘shit, that looks like him’ but not good enough to enter the uncanny valley and bother Hot Toy’s dominance there, they’ve gone for a really pissed off look, narrowed eyes and clenched teeth, but…well… they just made him look like he’s doing a particularly rough poo (seriously, it’s all about sitting with this bloke!). Also on the likeness side of things, his Tattoo, Tenta had a somewhat trademark tiger tattoo on his right arm (later changed to a Shark due to his commitment to a gimmick, fool), I wonder who has the job of reproducing the wrestlers tattoos and how they do it? I mean for Earthquake here they must have worked off of photos/footage as he's no longer with us (and they did a good job, it’s a little elongated but nothing horrendous), do they draw it by hand? I guess they must, hmm… I bet working on recent Rock figures’ tattoos is fun (and you KNOW if they get one line out of place a fan will complain).

I forgot to take a picture of the bloody
snake-in-a-bag so have a picture of
Earthquake using the loo instead.
Earthquake comes with a snake in a bag to replicate that one time he sat on Damian that he will never live down, even now he’s dead. I don’t have much to say about it really, it’s a snake in a bag, the bag is nice, the snake is ok, it’s not rubbery enough to freak me out (rubber snakes freak me out, let’s leave that there) being closer to the small Chap Mei snakes, I’m guessing it originally came with a Jake the Snake figure or will be coming with the toy I believe he’s getting this year? It’s a snake in a bag, it’s a great and fitting accessory for him to have, I’m glad he has an accessory, I…it’s a snake in a bag dammit, I got nothing.

That brings us to Davey Boy Smith, who is undoubtedly in my top 20 list of wrestlers, I don’t actually have one of those but if I did you wouldn’t agree with any of it except Mick Foley (and maybe Bret Hart). As Young David he worked with the almighty Big Daddy on ITV's World of Sport before being taken to the Canada by Bruce Hart, one of the Hart family he later married into that produced Brett Hart and Owen Hart. He came to the WWF after Vine McMahon bought out Hart’s Stampede Wrestling and was part of the Bulldogs tag-team though he and the Dynamite Kid left after the ‘Kid got his teeth punched out. This lead to a series of back and fourths from WWF, he arguably reached his height during his 1990-1992 tenure when he won the intercontinental championship from Bret fucking Hart at the 1992 Summerslam, held in England, this made the national news, two year after Hulkamania was considered to be officially ‘over’. He came back again in 1994 for another damn good tenure that became an excellent one when he was paired up with brother-in-law Owen Hart though he left in the wake of the Montreal Screwjob3. The Bulldog came back one more time after being sacked from the WCW for having the audacity to get injured through no fault of his own (he fell on a trap door the Ultimate Warrior was using, don’t ask) and just about everybody wishes he didn’t, he did however have a lasting effect on the story when he…hit Stephanie McMahon with a bin, it gave her amnesia and was part of the storyline that ended up with her pairing up with Triple H (and then paring up with him in real life). Smith died in 2002 due to heart problems almost certainly accelerated by the use of anabolic steroids and today is a favourite of the Attitude Era Podcat’s  recurring jokes, a terrible shame as he was fucking awesome.     

I wanted this figure so much, I saw it on Ringside Collectibles (good site, expensive postage) and had to have it, firstly it looks just like him and more importantly it looks a lot like his Hasbro WWF figure (it’s not the same set of tights). Let’s talk about that face first of all, Davey Boy had a...unique facial structure, he had a really punchable face alright? And one that could only have come from Manchester. And it is wonderfully recreated here in all its round Manchurian glory, in fact if anything it’s too thin. This toy looks like Davy Boy Smith is what I’m saying, and unlike Earthquake up there his hair is nice and soft and doesn’t hinder articulation at all, further proof of bald patches’ inferiority to everything. Piece wise, I really wish they’d put the money in and sculpted him some unique forearms, I just don’t like it when they paint on things that should be sculpted but it’s particularly annoying when there’s a vein running through a ‘gauntlet’. Other than that I’m good on the moaning front, his legs to look a little awkward form some angles, a little too close to awkward Hasbro superhero figures thanks to the thigh and calf pieces stopping pretty short at the knee piece, but it’s nowhere near as bad as Hasbro’s bucks. The tights aren’t (oddly) his Summerslam 1992 tights nor are they the same as the ones he wore as a Hasbro figure, though he did use them rather a lot during his ‘peak’ period and he changed tights quite a lot at that time anyway, I’m sure it’s the outfit most fans wanted and other than how Thigh Cut Incompatible it is I have no complaints, I think they look snazzy and mine has no paint issues I can find.

