Friday, 15 April 2016

Quick Crappy Review: WWE Wrestlemania Battle Pack Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Bret Hart*

*glass shatters*

This was supposed to be posted on Monday, things happened (nothing bad, just exhausting), so it wasn't, I suck, apologies. Anyway, one of the many good things about listening to the Attitude Era Podcast is that it’s finally made me a fan of Stone Cold Steve Austin, handy as Stone Cold is getting several figures around now. He’s getting a 12” figure, a Defining Moments figure; he’s in this Battle Pack and is coming again in another Battle Pack in series 40 with Mr McMahon. All of these Austins are damn good, so you may be asking “why did you buy this pack dwitefry?” (well you would if you existed) “Why not buy the Defining Moments Austin?” well I looked at that figure and realised that there wasn’t anything in it that I actually needed and I really don’t think it represents a defining moment for him – if they’d have gone the whole hog and packaged him with a Zamboni, or given him a base to make him look like he was standing on a beer truck, or even given him some swappable hands so he was giving the fingers, then I’d’ve happily forked over the cash, this set however includes a bonus Bret Hart.

Yeah so this is a two pack from the Mattel’s WWE Wrestlemania Series 32, one of the many MANY different sub-lines that make up Mattel’s WWE retail line of action figures, Wrestlemania is just a themed variant on their standard WWE line that are roughly the ‘basic’ figures but commemorating various Wrestlemania Pay-Per-View events of old. This particular set is commemorating the fantastic submission match between Austin and Hart at Wrestlemania 13, one of the best matches in Wrestlemania history and one of my favourite matches in wrestling, I’m watching it right now.

Stone Cold Steve Austin, one of the biggest stars the WWF/WWE has ever had, was played by Steven James Anderson who had also wrestled as Stunning Steve Austin in WCW before being fired for *snicker* not being marketable (and for injuring himself, something he did a lot) and ECW as Superstar Steve Austin. He initially came to WWF as The Ringmaster but thankfully got permission to use his idea of a hard, no-nonsense serial killer type which his wife inadvertently named Stone Cold Steve Austin when telling him to drink his tea or it would get ‘stone cold’ (now you can all imagine Steve Austin drinking tea). After receiving the win at the 1996 King of the Ring because the scheduled winner Triple H was being punished for something else, Austin, still a heel (villain), busted out a now iconic promo on Jake the Snake that introduced his Austin 3:16 catchphrase and began a rise to superstardom, a rise helped by a year-long feud with Bret Hart and his family, that’s where this set comes in. Austin would go on become the most profitable wrestler WWF has had apparently.

This is one of Mattel’s ‘basic level’ WWE figures so it lacks thigh swivel and an ab-crunch and features only one articulation point at the knees and elbows, if you’ve read any of my previous WWE figures you’ll know (if you existed) that I hate thigh swivels and don’t care for the type of ab crunch Mattel typically use on their WWE fighters so you’ll know I don’t mind this at all, however in fairness to the joint (a strange statement I agree) Austin is the kind of design who could easily have a thigh swivel thanks to not having anything it could disrupt, though I’d still much rather have ball joints at the crotch. I still like the combined swivel/hinge jointed wrists and they allow Austin to perform a Stunner – which is the only requirement of articulation on a Stone Cold Steve Austin figure really – but they do seem fairly obvious on this figure, with a bigger gap, I think that’s the fault of the forearm pieces though which really don’t transition that well into the larger hand pieces. The likeness then, from front on it can look a little off but from the side or most angles it looks perfect thus I’m dubbing it ‘pretty damn great’ rather than ‘amazing’ (like Rick Flair’s), it’s also made me notice something I’ve been completely oblivious of my whole life – Steve Austin has no eyebrows! It’s because he’s blonde (my dad, who looked like Steve Austin actually, has the same issue) so what little eyebrows he has doesn’t show up but now I will never be able to not notice that, oh and the head is limited articulation wise due to his massive fucking neck. The pack includes no accessories, I’m guessing his vest was probably too expensive due to paint apps but they could have given him a can of beer couldn’t they? He does have a knee brace though, this is just for accuracy as he was wearing one in the match but I love it for other, nerdier, reasons; Austin was so often injured it’s kind of become a bit of a fandom in-joke so I think it’s great that my figure of him has evidence of an injury on it.  

Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart (real name) alias The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be is from the legendary Hart family of wrestlers (he’s the son of Stu Hart), known for his amazing skill, wearing hot pink and for being screwed over by Vine McMahon. He came into the WWF in 1985 as part of the Hart Foundation tag-team with his brother-in-law Jim Neidhart and was both a tag team and singles star. Having had an excellent feud with his brother Owen as well as great matches with Shawn Michaels, Hart was actually on hiatus in 1996 when Steve Austin started a feud with him by slagging him off on TV, leading to the Hitman coming back after eight months, sadly 1997 ended badly with the ‘Montreal Screwjob’ and him leaving for WCW to be underutilized and receive a career ending injury.

Bret Hart is one of my favourite wrestlers and I am a MASSIVE mark for the Hart Foundation as a whole – Bret, Owen, Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart - but this figure… it doesn’t quite do it for me, I am glad to have him in this outfit from this match, which is why I ultimately decided to buy the set even though I will almost certainly be buying his upcoming Elite figure. I think it’s the hair and face, the likeness is…iffy, from the side and from any angle looking up it’s pretty spiffy but front on it pretty much sucks, everything just seeems too...long, frankly it needs some sunglasses to cover up its deficiencies and this set doesn’t come with them (the head was originally sculpted for a figure that did, I believe), his hair also looks really lank and unwashed. Elsewhere though he’s more worthy of praise, his deco is so sharp you could cut yourself on it and very well done given how complicated it all is, and the lack of ab crunch and thigh swivel means it doesn’t get as broken up, allowing me to appreciate it even more (and who doesn’t like appreciating Bret Hart’s arse). Sadly it’s not all good on the body, the articulation on his head and elbows are severely limited by his hair and elbow pads but he can just about perform the Sharpshooter, the Elite’s double jointed knees and ab crunch should allow him to perform it perfectly though. It’s a shame that Hart is really relegated to ‘nice bonus’ with a Steve Austin figure (my theory was that the set was £27 and the Defining Moments Austin was £24-ish so I was getting a Bret Hart for about £7 in an outfit I really like and it would do in case I couldn’t find an Elite Hart for a while once it comes out, as is the issue I’m having with Yokozuna and had with the British Bulldog).

In conclusion? The issues with Bret Hart brings down the set as a whole but in hand he’s not as terrible as he first looked and the little flickers of buyer’s remorse I was genuinely having have been quashed by finding the perfect angle to display him in and by Steve Austin being so likeable. Honestly you could probably do better to get the Defining Moments Austin if you a) don’t love this match or b) don’t need multiple Bret Harts and a slew of Hart-related merchandise, like I apparently do, but my dream roster is 100% better now I have the Hitman and the Texas Rattlesnake, and that’s the bottom line, because Stone Cold said so. 

"What th' hell is a Hasbro?"
"I dunno, but I bet The Rock tried to stuff it up your ass
at least once"
"Yeah, what was up with that shit?"1
1 Yeah Dwayne, what WAS up with that shit? I'm hardly the first person to bring this up, but given how Heterosexual Male focused American Professional Wrestling can be, and the...less than enlightened views of the Attitude Era crowd, and Vince McMahon, and half the roster during said era, was and how keen the WWF was to placate these attitudes in the name of controversy, envelope pushing and (most importantly) beating Monday Nitro in the ratings - to the point of having Rowdy Roddy Piper administer what was intended as a heroic gay bashing to 'make a man out of  Goldust' just before the era began (utterly atrocious), which the crowd cheered on - and given how American Professional Wrestling is basically barely clothed muscle men rubbing themselves up against each other in creative ways - why was the Rock so keen to talk about shoving anything and everything up 'candy' asses? 

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