Davy has one accessory, the only one he really needs, his Union Jack cape, which to my surprise is soft plastic, I thought for sure it was going to be material and I’d be able to go on about how much I hate mixed media and soft fabrics on any toy that’s shorter than 8 inches but nope, it’s a little thick but really pretty flexible and allows you to do quite a lot with the Bulldog’s arms while he’s wearing it (though I imagine few fans will want to pose him more than one  way with it on), it attaches by three plugs at the wrists and neck that work like the vintage TMNT belts – though with far sturdies plugs, it’s also nowhere near as intrusive as the Junkyard Dog’s collar. I wasn’t going to keep him wearing it but I’ve grown quite attached to the look, and also like how it coves up the issues with the leg pieces. Mine does have two small areas where the paint came off, one looks like a scratch or scuff and the other like someone touched it while the paint was still tacky, both were there out of the packet but they’re also both on the back of the cape so it’s no concern to me. Oh yeah it’s kinda drawn wrong, it’s not quite upside down (as I first thought) but it’s not quite accurate either, the diagonal stripes are pretty much centred in the white when they should be at one side or the other, I always forget which way side the strips go and the real wrestler’s real capes often got it wrong too so technically it’s not inaccurate for the British Bulldog but it is incorrect and this is the era of Google, if I can look it up for a quick crappy review, the toymakers can look it up for a figure that’s going to be released in an ‘elite’ line.

But conclusion-wise? So fucking happy! These two were must-haves for me for my ‘Mattel WWF Dream Roaster Shelf’ and they both turned out, y’know, good, sure they’re only great so long as you don’t use certainly articulation points but they don’t require those points to achieve the poses I want them to achieve so I can ignore that! Not good from a review standpoint maybe but fine from a ‘I have to pay £20-odd quid for these and need to justify that to myself’ standpoint! And that just leaves me with one question – where’s my title shot!?!4  

1 alright, he did attack the Ultimate Warrior shortly after sitting on Dino Bravo, but he did that by using the Earthquake Splash – which involved sitting on someone, just with great force
2 Tenta has lost so much weight that it was felt he no longer fitted the name and gimmick of Earthquake, so they made him into something even more ridiculous than ‘fat man who sits on things hard’.
3 when Vince McMahon, a referee Earl Hebner and (possibly) Shawn Michaels worked together to ‘screw’ Bret Hart out of the WWF Championship at Survivor Series 1997 by ringing the bell early while Hart was in a hold, his own finishing move the Sharpshooter, in his home country of Canada – the only way it could have been more humiliating is if they dressed Hart in a bonnet and pissed on him. This was done so Hart would definitely not take the WWF Championship belt with him to WCW, with whom McMahon and the WWF had a heated real-life rivalry with at the time (and who were beating them in the ratings war the two were engaged in) after a women’s champion (Alundra Blaze/Madusa) had done just that and thrown the belt in the bin live on WCW TV. Hart had already agreed to drop the belt anyway (after a lot of finagling the plan was, I believe, to lose it the next night on Monday Night Raw, the regular TV programme of the WWF) just not in Canada at the pay-per-view for a bunch of good reasons to do with his current storyline and career, plus Hart just fucking hated Shawn Michaels so the whole thing was completely unnecessary unless you were a paranoid old bastard like, say, Vince McMahon. The result was… explosive, all of the rest of Hart foundation – Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart and Davy Boy - walked out, Mick Foley threated to quit and boycotted the next Raw, the Undertaker chased Vince into his office and tried to kick the door in and McMahon ended up with a black eye and a broken ankle after Bret Hart punched him out and Gerald Brisco accidentally stepped on his leg (lol!). Foley and Own Hart ended up staying with the WWF, Foley was talked into it by Bret himself and Owen couldn’t negotiate the termination of his contract.    

4 see, I only did an Attitude Era Podcast reference at the beginning and end, see how good I was? 

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